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Photo Shoot Report: October 16th, 2011 @ Pedernales Falls SP

October 22, 2011
Carolina Chickadee

© jmillerphoto.com - Carolina Chickadee

When I first started blogging, my primary subject was Bird Blinds.  I’ve been to about a dozen different blinds at about a half-dozen places and I find that making images inside of a bird blind is some of the funnest shooting there can be.  If the blind is set up properly and it is pointed in a direction that takes advantage of the available light (either morning or afternoon) then the photographic opportunities are unique and incredible.

However, during my time back from my exile up in Ohio I had not yet visited a bird blind.  I had been up in San Angelo for a few days before heading to my new home, but there was far too much to do and not enough time to do it in.  So the visit to the blind at San Angelo State Park were put on the back burner.

Northern Mockingbird

© jmillerphoto.com - Northern Mockingbird

From my current residence I knew where at least a half-dozen blinds were on public lands within a reasonable drive from the house.  But as hot as things were and as busy as I was, this like my planned trip to Uvalde, were put on hold.

So like with Cook’s Slough, October had rolled around and I told myself I needed to hit a blind at least once before the summer was out.  The closest one to my new residence was the one at Pedernales Falls SP.  Actually the two up there.  The last time I had been up there only one existed.  But a fellow blogger had told me during that Ohio exile that a new one was going to be constructed.  His images out of the blind looked really good so I knew I needed to try it.  And like my trip for dragonflies out to Cook’s Slough, a soggy weekend put my plans back by a week.

Western Scrub-Jay

© jmillerphoto - Western Scrub-Jay

So early Sunday morning I made the drive to the park.  Pleasant enough drive with bits of fog here and there that convinced me that leaving “late” probably really meant I left on time.  At just a little past 9am I pulled into the long winding park entrance, paid my $5 entrance fee, and then drove just a short distance to the bird blind area.  As I pulled up to the blinds I noticed that finding a parking spot just became a problem.  I uttered an equine vulgarity to myself and got on myself about not leaving sooner to beat the crowds. Thankfully there was one spot in which to park.

As I get out of the car I notice a sign on the fence that requests that you walk quietly up to the blinds.  And then I hear the kids yelling and screaming.  Again (to myself) I utter that same equine vulgarity–it may be a while before the birds feel like joining us.

Northern Cardinal

© jmillerphoto.com - Northern Cardinal

But when I got into the blind area I noticed first that once the guy with the camera shows up the volume drops a little bit from the kids.  Once I get sat down, the noise goes to almost nothing.  Within 40 minutes or so the kids are all gone, and it is just the adults hanging around, and just a few of them at that.

I checked out both blinds on the property.  The old blind was as I remembered it.  Awkward and poorly lit for photography.  But the new blind was lit and setup perfectly for morning photography.  Wow, what a great facility

So what did I see.  Lots of great birds.  There was at least one life list add in the set–that being a Western Scrub-Jay.  I’d seen them growing up in California, but I’d never added them to my life list as my birding is something that started many years later.  I also saw a number of sparrows that I had never identified before and quite frankly as I am writing this entry are still not fully identified.  Sparrows are tough and I will openly admit defeat at this point.  Plenty of Northern Cardinals, Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, Black-crested Titmice, Mourning and White-winged Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, and many others.  Also a few strays here and there including a Ladder-backed Woodpecker which was the first time I’d seen that species in probably a year or so.

Gray Fox

© jmillerphoto.com - Gray Fox

Also in the rarity section was an amphibian and a mammal.  The amphibian was a Southern Leopard Frog.  I saw one on top of the water feature and I marveled at the patience of the frog as a pair of Variegated Meadowhawks were trying to oviposit their eggs into the water feature.  And then there was a huge splash in the water and I thought “Okay, his patience was over.”  Yet I looked on the water feature and he was still up top.  A closer look saw there was a second frog in the water.  Very cool indeed.

The mammal rarity, at least for me, was a Gray Fox.  He was looking kind of thin and made two passes into the blind area looking for both water and something to snack on.  He managed to get the water…not so much on the something to snack on.  Unfortunately I could never get a good angle that got his eyes the way I wanted to.

It was a great to be back in a blind again shooting.  I’ll definitely be back in the spring and I may even wander up while I’m on the DL (disabled list) post-surgery.  At least I can sit there and I don’t have to hike to get my images.

I will be doing a more in-depth review of this blind over at my Photography Blind blog.  I need to get back to my roots a bit and a go a little deeper into the photography discussion.  You’re invited to wander over, though it may be a few days before I can do the entire review.

My compliments to Texas Parks & Wildlife Division, the staff and management of Pedernales Falls State Park, and the friends of the park who have done an outstanding job of putting up the new blind.  And my thanks to my fellow blogger who introduced me to this great resource.  I’ll definitely be back.

About the Images:

Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) are second only to Black-crested Titmice in their hankering to show up, move quickly, and get the heck out.  I made about a dozen attempts to make images of this species with only a couple being worthy of showing here.  I was surprised to see as many Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) making the rounds as was the case.  This Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) showed a little different pose than the one on my post a couple of entries ago.  This had nearly no cropping involved and full size was about a 16 megapixel image.  The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is showing its post-molt feathers.  Come spring all of the gray at the end of its feathers will be worn away and its customary bright red will be out for all to see.  And finally the Gray Fox (urocyon cinereoargenteus) was a nice surprise on Sunday morning.  Beautiful animal, but obviously hungry and thirsty.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2011 1:58 pm

    Great post, Jim. And great photos, too. About the San Angelo Bird Blind, if you come any time soon you will be sadly disappointed. Since Ann and I resigned from working it, it has run down. It hasn’t been mowed in since we left. The bird feeding schedule, is almost non-existant. There is at least one broken feeder. I don’t know if anyone uses it anymore. There is no more a monthly birding tour as they can’t find anyone that will do it. All the Friends are interested in is their horse projects, I think.

    • October 22, 2011 4:04 pm

      I’m disappointed to hear that the blind is falling into disrepair. It is an outstanding facility and there are certainly enough birders in the area that could assist in keeping it up.

  2. October 23, 2011 8:06 pm

    Love these photos, Jim. And my heart jumped at that fantastic photo of the Mockingbird. You guys, only a state away, and yet you get birds that we never see up in Santa Fe. I loved the voice of the Mockingbird when I lived back East, and it’s wonderful to finally see one again. And such a great photo too. And now that I look at all the other photos, they are just as great.

    Glad you got to see the Scrub Jay, and how wonderful to have a fox cross your path. Thanks so much for sharing these photos and a great post! Too bad about the blind, as Bob mentioned.

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    • October 23, 2011 8:25 pm

      Thanks, Katie. My experience in the past has been that Mockingbirds normally don’t spend much time in the bird blinds. With their diet being more of moving protein variety, to see them in the land of seed eaters was impressive. I do love their voice, though their song seems so much more vibrant here in the Lone Star State than it is in other places I’ve been.

      I’m sad and disappointed about the blind, but I’m hoping that here in a few weeks I’ll have the chance to take a look for myself and discuss things with the park superintendent who chided me so badly about the last time I spoke negatively about the upkeep of the blind…

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