Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Search for Black Swifts

I recently headed down to the San Luis Valley to visit my parents and try to locate and photograph Black Swifts at Zapata Falls. Zapata Falls is located on the road heading into the Great Sand Dunes National Park. To get to Zapata falls you need to drive up a very rough dirt road that leads to a parking area and campground. From the parking lot there is a steep 1/2 mile trail that ends at a fast moving mountain stream. At this point you must wade through the stream for about 100 ft. to get to the falls that are located in a kind of slot canyon formation. So as I was standing in the rushing, ice cold, water I got out my camera, turned it on and nothing, completely dead. This is understandable because the battery was still charging at my parents house. Lucky for me I didn't see any Black Swifts or I might have been upset. I did notice that a couple days later someone reported seeing 30+ Black Swifts at Zapata Falls on the Colorado Birding Society website. Maybe I was too early in the day (6:00 pm) or maybe i'm blind to Black Swifts. Hopefully next time i'll see some and bring my battery.

In spite of the Black Swift fiasco all was not lost. While visiting the Alamosa NWR we were lucky enough to spot this cooperative American bittern. Unfortunatly, you do not always have control over the lighting quality and this bird was back-lit with rather harsh mid-morning sunlight. You have to get up very early in the morning in Colorado to get quality lighting for bird photography.

Click on the photo to see the large version and check out this birds foot. Scary!

American Bittern
1/400 sec, f7.1, +2/3 exposure compensation, iso 250, from car using bean bag

American Bittern
1/400 sec, f7.1, +2/3 exposure compensation, iso 250, from car using bean bag

While leaving the Sand Dunes we came upon this Burrowing Owl. Again the angle of the sun was not optimal. I have been to the Sand Dunes many times and this is the first Burrowing Owl that I have seen in the area.

Burrowing Owl
1/640 sec, f6.3, +1 exposure compensation, iso 250, from car using bean bag

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Texas Trip - South Padre Island part 2

When I first planned my trip I didn't have South Padre Island on the itinerary. When I left Laguna Atascosa I realized how close I was and decided to go. This turned out to be the right decision. I saw more species of birds here than all the other locations combined.

Canada Warbler
1/250 sec, f6.3, iso640, exposure compensation -1/3, 400mm

Black Bellied Whistling Duck
1/250 sec, f5.6, iso 640, 400mm

Roseate Spoonbill
1/800 sec, f10, exposure compensation -2/3, iso 200, 400mm

Least Bittern
1/320 sec, f10, iso 200. 400mm

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Texas Trip - South Padre Island

On the grounds of the South Padre Island Convention Center is a nature area that consists of a boardwalk through a cattail marsh and a water feature that works like a small re-circulating stream. The water feature, along with the trees that surround the convention center, are a popular place with migrating warblers. The marsh had just about everything you would expect including Roseate Spoonbills, White Ibis, Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Tricolored Heron, Reddish Egret, Least Bittern, Clapper Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Great Blue Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Alligator etc. etc.. A mudflat adjacent to the marsh contained various gulls, terns and black skimmers. A helpful birder from Dallas pointed out a pair of Magnificant Frigatebirds flying above the area.

The boardwalk has its pros and cons as far as photography is concerned. I gives you the ability to enter the marsh and most of the wildlife appears to not notice that you are there. However, because the boardwalk is elevated you end up shooting down on most of your subjects. It is almost always better to shoot as close to eye level as possible.

Tricolored Heron
1/200, f6.3, +1/3 exposure compensation, iso 200, 400mm

Clapper Rail
1/640, f5.6, + 1/3 exposure compensation, iso 400, 400mm

1/640, f7.1, + 2/3 exposure compensation, iso 200, 400mm

Magnolia Warbler
1/400, f5.6, + 1/3 exposure compensation, iso 500, 400mm

1/400, f6.3, iso 200, 400mm