Ten days ago at Santa Clara Ranch, the temperature soared to over 100 degrees so most wild critters were coming to water several times a day. Surprisingly, most of the birds were well feathered and colorful, so all we had to do was remain cool and quiet in the photo blind and enjoy the photography.
Here are a few shots from that weekend:
Remember to click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it.
On Saturday morning, we had 6 crested caracaras, two Harris’s hawks and several black and turkey vultures attracted to the food we had placed at the hawk blind.
The Canon 100-400 mm lenses were perfect for flight and landing sequences.
I have no idea where this “nut” came from, but a greater roadrunner enjoyed several minutes of play with it.
On Sunday morning, the green jays were extremely active and ready to pose. This shot was at 1/4000 second, f6.3 and ISO 800.
At times, there was a big crowd gathered around the pond at our blind.
A small flock of 8 wild turkey (mostly this year’s young) came looking for grain at mid-morning.
We saw Groove-billed Anis looking for a drink at two of the blinds.
Many Northern bobwhite quail came by our blind to eat and drink. It has been a good hatch year.
Several quail enjoyed having others of their kind to chase. This little guy was impressive with his feathers ruffled.
The white-tailed deer waited until sundown before appearing at the water hole. Our patience paid off as we got some nice images of two young bucks drinking.
I’ve got some bird shots to share with you in this newsletter, but first let me give you a couple of tips on excellent cameras and lenses that friends are selling at good prices. Paul Denman at email@example.com has a Canon 1 D Mark IV with extra batteries for sale. Sylvia Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org has a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 500 mm lens plus a Canon 7D and a teleconverter for sale. She says it’s all listed on her Facebook page (Sylvia Garcia). Let me know if you have any difficulty reaching these folks.
Now, here are some captures from recent days near Edinburg, Texas. Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it.
A turtle takes over when the sun comes up.
Wood stork images have been tough for me to come by, so I jumped at the chance to try for these guys as they passed through south Texas on their fall migration.
All of these photos were made with the Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 500 mm lens on a Feisol tripod with Wimberley head. I had to use ISOs of up to 1600 as the sun was coming up and then reduced it as quickly as possible to 500. All this was to sustain sufficient shutter speed to capture the flight action (1/2000 second or faster).
This is going to be a newsletter short on words and long on photos. Please enjoy some images by the photographers who accompanied me on the recent photo tour in the Christmas Mountains of west Texas. Remember to click on the photos to make them expand and sharpen for better viewing.
These first three shots are by Margaret Tulley.
Margaret’s male Lucifer Hummingbird is perched in natural light with a nice profile pose.
Dr. Josie Williams capture the following images. Note that we had a good variety of birds to distract us during the hummingbird photography sessions.
Thanks to our photographers for sharing their images of that incredible adventure to west Texas. Josie and Margaret have traveled to many photo with me in the past and each time they come away with awesome shots.
On August 17-18, I guided a group of photographers into a remote part of west Texas known as the Christmas Mountains. The trip was a pre-festival event for the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival and we were after Lucifer Hummingbirds. I hope to lead more trips in the coming year in May and August. This one filled up the first day it was advertised, so let me know early if you are interested.
August is also the west Texas monsoon season and many species of hummingbirds begin heading south into Texas from the Rockies further north. So, the festival is scheduled to take advantage of the many hummers moving into the Fort Davis area. After my workshop, I stayed around to check out some of the festival events and presented the keynote talk on the closing evening of the festival.
*** Important news on used cameras. McAllen, Texas photographer Paul Denman (email@example.com) would like to make you a great deal on his Canon 5D Mark III camera with grip and extra batteries as well as a Canon 1D Mark IV with extra batteries. Go ahead and contact him directly to get more information and discuss prices.
Here are a few images from the west Texas trip:
Don’t forget to click on an image to make it larger and sharper for viewing.
At the base of this butte in the Christmas Mountains west of Big Bend National Park, Lucifer Hummingbirds nest in cholla cactus each spring and summer. It’s doesn’t look like hummingbird nesting habit, but there they are. We photographed them at feeders within a quarter mile of this mountain.
Sunset light on the Christmas Mountains can produce some excellent scenic views.
Both of the above Lucifer shots were with Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 500 mm lens mounted on Wimberley head and Gitzo 1348 tripod.
Lucifer males have elongated, wrap-around gorgets that glow an iridescent purple from almost any angle. Also, note the characteristic curved beak.
This male is moulting but still sports a striking plumage. Four flashes were used for this photo to light the bird and background.
Keep watching for a few more images from the Davis Mountains.
Hello, everybody. It has been so hot for so long, that I just haven’t been outside much. The last few times out, I tried shooting some short videos which was a lot of fun. The editing of said videos isn’t such a big thrill, however.
Below are some photos from Transition Ranch, Laguna Seca Ranch and a stretch of highway between Sabinal and Utopia, Texas. One of my favorite photo ranches, Santa Clara Ranch, has been booked all summer so I’m waiting for October to get back.
Don’t forget to click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.
I really liked this wren shot, but should have been shooting at f8 or f11 to bring the tail into focus. On the other hand, that would have brought more detail into the background and I didn’t want that. Unfortunately, this type of pose lasts about 2 seconds, so there is no time to think about “where to focus at f11″ and still keep the background blurred. The correct focus point for this shot would probably have been about mid-way up the tail.
Interest can be added to your photos by placing flowers in the background at strategic locations before photography begins.
The challenge on this bobwhite quail photo was to capture water running from its beak. Water streaming out of his mouth added interest to the shot.
This is a second look at the location with blooming flowers in the background.
Don’t give up if your bird subject comes in to bathe and is frightened away before you get the shot. It will almost always come back two or three times (as this painted bunting did) to finish the job.
I hope to keep digging up photos from recent trips that haven’t been shared. That way, we can pass the summer days with a reminder of more pleasant weather. I think it’s time to head east for beach shots.
Last Wednesday, I headed for South Padre Island hoping to photograph some of the last of 2016’s spring migrant warblers. It was just about the end of the migration but a handful of warblers, hummingbirds and catbirds were still resting and foraging in the Convention Center thicket.
These shots were made in the shadows at a water feature without the aid of photogenic perches. Fortunately, the yellow birds exposed well, even on dead limbs.
Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.
Most of these photos were shot at 1/160th to 1/80th of a second; pretty slow but you work with what you find.
It was a tough afternoon, shooting into thick, shaded cover, but those yellow birds made my day.
Last week I had the pleasure of photographing for a few hours at the Christmas Mountains Oasis south of Alpine, Texas. It’s a long way from “Nowhere”, but it is heaven for the birds. Rare and beautiful Lucifer hummingbirds nest on the property and spend much of their time at the Oasis feeders.
A visit to the Oasis is by invitation only, so if you want to have a chance at Lucifer hummingbirds and many other species, sign up for my August 17-18 hummingbird photography workshop. I’ll be posting the particulars on my website under the Photo Tours heading in the next day or two. Eight slots were available and two are already taken.
Here are some images of the oasis and Lucifer hummingbirds:
Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.
These birds have long, curved beaks and, of course, the males have that incredible purple/pink/lavender…throat. The above shots are in natural light and photographed with the Canon 7D mark II and 500 mm lens with Wimberly head and Feisol tripod.
Lucifer hummingbirds nest in cholla cactus near the top of this mountain. Amazing!!
The last shot was done with the aid of multiple flashes and artificial background. If you like stop-action hummingbird shots, you can appreciate this image made at about 1/12,000 of a second. I’ll have the setup available at the Christmas Mountains Oasis Hummingbird Photography Workshop in August. To register, contact the folks in charge of the Fort Davis Hummingbird Celebration at Fort Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact me by email at email@example.com and I’ll get you hooked up.
Like last spring, the Texas hill country caught a lot of rain in April and the bird photography instructional photo tours endured a few overcast, cool and even drizzly days. Nevertheless, we saw a lot of nice birds at Block Creek Natural Area (Turkey Hollow B&B) and at Transition Ranch near Uvalde. I was at Transition all of last week with two groups of photographers where we worked from photo blinds and by walking some of the roads bordered by wildflowers.
A dry spring will bring more birds to the waterholes and food at the blinds, but I think you will see some indications of the ranch’s potential in the following photos.
Remember to click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.
Except for the image above, I used my 500 mm lens for virtually every shot. This image was made with Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105 mm lens at f22 and tripod mounted.
This ash-throated flycatcher was at the blind for only a moment.
The gray vireo above is pretty rare in the hill country but they can thrive in the diverse habitats of the Transition Ranch.
Various orioles have already begun to nest.
Blue grosbeaks were popping up everywhere during the last half of the week (around May 1).
Vermilion flycatchers are among the early nesters at Transition Ranch and one pair fledged their young while we were there in late April.
This pose of western scrub jay was one of my favorite shots of the week. Slight head-turn makes the photo.
In a chattering contest between cactus wrens and yellow-breasted chats, it was a close call to name the winner. They never let up.
Black-capped vireos are found throughout the ranch in abundant mixed thickets of scrubby oak, Texas persimmon and sumac.
These little guys love the juniper thickets of Transition Ranch.
As the days grow warmer and dryer, even more birds will find their way to the fresh water and food at the ranch’s photo blinds. Like most south Texas ranches, the bird diversity is wonderful and the photo ops are abundant.
Last week at Galveston’s nature festival, FeatherFest, I helped lead several wildlife photography field trips and seminars. It was my fifth festival and each year I share in the fun of photographing birds and landscapes along the coast from Rockport to High Island at the upper end of Bolivar Peninsula. The following collection of images is offered to give you a glimpse at the diversity of Texas coastal birdlife during spring migration and nesting:
Be sure to click on the first photo to enlarge and sharpen for viewing.
The weather on most mornings during FeatherFest was gloomy, but colorful birds and intense bird breeding activity livened the scene. Most of these images were made with a Canon 7D Mark II and 100-400 mm lens, handheld. For the spoonbill, the camera settings were 1/1600 sec @ f5.6 and ISO 800.
The highlight of our photography sessions was a trip to High Island and the Audubon Sanctuary there where thousands of herons, egrets, ibis and spoonbills nest.
I first saw this crested caracara walking amid hundreds of laughing gulls resting on the ground in a beautiful landscape of Rockport wildflowers. Eventually, it gave up on finding an easy meal and flew directly at me. The Canon AI Servo worked perfectly in predicting the bird’s approach and holding focus for several frames.
Our photo group captured many species and thousands of images from a boat at Aransas and Galveston Bays.
At Port Aransas we encountered a mini-fallout of migrating birds forced to ground by an approaching coastal cold front during their northward flight across the U.S.
On my last evening in Galveston, our group got to see thousands of gulls and brown pelicans swarming over their nesting islands as the sun sank.
If you are a photographer, think hard about joining some of the photography sessions at FeatherFest next April.
Last weekend, I was in Canadian, Texas with several other photographers to try for lesser prairie chickens on the lek (booming ground). The weather was fantastic and the birds were active. Two years ago, three of us spent three days in a Canadian rain, so we were primed for sunshine and birds.
One of my problems has been (and continues to be) realizing that when I’m photographing wildlife in action, I need to pull back and leave a lot of room for wings, legs, etc. This time around, I had the Canon 7d Mark II fixed with the new Canon 100-400 mm lens. It seemed the ideal combination for this session, but maintaining space was still a challenge.
As usual, the birds were on the lek well before dawn each day and the wait for shooting light was stressful. I wanted to capture as many “cock fighting” sequences as possible, but it was an extreme challenge. Here are some of the images from the two-day shoot:
Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.
Since prairie chickens seldom visit the lek during the afternoon, we spent that time looking for other wildlife and scenics.
Male prairie chickens constantly run and fly about the lek challenging other males.
Male lesser prairie chickens jump into the air, kicking and pecking each other. At the end of the brief encounters, one or both males often had a mouth full of feathers.
Next year, I would like to take a group north for lesser and greater prairie chickens. It could be a great early April trip.
*** I’m going to lead a Lucifer Hummingbird photography workshop on a habitat west of Big Bend National Park on August 15-17. The birds WILL be there This is a pre-festival photo session with the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival in Fort Davis. Only 6 slots are available, so let me know soon if you want to sign up.
I still have those two lenses for sale: Nikon 80-200 mm and Canon 300 mm, f4.