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The Magnificent Seven – South Llano River State Park

April 3, 2013
Painted Bunting

© – Painted Bunting

To lead off the Magnificent Seven I will start with the place that I’ve had the longest relationship with.  South Llano River State Park is located just south of Junction, Texas.  It is an easy drive from both my old stomping ground of San Angelo and my current stomping ground near the Alamo city.  I can trace my first visit to this park back to April 2007, whilst still shooting my trusty Canon 10D.  I have shot in every season and nearly every month of the year.

So what makes this park one of my Magnificent Seven?  Three primary things which is all tied together by a fourth.

Northern Cardinal

© – Northern Cardinal (Female)

First, and most obvious to most visitors, is the South Llano River.  For many it is there for recreation.  But for me as a photographer it is the different species that it attracts into the parks and nourishes through its waters.  Undoubtedly there would not be the diversity of mammals, birds, or insects without the river rolling through the park.

Second are the bird blinds.  While there are many parks in the state that have one or two, this park has four.  And of the four, three of them are very workable for photography.  The fourth, well, not so much but only because I don’t have the lens necessary to make it work.  I have had more life list adds in the blinds of the park than in any other place.

Checkered Setwing

© – Checkered Setwing

Third is the number of dragonflies and butterflies that inhabit the park.  The river flowing through the park helps to contribute to a few of these species.  The many hiking trails and usually abundant flowering plants makes the butterfly counts impressive.  But the hidden jewel when it comes to odonata is Buck Lake.  If you can get in before TPWD stocks the lake with fish, the species spread is very good and there are usually many great perches for the dragons and damsels to perch on.

And the fourth component that really makes this park special is the staff and volunteers.  Awesome folks from top to bottom.  From the folks that collect the very affordable fee at the office to the folks that maintain the blinds and put out the seed.  Without these folks the experience in the park would not be nearly as good.

My only complaint about this park is that it is the longest trip of any of my Magnificent Seven sites.  That makes it tougher to get out on a regular basis.

Awesome park. Awesome people.  Awesome photographic experiences.  Just wish it weren’t so far away.

About the Images:
Three images for your viewing pleasure in today’s blog post.  Two from last spring and one from two winters ago.  All were shot with the standard gear on a tripod.  Flash was used for the middle shot.  The first shot, a male Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris),  was made insde the Acorn blind.  Technical details are ISO 400, 1/100 at f/5.6.  The second is a female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) made from inside the Agarita Blind.  Technical details are ISO 400, 1/80 at f/6.3.  And finally a shot from Buck Lake from last spring of this beautiful Checkered Setwing (Dythemis fugax) dragonfly.  Technical details are ISO 400, 1/250 at f/13.

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