I only spent 2 days at Laguna Seca Ranch in SE Texas, but I have thousands of images from those two days. I won’t keep them all, but it will take me a while to process them all. So in the interim, here are more photos from when I visited the Laguna Seca Ranch in early May of this year.
If you missed my previous posts, scroll backwards in my blog to learn more about my trip. Of the three and a half days I spent in SE Texas, my 2 days at the ranch were the best of the trip. The blinds are comfortable, the birds are plentiful and the photo opportunities are outstanding. What more could I want?
So here are a few more of my favorites from those two days. Click the images to view larger.
I previously mentioned that the green jays were usually the first visitors to the blind after we setup the perches and the food sources. They’re greedy but they are quite beautiful to photograph. I was thrilled when I got an opportunity to photograph a pair in courtship. The female was standing on a perch all puffed out and looking pretty when her mate flew in and offered her a token of his undying love for her.
In my last post on my trip to Texas, I mentioned the bronzed cowbird that paid a visit to the blind on our first day at the ranch. He came back the second day when it was overcast which makes photographing a black bird on a cloudy day a bit easier. I like this image because you can see the colors in the primary feathers in his wings. Plus I just love that red eye. What a cool bird!
It was a nice treat to have a yellow warbler stop by for a quick visit. These small birds stop by here in Florida during migration and we occasionally get one that stays all summer. But it was nice that he stopped by during my Texas visit. I just love the beautiful backgrounds that the ranch offers from the blinds.
A male summer tanager eventually came out where we could see him. We see so many northern cardinals at home that whenever I see a red bird, I usually don’t take a second look. But every now and then I say to myself “it could be a tanager…”. In this case it was.
The painted buntings were out in numbers over this weekend. Is there a more beautiful bird in North America than a male painted bunting? Perhaps. But this guy would certainly rank in the top 5. He would most likely be the most colorful in North America.
On the second day, Ruth and I decided to try our luck chasing an uncooperative ash-throated flycatcher. He was consistently landing on a barbecue grill as he was hawking insects for his hatchlings. We set up a perch on the grill hoping he would land on the perch so that we could get an acceptable photo of him. While we were wasting our time with that unsuccessful endeavor, Jeff was in the blind photographing a Blackburnian warbler. That would be a life bird for me, so when I found out about what I missed, I was kicking myself. Fortunately he came back a little later in the afternoon and gave me a second chance to photograph him.
At one point, someone saw a red bird off in the distance and was trying to identify it. It wasn’t a cardinal or a tanager, so someone suggested a vermilion flycatcher. So Ruth decided to play the vermilion flycatcher call and see if we could call it in. Seconds later, on a perch not 20 feet in front of us, a first-year male vermilion flycatcher stopped by for a visit. It sure is nice to have one land right in front of you and pose for a few minutes compared to the hours I’ve waited at Orlando Wetlands Park for our winter vermilion flycatcher to give me an opportunity.
Purple gallinules are pretty easy to find in Florida. They are common in Texas as well, but they are not common at all out in the ranches. So it was quite a surprise to find one at the Laguna Seca Ranch this day. Look at the size of those feet!
Scissor-tailed flycatcher was one of my target birds for this trip. I had been lucky enough to photograph one at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge here in Central Florida a few years ago, but I was a long way away and I didn’t get a great image. I also didn’t want to get the standard photo of one on a wire which is where you usually see them. So when I saw a pair diving into the pond on the ranch to bathe, I knew exactly the shot that I wanted. Except that someone forgot to tell the flycatcher what I wanted.
The birds bathe by dipping in the water as they fly by, much like the swallow-tailed kites do. So I envisioned an image where the flycatcher is just coming out of the water with a nice splash behind him and lots of water droplets all around him. I got that shot. But the bird is flying away from me instead of perpendicular to me. This is commonly referred to as a “butt shot”. But I was thrilled to actually get this image. These birds are not that large and you have to guess where they’re going to hit the water. I’m pleased to get this image for my first try. I’ll have to hone my technique for next time.
The golden-fronted woodpeckers were fun to watch. They sound just like the red-bellied woodpeckers that we have here in Florida, so when I initially heard one, I thought I knew what it was. Once I got that worked out, they provided plenty of entertainment for us.
Two of my favorite images from the ranch are a pair of orioles that stopped by. We were able to see Bullock’s, Baltimore, hooded, orchard and Audubon’s orioles during the trip. Bullock’s and Audubon’s were lifers for me, so I am very happy to have captured a good image of both.
Of course it’s not always birds on the SE Texas ranches. Sometimes you can get some mammals stopping by for a drink. One day we had a ground squirrel stop by for some photos. On our last day, just as the sun was setting, a beautiful coyote trotted out on the field hoping for a drink. He was very wary as he approached the pond and never did take a drink. He either heard the cameras clicking, heard our excited voices whispering to each other, or could detect our scent in the blind. Still, it was an exciting end to the day.
I’ve got one more post to put together, so keep an eye out for Bath Time coming soon. I think you’ll like it.