A Photo Excursion to the Martin Refuge at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Part I

Those of you who have followed this blog know that one of my favorite bird festivals is the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in Harlingen, Texas. The birds are spectacular, the people are wonderful, and the festival is truly a marvel of organization and excellence.

This year, I decided to treat myself to a photography excursion to the Martin Refuge in Edinburgh, Texas. I had seen wonderful photos from this private refuge, and I was anxious to take some of my own. Our group was taken out to the ranch by the wonderful Ruth Hoyt, who is a fantastic photographer and a lovely human being. She spent the day helping us to improve our photography skills, and I was truly impressed by her considerable knowledge, kindness and patience.

We arrived at the ranch very early on a cool, windy morning. We went to a photo blind and began to set up to take photos. We did not have to wait very long until the Crested Caracaras began to arrive.

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

The birds sat in the trees, waiting.

Watching from the branches.

Watching from the branches.

It was fascinating to watch the birds as they flew close to the blind …

Crested Caracara fly by.

Crested Caracara fly by.

Another fly by.

Another fly by.

… and as they came in for a landing.

Incoming.

Incoming.

Another bird flies in.

Another bird flies in.

Another arrival.

Another arrival.

There were spectacular mid-air encounters.

A mid-air encounter.

A mid-air encounter.

There were some disagreements when more than one bird wanted to occupy the same perch.

It's getting crowed around here.

It’s getting crowded around here.

The Crested Caracaras were not the only raptors on the refuge. There were beautiful Harris Hawks as well, and the caracaras were intimidated by them.

Crested Caracara and Harris Hawk.

Crested Caracara and Harris Hawk.

The Harris Hawks were clearly in charge.

The Harris Hawks were in charge.

The Harris Hawks were in charge.

And what brought all these birds so conveniently close to the blind? A lovely ball of leftovers from a local taxidermy shop. It seemed pretty unappealing to me, but it was a caracara and hawk magnet!

Yum!

Yum!

Birds would grab pieces from the lure and take them up into the trees to eat.

A tasty bit.

A tasty bit.

A close look at a feeding bird.

A close look at a feeding bird.

Although the Harris Hawks kept a close watch over the caracaras’ activities, I did not actually observe them eating any of the food.

The Watcher

The Watcher

As we were finishing up our morning photo session, I saw a bird that immediately made me think of my home in Corrales, New Mexico.

Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner

The birds finished their feast, and we retired for our picnic lunch under the palapa. We could not wait to see what the afternoon’s photo session would bring. In Part II of this post you will see what we did in the afternoon.

Green Jay

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23 Comments

Filed under Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Texas birds

23 responses to “A Photo Excursion to the Martin Refuge at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Part I

  1. birds are always fascinating to me..I have 2 really good friends that are nuts over vultures…I like Hawks better.

    • Thanks Steve. It was such a fun trip! Saw lots of birds; learned some new techniques. The Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival is the best. You really should attend one year!

  2. Welcome back to the blog! We missed you.

  3. Sounds like you had a great experience, Linda! I’ve been pining to see a Crested Caracara for some time now, so it’s especially fun to view your marvelous photographs. Love the Harris Hawk, as well. Fabulous action captures! Looking forward to viewing Part II.

    • It was wonderful Julie! You should definitely attend the RGVBF one year. There are fabulous birds that you just don’t see anywhere else. There will be very different birds in Part II. Working on it now.

  4. cindy

    Super action shots! What a treat (not the pile of meat:) Thanks for letting me know this was here..don’t know how I missed seeing it in my email..Have never seen Caracaras, nor a Harris Hawk! Wonderful!

  5. Looks like a lot of fun. The prey birds are so amazing. Great shots Linda, But I doubt you needed much coaching. Just sayin’

  6. Wonderful photos Linda – looks like a great time there. The caracara is a bird I have always wanted to see.

  7. Awesome photos Linda, look forward to your part 2!

  8. Wow. You got a lot of terrific shots, Linda. What an excellent morning of birding and photography.

  9. Wow! Lots of exciting action to view! I would love to see a Crested Caracara, Harris Hawk and Road Runner someday. Enjoyed your photos and captions. Sounds like you had a wonderful day :)

  10. simply beautifully captured shots…lovely!

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