Tag Archives: Harris hawk

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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Filed under Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Texas birds

Exploring Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

After my first day at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival I could hardly wait to get up the next morning and do more birding. The morning was cloudy and windy as a front was moving through the area. Nevertheless I was excited to set off for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

On the way to the refuge I saw two Aplomado Falcons, but both of them had flown by the time that I was able to stop my rental car. I certainly wish I had taken this photo. They are truly lovely birds!

Aplomado Falcon photo taken from cummah.blogspot.com

When I arrived at the Visitor’s Center I was delighted to see many residents at the feeding stations and the water feature. These are birds seen only in South Texas.

Green Jay, Laguna Atascosa NWR

Green Jay

Plain Chachalaca, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Plain Chachalaca

White-tipped Dove, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

White-tipped Dove

These are birds that you will not see unless you travel to South Texas. If you would like to see them without traveling to Texas, Sabal Palm Audubon Sanctuary has a very nice webcam so that people can see these beautiful birds.

I am including this next bird because although it is a common bird for people in the Eastern half of the U.S., New Mexicans and most Westerners do not see this beautiful bird.

Northern Cardinal, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Northern Cardinal


The birds suddenly fled, and I looked for the cause of their disturbance. I finally spotted a small coyote in the underbrush, as wary of me as the birds had been of it. The coyote was quite small compared to the ones that I am accustomed to seeing in New Mexico.

Coyote, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Coyote

I drove the fifteen mile Bayside Drive loop, which runs for a significant distance along Laguna Madre, the bay between the mainland and South Padre Island. The scenery was interesting as desert scrub-type vegetation grows right to the water’s edge.

Laguna Madre Bay and desert scrub vegetation.

Laguna Madre Bay and desert scrub vegetation.

As I looked out over the bay, a Caspian Tern hunted overhead.

Caspian Tern, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Caspian Tern hunting above Laguna Madre Bay.

A Great Blue Heron fished in the shallow water near the shore.

Great Blue Heron Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Great Blue Heron fishing in the shallows of Laguna Madre Bay.

I looked up and saw an Osprey with a fish, flying overhead. It was almost beyond the range of my lens …

Osprey, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Osprey with fish, flying over Laguna Madre Bay.

… but I was able to get a much better look when it landed on the shore.

Osprey, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Osprey on the shore with fish.

Several Semipalmated Sandpipers watched from a distance, hopeful of fish scraps.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

I continued along Bayside Drive and watched Egrets fishing in the shallow water of Laguna Madre Bay.

Reddish Egret, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret (white morph), Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Reddish Egret (white morph)

Great Egret, Laguna Madre Bay, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Great Egret

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Here is a short video of shorebirds feeding along the edge of Laguna Madre Bay:

When I came to the end of Bayside Drive I saw a gorgeous Harris Hawk sitting on a post. It was kind enough to post for several photos.

Harris Hawk, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Harris Hawk, another view.

As I left Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, I saw a Crested Caracara flying toward me. I was quicker than I had been with the Aplomado Falcon, and I was able to get a photograph.

Crested Caracara, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas.

Crested Caracara

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Laguna Atascosa. The next day would bring new challenges involving shorebird and sparrow identification, two of my weaknesses.

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Bosque Bill is a Media Star!

This past weekend Bosque Bill and I decided to go to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. We had heard that the fall colors were beautiful and that winter migrants were beginning to arrive. We left town early and arrived at Bosque del Apache happily anticipating seeing gorgeous fall color and lovely birds.

When we arrived at the entrance, the attendant asked if we would like to have a copy of the new Habitat publication, which is the official yearly publication of Bosque del Apache that has maps and information about the wildlife refuge. I was trying to affix the pass to the windshield and handed the magazine to Bill without looking at it. Bill looked at the magazine and said, “That’s me!” And surely enough it was.

Earlier in the year Bill and I had taken a photo workshop at the wildlife refuge, and I had sent the some photos to the Executive Director of the Friends of the Bosque del Apache NWR. Imagine our surprise when we saw my photo of Bill right in the center of the cover.

Habitat, a publication of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

We were pleased to discover that this publication would be used at Bosque del Apache during all of 2012.

This is the original of the photo:

Bosque Bill and the Harris Hawk.

Bosque Bill and the Harris Hawk.

You might also enjoy reading the blog post about our day with the Harris Hawks, Bosque Bill and the Bird.

We had a lovely day at the wildlife refuge, enjoying the spectacular scenery and photographing birds.

Beautiful scenery at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Beautiful scenery at Bosque del Apache.

Snow Geese and Northern Pintails, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Snow Geese and Northern Pintails.

Later in the day, I was able to persuade Bill to pose with a copy of the magazine. You can see the man behind the camera!

Bosque Bill, media star

Bosque Bill, media star

We saw some lovely birds that day as well, which I will write about in a blog post later this week.

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Filed under Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico bird photography

Wordless Wednesday-Wings on Wednesday

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk.

Harris Hawk.

Harris Hawk.

Harris Hawks.

Harris Hawk.

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Filed under Bosque del Apache, New Mexico birds

Special Edition-Bosque Bill and the Bird

This past weekend Bosque Bill and I decided to attend a photo workshop at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. After leaving for Socorro at 5:30 a.m. in the bitter cold, we met at the crane pools for some early morning photos. There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground from the previous week’s storm.

Crane pool at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Crane pool at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

We toured around the refuge as a group, using the opportunity to take some photos of birds …

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

… and wildlife.

Coyote

Coyote

During our classroom instruction we were excited to learn that Matt Mitchell was going to bring his two Harris Hawks out for us to photograph in the afternoon. The hawks were beautiful.

Matt Mitchell and one of his Harris Hawks.

Matt Mitchell and one of his Harris Hawks.

The birds very obligingly perched on low bushes …

Harris Hawks preparing to fly so that we can photograph them.

Harris Hawks preparing to fly so that we can photograph them.

… and flew toward us.

Harris Hawk taking off.

Harris Hawk taking off.

Harris Hawk flying toward us.

Harris Hawk flying toward us.

I guess you can never predict where a hawk will land.

Harris Hawk and Bosque Bill.

Harris Hawk and Bosque Bill.

Bosque Bill and the Harris Hawk.

Bosque Bill is looking for a bird to photograph. I'd suggest a shorter lens.

Harris Hawk and Bosque Bill.

"I wonder if the Canon warranty covers Harris Hawk scratches?"

Harris Hawk and Bosque Bill.

"Hey Bosque Bill-the other hawk is over there!"

Harris Hawk and Bosque Bill.

The hawk and Bosque Bill find a new subject to photograph.

Harris Hawk and Bosque Bill

The hawk spies Matt.

Harris Hawk and Matt Mitchell.

The hawk flies back to Matt.

After a lovely afternoon with Matt Mitchell and his Harris Hawks, we returned to the crane pools to watch the cranes fly in …

Sandhill Crane fly-in, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Sandhill Crane fly-in.

… and enjoy the sunset.

Sunset at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Sunset at Bosque del Apache.

Sunset at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Sandhill cranes fly in at sunset.

It was another magical day at Bosque del Apache

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