Category Archives: Newsletter

Santa Clara Dream Morning

Tuesday morning was a dream photo shoot for me at Santa Clara Photo Ranch west of Edinburg.  It was one of the few times I’ve photographed alone this year and the absence of human sounds was deafening.  It was obvious the critters appreciated the quiet time;  birds were everywhere.

The big EVENT of the morning began with a scream, then screams and more screams…the kind cats make when mating.  Around 8:00 AM, the chilling vocalizations started just 20 yards from my blind.  Knowing what it was, I quickly prepared the Canon 7d II and NEW 100-400 mm lens for action.  The first cat to appear was a large female that came within 20 feet of the blind before crouching for a long drink.

The cat was great; the new lens was great; the light overcast sky was great!  She paid no attention to the zip, zip, zip of the camera.  When she finally strolled away, a second kitty came in.  It was one of the prettiest bobcats I’ve even seen.  In the space of 5 minutes, both cats came and went.  It was a “hum-drum” morning after that.  Yep, there wasn’t much to do but photograph birds, green birds, red birds, orange birds, yellow birds, etc. , but somehow I muddled through.

Here are a few images from my big day at Santa Clara Photo Ranch:  Remember to click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it.

bobcat drinking
bobcat drinking

 

Bobcat, female with "ocelot" markings on side.  Experts say  one cat in twelve, on average, will have these reticulations in their fur.
Bobcat, female with “ocelot” markings on the side. Experts say one cat in twelve, on average, will have these reticulate patterns in their fur.

 

Bobcat # 2 at photo blind pond.
Bobcat # 2 at photo blind pond.

 

Bobcat pausing in front of photography blind.
Bobcat pausing in front of photography blind.

 

Audubon's Oriole landing
Audubon’s Oriole landing.

This oriole was missing a toe on its right foot.

Northern Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia scolding
Northern Cardinal and Pyrrhuloxia sharing a perch.

This is “the year of the northern cardinal in south Texas”.  Significant numbers have moved into McAllen for the winter and that’s a rarity.

It has taken me years to get sharp flight shots of a golden-fronted woodpecker.
It has taken me years to get sharp flight shots of a golden-fronted woodpecker.  I got several this day.

 

Photo demonstrating who rules the feeding post.
Photo demonstrating who rules the feeding post.

 

Male golden-fronted woodpecker posing in mid-air.
Male golden-fronted woodpecker posing in mid-air.

 

Green jay can't decide who eats first.
Green jays can’t decide who eats first.

 

Pre-focusing just behind the perch can insure a sharp image with full wing spread...provided the shutter speed is high enough to stop those wings.
Pre-focusing just behind the perch can insure a sharp image provided the shutter speed is high enough to stop those fantastic yellow wings.

 

House sparrow has lowest  rank at the feeding post.
Nobody told this house sparrow she has lowest rank at the feeding post.

 

Eight northern bobwhites lined up for their first drink of the day.
Eight northern bobwhites lined up for their first drink of the day.

The nature photography life is a sweet one on days like this.

Larry

Slow Morning on the Laguna Madre

I spent three hours yesterday morning photographing birds and a kayaker on the Laguna Madre at South Padre Island.  The weather was beautiful with a gentle north wind blowing down the bay and the sun at my back.  Hoping for some good flight photography, I patiently wasted 2/3 of my time waiting for ducks and pelicans that just didn’t come …at least not by air.     Fortunately, there were some birds about so, I took advantage of their feeding and loafing activity.

Using a Canon 7d II camera and 500 mm lens on the Gitzo tripod and Wimberley head, I had enough telephoto reach to make some reasonable captures.  Here are a few images from a slow morning on the Laguna Madre:  Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.

This male American wigeon was one of the few airborne birds of the morning.
This male American wigeon was one of the few airborne birds of the morning.

I prefer for birds in flight to be a little closer to my eye-level, but this bird was acceptable.  Wing position and light angle are important, of course.

An unusual sight, this cinnamon teal male swam by looking for a freshwater inflow where he could drink and bathe.
An unusual sight, this cinnamon teal male swam by looking for a freshwater inflow where he could drink and bathe.

 

One of the drake redheads that eventually drifted by.
One of the drake redheads that drifted by.

 

Mottled Duck drake (yellow bill) loafing in the shallows in good cover.
Mottled duck drake (yellow bill) loafing in the shallows with good cover.

 

*** When the wind is out of the northwest, photographers are mostly seeing the rear end of birds as they face into the wind.  It is important to capture the subject look back over its shoulder.

Red-breasted Merganser drake shaking water.  Mergansers are fish eaters.
Red-breasted merganser drake shaking water.

 

This red-breasted merganser was faster than his unlucky prey.
This red-breasted merganser was faster than his unlucky prey.

 

A beautiful morning to kayak the shallow Laguna Madre.
A beautiful morning to kayak the shallow Laguna Madre.

 

Clapper rail stalking along the shoreline.
Clapper rail on the hunt for invertebrates along the shoreline.

 

Common Gallinule at first light.
Common gallinule at first light.

 

Great Blue Heron cleaning his beak.
Great blue heron cleaning his bill.

 

Tricolored Heron preening on a black mangrove perch.
Tricolored heron preening on a black mangrove perch.

 

Reddish Egret herding a school of silvery fish in the shallows.
Reddish egret herding a school of silvery fish in the shallows.

…and so the morning ended.  There are many birds about the Laguna Madre this time of year, but success is always regulated by wind speed and direction and by the tides.  It takes some planning and good luck to catch a “fast” morning on the bay.  I’ll hit it right before winter ends.

Larry

January Whitetails

When December rolls around, I always try to dedicate about three days to photographing white-tailed deer at the peak of the breeding season.  But, this year the time just got away from me and I missed the chase.

Here are a few deer images from January 9, just in time to capture the end of the main rut.

Don’t forget to click on an image to increase its size and sharpness for better viewing.

Big buck emerging from weedy cover.
“How did that vine get on my antler?”

 

Young buck trailing a doe at sunrise.
Young buck trailing a doe at sunrise.

Most of these photos were taken from ground level with a Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 70-200 mm lens, hand held.  My elbows were on the ground and the stabilizer was on setting # 2.

Dominant buck testing the air for the scent of a doe.
Dominant buck testing the air for scent of a doe.

Getting this shot requires photographer vigilance and having the necessary camera/lens settings “dialed in” before that magic moment occurs.

Hot pursuit!
Hot pursuit!

 

This is my space!
“This is my space!”

 

What spike bucks do while the big boys are chasing does.
What spike bucks do while the big boys are chasing does.

These spikes played at “being bucks” for about 5 minutes and without paying any attention to me.

I hope you enjoyed this brief trip to deer country.

Larry

 

Cold Day at Laguna Seca

In spite of cold and windy south Texas weather last weekend, four Houston photographers and I managed to capture some good images at Laguna Seca Ranch.  Here are a few of my shots.

Remember to click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.

American Kestrel on hunting perch
American Kestrel on hunting perch

The wind was blowing so hard this day that I was surprised this little kestrel never lost her grip on the perch.

American Kestrel on hunting perch
American Kestrel on hunting perch

 

Hungry Green Jays stealing acorns from a stump.
Hungry Green Jays stealing acorns from a stump.

 

There is always another hungry bird to take the last one's place.
There is always another hungry bird to take the last one’s place.

 

Harris's Hawk going to food
Harris’s Hawk going to food

 

Lesser Goldfinches drinking
Lesser Goldfinches drinking

 

Loggerhead Shrike on hunting perch
Loggerhead Shrike on hunting perch
Long-billed Thrasher swallowing a mouth full.
Long-billed Thrasher swallowing a mouth full.

 

white-crowned sparrow
white-crowned sparrow

 

Pyrrhuloxia male
Pyrrhuloxia male

 

Northern Bobwhites on log, s. Texas
Northern Bobwhites on log, s. Texas

It’s just about impossible to get 4 bobwhites with their heads lifted at the same time.  Patience……

Happy New Year!

Larry

Bosque del Apache NWR (more photos from early December)

Here is the final group of photos I will share with you from our Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Instructional Photo Tour.  Some in our group had far better luck and skill than I as they captured many beautiful images.

Click on an image to enlarge and sharpen it.  Click on the right edge of a photo to advance.

Eared Grebe in winter plumage
Eared Grebe in winter plumage
Northern Harrier, female protecting a snow goose carcass.
Northern Harrier, female protecting a snow goose carcass.
Feeding northern pintail drake
Feeding northern pintail drake
Sandhill Crane leaving the roost in rich morning light.
Sandhill Crane leaving the roost in rich morning light.
Sandhill Crane at Bosque del Apache NWR, NM
Sandhill Crane at Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

Many of the sandhill crane images I captured were at low shutter speeds with the Canon 7D Mark II and 500 mm lens on a Feisol cf tripod and Wimberley gimbal head.  The slow shutter speeds allowed me to get the wings blurred while keeping the bird’s head sharp to give the impression of “action” to a still photo.  I especially loved the water background in this shot.

Sandhill Crane at Bosque del Apache NWR, NM
Sandhill Crane at Bosque del Apache NWR, NM

How could a photographer not love photographing these elegant cranes.

A trio of cranes with blurred wings.
A trio of cranes with blurred wings.
Sandhill Cranes leaving the roost at sunrise.
Sandhill Cranes leaving the roost at sunrise.

The slow shutter speeds (1/80-1/125 second) also creates an impressionistic look to background vegetation.

Sandhill Cranes descending on a roost pond in the shadow of Chupadera Wilderness peaks.
Sandhill Cranes descending on a roost pond in the shadow of Chupadera Wilderness peaks.
Feeding Sandhill Crane silhouetted against a red sunset on the roost pond.
Feeding Sandhill Crane silhouetted against a red sunset on the roost pond.
Sandhill Cranes wading in golden water.
Sandhill Cranes wading in golden water.

Sunsets reflected in the crane roosting ponds can create many colors from red-pink-gold.

Snow Goose landing in alfalfa field along the auto tour route.
Snow Goose landing in alfalfa field along the auto tour route.
Snow Geese are comfortable standing on ice.
Snow Geese are comfortable standing on ice.
Sandhill Crane passing a red cloud on its descent to the roost pond.
Sandhill Crane passing a red cloud on its descent to the roost pond.

New Mexico sunrises and sunsets are hard to match.  Throw in several thousand ducks, geese and cranes and it’s magic for the wildlife photographer.

Larry

 

More Bosque Photos

I didn’t want to cram so many photos into a single newsletter, so this is a second installment of Bosque del Apache Refuge photos.  Enjoy!

Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it.  Click on the right edge of a photo to advance to the next one.

Male American Wigeon landing.
Male American Wigeon landing.

Melody Lytle loaned me her new Canon 100-400 mm lens for this photo.  That is one dandy lens…sharp with a quick focus.

Ducks flushing as sandhill cranes feed.
Ducks flushing as sandhill cranes feed.

Above, a back-lighted shot with the 500 mm lens at sunset.

Sandhill Crane landing.
Sandhill Crane landing.
Bald Eagle and blackbirds
Bald Eagle and blackbirds
Snow Goose coming head on at sunrise.
Snow Goose coming head on at sunrise.

 

400 year old church in Socorro, New Mexico.
400 year old church in Socorro, New Mexico.

I photographed this 400 year old church in Socorro, New Mexico at sunrise on the way back to Texas.  Shadows and light make this one well worth the frozen finger-tips.

Bosque del Apache IPT Favorites

Here are some of my favorite shots from the recent Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge Instructional Photo Tour.  Actually, it may take three or four newsletters to share these since I had a LOT of favorites.

The refuge is known for its thousands of snow geese, but this year the birds were hard to access because of the absence corn crops near the auto tour drive.  So, you won’t see many geese in this batch but their absence is compensated by a plethora of sandhill crane images.

Click on the image to increase its size and sharpness.  Advance by clicking on the right side of an image.

Pair of sandhill cranes leaving the roost at eye-level with the photographers.
Pair of sandhill cranes leaving the roost at eye-level with the photographers.
Sandhill crane leaves the roost pond with a running start in shallow water.
Sandhill crane leaves the roost pond with a running start in shallow water.
Adult and young sandhill cranes in flight
Adult and young sandhill cranes in flight
Cranes coming to roost after sunset with Chupadera Wilderness in the background.
Cranes coming to roost after sunset with Chupadera Wilderness in the background.

I’ll post more images tomorrow.

Larry

Big Bucks and More on S. Texas Ranches

In early October, Nick Benavides invited me over to his Los Lazos Ranch near Laredo to photograph some of the big bucks he was seeing.  With only two afternoons and a morning to spare for the trip, I was happy to see the big guys were ready to come in close for each photo session.

Two weeks later, four photographers traveled with me over to Cotulla, Texas where I conducted a three day Instructional Photo Tour the Santa Margarita Ranch (www.santamargaritaranch.com) .  One of the great things about these south Texas ranches is the tremendous wildlife diversity.  So, when we were ready to take a break from big deer, there were birds, reptiles and other critters to photograph at  the photo blinds and along the ranch roads.  The hospitality, food and accommodations were exceptional and the ranch managers were always available to insure that we had a quality visit.

Here are some of the images from these ranches.  Just click on a photo to make it larger and sharper for good viewing.

White-tailed Deer feeding near Cowpen Daisies.
White-tailed Deer feeding near Cowpen Daisies.

The big bucks at Los Lazos Ranch didn’t have swollen necks in early October, but their antlers were impressive.

White-tailed Deer in early south Texas autumn with flowers abloom.
White-tailed Deer in early south Texas autumn with flowers abloom.
Lark Sparrow perched near photo blind at sunrise.
Lark Sparrow perched near photo blind at sunrise.

Lark sparrows and a variety of other birds perched near the deer blind as I waited for the big bucks to appear at Los Lazos Ranch.

Big buck checking the breeze for scent of a doe at Santa Margarita Ranch.
Big buck checking the breeze for scent of a doe at Santa Margarita Ranch.
White-tailed deer, buck at sunrise
White-tailed deer, buck at sunrise

This Santa Margarita Ranch monster was carrying so much headgear that he had to hold his head back to maintain a balance.

Black-buck in south Texas brush
Black-buck in south Texas brush

This mature black-buck antelope  showed up at the photo blind on several occasions.

At a second photo blind we were greeted by many scaled quail and other critters like the colorful crayfish.

Scaled Quail, male
Scaled Quail, male
Defensive crayfish (crawdad)
Defensive crayfish (crawdad)

A huge whitetail buck gave me this parting shot as he crossed a fallen fence at sundown.

White-tailed Deer jumping fence
White-tailed Deer jumping fence

Don’t forget to check out all the south Texas Photo Ranches for a great time and some fantastic photography.

Larry

Some Bird Images You Haven’t Seen

This newsletter will be short since it contains only a few bird photos from among the many that accumulated in my files since last winter.  I just dumped 21,000 files from the recycle bin, so now you know  there can’t be many keepers left to pick from.  Nevertheless, these were a joy to capture.

Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for better viewing.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck resting on stump
Black-bellied Whistling Duck resting on stump

These two (above and below) were captured within a few minutes of each other as Steve Sinclair and I attempted to get photos of a rare northern jacana at Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Texas.

Northern Jacana juvenile flushing from marsh, s. Texas
Northern Jacana juvenile flushing from marsh, s. Texas
Pied-billed Grebe eating dragonfly
Pied-billed Grebe eating dragonfly
Sora feeding in Estero Llano Grande marsh.
Sora feeding in Estero Llano Grande marsh.
ruby-throated hummingbird resting during migration through South Padre Island
Ruby-throated hummingbird resting during  spring migration at South Padre Island

The Convention Center and World Birding Center at South Padre Island always offer a wide array of bird photography opportunities.

Roseate Spoonbills at South Padre Island
Roseate Spoonbills at South Padre Island

I really liked the “v” formation of these spoonbills in early morning light.

Later this week, we’ll take a look at photos from my recent south Texas ranch visits.

Larry

Some Odds and Ends…

Let me put you onto a good used camera and lens deal.  If you need any Canon equipment at a bargain price, a photographer in Corpus Christi has several camera bodies, a 600 mm lens and a 100-400 mm lens for sale.  Just let me (lditto@larryditto.com) know you are interested and I’ll forward your contact information to him.

Here are some “odds and ends” photos from this past summer and fall which haven’t appeared in newsletters:

Just click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing.  Advance arrows are available when you click on the right margin of an image.

Beach Morning Glory on South Padre Island at sunrise
Beach Morning Glory on South Padre Island at sunrise

The photo above was done with a 24-105 mm lens and Canon 5D full sensor camera, hand held.

 

Great Southern White butterfly in the Wichita Falls, Texas Nature Center.
Great Southern White butterfly in the Wichita Falls, Texas Nature Center.

Both of these butterfly shots were done with the Canon ESO 1D Mark IV and a 300mm f4 Canon lens with Feisol tripod and ball head.

Julia Heliconian on lantana.
Julia Heliconian on lantana.
Least Tern with fish
Least Tern with fish
Least Tern aerobatics
Least Tern aerobatics

Coming at me upside down!!!

Yellow-crowned Night-heron perched
Yellow-crowned Night-heron perched

This night heron was photographed from beside a county road west of Edinburg.   Summer and fall rains created excellent ephemeral habitats for spoonbills, ducks, herons, wood storks, etc..

Green Kingfisher in vines
Green Kingfisher in vines
Green Kingfisher in a dive
Green Kingfisher in a dive

This green kingfisher was feeding at a resaca (oxbow) in the Sabal Palm Sanctuary east of Brownsville.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker bringing food to young in the nest.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker bringing food to young in the nest at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

I’m waiting for fall colors.  With McAllen temperatures hovering around 85 degrees, it’s hard to guess when north Texas will begin to look like autumn.  Are you seeing color in the woods yet?

Larry