Breakfast in a Sorghum Field

For the past three days, I was hiding in a sorghum field at sunrise and trying to capture images of doves on the wing.  Smack in the middle of McAllen, a five acre patch of grain was attracting white-winged doves, Eurasian collared-doves, mourning doves, rock doves and whistling ducks.  It wasn’t  like being in Mexico where thousands of doves would have been swarming, but the action was good and I had lots of fun.

Each shoot was done with the Canon 500 mm IS lens and the Canon 1D Mark III and Canon 7D cameras.  Of course, I love the “multi-frames per second” capability of both cameras, but the Mark III, at 10 fps, is hard to beat.  Its autofocus is faster than that of the 7D, but either was very capable of delivering what I needed with this type shooting.  The tripod stayed in the car.  I was photographing passing and landing birds, so everything had be done in the “hand-held” mode.  Most of the time, I was seated on a low folding stool with the sun behind me.  The lens came up only when birds were closing in.  Within minutes after sunrise, the shutter speed was at 1/2500 second with ISO 640.  Auto-focusing worked best with all focusing points activated for both cameras because I had clear sky for most backgrounds.

Shooting in the city meant the backgrounds weren’t always great… cars, signs, etc..  I did some cloning on a few photos, but most were clean from the start.  Here are some of the shots I liked best:

Click in the upper right corner of a photo to get a sharper, clearer image.  You can also advance or see the previous shot from there.


Adult white-winged dove landing.
Adult white-winged dove landing.
White-winged Dove starting a second pass before landing.
Why they are called "white-winged" doves.
Dropping in for breakfast.


Black-bellied whistling ducks can land on sorghum heads and feed just like doves.
Eurasian Collared-Doves are common in south Texas and share the grain fields with several other dove species.
Rock Dove looking for white-wings. They preferred feeding with the other doves.


Many white-wings fed on the heads of grain rather than landing in the rows to feed on the ground.
White-wings even use their "thumbs" for braking. I'd never noticed that before.
It was difficult to hide well enough to get the wary doves to land within photo range.
Adult white-winged dove perched on sorghum seed-head.
White-winged dove circling the field.
White-winged dove dropping into grain field.