April 20 is always close to being the peak of the spring songbird migration through south Texas. Unfortunately, this spring a constant, southerly wind carried most of the birds right on over us. It was last week, early May, before a “fallout” finally occurred at South Padre Island. It was a little late to see great numbers of birds, but three days of brisk north wind forced a nice diversity of birds to seek refuge on the island. It was a wonderful photography event!
Here are some of the beauties that flew to my lens last week:
Click on the photos to make them open in a larger, sharper format.
I saw more redstarts at South Padre Island last week than in the past ten years combined.
Most of these photos were taken with the Canon 7D camera (set for high speed shutter action…8 frames/second), a 500 mm IS lens, 1.4X teleconverter, ISO between 400-1,000 depending on the light, while maintaining something close to 1/2,000 second shutter speed @ f 5.6 – f 11. Most of the time, I was using fill flash with a Better Beamer attached. I almost always shoot with flash power reduced – 2 2/3 f stops from full power. For shooting songbirds, I recommend using a 25 mm extension tube between the lens and camera to allow extra close focusing. Mine was on the blink last week, but a good cleaning revived it. *One of the pins was sticking and couldn’t spring into normal alignment as the extension tube was attached to the lens. Remember that when yours decides to fail.
Each time this male ruby-throated hummingbird came in, I blazed away, trying to capture that incredible throat at a good sun angle to bring out the irridescent red. Just before the sun set, I got the shot.
Two days later, Steve Bentsen and I spent a morning on his ranch trying to call birds with another friend, Richard Moore. A little after sunrise, we got this Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. The rest of our trip was a dry run, so assumed that the extremely dry weather is causing many species to delay breeding.