January 16, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

Same Birds From a Different Perspective

Warning: A long post today, and it is birds again, for those that do not share my interest in the subject.

The Setup
The Setup

With a limited variety of avian subjects available at my site, I thought I might try something new and go for a new perspective to add a little something different to my images. So I borrowed Sam’s quilt and pillow from the back of the Prius, pulled a dinette cushion from the motorhome, and tried to make as comfortable a setup as possible for myself on the concrete pad at my campsite. This to give me a new, lower, and hopefully more interesting perspective on my feathered friends. Note my trusty slingshot on the picnic table bench, more on that later.

The Cleanup Crew ( Javelinas )
The Cleanup Crew ( Javelinas )

What I had failed to consider when I decided to go this route were my neighbors, the parks’ resident javelina population. These guys have been coming in to clean up all the leftover seed on the ground since the first day I set up my feeding station. As soon as I stop shooting for the day, I take in all the feeders, since the javelinas have no problem knocking over the posts that may hold feeders or standing on their hind legs to get at feeders in the bushes or the lower branches of the short trees around the perimeter of the feeding area.

Javelina Mom and Young
Javelina Mom and Young

For the most part, the females and their young have been no real threat and after a few warning shots of pebbles from the slingshot, they have been easily discouraged  from entering the yard while I am photographing.

Javelina
Javelina

However, there are a couple large boars who are a bit more aggressive and tend to take objection to my training methods ( slingshot ). On a couple of occasions , these fellows have not only stood their ground, but have aggressively challenged me after I had attempted to dissuade them from feeding while I was photographing the birds. They have bluff charged me, snapping and popping their gums, only stopping about fifteen feet away from where I was standing ( which, by the way, was with the picnic table between us and I within arms length of my open motorhome door, after all I may not be wise, but I’m not stupid ), so these guys have gotten my heart pumping on a couple of occasions.

Well, one afternoon while laying out prone on my concrete pad, a movement to my immediate right caught my eye and I turned to find a female and her young silently walking past me to check out the opportunity to feed. I could have reached out and touched her … she was that close! When I moved, she was probably as scared as I was, and she bolted out of the yard into the surrounding bush, with her young one right on her tail. At that point it occurred to me that had it been one of the aggressive males rather than this more docile female, the outcome may have been quite different. The encounter made me think it prudent to not put myself in this potentially hazardous position again, so these are most likely the only ground level bird shots I will get here.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

The Olive Sparrow is a creature of the edge, almost always staying in the shadows of the underbrush, just every now and then darting out a bit to grab a morsel, then quickly retreating to the safety of cover. Initially, I thought this staying in the shadows would make for some tough shots, but the more I looked for moments where there were some highlights on the shadowed bird, the more I  grew to attempt more of these shots, and ended up quite pleased with the results.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

As with the Olive Sparrow, the two Thrashers here, the Curve-billed and the Long-billed, also tend to seek the protective cover of the edges of the yard.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

However, unlike the sparrow, these guys do, on occassion, hop up on the surrounding bushes and even venture up on the tray feeders.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

They are pretty much constantly in motion though, not staying out in vulnerable areas long, before retreating to cover.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

Got a kick out of the timing of this shot … sometimes you never know what you got until you view it on the computer screen.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

These guys are a true nuisance here as they were in the nearby Salineno birding area where I volunteered two winters ago. Unless deterred ( slingshot ), they descend on the feeding are in droves, their numbers driving out the birds I want to photograph and cleaning out all the food I put out.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Another nice shadow area shot, although the cardinals are not all that shy about venturing out into the light.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Green Jay
Green Jay

Still one of my favorite birds to watch, these jays pretty much rule the roost in the feeding area. If other birds are on a particular feeder, they have no problem crowding them off. They do not feel a need to wait their turn.

Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay

I really do like this lower perspective angle on these small birds.

Green Jay
Green Jay
Inca Dove
Inca Dove
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

I have no idea how this Mockingbird sustained the damage to his upper bill, but he seems to be doing just fine, though his looks have suffered.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

Though certainly not easy to do, getting down to a Wren’s eye level gives a new and interesting perspective on this tiny energetic bird.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

Each day I look forward to the arrival of the Northern Bobwhites, now venturing in to feed at least two or three times a day.

Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

You can right click on these images to get a much larger version of the photograph, showing some of the fine detail in the feathers of these birds.

Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

Once again, the ground level perspective seems, at least to me, to really add a little something to these shots.

Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite

As long as I am lying relatively still, these guys will walk as close as ten feet from me, making for some nice intimate shots. In fact, quite often they come too close for me to be able to focus on them with the long lens I am using.

Male Northern Bobwhite
Male Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Female Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

Well, that about wraps up my attempts here at ground level bird photography. Really hope I get to try this again at a javelina free location.

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January 11, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

 Back to the Birds Again

After getting settled in at Falcon Lake State Park, I took a short drive over to the Salineno Birding Area where I volunteered a couple winters ago to say hi to Lois and Merle and see what changes may have occurred over the the last couple of years.

Not much changed, still a premier spot to see lots of birds up close in comfort with a couple of knowledgeable hosts to help with identification. A few trees have drooped a bit more and that led to a relocation for the host’s fifth wheel and thus the seating area is now a bit farther away from the action, but the colorful orioles, kiskadees, and green jays are still there in abundance.

Falcon Lake State Park

I chose a campsite with water and electric only rather than one with full hookups since the full hookup section is more open and the sites are a little closer together than I like. My pull through site is surrounded by dense shrubs and trees providing nice privacy, but, more importantly, the same shrubs and trees provide cover and perches for my feathered friends.

I set out a hummingbird feeder, an oriole feeder, a couple of platform feeders, my old reliable fencepost for the lard/peanut butter/cornmeal concoction, then spread a little cracked corn and sunflower seed around the edges of my feeding area, sat back and waited to see who would arrive.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

It didn’t take long for two types of thrashers to come scooting out from the edge cover to grab some corn and scurry back to cover to eat.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

This thrashers seem quite reluctant to spent much time in the open, lurking just on the edge of the feeding area …

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

… then dashing out and grabbing a couple of kernels of corn before retreating to the shadows.

Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher
Curve-billed Thrasher

 

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

This cute little guy is all but impossible to keep up with, constantly on the move with herky jerky action, hopping from bush to bush, bush to ground, up and down the feeders, just never standing still.

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren
Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

 

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

The Olive Sparrow is one of the birds folks come here to add to their birding lists.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

He’s another bird of the edges like the thrashers, reluctant to leave the cover of the bushes on the edges of the feeding area.

 

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

There are a couple of pairs of Pyrhuloxia coming in regularly and this is the first time I have been able to get some nice close shots of these guys.

Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

 

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

So far, these small Inca Doves are the only doves that have shown up here.

Inca Dove
Inca Dove

 

Orange Crowned Warbler
Orange Crowned Warbler

Lots of Orange -crowned Warblers coming in.

 

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

I was pleasantly surprised when this lone male Northern Bobwhite came strolling in right next to my chair and began feeding on cracked corn, seemingly oblivious to my presence.

Northern Bobwhite
Northern Bobwhite

A little unusual to see a lone Bobwhite, but I assume the rest of the flock must be somewhere near by and hope they will eventually all come in.

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

So far at least two pair of Northern Cardinals have made an appearance.

Female Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

 

Black Crested Titmouse
Black Crested Titmouse

Black-crested Titmice come and grab their single seed and hop off to the bushes to break them open.

Black Crested Titmouse
Black Crested Titmouse

 

Green Jay
Green Jay

One of my all-time favorite birds, the colorful Green Jay, is here in abundance.

Green Jay
Green Jay

As you can see above, they are not shy about helping themselves to plenty of my offerings.

 

Female Great-tailed Grackle
Female Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackles arrive in large flocks, along with the ever present scourge of Red-winged Blackbirds. These pests I have to actively discourage to keep the food available for the birds I am looking to photograph. They do get to clean up the area ( along with the javelinas ) in late afternoon when I quit shooting for the day.

An Agility Test

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I put out an old two liter Coke bottle that I had crudely cut up to make a hanging feeder, more to show my presence than to actually have birds use it since the platform feeders are much, much easier to access.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

But here, a few birds have mastered the ability to land on this feeder and have unfettered access to some sunflower seeds without having to share with other birds.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Watching them land and then try to hang on as the feeder blows around in the stiff breeze is quite interesting.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Green Jay
Pyrhuloxia
Pyrhuloxia

The weather here since my arrival has been absolutely perfect, sunny 70 degree days and clear starlit skies with night time temps in the lower 50’s. Not real sure how long I will stay here before heading up the coast to shoot Whooping Cranes and ducks, as well as check out the hurricane damage around Port Aransas and Lockport.

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February 12, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

Salineno Portrait Session

Yesterday I lugged my 600mm lens over to the birding yard for a portrait session with some of our colorful birds. The 600mm is actually too much lens for the normal flight action I have been shooting for the past couple of months, as I have been able to lure the birds in very close for these shots. But recently I added a large, as in seven foot tall, piece of old gnarled driftwood I found in the river, and planted it in the center of the yard only twenty feet from where our visitors sit to view the show.

This piece of driftwood has all kinds of nooks and crannies to hide our peanut butter/lard/cornmeal mix and thus has proven to be well received by our feathered friends and much appreciated by our visitors. It also has proven to be a great prop for taking some close, as in full frame, shots of our birds.

Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute Resolved
Audubon and Altamira Oriole Dispute Resolved

But before i get to the portraits, the above sequence of shots is of an Audubon Oriole defending it’s position on another of the props I have set up in the yard. These action shots are what make my day nowadays, and what I will be concentrating on in the remaining time I have here in Salineno. The Altamira is a much larger bird and is actually the bully in the yard, but this one Audubon tends to stand his ground with almost anyone trying to force him out.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Now for the portraits, a male Northern Cardinal …

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

… his female counterpart …

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

… an Altamira Oriole, the largest of all the orioles and quite colorful also …

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

… the Audubon Oriole, under most lighting conditions, the most difficult bird to photograph here, it’s black head making it very hard to show any life in it’s dark eyes most of the time …

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

… one of my all time favorite birds, the male Golden-fronted Woodpecker. This is one bird I am still trying to catch in flight after more than three and a half months of trying …

Green Jay
Green Jay

… the spectacular, but very common here, Green jay …

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

… the Long-billed Thrasher …

Bewick's Wren
Bewick’s Wren

… the petite Bewick’s Wren …

Olive Sparrow After Bath
Olive Sparrow After Bath

… and lastly, a wet version of the Olive Sparrow, just emerging from it’s bath.

Perfect Camo, Northern Bobwhite
Perfect Camo, Northern Bobwhite

Then just one more shot, one of our regular visitors that never uses any of the props I set up in the yard, the Northern Bobwhite ( quail ), a bird well camouflaged in this setting.

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January 20, 2016 Salineno Birding Station, Texas

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Another Week in Salineno

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

More good weather, and yet more bird shots. As I continue practicing, I find the percentage of decent shots keeps improving, leaving me with a new problem … too many images to now process, and what to do with them. Just how many images of an oriole, or a great kiskadee do I really need ?

To see a larger, sharper version of any image, simply right click on the image and a new window with the larger version will open ( on a Mac, at least ).

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Yet my duties require me to sit in front of all these beautiful birds for 9 hours all but every day and I still have almost two more months to go here, and I can’t get out of the habit of setting up me camera and tripod when I settle in for my day’s ” work “.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

But where I initially was shooting 1000 or more shots a day, I could quickly delete all but 30 or so that I would have to examine closer on the computer to see if they were sharp enough to bother processing. Now, out of that same 1000 shots or sometimes even more, I find I now have 100 or more that demand closer examination … and that is keeping me busy processing images for pretty much all of my free time.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

Northern Cardinals

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

After we close the gate at 4 PM each day, there is about a one hour window where I can set up and shoot with the setting sun at my back and get some pretty nice shots of these colorful birds with the shaded bushes in the yard as a dramatic dark background.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

I never know how these will turn out as I shoot them because there is so little time to check the images on the camera’s monitor due to the constant action. The Cardinals, along with the hundreds of nuisance Red-winged Blackbirds, constitute what we term the ” cleanup crew “, the birds that come in just before sunset and pretty much vacuum the grounds of any leftover seed and cracked corn.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

While we always have several pairs of cardinals in the yard all day long, all of a sudden, just after 4 PM, about a dozen or more pairs materialize, and I set up a prop to try and lure most of them to come flying into a precisely located perch where I have the light just so and the background just the way I want it.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Then it’s just a matter of prefocusing on a point where I think they will be, and shooting off volleys of shots as they descend. As I have said before, then it’s just a numbers game, hoping they hit my prefocused spot, hoping they have their wings in the right position, etc.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals

Sometimes the results are quite dramatic, like above when I have the good fortune to catch more than one bird in the prefocused point, something that very rarely ever happens.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

The female Northern Cardinal is considered by most to be a drab counterpoint to the brilliant red male, but in my humble opinion, certainly under these lighting conditions, she is anything but.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

The gorgeous pink undersides of her wings and tail, unseen normally except when taking these sort of shots, make her quite the beauty.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I search the surrounding woods for new props almost daily and came up with this one that I set up to get shots of our two woodpecker species here at Salineno, the Golden-fronted and the Ladder-back Woodpecker.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Northern Bobwhites
Northern Bobwhites

We have a covey of a dozen Northern Bobwhites that visit us a couple of times a day. No props for these guys as they are pretty much strictly ground feeders.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

My first flight shot of one of our Long-billed Thrashers. This bird often comes walking into the yard rather than flying and does most of his feeding on the ground, so attempts to get flight shots of him are few and far between.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee

And finally, yet more shots of our Great Kiskadees and Green Jays.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay
Green jay

Though they now seem almost common to me, the Green Jay is one of the most colorful birds I have ever photographed. The blue head, the blue-greens of the tail feathers, bright yellow underside and outside tail feathers, along with it’s black mask … just a bird one never gets tired of shooting.

SPECIAL NOTE:

After 8 faithful years of flawless service, my IMAC died on me a few days ago. I will not be able to process images or do any blog posts until I have a new IMAC delivered and I go through the painful experience of getting it up and running. As of January 30th I have one ordered and hopefully enroute, but with no phone service and a very weak internet signal here in Salineno, it undoubtedly will take me a while to get everything I need loaded on the new unit, so please bear with me in the interim.