Category Archives: Newsletter

A Gem in the Hill Country

Last week I spent two days with Sandy and Leslee Hurwitz at their “Transition Ranch” northwest of Uvalde, Texas.  They are in the process of building the ranch into a nature photography destination, so I was invited to provide advice.  In my opinion, the greatest challenge to starting another photography ranch is having topography and wildlife that offer something different.  The Transition has all of that.

We photographed at a blind that is being constructed but where food and water had been in place for several months.  Many species of birds visited that site.  All that remains to be done there is to get the blind finished and prepare a number of good bird perches.

Some of the birds you will see in this week’s newsletter were located in the oak and juniper (cedar) covered hills within the ranch.  Most notable among the species in this habitat are black-capped vireo, golden-cheeked warbler, and Montezuma quail.  With just a little extra work, I think some mammals like gray fox and white-tailed deer will be available at the blinds.

Here are some of the bird photos from my two days at “Transition”.  Remember, just click on a photo to make it enlarge and sharpen.  By clicking the arrow on the right edge of each photo, you can advance to the next shot.

Endangered black-capped vireo perched in hill country habitat.

Endangered black-capped vireo perched in hill country habitat,

 

Black-capped vireo perched on dead juniper limbs.

Black-capped vireo perched on dead juniper limbs.

Golden-cheeked Warbler in juniper.

Golden-cheeked Warbler in juniper.

Curious endangered golden-cheeked warbler in prime habitat.

Curious endangered golden-cheeked warbler in prime habitat.

Male hooded oriole at the creek blind in late afternoon.

Male hooded oriole at the creek blind in late afternoon.

Western scrub jay visited the photo blind to feed.

Western scrub jay visited the photo blind to feed.

All of these bird photos were made with a Canon 7D camera, 500 mm IS lens, Feisol carbon fiber tripod and Wimberley head.

Cautious male summer tanager coming in for a drink.

Cautious male summer tanager coming in for a drink.

Black-throated sparrows are abundant at Transition Ranch.

Black-throated sparrows are abundant at Transition Ranch.

Cedar Waxwings are winter and spring residents.

Cedar Waxwings are winter and spring residents.

This blue grosbeak was looking for a perch with complimentary colors.  This lichen covered rock was a perfect find.

This blue grosbeak was looking for a perch with complimentary colors. This lichen covered rock was a perfect find.

Lark sparrows were a part of the bird diversity at a Transition Ranch photo blind.

Lark sparrows were a part of the bird diversity at a Transition Ranch photo blind.

Lincoln's sparrow is spot-lighted while taking it evening bath at the bird blind.

Lincoln’s sparrow spot-lighted while taking it evening bath at the bird blind.

Prickly pear cactus covered in blooms.

Prickly pear cactus covered in blooms.

My visit to Transition Ranch was pretty much unscripted.  While roaming the hills, we photographed prickly pear cactus in bloom, endangered birds, a quail nest and many other subjects.  You should plan your April, 2015 to include a photo trip to Transition Ranch.

Accommodations and meals are a part of the nature photography package.  All you have to do is relax and enjoy the scene.

Larry

Way out West – Big Bend National Park

It’s been a long time between posts.  I’ve been to Big Bend National Park with a workshop and then on to Galveston’s Featherfest.  This past week, Sandy Hurwitz and his lovely wife, Leslee, hosted me at their Transition Ranch west of Uvalde where we photographed as many birds as possible in two days.  More about that later.

For four days, Joe Zinn and I lead a group of 8 photographers around the huge west Texas park in pursuit of the perfect landscape photo.  I think they all got it.  Unfortunately, you will have to look at some of my shots instead.

Remember to click on the images to change them to a larger, sharper format and to get the “next” button.

Agave and Chisos Mountains at sunrise.

Agave and Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park at sunrise.

All these images were done with a Canon 5D Mark II camera; 16-35 mm or 24 – 105 mm lenses, Feisol carbon fiber tripod and ball head, and electronic release.  For the shot of cactus (below), I used the super-wide lens focused from about 12″ while I leaned against a small ledge over the river.

Cactus and Rio Grande above the Hot Springs in the eastern part of Big Bend National Park.

Cactus and Rio Grande above the Hot Springs.

 

Rock formation at sunrise with Chisos Mountains in the background.

Rock formation at sunrise with Chisos Mountains in the background.

 

Santa Elena Canyon in black and white.

Santa Elena Canyon in black and white.

This image (above) needed some clouds to make the black and white image pop.  Nevertheless, I decided to do it anyway.

First light on Ocotillo and Santa Elena Canyon.

First light on Ocotillo and Santa Elena Canyon.

 

The Rio Grande and Chisos Mountains from overlook near Rio Grande Campground.

The Rio Grande and Chisos Mountains at sunset from overlook near Rio Grande Campground.

 

Light painting an old church in Terlingua, Texas on a clear night.

Light painting an old church in Terlingua, Texas on a clear night.

After I set up my camera and composed this scene (above), I went inside to light paint while another photographer triggered the 30 second exposure.

Boquillas Rim in the Sierra del Carmen range on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande at Big Bend National Park.

Boquillas Rim in the Sierra del Carmen range on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande at Big Bend National Park.

I waited for this scene to develop by allowing the sun to reach the western horizon.  After the closer mountains were in shadow, the Boquillas Rim turned pink in the warm sunset light.

In the next newsletter, I’ll share some bird photos from area ranches.

Larry

Turkey Time

I have some exciting news to share with you this week.  Kathy Adams Clark, her husband, Gary and I have partnered on a new book from Far Country Press called ”Texas – A Photographic Journey”.   You can find it on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble, Costco and many of the state’s other book stores and nature centers.  Take a quick look at the promotional ad below and consider adding this one to your library.   Reading it will be like taking a  trip across Texas to see our cities, historic sites, and natural wonders.

PR-Texas_APJ-email-1

 

Several mornings this past week, I visited a nearby south Texas ranch to photograph wild turkeys as their mating season begins.  The weather was fantastic and, as always, the ranch country was beautiful at sunrise.

Now, here are some of the photos from last week’s ranch trips:  Just click on the right side of a photo and it will open in a larger, sharper format.  There are “next” and “previous” arrows on the sides to advance help you advance through the images.

Over 100 turkeys left the roost at first light and headed out to spend the day feeding, courting and such.

Male turkeys are scattered up and down this path used by the hens to reach a favored feeding area.

Male turkeys are scattered up and down this path used by the hens to reach a favored feeding area.

 

Big "Tom" turkeys strutting their stuff for the ladies.

Big “Tom” turkeys strutting their stuff for the ladies.

Each gobbler spreads it tail feathers, ruffles it feathers, drags its wings and filled it wattles and snood with bright red blood to look stronger and more handsome to the opposite sex.

Each gobbler spreads its tail, ruffles it feathers, drags its wings and fills its wattles and snood with bright red blood in the hope of looking stronger and more handsome than the other males.

 

Excited males respond in unison to any loud noise or another turkey's gobble.

Excited males respond in unison to any loud noise or another turkey’s gobble.

This big gobbler was in a hurry to reach the meadow and begin strutting his stuff and the hens arrived.

This big gobbler was in a hurry to reach the meadow and begin strutting his stuff as the hens arrived.

Notice that most of these images were made at ground level either hand-holding the 100-400 mm lens and camera or sitting in the grass with the big 500 mm lens and camera on a shortened tripod.  This low perspective always brings the viewer into a more personal relationship with the image.  It’s almost like being another turkey in the flock.  * I know…some of you are saying “another turkey is right in this case”.

The idea is "never give up the strut".  Sooner or later one of the hens will be ready to mate and this big bird wants to be first in line.

The idea is “never give up the strut”. Sooner or later one of the hens will be ready to mate and this big bird wants to be first in line.

Gobbler and hen, each very much aware of the other's presence.

Gobbler and hen, each very much aware of the other’s presence.

In case you never noticed, male turkeys have black-tipped covert (body) feathers and females have buff-tipped feathers.  This certainly gives the females some advantage of camouflage while nesting .  Of course, they are ground nesters like their cousins the quail, chickens, pheasants and such.

Several excited gobblers are determined to take out their aggression on a buck white-tailed deer.

Several excited gobblers are determined to take out their aggression on a buck white-tailed deer.

The buck deer and the gobblers seemed to enjoy this confrontation.  Mostly, it was posturing, but the turkeys did try hitting their victim with those powerful wings until they realized he wasn’t backing down.

 

A group of fulvous whistling ducks headed up the coast for more suitable habitat.

A group of fulvous whistling ducks headed up the coast for more suitable habitat.

 

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Spanish Dagger in bloom…another sign that spring has arrived in south Texas.

 

While roaming the ranch last week (right after a cold front passed), I saw a mesquite tree full of male Baltimore orioles.  So, the spring migration has begun for many species.

Hope you enjoyed this time with the flock.

Larry

Eagles & Eagle Watchers

Congratulations to a good friend and good photographer, Stephen Sinclair, on a successful showing of over 100 of his wildlife prints at the Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco on Saturday.  Steve was overwhelmed at the number of friends, photographers and nature lovers who came to view his work.

I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday photographing bald eagles in the Texas hill country where two young birds were about to fledge.  The  eaglets  were flapping about the nest well before sunrise on Friday and Saturday, as several of us set up positions along a highway about 100 yards away.  Anticipating the best activity would be around sunrise and sunset, we waited patiently for chances to catch the adults bringing in food and nest material and tending the young.

Although the action was slow, but the weather was great.  We were treated to a magnificent sunset on Friday and that allowed us to make some fine images of the nest and birds with a colorful background.

Here is a sample of what we got:

Don’t forget to click on the right side of the images to make them larger and sharper for viewing.  The you can advance through the photos by clicking the arrows.

Bald Eagle landing at nest at sunset.

Bald Eagle landing at nest at sunset.

The image above was captured with a Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105 mm lens with tripod, ball head and electronic release.  1/125 second, f4.5, ISO 400 @ 105 mm.

Adult eagle arriving just after sunrise with part of a fish.

Adult eagle arriving just after sunrise with part of a fish.

This capture was done with a Canon 7D camera, 500 mm IS Canon lens, Wimberley head, Feisol carbon fiber tripod.  The 7D gave me 1.6X magnification effect without having to add a teleconverter  for the long shot. 1/5000 second @ f5.6, ISO 640….1/2000 second @ f11 would have been better.  I was exposing for the white head.

Adult bald eagle with nest material.

Adult bald eagle with nest material.

I used the Canon 1D Mark IV, 500 mm IS lens, and 1.4 X teleconverter to make this images at ISO 500, 1/1600 second, f8.

During the mid-day hours, the adults perched and preened at various locations in view of the nest.

During the mid-day hours, the adults perched and preened at various locations in view of the nest.

The image above was made with the Canon 1D Mark IV, 500 mm lens and 2X teleconverter and cropped slightly to maintain about 8-12 megapixels.

Tourists began arriving around 9:00 AM, hoping to get a look at our national symbol.  The image below was done with the Canon 7D and 100-400 lens, hand-held.

"Happiness is watching bald eagles in my rear view mirror."

“Happiness is watching bald eagles in my rear view mirror.”

The adult birds added, sticks, grass, weeds and soil to the nest during occasional late morning visits.

The adult birds added sticks, grass, weeds and soil to the nest during occasional late morning visits.

Adult bald eagle making one last nest check as evening approaches.

Adult bald eagle making one last nest check as evening approaches.

This adult hopped into the nest to check the young one last time before flying away to roost.

Adult landing at nest as night approaches.

Adult landing at nest as night approaches.

Eaglet exercising  while excited photographers capture the last images of the day.

Eaglet exercising while excited photographers capture the last images of the day.

Photographing eagles just before fledging time requires a lot of patience, but it is so-o-o rewarding for the photographer who persists until the light is gone.

Hope you enjoyed the eagles.

Larry

Snow Day in Granny’s Front Yard

Last week, we visited my mother-in-law in Wichita Falls…well, my wife visited while I photographed birds in the front yard.  About 5″ of the white stuff fell Sunday night, so I hastily set up to shoot early Monday morning and stayed outside almost all day.

It was a little difficult dodging all the plastic flowers, lawn ornaments, flower pots, etc. , but I was able to get birds in some fairly natural or pleasing spots.  Oh how I was wishing I’d planned ahead of time and gotten a few pretty perches ready.  On the other hand, the natural landing areas made for some interesting poses.

Click in the middle right hand edge of any photo to make it open in a larger, sharper format.  Then click on the arrow to advance through the photos.

American Robin on the old picket fence.

American Robin on the old picket fence.

 

When food is scarce, a robin can find the last berry in the bush.

When food is scarce, a robin can find the last berry in the bush.

 

Blue Jay watching the snow flakes drift by.

Blue Jay watching the snow flakes drift by.

 

The blue jays seemed to know where every fallen acorn was located, even under several inches of snow.

The blue jays seemed to know where every fallen acorn was located, even under several inches of snow.

A spotted towhee emerges from under a thick hedge to scratch for seeds.

A spotted towhee emerges from under a thick hedge to scratch for seeds.

 

European Starlings quickly found the food intended for other species.

European Starlings quickly found the food intended for other species.

 

House Sparrows had no problem adjusting to the snow and -15 degree temperature.

House Sparrows had no problem adjusting to the snow and -15 degree temperature.

 

Most of these photos were made in the Canon 7d camera, but the Canon 5d Mark II proved handy for a couple of shots.   All images were done with the 500 mm IS Canon lens mounted on the Wimberley head atop a Feisol carbon fiber tripod (the Woodpecker shot was hand held).

 

At the end of the day, a pair of northern cardinals arrived looking for seeds.

At the end of the day, a pair of northern cardinals arrived looking for seeds.

 

Female northern cardinal on the snow.

Female northern cardinal on the snow.

 

Flower pot background for a dark-eyed junco on Granny's picket fence.

Flower pot background for a dark-eyed junco on Granny’s picket fence.

 

Blue Jay fighting off the grackles at it hunts for food.

Blue Jay taking off in deep snow.

 

Blue Jay clinging to the bark of a cedar elm tree while it scans the snow for food.

Blue Jay clinging to the bark of a cedar elm tree while it scans the snow for food.

Getting this Spotted Towhee was my biggest thrill of the day.

Getting this Spotted Towhee was my biggest thrill of the day.

The following shot was my last one of the day.  In fact, the camera and lens were in the house when the red-bellied woodpecker appeared at a knothole in the front yard mulberry.  Hand holding the heavy 500 mm lens and camera, I sneaked into the garage and fired from around the door without alarming my subject.  This shot was at 1/350 second, ISO 640.

Hungry Red-bellied Woodpecker  probing soft wood in a mulberry knothole.

Hungry Red-bellied Woodpecker probing soft wood in a mulberry knothole.

For me, photographing in the snow is as good as it gets.  Properly clad, a photographer (even one from south Texas) can work in the cold for several hours.

Larry

Aransas Refuge Before the Winter Storm

I just finished three days with a group of 5 photographers at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  Of course, we wanted to capture endangered Whooping Cranes (in the camera), but the trip was much more productive than we anticipated as you will see from the photos below.

We only had one good weather day, but we captured many, many images during the photo tour.  On the other hand, that’s why we always do at least three days…to improve our chances of getting at least one day with the right light and wind.  A monster winter storm blew in just as we concluded our third day of shooting.

Three weeks from now, I will be leading photography tours and workshops in Port Aransas for the Whooping Crane Festival.  If you haven’t signed up, do it now before they fill.  I look forward to seeing some of you there.  If not, maybe at Galveston’s NatureFest in April.

“Thank you” Paul Denman for repairing my WordPress template for the newsletters.  All of you Mac and PC users can now open the images by clicking in the upper right corner.  That will enlarge and brighten them.  Advance through the photos by clicking on the arrow at the right edge of each photo.

Whooping crane flashing his red crown at another crane.

Whooping crane flashing his red crown at another crane.

 

My Canon Mark IV is on its way to Canon for a second attempt at fixing something in the mirror assembly.  So, most of these images were done with the trusty 7D and Canon 500 mm IS lens.

Whooping cranes watching photographer while flying over marsh.

Whooping cranes watching photographer while flying over marsh.

 

Check out those eyes on the lead bird.  It watched us while flying across the marsh to challenge a group of juvenile birds feeding in his territory.

Whooper prepping a blue crab for breakfast.

Whooper prepping a blue crab for breakfast.

 

White Pelican yawning in mid-flight.

White Pelican yawning in mid-flight.

Colorful head of an American Oystercatcher from one of the oyster reefs in Aransas Bay.

Colorful head of an American Oystercatcher from one of the oyster reefs in Aransas Bay.

 

Brown Pelican resting on submerged piling in Aransas Bay.

Brown Pelican resting on submerged piling in Aransas Bay.

Sunset from Goose Island State Park.

Sunset from Goose Island State Park.

 

The shot above was done with a Canon 5D Mark II camera, Canon 24-105 mm lens, Gitzo Carbon Fiber tripod, Feisol ball head, electronic shutter release and mirror lockup.

I like to set the shutter speed to at least 1/2,000th second to freeze birds in flight.

Northern Pintail drake with strong tailwind is in high gear.

Northern Pintail drake with strong tailwind is in high gear.

 

Willet with a blue crab feast.

Willet with a blue crab feast.

 

American Bittern in mid-stride at Port Aransas Birding Park.

American Bittern in mid-stride at Port Aransas Birding Park.

 

Sora using those long toes to walk on floating cattail stems.

Sora using those long toes to walk on floating cattail stems.

 

Yellow-rumped Warblers  are common winter visitors to the Texas gulf coast.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are common winter visitors to the Texas gulf coast.

 

Light on the water after sunset at a northern shoveler swims into the photograph.

Light on the water after sunset at a northern shoveler swims into the photograph.

So, that’s the end of another great photography trip to the Texas coast.  Many thanks to Fulton’s “Hampton Inn” for wonderful accommodations and friendly service.

Special Note: For those of you who really want a change of scene and if you are looking for some new and elegant birds, try Kathy Clark’s photo tour to Costa Rica.  It’s coming up soon; get the details at her site ( www.KACProductions.com ).

Larry

Big Birds & Wind-shaped Oaks

Every year for the past decade of so, I’ve been showing photographers how and where to capture images of Texas’ largest bird, the endangered whooping crane.    The whooper trip offers a variety of photographic opportunities including water birds and coastal landscapes.

I’m doing two trips this winter, one in December and one in late January.  Both were filled, so this is a good time to make your reservation for next winter.  The photography, comradery, food and nice lodging at the Fulton Hampton Inn,  always leave us eager for the next trip.

Here are some images from the December excursion.  If you click in the upper right portion of an image, it will enlarge and sharpen.  From there, you can advance to the next image.  **  WordPress, which provides this template, is temporarily having problems showing the enlargements through Windows computers.  Most Mac computers are enlarging the images with no problems.  Of course, I’m hoping someone will come up with a fix in the next few days.

Whooping Crane pair feeding in the shallows of Sundown Bay.

Whooping Crane pair feeding in the shallows of Sundown Bay.

 

Whooping cranes landing in salt marsh at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas.

Whooping cranes landing in salt marsh at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas.

 

Whooping cranes preening.

Whooping cranes preening.

 

Excited Whooping Crane chasing another bird from its feeding territory.

Excited Whooping Crane chasing another bird from its feeding territory.

 

"Backlighting" provided some nice feather color and rim-lighting effects on the 5' tall birds.

“Backlighting” provided some nice feather color and rim-lighting effects on the 5′ tall birds.

 

One whooper to another, "You can't stay this close while my mate and I are feeding".

One whooper to another, “You can’t stay this close while my mate and I are feeding”.

 

Part of my job is to get the photographers positioned and ready for that magic moment.  Occasionally, some coaching on camera and lens settings are helpful, too.

A half hour of patient observation paid off when the birds gave us great action.

A half hour of patient observation paid off when the birds gave us great action.

Our afternoons were dedicated to finding other birds and some pleasing landscapes for photo subjects.

These liveoaks have been shaped by decades of coastal winds blowing inland from the bay.

These liveoaks have been shaped by decades of coastal winds blowing inland from the bay.

 

Brown Pelicans are another of the big birds the present good action photography opportunities.

Brown Pelicans present good action photography opportunities on Aransas Bay.

 

While we try to get the exposure, focus and composition right, it is wing positioning that ultimately determines whether a  ”bird-in-flight” photo is a pleasing capture.

Full moon rising behind the masts of pleasure boats moored at Fulton harbor.

Full moon rising behind the masts of pleasure boats moored in Fulton harbor.

 

Fishing pier at night, Fulton, Texas.

Fishing pier at night, Fulton, Texas.

Plan to join us next year.  Keep watching my Photo Tour schedule at www.larryditto.com  for an update later this spring.

Larry

 

New 2014 Post

** Those of you with PC s may not be able to enlarge the photos by clicking on them.  Apple users should have no difficulty.  I trust WordPress will quickly update the software to alleviate the problem by eliminating the shadow that appears over photos enlarged in Windows computers.

After the New Mexico workshop, shown in my last newsletter, I headed north to Wyoming for some bighorn sheep photography.  While the temperatures were below normal, we had plenty of warm clothing and encountered excellent photo ops.

sheep

Mature bighorn ram feeding on hillside.

In December, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep drift down from the Yellowstone to lower elevations.  Finding and photographing them can be a difficult in these cold climates, but the results are worth the effort.

Dominant bighorn ram (right) with younger male.

Dominant bighorn ram (right) with younger male.

Most of these images were made with the 100-400 mm lens, handheld.  I switched occasionally  to the 300 mm, f 4 lens for comparison, and was very happy with the performance of both considering it was -10 degrees or colder.

The dominant, mature ram occasionally left the ewes to keep the younger rams in line.

The dominant, mature ram occasionally left the ewes to keep the younger rams in line.

I was on foot in about 8″ of snow while making these images.

The young rams frequently fought among themselves by head butting.

The young rams frequently fought among themselves by head butting.

When the big rams joined the fight, the young guys scattered.

When the big rams joined the fight, the young guys scattered.

 

At below zero temperatures, the sheep do a lot of feeding.

At below zero temperatures, the sheep do a lot of feeding.

 

Ewe (female) and ram bedded.

Ewe (female) and ram bedded.

Large ram trying to scent ewes ready for breeding.

Large ram trying to scent ewes ready for breeding.

 

Mature bighorn ram approaching ewes during rut.

Mature bighorn ram approaching ewes during rut.

Rams would lower their heads and twist their necks when approaching ewes or chasing younger rams away from the ewes.

Mature ram approaching the herd during rut.

Mature ram approaching the herd during rut.

 

After feeding on a hillside, this ram headed into steep, rocky terrain.

After feeding on a hillside, this ram headed into steep, rocky terrain.

In the next newsletter, I’ll show you more bighorns and other wildlife we encountered in Wyoming.

Larry

 

New Mexico Birds and more…

Seven Texas and Oklahoma photographers joined me in central New Mexico in late November for some warm winter weather and great bird photography.  I’ve included several of their images to show you their bird photography talents.  After skipping a year, it was a lot of fun getting back to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Click in the upper right portion of a photo to increase size and sharpness and to advance to the next photo.

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Sandhill Crane landing.

Both of these crane photos are by Larry Jay.  Larry and his wife, Sharron, own the Block Creek Bed & Breakfast and photography ranch near Comfort, Texas. It seems to me that he got the composition, light and shutter speed just right.

bird

Trio of Sandhill Cranes over New Mexico desert.

Oklahoma photographer, Catherine (Kitty) Cromwell made the next photo, an incredible sunset with sandhill cranes going to roost.  Several of us got similar images, but only Kitty nailed the incoming cranes at just the right moment to capture bird silhouettes in the sky.  Believe it or not, this spectacular sunset is typical of winter sunrises and sunsets at Bosque.

scenic

Sunset at the crane pool with the Chupadera Mountains in the background.

Kitty’s husband, Mark, was alert and skilled enough to capture raptors in flight.  The following images are show two female northern harriers fighting and a banking bald eagle over a refuge marsh.

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Northern Harrier females fighting in flight.

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Immature Bald Eagle searching for crippled geese.

As you can tell, birds in flight were a priority for our photography…action and behavior.  We did work on landscapes with a stopover at the White Sands National Monument.  Here is a photo by Tom Pickthall that made the most of a few moments of sunlight during an otherwise cloudy day.

Plant and shadows on a rippling sand dune.

Plant and shadows on a rippling sand dune.

Following are some of my shots to fill out this edition of the newsletter:

bird

Bald Eagle landing on perch tree at sunrise.

A bald eagle (above) perched above the roosting snow geese each mornings to watch for weak and crippled birds.

birds

Sandhill Crane with rare set of twins.

I captured several images of cranes (above and below) while they were landing in corn fields or at the roost.

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Sandhill Crane landing in roost pond.

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Sandhill Crane silhouetted against golden water.

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Sandhill Crane with landing gear down.

Drake mallard landing at the crane pool after the larger birds had left to feed.

Drake mallard landing at the crane pool after the larger birds had left to feed.

Most of these flight shots were captured while holding about 1/2000 second of shutter speed.  The exception was sandhill cranes at the roost pond.

Snow geese banking toward the camera.

Snow geese banking toward the camera.

The shot above seems to work because the clouds were were so complimentary.

Snow Geese_51U7286

Snow geese captured at a slow 1/60th second shutter speed to accentuate the wing blur.

Finally, here are a couple of wood duck photos done at sunrise in Albuquerque.  Next year, I’ll probably start the photo tour there to take advantage of some nice waterfowl portrait opportunities.

Drake wood duck vocalizing as it passes in the warm morning light.

Drake wood duck vocalizing as it passes in the warm morning light.

Hen and drake wood ducks standing on an old tree trunk in a pond.

Hen and drake wood ducks standing on an old tree trunk in a pond.

I hope you enjoyed these.  Bosque del Apache Refuge is a must for all bird photographers.  Fall and winter are the best time to be there.

Larry

Amazon Kingfisher in Cameron Co., Texas

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.

Click in the upper, right portion of a photo to make it larger and sharper for viewing.

Amazon Kingfisher searching for prey.

 

Amazon Kingfisher, female, shares a perch with the spiders as she tries to spot unwary fish.

 

Ebony trees in the background are good camouflage for the Amazon Kingfisher.

 

Amazon Kingfisher hunting from an ebony tree perch at pond's edge.

 

I’ll be searching again tomorrow and hoping for better light and a closer perch (for the bird).

 

Larry