In Search of a Booby

On Friday, Steve Sinclair and I drove out to South Padre Island in search of a Masked Booby that had been reported hanging out around the ship channel jetties.  After a short walk of maybe 150 feet, we almost stumbled over our seabird as he waited along the walking path for a fresh-fish handout from passing fishermen.  We seldom enjoy that kind of “instant” success when searching for unusual birds, but the booby was right there and waiting to be photographed.

Although in the middle of a molt, our bird was a good find.  It sort of blended in with the laughing gulls, so none of the fishermen had the slightest idea they were in the presence of an unusual  bird.  Normally, one would have to go to a more tropical ocean habitat like the south Atlantic or Caribbean Ocean to find this guy.

So, here are some South Padre critters: Masked Booby, a green sea turtle and a marine creature called a Sea Hare.  It surfaced while I photographed turtles near the jetty.

When you click on a photo, it will enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Masked Booby on jetty at South Padre Island, 8.3.208
Sea Hare feeding on algae in the Brownsville Ship Channel.
Green Sea Turtle surfacing for air.

These images were made with the Canon 7D Mark II camera and Canon 100-400 mm lens, handheld.  It was so hot and steamy on this day, I decided to wait for cooler weather before returning for better photos.

Larry

Fawns, Fishing and Eating Water Lilies

As the sun popped from the Gulf of Mexico today, I was photographing a wading fisherman in the Laguna Madre, south Texas.  Good fortune was with me as two fishing boats passed beyond him and I got them all in one shot.  Then I headed out to try finding fawn white-tailed deer since early July is the peak fawning  time in this part of the state.  Again, I was lucky and located several newborns, some as their mothers were tucking them away in tall cover for the day.  BUT, my search continues for that best of all baby deer photos…nursing time with a fawn on either side of a doe.  I just have to keep trying.

Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it.  Then click on the arrows at either side to advance or back up.

Fishermen on a sunrise mission in boats and waders, Laguna Madre, Texas.

 

White-tailed Deer, doe keeping her baby scent-free.
White-tailed Deer, fawns standing in young mesquite. shrubs, s. Texas.
White-tailed Deer fawn hiding in tall grass, s. Texas.
White-tailed Deer, summer buck putting on good antlers.

 

Horses eating water lilies.

These horses were escaping mosquitos and munching water lilies in an ephemeral pond.

For most of these images, I used a tripod, Canon 5D Mark IV camera and 100-400 mm lens.  The big buck was done with a 7D Mark II and 500 mm lens, hand-held.

Larry

Last Week at Laguna Seca Photo Ranch

Barbara and Tom Pickthall joined me for two days of photography last week at Laguna Seca Photography Ranch north of Edinburg, Texas.  The summer temperatures had arrived and were climbing each day, so the wildlife needed lots of water.  While waiting patiently in photo blinds at various waterholes, we were able to capture some nice images.

Here are a few of my shots.  Most were made with the Canon 500 mm lens and Canon 5D Mark IV camera from a Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod.

Blue Grosbeak male in spike rush.
Blue Grosbeak male taking flight.
Pair bonding Northern Cardinals.
Green Jay nuptial meal.
Northern Bobwhite eating manzanita fruit, s. Texas.
Northern Bobwhite hen watching young as she feeds.
Northern Bobwhite drinking behind grassy cover.
Northern Bobwhite hen at the waterhole
Common Ground Dove kicking up sand at it reacts to some quick movement in the weeds.
Great Kiskadee eating manzanita fruit, s. Texas.
Pyrrhuloxia male with tall crest.
Painted Bunting, male with Cedar Waxwing haircut.
Painted Bunting male on lichen-covered twig, s. Texas.

As we finished the first afternoon’s shoot and the shadows were growing long, an old male bobcat strolled passed.  I made several  squeaking sounds (by sucking on the web of skin between my index finger and thumb) and got a response.  We all got great shots of his reaction.

Bobcat male pauses to listen for prey.

I hope to begin getting these newsletters posted more frequently.  Thanks for dropping by.

Larry

 

Last Week at Santa Clara Photo Ranch

Here are some photos from last week at the Santa Clara Photo Ranch west of Edinburg, Texas.  The image with mourning doves and Super Moon was made the week before, but I just had to include it.

Most of these photos were made in the rain or when fog and mist covered the land.  Thanks to the improvements in Canon’s 7D Mark II and 5D Mark IV cameras, I was able to keep the ISO high enough to get some keepers.

Click on an image and it will enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Mourning Doves and Super Moon about a half hour after sunset.
Pyrrhuloxia and Northern Cardinal fighting for a perch.
Northern Cardinal female landing on common ground-dove.
Black-crested Titmouse searching for food.
Greater Roadrunner fluffing feathers to retain heat.
Northern Cardinal in flight.
Rainy day Audubon ‘s Oriole.
Pyrrhuloxia (male) and landing Northern Cardinal (female).
Common Ground Dove landing on stump.
A White-tipped Dove got there first.
Black-crested Titmouse pair feeding.
Crested Caracara landing.

You will have to try Santa Clara Photo Ranch…but book a year in advance for spring and summer shooting.  There is a huge variety of birds, reptiles and mammals coming to water and food at the blinds during the warmer months and business is brisk.

Larry

Three Birds from South Padre Island

Sunday afternoon I headed to South Padre Island for a few hours of photography.  The high in McAllen, Texas today (Tuesday) was 36 degrees with overcast skies, so I’m feeling pretty good about that decision.

Here are three shots from the outing:

Click on a photo to get a sharper, clearer view.

Reddish Egret chasing American Coot

The coot got hammered but escaped with all his feathers in tact.

Royal Tern with a mullet

This mullet wasn’t so lucky; a royal tern speared him through the head.

Northern Pintail pair resting in coastal salt marsh, s. Texas

This was the last shot of the day.  A pair of pintails basking in the last rays of afternoon light.

Is was a fun afternoon and, I made it to the house in time for that incredible Viking comeback win over the Saints.

Larry

 

South Texas Deer on a Foggy Morning

In the following shots, it’s pretty hard to see any fog, but there was enough to severely reduce the amount of light available for photography.  These were made late last week toward the end of the rut with a Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 100-400 mm IS lens (second generation) and all are hand-held.   At ISO 1000, I was able to work through the morning at shutter speeds from 1/250 to 1/1000 second.

I am losing a lot of images when the image stabilizer is in the “on” position because my photos are usually made quickly or hurriedly and I forget to partially depress the shutter for a split second before making the image.  Hence, the stabilizer and shutter are working at the same time…causing blurring of the first image in each burst.  Unfortunately, the best shot is often the first one, so from here on in, I am shooting the old fashioned way and using a tripod when possible.  Mostly, I’ll try to compensate for vibration with higher shutter speeds.

These images were posted on Facebook a day or two ago, so if we are Facebook friends, you may already have seen them.

When you click on a photo, it should expand and sharpen for better viewing.  Click at the right side of any shot to advance.

White-tailed Deer, buck bedded in tall grass and weeds.
White-tailed Deer, buck whirling to run
White-tailed Deer, buck running
White-tailed Deer, buck polishing antlers.
White-tailed Deer, buck scenting doe in estrus.  Most of us call this a “lip curl” because the behavior (flehmen) in too hard to remember, pronounce or explain.
White-tailed Deer, buck alert and ready to run.  Yes, this is a native Texas buck and a free ranging deer that grew those antlers without aid of protein feeding (as far as I know).
Eager buck in rut and timid doe.

I’m sorry it’s been so long since the last newsletter, but maybe I can get back on track.

Happy New Year!

Larry

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival Photo Workshops

Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.

Palm and moon from the RGV Birding Festival headquarters parking lot in Harlingen, Texas.”

While waiting for my ride on the first morning of the festival, I grabbed the camera and shot photos of palms, pink clouds and the moon at sunrise.

For two days last week, I lead photography groups to the National Butterfly Center in Mission and to the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.  Day #1 was beautiful, but a strong cold front on Day #2 pretty much shut down any hope for any spectacular bird photos at the island.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed the opportunity to improve our nature photography skills while getting some nice images.

Here are a few shots from both destinations:

Altamira Oriole searching for some tasty orange slices at the National Butterfly Center.
Clay-colored Thrush lured into view by a very natural looking water drip.
Plain Chachalaca eating Anacua berries, North American Butterfly Center, Mission, Texas.
Plain Chachalaca in flight

Perhaps the toughest test of a bird photographer’s skill is the ability to successfully capture birds in flight.

White Peacock butterflies nectaring.

While our photographers professed a desire to focus the day in pursuit of birds, they quickly gave in to the temptation of capturing images of the Butterfly Center’s showy butterflies. I  certainly enjoyed the opportunity to photograph my first Questionmark batterfly (below).

Questionmark butterfly on a tree branch.
Great Egret with fish.

We thought this great egret was frozen by the winter blast that hit South Padre Island on our second morning.  Then it surprised us with a sudden thrust of his head into the pond below.  Maybe the little fish was shocked as well when that the immobile white object above turned out to be an actively hunting predator.

Mottled Duck hen shaking water from feathers.
White Ibis with shrimp.

Even when it’s cold, everything has to eat.

As we prepared to leave South Padre Island, this lonely Couch’s Kingbird made a parking lot appearance.  It was our last opportunity to photograph one of those beautiful Rio Grande Valley specialty birds.

Couch’s Kingbird on perch.

All images were made with Canon 5D Mark IV camera and 100-400 mm Canon lens.

Larry

 

Remembering Last Spring

 

While organizing photo files last week, I came across a number of  shots from a morning trip last spring to South Padre Island (SPI), Texas.  They reminded me that being on SPI in late April, rubbing elbows with dozens of other photographers is always a special event.  On this day, every clump of trees was teeming with colorful, migrating songbirds.  Maybe the best part of this trip was that I didn’t have to spend hours crouched in a photo blind or arranging perches and water drips to attract the birds… I just parked the car, grabbed the camera and start shooting.

These photos were taken in one morning on the grounds at SPI’s Convention Center.

Baltimore Oriole, male perched, April.
Baltimore Oriole, male perched, April.

On this day, a large number of Baltimore Orioles had just arrived.  Most were searching for food and water and didn’t pay much attention to the photographers.

Male Baltimore Orioles in spring migration.

Getting into position for a photo that offers a clean background and reasonably good lighting can be a photographer’s greatest challenge.

Male and female Baltimore Orioles fighting.
Indigo Bunting male perched, April.

First time visitors are always shocked at the variety and color of all those warblers, buntings, grosbeaks, tanagers, etc. crammed into a small woodlot.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak male perched, April.
Worm-eating Warbler searching for insects.

Some of the birds like this Worm Eating Warbler are unusual finds and they aren’t much for posing.  Photographers have to spot, focus and shoot quickly or the opportunity will be gone.

A motionless Yellow-billed Cuckoo watching for juicy caterpillars.
Foraging Yellow Warblers are easy to spot and hard to photograph.
White-eyed Vireo perched, April.

So, this is a small sample of what can be seen and photographed on a good morning.  These shots were made with Canon 500 mm and 100-400 mm lenses and Canon 7d Mark II camera.

Larry

 

 

From the Backyard

 After an August trip to the Davis Mountains in west Texas for hummingbirds, I decided to stay close to home until the weather improved.  That is to say, I stayed in the house and close to the air conditioner for most of September.

Late in the month, the first migrating hummingbirds began arriving.  It was the first autumn in many years when “hummers” came this far inland on their journey south.  Perhaps hurricane “Harvey” steered them slightly off the normal course, but whatever the cause, we were happy to see them.

While there weren’t many, 6-8 birds were enough to convince me I should break out the tripods and flashes to capture as many ruby-throated and black-chinned hummingbird photos as possible while they stopped to feed.

Today’s newsletter has a few of those birds and one or two shots of resident wildlife… anoles.

Remember, you can click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird male nectaring at red salvia, s. Texas.
Male rubythroat flying up to salvia blooms.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovering in flower garden.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, male feeding at garden flowers.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, male feeding at garden flowers

All the hummingbird photos were done with the aid of four flashes  on the bird and two on the background with each set at 1/32nd power.  The result is a pulse of light lasting about 1/12,000th second.  Such a short duration of light stops a bird’s wing beat and other motion.  The camera settings for each shot were approximately 1/200th second, f 22 and ISO 200 so that only the flashes provided enough light to properly expose the subject.  Each was captured with a Canon 7D Mark II camera and Canon 500 mm f4 lens.

Broad-winged Hawk migration over McAllen in mid-September.
Bark Anole (Anolis distichus) extending dewlap.
Bark Anole trying to attract a female.

I’m sorry so much time elapsed since the last newsletter.  Most people are using Facebook to share photos these days, so I got in the habit of posting images in that forum.  I’ll try to continue doing both.

Larry

 

Another Look at the Lucifer Hummingbird

Only one slot remains for some lucky person who wants to photograph hummingbirds next month in the Christmas and Davis Mountains of Texas.  Take a look at these images from last year’s trip and contact me if you are interested.  This year, we should have a good chance to see Magnificant (Rivoli’s), Rufous, Broad-billed, Calliope, Black-chinned and Lucifer Hummingbirds.

Click on an image to automatically enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.

Lucifer Hummingbird, male on yucca leaf, Christmas Mountains, Texas.
Female Lucifer hummingbird drinking at garden flower, west Texas.
Lucifer hummingbird drinking at garden flower, west Texas.
Lucifer Hummingbird, male perched in cat claw bush, Christmas Mountains, Texas.
Male Lucifer hummingbird feeding at garden flower, west Texas.

This trip will be part of the Davis Mountains Hummingbird Festival.  I’ll be your photography guide.  The multi-flash set up will be available for flight shots like these.  The perch shots were done without flash in a totally natural setting near feeders.

Larry

Go to 956-330-2114 or lditto@larryditto.com to register.  Get more details at my website (www.larryditto.com).  When the site opens, just click on Photo Tour Schedule.

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