Busy April

April was a busy month for me.  First, I helped conduct some workshops at FeatherFest/PhotoFest in Galveston.  Then, I guided other photographers on one of the south Texas photo ranches.  After that, I went to South Padre Island and the Ozona, Texas area to lead photo tours and workshops.  Then the month ended with a media event at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.  The Cincinnati Zoo education team brought an ocelot by the refuge for a few minutes and allowed us to photograph it.  So, the hectic month ended on a high note.

April was unlike those of most other years.  While the rest of the country was getting blasted with powerful weather systems, Texas was toasty and extremely dry.  One of our favorite bird events, a migration ”fallout” of songbirds at South Padre Island didn’t happen because the cool fronts just weren’t reaching us.  The weather man promises a good cold front next week, so you know where I will be Monday morning (if the Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise)… South Padre Island!

Next week, I hope to get busy preparing a photo tour schedule for the coming fall, winter and spring, so keep watching this web site.

Here is a good sampling of the photos I got from all those April trips:

Remember to click on the photo to see an enlarged and sharper version.  You can advance through the photos by clicking in the upper right portion of each photo.

Black Skimmer pair in a courting chase at Galveston Island.

Black Skimmer pair in a courting chase at Galveston Island.

Black Skimmers landing in formation on wet beach at South Padre Island.

Black Skimmers landing in formation on wet beach at South Padre Island.

Black-necked Stilt feeding along the edge of the Laguna Madre at South Padre Island.

Black-necked Stilt feeding along the edge of the Laguna Madre at South Padre Island.

I captured the stilt photo while lying in wet sand and shooting from a bean bag on a frisbee.  In the spring, I always try to have my wading shoes, bathing suit and an old t-shirt for low-crawling in the sand to get these eye-level views.

These dunlins held a tight formation while whirling about the tidal flats on South Padre Island.

These dunlins held a tight formation while whirling about the tidal flats on South Padre Island.

Great Blue Heron chasing mullet in the shallows of the Laguna Madre at South Padre Island.

Great Blue Heron chasing mullet in the shallows of the Laguna Madre at South Padre Island.

Unlucky mullet speared by a great blue heron.

Unlucky mullet speared by a great blue heron.

In the photo above, the bird is angling away from the photographer, but it best shows what a great blue heron can do with that sharp, powerful beak.

A more photogenic pose of a great blue heron hunting in the freshwater marsh at South Padre Island's Birding Center boardwalk.

A more photogenic pose of a great blue heron hunting in the freshwater marsh at South Padre Island's Birding Center boardwalk.

Laughing gull bathing in the Laguna Madre at sunrise.

Laughing gull bathing in the Laguna Madre at sunrise.

Who says Laughing Gulls can't read.  This sign is on the South Padre Island Birding Center boardwalk.

Who says Laughing Gulls can't read. This sign is on the South Padre Island Birding Center boardwalk.

I cloned away some screws along the top of the sign.  They were connected with monofilament line to discourage perching birds, but they weren’t working.

Laughing gulls and black skimmers skim freshwater ponds near the lower Texas coast to drink.

Laughing gulls and black skimmers skim freshwater ponds near the lower Texas coast to drink.

This displaying great-tailed grackle was the first bird I saw at South Padre Island.  He's not exactly what I was after, but I couldn't resist the display.

This displaying great-tailed grackle was the first bird I saw at South Padre Island. He's not exactly what I was after, but I couldn't resist the display.

Baltimore Orioles were arriving at South Padre about the same time we drove in (April 19).  I was able to lure this male onto a good perch by using an orange slice placed just below the perch.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get the birds to feed actively until well after the warm morning light had passed.

Baltimore Orioles were arriving at South Padre about the same time we did (April 19). I was able to lure this male onto a good perch by using an orange slice placed just below the perch. Unfortunately, we couldn't get the birds to feed actively until well after the warm morning light had passed.

This nice blackpoll male arrived at my South Padre Island perch well ahead of the other birds and while the light was rich.

This nice blackpoll male arrived at my South Padre Island perch well ahead of the other birds and while the light was rich.

Male ruby-throated hummingbird feeding at bottle brush blooms by the South Padre Island Convention Center.

Male ruby-throated hummingbird feeding at bottle brush blooms by the South Padre Island Convention Center.

Small birds like this Tennessee Warbler feed on insects among the fiddlewood leave at South Padre Island Convention Center.  Larger fruit eaters like rose-breasted grosbeaks and orioles feast on the ripe fruit.

Small birds like this Tennessee Warbler feed on insects among the fiddlewood leave at South Padre Island Convention Center. Larger fruit eaters like rose-breasted grosbeaks and orioles feast on the ripe fruit.

This warbling vireo spent the morning of April 20 foraging among the leaves of huisache and tepeguaje trees at the convention center.

This warbling vireo spent the morning of April 20 foraging among the leaves of huisache and tepeguaje trees at the convention center.

Western Tanagers normally are rare visitors to SPI during the spring migration.  This year we saw several cooperative males.

Western Tanagers normally are rare visitors to SPI during the spring migration. This year we saw several cooperative males.

An excited male mottled duck in the shoreline foliage of South Padre Island's Birding Center marsh.

An excited male mottled duck in the shoreline foliage of South Padre Island's Birding Center marsh.

My trip to the Hoak Ranch near Ozona, Texas included taking the photo group to historic Fort Landcaster.  Even in ruins, the fort is a majestic locale for late evening photography.

My trip to the Hoak Ranch near Ozona, Texas included taking the photo group to historic Fort Landcaster. Even in ruins, the fort is a majestic locale for late evening photography.

A little "star burst" effect as the setting sun slides past a chimney in the Fort Lancaster soldiers' quarters.

A little "star burst" effect as the setting sun slides past a chimney in the Fort Lancaster soldiers' quarters.

One of the sharp-eyed photography students at the Hoak Ranch Workshop spotted a mating pair of western coachwhip snakes.  In parts of west Texas, coachwhips take on a reddish color.

A sharp-eyed photography student at the Hoak Ranch Workshop spotted a wary pair of mating western coachwhip snakes. In parts of west Texas, coachwhips take on a reddish color.

 

Zone-tailed Hawks often fly with vultures and blend in with the flock.

Zone-tailed Hawks often fly with vultures and blend in with the flock.

This zone-tailed hawk glided past the Hoak Ranch patio in late afternoon.  After springing to the car for a camera, I managed to get a few, shaky shots of this bird riding the air currents before sunset.

This zone-tailed hawk glided past the Hoak Ranch patio in late afternoon. After sprinting to the car for a camera, I managed a few, shaky shots as the zone-tail drifted into the sunset.

My last photos in April were of this female ocelot (below) posing on a mesquite branch at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. 

Captive ocelot furnished by the Cincinnati Zoo for an educational tour of south Texas where fewer that 50 of the endangered cats still survive in the wild.

Captive ocelot furnished by the Cincinnati Zoo for an educational tour of south Texas where fewer than 50 of the endangered cats still survive in the wild.

I hope you enjoyed this little look into my busy spring.  It was a lot of fun.  Thanks to all of you who were a part of it.
Larry

Busy Spring in South Texas

April has been a busy one.  I just got back from doing several workshops at FeatherFest in Galveston, then I spent three days guiding on the Santa Clara Ranch, and next week I’m off to South Padre Island for a spring migrant birds instructional photo tour.  Immediately after that workshop, I will be leading a workshop on the Hoak Ranch near Ozona, Texas.

The Caddo Lake Instructional Photo Tour had to be cancelled for this spring…just not enough participants.  It has always been the most productive and fun of all the photo trips I lead, so it was especially difficult having to pull the plug.  If you have been wanting to do that one, set aside some vacation time for the first week of May 2012.

For those of you who shoot with Nikon equipment, I know of a couple of great lens buys.  Contact Sherry ( sherhal@aol.com ).  She has a Nikon 300 mm f4 and a Sigma 50-500 mm zoom, both less than a year old (the Sigma is only 2 months old) and like new.  The lenses are excellent but her husband surprised her with a new Nikon 400 mm f2.8 just a few days ago, so she is eager to sell the other telephotos.

Here are some shots captured on recent trips.  The mud dauber photos were lots of fun because I got into the macro world of bees and wasps for a couple of hours (it was a slow day in the bird blind). 

Click in the upper right portion of the photo to enlarge if for a larger, sharper view and to move on to the next photo.

Mud Dauber and escort with a ball of mud

Mud Dauber and escort with a ball of mud

I got this shot with the 300 mm lens, 1.4 X teleconverter and 25 mm extension tube.  To stop the motion, used the following settings: ISO 1250, 1/2000 sec. @ f10 with the Canon 7D camera.  Of course, this is really a high speed, multi-flash type shot that should be done at f 22, but I made do with what I had.
Mourning dove take-off with water flying

Mourning dove take-off with water flying

It usually takes 10-20 trys to get a good take off shot of birds at the water hole, but the reward is great when it all comes together.  I shot this one with the Canon 1D Mark III and Canon 100-400 mm lens at 400 mm setting, 1/3200 sec. @ f 5.6 with the ISO set at 500.
Common Yellowthroat about to bathe.

Common Yellowthroat about to bathe.

This male common yellowthroat was very nervous, but eventually got a bath.  He is one of the early migrant songbirds to reach the Santa Clara Ranch this spring.
Eastern Cottontail keeping those toenails clipped.

Eastern Cottontail keeping those toenails clipped.

Grooming is always tiring, so one should stretch out an relax after such hard work.
Eastern Cottontail resting in the cool dust of the south Texas desert brushlands.

Eastern Cottontail resting in the cool dust of the south Texas desert brushlands.

A handfull of corn just isn't enough to satisfy two javelinas so something has to give.

A handfull of corn isn't enough to satisfy two javelinas, so something has to give.

This Audubon's Oriole perched on one of the few guayacan plants to bloom this spring.

This Audubon's Oriole perched on one of the few guayacan plants to bloom this spring.

I had to hunt long and hard this spring for a guayacan bush with blooms that might make a good perch for bird portraits.  The Audubon’s orioles have temporarily altered their winter routine and begun nest building.
This pair of Long-billed Thrashers regularly visit the photo blind water hole, even while nest building.

This pair of Long-billed Thrashers regularly visited the photo blind water hole, even while nest building.

The Roel Ramirez Ranch at Roma, Texas still boasts large numbers of south Texas birds at the photo blinds.

The Roel Ramirez Ranch at Roma, Texas still boasts large numbers of south Texas birds at the photo blinds.

This colorful verdin looked stiking atop the blooming guayacan bush.  Water and fresh orange slices attract the guys to south Texas photo blinds.

This colorful verdin looked stiking atop the blooming guayacan bush. Water and fresh orange slices attract the guys to south Texas photo blinds.

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers readily land on guayacan bush perches, too.

Golden-fronted Woodpeckers readily land on guayacan bush perches, too.

This coming week, we hope to see lots of Royal terns and songbirds at the South Padre Island Photo Tour.

This coming week, we hope to see lots of Royal terns and songbirds at the South Padre Island Photo Tour.

During the South Padre Island Photo Tour, we plan to get eye-to-eye with the Laguna Madre beach terns, shorebirds, and gulls.  These breeding terns were captured with the Canon 1D Mark III and 500 mm IS lens atop a bean bag cradled in a frisbee.  I got a little damp on the underside, but it was fun.  Nevertheless, an 80″  plastic body-skid for beach photography would be nice.
Thank you, Lord, for your beautiful creation.
Larry