Having too many irons in the fire kept me from the big search for the Amazon Kingfisher until Tuesday. The green bird showed up last Saturday in a Resaca (oxbow) of the Rio Grande along Highway 100 about 15 miles southeast of Harlingen, Texas. Birders attending the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival were the first to spot it and now the world knows about our rare Mexican visitor. There have been up to 30 cars parked at that point of the highway for the past 4 days. Fortunately, most of those who wanted to see the bird got at least a distant view. Rare birds make the south Texas highways look like Yellowstone National Park…when one car stops, they all stop. The sheriff’s office sent officers to keep traffic moving on Saturday.
I arrived at the site about a half hour before sunrise yesterday and got my first look just a few minutes before sunrise. Unfortunately, the throng of birders kept the kingfisher alert enough that it didn’t come close. While it was never close enough for a great photo, I did get some documentary shots which I wanted to share with you. It is not unusual for rare birds and butterflies to venture into south Texas from Mexico. It just takes a lot of “eyes” to find them. I’m sure you know that these rare, tropical birds bring many birders, photographers and millions of dollars to this area. The Chamber of Commerce just smiles when a rare bird alert goes out on the internet.
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I’ll be searching again tomorrow and hoping for better light and a closer perch (for the bird).
I’ve been doing my outdoor photography a little closer to home this year… no Tetons or elk this fall. Included below are some photos from the marshes at South Padre Island, Resaca de la Palma State Park butterfly garden, and the Santa Margarita Ranch near Cotulla, Texas. One of the best finds was a nice hatch of blue metalmark butterflies near Brownsville at the Resaca de la Palma State Park. After several years of drought, butterfly numbers were sparse in south Texas. Now that we’ve had several heavy rains, the butterflies are emerging again.
Last week, I lead a group of 7 photographers on a quest for large white-tailed deer bucks at the Santa Margarita Ranch near Cotulla, Texas. None of us could believe how numerous and easy to approach these big guys were.
Yesterday, I was on South Padre Island with the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival helping an eager group of nature photographers work on their bird photography.
** Click in the upper right area of a photo to optimize sharpness and image size.
For many years, I’ve sought an opportunity to photograph a big alligator with its mouth open displaying its gleaming white teeth. With the help of photographer friend, Steve Sinclair, I captured several images of this big gator sunning by a freshwater pool at South Padre Island World Birding Center.
Blue Metalmark butterflies, about the size of a quarter, are very hard to find in the U.S. After excellent summer and autumn rains, they have begun to appear at butterfly gardens along the border in south Texas.
For most of my butterfly photography, I use a Canon 300 mm, f4 lens with 1.4 X teleconverter or a 25 mm extension tube between that lens and the camera, a Canon 7D (its small sensor provides an additional 1.6X magnification of the subject). Of course, this camera and lens combination is supported by a Gitzo Carbon Fiber tripod with ball head. You won’t get sharp photos trying to hand-hold a big lens. Macro lenses require the photographer to get within inches of the subject and most butterflies won’t stand for that. I can work at a distance of about 4′ and get crisp, frame-filling images without disturbing the butterflies. Much of the time I’m shooting at f 11 – 16, trying to get the depth of field needed to keep both wings sharp. Of course, part of the secret is getting into the right position to make an interesting photo capture.
** I have one slot left on each of this winter’s Whooping Crane Photo Tours … December 17 – 19 and January 21 – 23 at Rockport, Texas. Both are very popular, so let me know quickly if you want to join me on either shoot. Check this website under “Photo Tours” for more information.
“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…” Romans 1:20.