January 17, 2018 Falcon Lake State Park, Texas

Female Cardinal and Prryhuloxia
Female Cardinal and Prryhuloxia

The Cold Catches Up with Me

Temperatures last night dropped into the mid twenties and daytime temps only climbed into the thirties, it even spit a tiny bit of snow for a few minutes. So I mostly stayed inside and worked on the computer and took a trip to Rio Grand City to have my monthly bloodwork done and pick up some birdseed at Tractor Supply.

Pyrrhuloxia Pair
Pyrrhuloxia Pair

I had no real desire to venture outside and do any bird photography, but I did feel sorry for the birds in this extreme cold ( for South Texas, not the rest of you suffering from REAL cold a little farther up north ), and so went out occasionally and filled two feeders. Looking out the window, I did observe a lot of activity around those two feeders, with much more concentrated action on my post feeder than I was getting in previous days when the birds had more choices of where to land and feed.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird

So, around three in the afternoon, I finally bundled up and grabbed the tripod and camera and set up to take advantage of the flurry of activity, hoping to be able to get some nice action shots.

Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird

Plenty of action, but unfortunately, because of the leaden gray skies, there was very limited light to shoot by and I was forced to use an extremely high ISO to be able to freeze any action at all resulting in very noisy images not suitable for enlargement or publication.

Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal and Red-winged Blackbird

But the great interactions caught in this poor light might make for some good photo references for possible future paintings and I thought I might share them on the blog as well.

Green Jay and Red-winged Blackbird
Green Jay and Red-winged Blackbird

As I wasn’t outside fending off the blackbirds most of the day, they now felt entitled to come in even though I was out there. I absolutely despise these birds, that always arrive in huge numbers, because of all the food they consume and how they manage to drive off all the birds I am usually trying to shoot. But I will have to grudgingly admit that they did make a contribution to some of the better captures I managed today.

Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinals

It is supposed to remain frigid tomorrow and then start to return to normal temps by the weekend, so there may be some decent, much sharper action shots  yet to be had.

Female Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia
Female Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia

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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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March 12, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Audubon Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Audubon Oriole and Northern Cardinal

Eight Days to Go !

Northern Cardinal and Long-billed Thrasher
Northern Cardinal and Long-billed Thrasher

We have had our first serious rainfall over the past two days, the first in four plus months to be exact. So that allowed me to catch up with some image processing, thus, yes, still more bird shots from Salineno.

Northern Cardinals
Northern Cardinals
Altamira Oriole and Female Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Cardinal
Audubon Oriole and Green Jay
Audubon Oriole and Green Jay
Audubon Oriole and Great Kiskadee
Audubon Oriole and Great Kiskadee
Green jays
Green jays
Green jays
Green jays
Green jay and Great Kiskadee
Green jay and Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher and Female Northern Cardinal
Long-billed Thrasher and Female Northern Cardinal
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

Red-winged Blackbirds

Red-winged Blackbird Harassing Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird Harassing Northern Cardinal

Red-winged Blackbirds are a very real problem here as elsewhere that birds are being fed, they want their share of the handouts, and obviously feel that their share is about 99% of the food put out.

Red-winged Blackbird Harassing Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Red-winged Blackbird Harassing Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Their constant, relentless attempts to mob the feeding area have admittedly gotten to me over the four months of attempting to keep them at bay. Their shrill trilling from the treetops around the yard and from their hidden perches in the bushes within the yard are like nails on a chalkboard to me.

Red-winged Blackbird and Green jay
Red-winged Blackbird and Green jay
Red-winged Blackbird and Green jays
Red-winged Blackbird and Green jays

My absolute disgust with these birds has made me reluctant to include images of them on this blog, or anywhere else for that matter. But they most certainly are part of the “action” shots I have been taking, for they are the central characters in most of the conflicts over food here.

Red-winged Blackbirds and Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds and Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole

They arrive in numbers the second I turn my back or whenever I have my eyes locked to the back of my camera, driving off the birds we are trying to attract through sheer force of numbers.

Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole
Red-winged Blackbirds Harass Altamira Oriole

The Altamira Oriole is normally the yards dominant bird, not really backing down to any other bird when challenged, but even they are eventually forced to yield when the Blackbirds descend in numbers.

An Unusual Red-winged Blackbird
An Unusual Red-winged Blackbird

Lastly, this rather different Red-winged Blackbird showed up a couple of weeks ago and I have no explanation for the odd coloring. Anybody seen anything like this or know the reason for it?

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March 8, 2016 Salineno Birding Area, Texas

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

Finally Getting Some of the Good Stuff Posted

My Nikon D810 camera died and was sent back to Nikon for warranty repairs a couple weeks ago now. Since then I have been concentrating on getting a serious backlog of image processing done.

Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinals
Female Northern Cardinal and Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Female Northern Cardinal and Golden-fronted Woodpecker

I still have hundreds of nice action shots to sort through and process, even though I haven’t shot anything new in two weeks. As I go through these images, and think back to where I started this action shot business three months ago, I can’t help but think I have made some pretty decent progress. My time here in Salineno has proven to me that you actually can teach an old dog new tricks.

Great Kiskadee
Great Kiskadee
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher

Turns out that camera technique is only half the secret. Paying attention to how the props are constructed, where they are placed for bird flight paths, selecting the proper backgrounds, and knowing what time of day will yield which type of shot best, are every bit as important as knowing how to use the camera.

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

The images in this post were shot over several days with varying light conditions. Most of my favorite shots from here were taken between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning or in the very last hours of useable light in the evening. All of the above shots were shot at that time of day, where the dark backgrounds and brilliantly lit subjects produce very dramatic images. Yet those are also the shots that require the most patience. Because of the dim light,  it becomes difficult to maintain the shutter speeds necessary to freeze wing motion and it takes an awful lot of shots taken to get just a few good images, but I have found that when all the conditions are just right and the subjects catch that golden light just so, well, the results speak for themselves.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinal
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Two Female Northern Cardinals
Two Female Northern Cardinals
Great Kiskadees
Great Kiskadees

Another very different lighting condition, foggy mornings that yield very diffused light, produces  an entirely different type of image, these soft, pastel like shots.

Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Green jay
Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher
Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher
Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher
Great Kiskadee and Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
Audubon Orioles
Audubon Orioles
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinal
Golden-fronted Woodpecker and Female Northern Cardinal
Great Kiskadee and Female Northern Cardinal
Great Kiskadee and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Great Kiskadee
Altamira Oriole and Great Kiskadee
Altamira Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Northern Cardinal
Altamira Orioles
Altamira Orioles
Altamira Orioles
Altamira Orioles
Altamira Oriole and Audubon Oriole
Altamira Oriole and Audubon Oriole
Audubon Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Audubon Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal

Midday produces the best light for freezing motion and thus some of the sharpest shots are taken then, though the bright backgrounds add little to the images.

Audubon Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Audubon Oriole and Female Northern Cardinal
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Altamira Oriole and Green Jay
Great Kiskadee and Female Northern Cardinal
Great Kiskadee and Female Northern Cardinal
Green Jay and Female Northern Cardinal
Green Jay and Female Northern Cardinal

The weather here at the start of March has me itching to head north for a change of scenery , routine, and some more comfortable temperatures. March 20th has been announced as the closing date for birding at Salineo, so I begin my countdown to departure, hoping that Nikon gets my camera sent back to me in time to leave on schedule. I hope to be able to catch some of the Texas springtime wildflowers as I head north and west from here.

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