Monday, May 26, 2008

Texas Trip - Laguna Atascosa

Laguna Atascosa NWR is located on the Gulf of Mexico about 15 miles north of where the Rio Grande meets the Gulf. This 45,000 acre refuge has the greatest number of recorded bird species of any National Wildlife Refuge. It also provides habitat for the endangered ocelot and jaguarundi.

I arrived just as the sun was coming up and due to cloud cover it was virtually dark. Before I could finish attaching my camera to the tripod a Wild Turkey and a Chachalaca ran across the parking lot and green jays were flying around in the trees. I knew it was going to be a good day.

Plain Chachalaca
1/200 sec, f5.6, 400mm

The refuge has two driving loops, a lake loop and a gulf loop. I started with the lake loop and soon saw a sign for a alligator pond. I hiked out to see the alligators but was disappointed to find out that the pond was completly dry. It would be nice if they posted a sign.

I then took the longer gulf loop. This route takes you along the gulf through some very interesting landscape. I was able to see Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, and Redish Egret. At one point I had to stop and wait for a Tortise (Texas Tortise?). I pulled over and got out to watch the Tortise when I noticed a huge shiny black snake crossing the road. I estimated that it was around 7-8 feet long. Maybe a Texas Indigo snake.

Reddish Egret
1/400 sec, f8.0, +1 Exposure Compensation, 400mm

After finishing the gulf loop I headed back to the visitors center where they have some feeders set up. In a short period of time several bird species visited including; Chachalacas, Green Jay, White-tipped Dove and Magnolia Warbler.

Green Jay
1/200 sec, f5.6, -2/3 Exposure Compensation, ISO 1250

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Texas Trip - Hazel Bazemore County Park

After driving for about 4 hours I was looking for a place to pull over and have lunch. I checked my copy of "The 500 Most Important Bird Areas" and discovered that Hazel Bazemore County Park was only a few miles away so I decided to check it out. The book states that this may be the premier hawk watching site in the country from mid-August to mid-November. Hazel Bazemore is a rather dumpy looking park that consists of a road with some pull-offs with picnic tables. It also contains a nice observation deck for observing hawks. I didn't see any hawks but I did get my first photographs of the American Redstart, Inca Dove and Northern Mockingbird.

Inca Dove
1/1000, f5.6, iso 200

Northern Mockingbird
1/125, f5.6, +2/3 exposure compensation, iso 200

Up Next -> Laguna Atascosa NWR

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Texas Trip - Balcones Canyonlands NWR

On my way from Colorado Springs to Texas I passed through the north-east corner of New Mexico and took my first photos of a Great-tailed Grackle at a rest area. Other people looked at me like I was crazy taking pictures of this bird. After I made it down to southern Texas I could see why. If you are outside and look in any direction you will see one.

Great-tailed Grackle
1/320, f6.3, iso 320

My first Texas location was Balcones Canyonlands NWR near Marble Falls Texas. Balcones is a nesting area for the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. I was hoping to see one of these species but I wasn't so lucky. I did get a good look at my first Yellow-breasted Chat.

Yellow-breasted Chat
1/400, f5.6, iso 400

Up next -> a quick stop near Corpus Christi...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Texas Trip - Lower Rio Grande Valley

Last week I took a trip down to the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. In the next series of posts I will show what I saw at each place.
Here is the list the birds and other wildlife that I saw and photographed.
(P=photo list, L=life list)


Great-tailed Grackle (P)
Yellow-breasted Chat (P,L)
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Northern Mockingbird (P,L)
Inca Dove (P,L)
American Redstart (P,L)
Black-bellied Whistling Duck (P,L)
Green Jay (P,L)
Chachalaca (P,L)
Road Runner (P)
White Ibis (P,L)
Little blue Heron
White-tipped Dove (P,L)
Olive Sparrow (P,L)
Dunlin (P,L)
Ruddy Turnstone (P,L)
Roseate Spoonbill (P,L)
Tri-colored Heron (P,L)
Least Tern (P,L)
Magnolia Warbler (P,L)
Yellow Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Black-necked Stilt (P,L)
Cattle Egret (P,L)
Clapper Rail (P,L)
Common Moorhen (P,L)
Yellow-crowned Night-heron (P,L)
Veery (P,L)
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (P,L)
Black Skimmer (P,L)
Gray Catbird (P,L)
Canada Warbler (P,L)
White-winged Dove (P,L)
Great Kiskadee (P,L)
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (P,L)
Least Grebe (P,L)
Green Kingfisher (P,L)
Canyon Towhee (P,L)
Rufous-crowned Sparrow (P,L)
Texas Indigo Snake (L)
Texas Tortoise (L)
Anole (P,L)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Ramah SWA - Part 3

You might think that this is a blog about Ramah SWA. It isn't, but i'm having a hard time staying away from Ramah. Two years ago the place was completely dried up. Last year there was water but not much wildlife. This year it is thriving.

Here is a Marbled Godwit. I was kneeling down photographing this bird with my tripod at its shortest height when it decided to fly to the other end of the puddle that it was working. With the Bogen gimbal head (see posts below) I was easily able to snap off a few shots. I wasn't expecting much, because the camera wasn't set for flight photography, but I was pleasantly surprised by this shot.

Another Marbled Godwit.

A pair of Willets.

And a Long-billed Dowitcher displaying his wingpit.