South Texas Bird Photography Trip Report

Kisskadee Photo by Scott Bourne

What a week.

I am super lucky to have this job. I get to do what I love. And what I love is documenting and telling stories with my camera about the life of birds.

Last week, I flew to McAllen, TX. This is my third trip to the Valley to photograph birds. Each trip, this one included, has been amazing. The variety of species here is really fantastic. Having lots of chances at different birds compared to what I usually see, challenges me and thrills me all at the same time.

I spent about seven hours a day, photographing from a blind. When you are committing nearly a week of your life to sitting in a small, confined, (sometimes hot and humid) space, for a concentrated length of time, you find out whether or not you have passion for your work. In my case, I feel like a kid again every time I step into a blind and the seven hours flies right by.

blind

Speaking of blinds, I have some pictures here of the various blinds I was working to give you a better idea of what it was like. I can tell you that blinds are essential to doing the type of work I do and I am grateful for a way to more closely interact with the birds without putting them under undo stress.

We had good to great weather and from time to time, great light that devolved into just okay light. Through it all, I simply relied on my experience with my Olympus camera, making whatever changes need-be to get the best results.

I have a full list of birds below. The birders among you will probably be jealous 🙂 The bird PHOTOGRAPHY was special.

Blackbird photo by Scott Bourne

I saw 30 different species. 11 of them were life birds. I photographed eight of the life birds and the vast majority of all the birds I saw.

I used Olympus’ special feature called Pro Capture for about half the time to test how many more keepers I could get compared with just shooting at a high frame rate. Surprisingly enough, the standard frame rate did better than I thought it would. But as I expected, I did get better results with Pro Capture. I got about 15% more keepers using Pro Capture. It is situation dependent.

Pro-Capture tip: Pre-focus on the intended target before switching to manual focus mode so that when you turn on Pro-Capture, your camera doesn’t hunt for AF. This way the subject you want in focus can be captured as long as that subject remains in the plane of focus.

target
In low-light, I worked at ISO 3200 and got great stuff. I rely on post-production software to reduce any unsightly noise and frankly, almost any of the current crop of software programs that are available can handle that task.

Kisskadee Photo by Scott Bourne

I used all the tricks in my bag, including pre-visualizing some art pieces, finding the best backgrounds, waiting on the light, understanding and being able to predict bird behavior, you name it.

I have posted a few images along with this report and will be posting more over on my social media accounts.

Oriel Photo by Scott Bourne

If you’re a birder or bird photographer, then make sure to put the Rio Grande Valley on your bucket list. It’s active between November and April. I’ve been here in January and March with great success.

P.S. here are eight seconds of video I made of the oriel.
https://vimeo.com/384869566

Birds seen/photographed on my recent trip…

Lark Bunting (Calamospiza melanocorys)
Life Bird – Photographed
Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)
Life Bird – Photographed
Audubon’s Oriole (Icterus graduacauda)
Life Bird – Photographed
Altamira Oriole (Icterus gularis)
Life Bird – Photographed
Great kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus)
Life Bird – Photographed
Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus)
Life Bird – Photographed
Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)
Life Bird – Photographed
Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus)
Life Bird – Photographed

Kiskadee Photo by Scott Bourne

Clay-colored thrush (Turdus grayi)
Life Bird – Seen but not Photographed
White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi)
Life Bird – Seen but not Photographed
Inca dove (Columbina inca)
Life Bird – Seen but not Photographed

Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas)
Photographed
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Photographed
Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)
Photographed
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Photographed
Golden-fronted Woodpecker (Melanerpes aurifrons)
Photographed
Northern crested caracara (Caracara cheriway)
Photographed
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Photographed
Orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata)
Photographed
Olive sparrow (Arremonops rufivirgatus)
Photographed
Long-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma longirostre)
Photographed
Lesser Goldfinche (Spinus psaltria)
Photographed
Curve-billed thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostre)
Photographed
Orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata)
Photographed

Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
Seen but not Photographed
Ladder-backed woodpecker (Dryobates scalaris)
Seen but not Photographed
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Seen but not Photographed
Eastern meadowlark (Sturnella magna)
Seen but not Photographed
Harris’s hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
Seen but not Photographed
Plain Chachalaca (Ortalis vetula)
Seen but not Photographed


Picture Methods has partnered with Hunt’s Photo & Video to bring you the best gear at a competitive price and backed by personal service. Call Alan Samiljan at 781-462-2383 or Noah Buchanan at 781.462.2356. If you cannot reach either one try Gary Farber at 781-462-2332. You will ALWAYS get the best prices if you call the store v. Using the web site. You can also email Noah at: nbuchanan@huntsphoto.com or Gary at: gfarber@huntsphoto.com. Hunt’s has been around a long time and you can trust them. Make sure to mention that Scott Bourne sent you. That will get you the best deal.