Two Afternoons at a Blind Near South Padre Island, Texas

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:

Scarlet Tanager, male foraging for insects in shrubry, s. Texas.
Scarlet Tanager, female on perch.
Black-chinned Hummingbird feeding at Bottle Brush blooms at South Padre Island.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker by pond
Yellow Warbler, male
Wood Thrush foraging by small pond, s. Texas, migration
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, male headed to water
Female Orchard Oriole perched in Tepeguaje tree, South Padre Island, Texas.
Hooded Oriole female foraging for fruits and insects at South Padre Island habitat.
Common Yellowthroat bathing
Black-throated Green Warbler on perch.
Eastern Cottontail sneaking in for an afternoon drink, s. Texas.
Hooded Oriole male on perch.

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.


Recent Captures

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.

Greater Roadrunners mating. Male is holding a Texas Horned Lizard, his bonding gift to the female, Santa Clara Ranch, Starr Co., Texas.
Golden-winged Warbler lost in the thorny woodlands on Santa Clara Ranch in Starr Co., Texas.

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.

Northern Bobwhite male under Manzanita bush, s. Texas.
Long-billed Thrasher fluffing feathers as rain begins to fall.
Eastern Cottontail sampling Manzanita fruits.
Green Jay adult, head and shoulder portrait.
Courtship ritual, Northern Cardinals, male feeding female.
Painted Bunting male flushing while drinking.
Painted Bunting male diving in for a bath.
White-tipped Dove eyeing a Manzanita fruit, s. Texas.
White-tipped Dove landing by Manzanita bush.

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 ( for schedules and other information.

Block Creek Natural Area

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 to register.

Black-chinned hummingbirds at Salvia blooms and other flowers can be captured with my high speed flashes and your camera & lens.

Block Creek B&B Barn

There are several nice landscape opportunities including this little red barn near the Block Creek Bed & Breakfast where you will stay.

House at Block Creek Natural Area and some of the common wildflowers present during much of March and April.
Vermilion Flycatcher landing
Red-tailed Hawk take off from tree stump (captive bird) under the care of Last Chance Forever.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Painted Bunting resting under leaves.
This Gray Fox lives in the area and may be available for photos from a blind near the house.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher pair in flight, Texas hill country

Block Creek owner, Larry Jay, and I photographed these pairing Scissor-tailed Flycatchers as they hunted and bonded near the Block Creek B&B.

Most years, my photographers get some spectacular “birds in flight” opportunities.
Wild Turkey strutting

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.


The Rut Begins in S. Texas

White-tailed Deer, buck at sunrise on a foggy south Texas morning.

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. 

Foggy sunrise in deer country.
White-tailed Deer, big 12 point buck making a scrape.
White-tailed Deer, bucks in the fog, s. Texas.
White-tailed Deer, bucks in the fog just after sunrise.
White-tailed Deer, buck trotting across opening, s. Texas.  This young deer isn’t ready to challenge the big boys, so he will be hanging around the edges of the breeding action this year.
White-tailed Deer; button buck watching mature buck make a scrape.
White-tailed Deer, bucks looking for does.
White-tailed Deer, two large bucks trailing a doe in estrus, s. Texas.
White-tailed Deer, bucks trailing doe in estrus, s. Texas.
White-tailed Deer buck, like a fine cutting horse, guides this doe away from other bucks.
White-tailed Deer, buck running after a doe, s. Texas.
White-tailed Deer, buck chasing doe, s. Texas

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.


Whooping Crane Instructional Photo Tour Coming in January

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.  

Photographers on whooping crane boat
Excited whooping cranes feeding with sandhill cranes near Aransas NWR, Texas
Whooping Crane chasing another whooper
Whooping Crane with crab; Aransas NWR marsh
Blue-winged Teal and Whooping Crane in Aransas NWR marsh.

Hope you can join the group.


Everybody Has a new set of Antlers

Those big south Texas whitetails are sporting new antlers now.  Almost every buck is thrashing the brush trying to scrape away the old velvet.  Once it’s gone, the feisty males will begin sparring to test their new headgear.   

Here are some of images from recent outings:

White-tailed Deer, buck shedding velvet from blood-stained antlers.
White-tailed Deer, bucks mock-fighting after cleaning velvet from new antlers.
Whitetail bucks sparring with new antlers
Sparring white-tail bucks.
These bucks tested their new antlers for half an hour.
Velvet antlered buck reaching into a Huisache tree for fresh leaves.
White-tailed Deer, buck with antlers in velvet ( early August).
Whitetail buck in velvet; early August.
White-tailed Deer, bucks feeding in early August.

Last week in the texas hill country

I spent much of last week with 5 photographers at my annual Block Creek Natural Area Instructional Photo Tour near Comfort, Texas.  After arriving two days early, owner Larry Jay and I made a search for good wildflowers and wildlife in much of the ranch land to the north of Fredericksburg.  Even though it was rainy when we started the early part of our shoot was successful.  I even got some nice gray fox images to go with many bluebonnet shots.

The photography group arrived Wednesday and we spent three days working on hummingbirds, foxes, vermilion flycatchers, hawks, owls, painted buntings and more.  Everyone got the fox and most of the other critters.  As always, the accommodations, food and hospitality were wonderful and the wildlife was plentiful. 

I do this trip every spring, so save the April 22-25 for a trip with me next spring if this sounds appealing.  Contact me quickly as this one fills quickly.

Here are some photos from this spring’s trip:

Axis Deer on a central Texas ranch.
Scimitar-horned Oryx in spring pasture
Longhorn steer trotting across his pasture.

Hill Country Bluebonnets near Mason, Texas.

Wine Cups near Mason, Texas.
Texas Hill Country ranch road with bluebonnets
Spring cold front blowing in at Block Creek Natural Area.
Gray Fox climbing log
Black-chinned Hummingbird feeding at thistle flower.
House Finch perched in sunlight
Painted Bunting male in Texas persimmon tree, Texas Hill Country.
Painted Bunting perched in Greenbriar.
Young wild turkey gobbler foraging in meadow.
Vermilion Flycatcher male landing
Wild Turkey gobbler peeks over a fanned tail while strutting.


Butterflies at Home

For the first time in several years, the butterfly population has exploded at our small butterfly/hummingbird garden.  Actually, I’ve been impressed with the species diversity, too.  So, during the past two afternoons, I grabbed the Canon 5D Mark IV camera with Canon 100-400 mm lens to capture as many species images as possible.  A few were missed, but you can see from the shots below that subject matter was abundant in the little 25′ x 25′ habitat.

All the shots were taken “hand held” with an ISO of 640-800 and f stop of 8-18.  Seldom did I let the shutter speed dip below 350th of a second.

Flowering plants in the garden include mist flower, Turk’s cap, heliotrope and shrimp plant.

Common Mestra on mist flower.

Fiery Skipper nectaring on mist flower.

Unusual top-side view of Gray Hairstreak with wings open.

Gulf Fritillary isolated on Turk’s cap flower.

Large Orange Sulphur nectaring at Turk’s cap flower.

Lyside Sulphur feeding at mist flower blooms.

One of several Monarchs enjoying the mist flowers.

Mournful Duskywing working the mist flowers.

Red Admiral with a brick wall background.

Queen feeding while afternoon light fades.

Sleepy Orange Sulphur shared the flowers with a Queen (left).

Southern Dogface feeding.

Tailed Orange has more “bump” than “tail”.

Theona-Checkerspot has to feed quickly before a much larger Queen moves in.

My favorite shot of the bunch…Tropical Checkered-Skipper.

Varigated Fritillary showed up the second day.

White Peacock sunning on the ground before moving up to feed.

An unidentified moth feeding on mist flowers. The species is much smaller than most butterflies.

There are more butterflies to come when next I share a trip to the National Butterfly Center and Falcon State Park Butterfly gardens.


In Search of a Booby

On Friday, Steve Sinclair and I drove out to South Padre Island in search of a Masked Booby that had been reported hanging out around the ship channel jetties.  After a short walk of maybe 150 feet, we almost stumbled over our seabird as he waited along the walking path for a fresh-fish handout from passing fishermen.  We seldom enjoy that kind of “instant” success when searching for unusual birds, but the booby was right there and waiting to be photographed.

Although in the middle of a molt, our bird was a good find.  It sort of blended in with the laughing gulls, so none of the fishermen had the slightest idea they were in the presence of an unusual  bird.  Normally, one would have to go to a more tropical ocean habitat like the south Atlantic or Caribbean Ocean to find this guy.

So, here are some South Padre critters: Masked Booby, a green sea turtle and a marine creature called a Sea Hare.  It surfaced while I photographed turtles near the jetty.

When you click on a photo, it will enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Masked Booby on jetty at South Padre Island, 8.3.208

Sea Hare feeding on algae in the Brownsville Ship Channel.

Green Sea Turtle surfacing for air.

These images were made with the Canon 7D Mark II camera and Canon 100-400 mm lens, handheld.  It was so hot and steamy on this day, I decided to wait for cooler weather before returning for better photos.


Fawns, Fishing and Eating Water Lilies

As the sun popped from the Gulf of Mexico today, I was photographing a wading fisherman in the Laguna Madre, south Texas.  Good fortune was with me as two fishing boats passed beyond him and I got them all in one shot.  Then I headed out to try finding fawn white-tailed deer since early July is the peak fawning  time in this part of the state.  Again, I was lucky and located several newborns, some as their mothers were tucking them away in tall cover for the day.  BUT, my search continues for that best of all baby deer photos…nursing time with a fawn on either side of a doe.  I just have to keep trying.

Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it.  Then click on the arrows at either side to advance or back up.

Fishermen on a sunrise mission in boats and waders, Laguna Madre, Texas.


White-tailed Deer, doe keeping her baby scent-free.

White-tailed Deer, fawns standing in young mesquite. shrubs, s. Texas.

White-tailed Deer fawn hiding in tall grass, s. Texas.

White-tailed Deer, summer buck putting on good antlers.


Horses eating water lilies.

These horses were escaping mosquitos and munching water lilies in an ephemeral pond.

For most of these images, I used a tripod, Canon 5D Mark IV camera and 100-400 mm lens.  The big buck was done with a 7D Mark II and 500 mm lens, hand-held.