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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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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November 11, 2015 Salineno, Texas

Finally Arrived at this Year’s New Winter Home

Green Jay
Green on Green

Well, I finally completed the long journey from Alaska to the Mexican border, having arrived here in Salineno, Texas on November 1st. This will be my first volunteer stint since retiring and hitting the road two and a half years ago, also the first time I will remain in one spot for five and a half months, almost like settling down again.

I must apologize for the lack of recent posts but I do have a bit of a dilemma here … a very weak to often non-existent Verizon internet signal. I am provided with a wonderful spot for my motorhome here, full hookups, lots of privacy in a nice setting, but no useable internet, one of the few places I have been where my Verizon Jet-Pac gets no signal, or only one bar of 3G. As a  result, where doing a blog post with a decent signal might take me half an hour, here this particular post, with only a few images, took about four hours, the uploads are pretty slow, to be kind. There have been promises made to look into exploring how an internet signal might be brought in here, so maybe the situation will improve sometime this winter. Until then, posts will be made on a weekly basis, I hope.

The Salineno Birding Station is a joint venture of the Valley Land Trust, owners of the property, and the United States Fish and Game Department, who manage the volunteers here. Having visited this spot in 2010 and again in 2013 for bird photography, I thought this might be a good place to sit still and recover a bit from this summers activities. The primary hosts here, Lois and Merle, who have volunteered at Salineno for six years previous to this winter, will show me the ropes, and, hopefully, I will be up to the task.

It took the three of us about a week of hard work pulling grass and weeds, trimming downed trees and limbs, to make the place presentable after a summer where the place is left on it’s own. Then the feeders go out and we start working on bringing the birds in. I was a little surprised how quickly they started showing up.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Green Jay
Green Jay

The absolutely gorgeous Green Jays were the first to come in. This is one of the few spots in the United States where you can see this brilliantly colored bird and there often are so many of them in and out of here that it is soon possible to think of them as just another bird, simply because of their numbers, certainly not their plumage. At this time we have probably a dozen or more of them, and that number increases as their natural foods start to disappear as the season progresses ( this will be true for most of the bird species here ).

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

A pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers also soon appeared. This is one of my favorite birds here. The male has a red spot on the top of his head and the female can be distinguished from the male by the lack of that red spot.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Also showing up regularly is a juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker …

Juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Juvenile Ladder-backed Woodpecker

… still working on growing in all his colorful red head feathers.

Salineno is known for attracting three species of orioles, the Altamira, Audubon, and Hooded Orioles.

Altamira Oriole
Altamira Oriole

And it didn’t take long for the first pair of Altamira Orioles to appear. This is one of the largest and most brilliantly colored of the orioles.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

A pair of Audubons also soon arrived. This oriole is one of the most sought after birds here at Salineno, one of the best spots to find one.

Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole

We also have a single female Hooded Oriole coming in on a regular basis now and Merle and Lois say that the male usually shows up a week or two later. I will get a photograph of these guys later, I hope.

Olive Sparrow
Olive Sparrow

Another bird birders come here for is the Olive Sparrow, certainly not as colorful as the orioles, but again, another species for which Salineno has proven to be be a good spot to encounter one. These little guys are a little more difficult to get a good shot of since they generally stay on the ground and around the edges, preferring to be very near some type of cover.

Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

The Long-billed Thrasher is another fairly common bird here and one of my favorites to photograph.

After ten days of feeding here, there have been forty different bird species that have visited, a number that normally increases to about twice that before the season ends.

Chachalaca
Chachalaca

One of the species that regularly shows up and tends to clean out all the food is the Plain Chachalaca, a chicken sized game bird that we tend to try and discourage, mostly unsuccessfully. This gluttonous bird makes off with the oranges, devours every kind of seed that we spread, breaks feeders and feeding platforms with it’s substantial weight, and simply proves to generally be an unwanted pest … but is not easily discouraged. We have what is most likely a family unit of seven birds coming in several times a day.

A list of species seen here so far ( and we are only ten days in! )

In years past the total number of sightings varies between 70 and 80.

  1. Green jay
  2. Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  3. Northern cardinal
  4. Olive Sparrow
  5. Altamira Oriole
  6. Audubon Oriole
  7. Inca Dove
  8. White-tipped Dove
  9. White-winged Dove
  10. House Sparrow
  11. Great Kiskadee
  12. Common Yellow-throat
  13. Osprey *
  14. Turkey Vulture *
  15. Crested Caracara *
  16. Northern Mockingbird
  17. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  18. Long-billed Thrasher
  19. Plain Chachalaca
  20. Black-crested Titmouse
  21. Hooded Oriole
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Great-tailed Grackle
  24. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  25. White Pelican *
  26. Bewick’s Wren
  27. Orange-crowwned Warbler
  28. Mourning Dove
  29. Lesser Goldfinch
  30. Ringed Kingfisher *
  31. Eastern Phoebe
  32. Verdin
  33. House Wren
  34. Blue-headed Vireo
  35. Pyrrhuloxia
  36. Gray Hawk *
  37. Couch’s Kingbird
  38. Black Phoebe
  39. Lincoln Sparrow
  40. Common Grackle
  • Denotes Flyover

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