South Padre Island Rainbows

Yesterday, Allen Dale and I headed out to South Padre Island with telephotos in hand with the hope of finding some migrant birds.  For new birds, the morning was a total bomb, but the trip was not a loss.  I had grabbed my backpack with landscape equipment (almost as an afterthought) when I left home.  What a stroke of good fortune that was.

Just as we arrived at the island, a light rain began falling, then the sun popped through the clouds.  As the mist moved out over the Laguna Madre, a fantastic double-rainbow appeared.  I raced (at tortoise speed) to the car, grabbed my Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105 lens with polarizing filter.  The rainbow lasted almost 30 minutes, which was enough time to capture the Convention Center and then the Laguna Madre marsh in the best light.

If you have ever photographed rainbows with a polarizing filter on the lens, you know it can make the color pop.  The landscapes below were done while hand-holding the camera at ISO 200.

When the morning weather event ended, we wound up on the boardwalk with the bird photo equipment and captured some young least bitterns moving about the cattails.

* For best viewing, click in the upper right portion of a photo.  It will enlarge and sharpen the shot.

Whale Wall at the South Padre Island Convention Center with rainbow.


Laguna Madre marsh and rainbow.


Back Porch at the Convention Center and rainbow.


Curious young Least Bitterns on the hunt.


Young Least Bittern balancing on a cattail leaf.


I’m hoping to get a few ruby-throated hummingbird photos on our back porch today, but the migration is pretty slow…so far.



West Texas Hummingbird Workshop

August is the month for migrating hummingbirds in west Texas’ Davis Mountains.  The trouble is, one needs to photograph there for the entire month to pick up all the species possibilities.   So, we probably missed some rare visitor or two from the west, but  during the 4 workshop days calliope, black-chinned and rufous visited the set .  Photographing in a private garden near Davis Mountains State Park, we had access to good bird numbers.  Even a shy, gray fox made one or two appearances.

The weather was great, with highs in the mid-80s and lows in the upper 50s and occasional afternoon thundershowers.  I believe it was the rain that brought in fresh birds almost everyday.  The beautiful mountains, colorful garden and a fair number of birds made the week delightful.

The photographers used a 5 flash setup to capture wing-stopping images part of the time.  Then everyone enjoyed trying to photograph hummers, without flash, at feeders, perches and flowers.  Both methods had their rewards and challenges.  Check out the images below and decide for yourself which you prefer.


Don’t forget to click in the upper right portion of a photo to make it larger and sharper, and to move on to the next photograph.

Black-chinned hummingbird feeding on nectar at red flowers with a the multi-flash setup.


Shots like these (above and below) stop the action in 1/12,000 second.


Female black-chinned hummer feeding at garden flowers at the setup.


Ever present honey bees were well represented among the photos.


When multiple flowers were in the set up, bees and birds were able to share.


Capturing two or more birds in a single photo always presents a challenge.


It took about 60 images to capture the bumble bee and hummingbird in just the right spot and with good wing position on the bird.


The shot above was made in the garden at ISO 1600, 1/640 second, f 4 with natural, early morning light using a Canon 1D Mark IV and 500 mm IS lens.

Desert Willow blooms were a big attraction for hummingbirds.


By hanging a feeder about 1' off the ground, under a low tree branch, we attracted this hungry male calliope hummingbird.


The male calliope was significantly smaller than the black-chinned hummers, but he could hold his own at the feeder.
Afternoon showers kept the plants green and the air cool.


These photos were taken from the front yard hummingbird/butterfly garden at our workshop location near Fort Davis.

Early morning in the Davis Mountains, Texas


Hungry gray fox on the prowl after sunset.


A high-pitched squeak stopped this gray fox in his tracks for a few quick shots.


Male black-chinned hummingbird hovering near a feeder in natural light. ISO 1000, 1/500 second @ f4, natural light.


Adult female rufous hummingbird caught while hovering near a feeder... ISO 640, 1/800 second @ f4.


Finding the right natural background can help the photographer create a shot like this.


Adult male rufous hummingbird hovering at a feeder.


While black-chinned hummingbirds were abundant during our workshop, only one full adult male rufous appeared during the 4 day event, however, several nice juvenile and female birds almost made up for the shortage of males.

Rufous hummingbird with the shadow of a car port for the background at sunrise.


I hope you enjoyed this little visit to the world of west Texas hummingbirds.