While the first day and a half in Texas were fun and productive, they didn’t compare with the opportunities I had to photograph Texas birds on the last two days of my visit. It is during these two days that we enjoyed the blinds at the Laguna Seca Ranch. The variety of birds at the ranch was very good, and most of them were new birds for me.
The ranch has done an excellent job of constructing the blinds so that you can maximize your opportunities. There are morning and afternoon blinds that are properly positioned for the best sun angles, and each songbird blind has a water feature and natural habitat to encourage the birds to visit. When the blinds are not in use by photographers, there are automatic feeders that keep the birds coming back day after day, regardless of whether or not anyone is in the blinds. The ranch has also provided a good distance between the blinds and the trees and shrubbery in the background so that you get nice clean backgrounds for your photos.
After positioning the perches and providing some suet and seed for the avian guests, it’s time to settle in to the blind and wait for the first arrivals. You don’t have to wait long. When you’re setting up your perches, you can hear the birds chirping in the nearby vegetation waiting to come down for something special to eat. It’s like they’re saying “Hurry up! We’re hungry!”.
The first visitors are almost always the green jays and northern cardinals. We get northern cardinals here in Florida, but green jays are only found in southeast Texas and Mexico. The jays, like the blue jays we have here, are loud, brave and greedy. All the better because once they come in, that’s the signal for the shy birds to come in as well. Click the images to view larger.
Northern cardinals are always a treat, even though we have plenty here in Florida. They nest in our yard and we see their courtship rituals frequently, but I haven’t been successful in predicting where the male will feed the female, or if I have predicted properly, I don’t get a nice background for the image. This day I got both!
The female cardinal posed nicely for me on one of the perches we setup.
We had two different species of thrasher stop by during the day. We see brown thrashers in our yard from time to time, but it was really nice to get both a long-billed thrasher and a curve-billed thrasher while in the blinds. The long-billed thrasher is only found in southeast Texas and Mexico while the curve-billed thrasher can be found as far north as Kansas and as far west as Arizona. I couldn’t really tell a difference between their bills, so I had to go with the pattern of streaks and spots on their breast. The long-billed thrasher has dark streaks on its breast while the curve-billed thrasher has lighter round spots on its breast.
It was fun to watch the brown-headed cowbirds displaying for the affections of a female. There was one female being chased around the blind by a half dozen males. The males would display in front of the female (and the other males) in hopes of winning her over. In this image, the male on the right is displaying his prowess for the male on the left.
While the brown-headed cowbirds were fun to watch, the appearance of a pair of bronzed cowbirds was a special treat. Here is the male posing in the tree right above the blind. I love that red eye!
A common ground-dove stopped by for a short visit. We have these in Florida but I had never been able to get one in a decent photo.
We were surprised when a hermit thrush dropped out of the trees for a drink. We weren’t sure if he was a hermit thrush or a Swainson’s thrush at the time, but I think the consensus is a hermit thrush. That’s another life bird for me.
I was happy to see a male bobwhite come into the feeding area. I’ve seen these in Florida, but never well enough for a decent photo.
After a while, a female stopped by.
If that wasn’t enough, they kindly took a drink at the pond at the same time.
I have many more from the morning shoot (and 3 more shoots after this one), but I’ll save those for another post. I’ll leave you with what might be one of my favorites. As the morning wore on and the heat increased, wasps would come by and take a drink from the pond. It never occurred to me that a wasp would need a drink. I always thought that if they got wet they wouldn’t be able to fly. But they are able to land on the water’s surface, take a drink and fly off leaving only their feet wet. Very cool!
Stay tuned for more.