I crossed the river levee near Brownsville and drove through the Border Wall gate Tuesday morning without seeing a Border Patrol vehicle (trust me, they were watching from somewhere). The crisp autumn air was invigorating as I walked to the photo blind with a load of heavy gear… without sweating. As the sun climbed, I could hear migrating sandhill cranes high above, winging their way southward to Mexico for the winter. It was a perfect morning for wildlife photography.
After getting up at 5:00 AM, I photographed from daylight until 11:00 AM before heading home to edit images at the computer. Here are a few of the captures from the outing:
I’m hoping to get a few nice butterfly shots before Thanksgiving, so the next trip will be out to the National Butterfly Center south of Mission, Texas. Recently, butterfly watchers have identified a half dozen rare butterfly species along with hundreds of more common lepidopterans. It’s worth the trip if you can get there while the days are warm.
Last week, I visited some of my favorite habitats in the lower Rio Grande area of Texas to search for wildlife photography opportunities. I hope you like the variety of subjects and life stages depicted.
Dr. Beto Gutierrez spotted these guys on a huge mesquite as we traversed his ranch in Starr Co.
Beto and I spent about a half hour beside Dorothy’s Pond on the Santa Clara Photo Ranch that day. The birds weren’t there so we captured a few dragonfly images before heading out. That’s a Thornbush Dasher hovering a Roseate Skimmer.
A week ago, many whitetail bucks were still wearing velvet-covered antlers while some had begun to shed the bloody, furlike skin.
Autumn starts today and I’m at home working on this report and trying to capture a few hummingbird and flower photos around the house. Let’s save those for next week.
I began photographing a few white-tailed deer and wild turkey in late August. Fawns were dropping in July and getting pretty active by August. Meanwhile, the big bucks finished growing new antlers. Late summer is always a magic time when I can capture images of fawns and large bucks at the same time and location. It’s also that time of year when some turkey hens still have young poults.
Here are some photographs from recent weeks:
In the image above, a cottontail rabbit jumps from the grass next to fawn. The rabbits seemed to play tag for a half hour or more with the little deer. On several occasions, they ran between its legs but the grass was too high for me to get a good shot
Bucks will be shedding velvet from their antlers for the next two-three weeks and I hope to capture nice shots of that. Maybe I can find some fresh fall migrant birds and autumn wildflowers, too.
In recent weeks, we had migrating birds arriving with the hurricane and with the latest weather fronts. I wasn’t getting out of the house to photograph until I saw a good concentration of hummingbirds Monday on the Fire Bush plants at my son’s house. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings I was there for the action.
The following images were made without artificial lighting or any special setup. The bushes were covered in red blooms which made it difficult to isolate birds in flight. Instead, I focused a cluster of blooms with a clean background and pushed the shutter button as birds came to feed.
Here is a small collection of hummers from September 8 and 9:
If my identification is correct, this is the first Rufous Hummingbird I’ve been able to photograph in the lower Rio Grande area.
I plan to post again in the next day or two with a few deer and turkey shots.
The marshes at South Padre Island offer some fine bird photography almost anytime of the year, but mid-May is one of my favorite. Here is a sample of what was happening in the marsh earlier this week.
This courting male Red-winged Blackbird was all over the place.
A late afternoon fog bank gave the stilts enough shade to keep the eggs from baking while the pair poked about for supper. Their eggs should hatch during the Memorial Day weekend, but 4 days of bumper to bumper vehicle traffic will prevent all but the most intrepid wildlife photographers from recording it.
I didn’t get much time for photography this spring, but I did make two quick trips by myself to an isolated photo blind near South Padre Island. On a third half day trip to the island, a few migrant songbirds appeared, but things just weren’t the same with Covid 19 travel restrictions in place.
Here are a few images from those trips:
These were pretty much the only individuals I saw on those limited outings, so I’m thankful for those few hours in the brush. Let’s hope next spring brings more birds and free time for photographers to enjoy.
As a facilities planner and photo guide at the Santa Clara Photo Ranch in south Texas, I was able to access some of the blinds one day in early May. By then, most of the spring songbird migration was done, but bird activity was good that day.
The little Golden-winged Warbler above was the first of that species we’d ever seen at Santa Clara Photo Ranch. He was visible for only a few seconds, but we got a few captures.
Manzanita is somewhat rare in south Texas, but grows naturally in the Rio Grande delta near Brownsville. Since many birds and mammals are attracted to its drupes, I often carry fruiting branches from my garden to the ranch to use as perches.
When leisure travel is permitted again, the ranch will be open year round so check their web site (SantaClaraPhotoRanch.com) for schedules and other information.
for photography including hummingbirds, flycatchers, woodpeckers and more…
Join me at the Block Creek Natural Area from April 22-25 to enjoy some fine bird photography, excellent food and camaraderie with fellow photographers. As of this posting, there are four slots available on a first come, first served basis. See the Instructional Photo Tours schedule at my website for more details and then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Black-chinned hummingbirds at Salvia blooms and other flowers can be captured with my high speed flashes and your camera & lens.
There are several nice landscape opportunities including this little red barn near the Block Creek Bed & Breakfast where you will stay.
Block Creek owner, Larry Jay, and I photographed these pairing Scissor-tailed Flycatchers as they hunted and bonded near the Block Creek B&B.
OK, you get the picture. Let’s meet at Block Creek Natural Area for two “1/2″ days and 2 full days” of photography in April.
With the cooler days of mid-December comes the rut in south Texas. Smaller bucks have been engaged in mock battles since late November, but the big boys seem to magically appear from the dense, thorny cover a few days before Christmas.
The following images were made on December 13 when several exceptional bucks were locked down on does, but I saw no battles that morning. The brush country was shrouded in fog but the sun started to sparkle of the wet grass and spider webs shortly after sunrise.
I’m hoping Santa will bring us some heavy-antlered bucks and cold weather next week. A nice bit of jousting and flying dust would be good, too. I’ll let you know.
I’ll be doing a Whooping Crane Instructional Photography Tour at Rockport, Texas on January 18-20. One slot is still available if any of you are interested. Just check out my Tour Schedule on the home page and drop me an email to get registered. I’ll send you all the details.
Here are a few images from last winters whooper tour in case you are giving it some serious consideration.