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.
The birds sat in the trees, waiting.
It was fascinating to watch the birds as they flew close to the blind …
… and as they came in for a landing.
There were spectacular mid-air encounters.
There were some disagreements when more than one bird wanted to occupy the same perch.
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.
The Harris Hawks were clearly 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!
Birds would grab pieces from the lure and take them up into the trees to eat.
Although the Harris Hawks kept a close watch over the caracaras’ activities, I did not actually observe them eating any of the food.
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.
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.