27 Feb No Comments Thomas Whetten Bird Photography Tours, Southwest
I just got back from a five day photo trip to the south Texas coast.  What a blast.  I flew from Arizona to San Antonio, TX, rented a car and drove to Edinburg’s historic Laguna Seca Ranch.  There I spent the morning shooting raptors and the afternoon sitting in a blind on one of three ponds that are set up for photographers.

Janice McConaha was the lead guide and arranged a great itinerary, while I acted as her assistant with all of the fun and none of the worries.

There were five of us in the raptor blind on the first morning trying to decide which of 19 Crested Caracara to photograph at one time; three Harris’ Hawks and a variety of Turkey buzzards.  While Janice spent time pointing various shots that our clients might want to get a photo of, I worked with the less experienced photographers helping one decide on setting for his Nikon camera and how to use them and another that was new to Canon equipment.

In the afternoon we went to the photo blind near the entrance to the ranch to shoot whatever might come in.  I again spent time with the less experienced photographers while Janice ran the entire program.  I’m not sure how many giga/bytes I used on my 32 gig card, but I’m sure it was more than a few.  Green jays, sparrows, orioles, and woodpeckers, etc. just kept coming and coming, making shooting a non-stop adventure.

On days two and three we visited several wildlife areas both State and Federal including: Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley, Estero Llano Grande, Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, Harlingen Arroyo Colorado, and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, etc.

Once again it seemed to be sensor overload, alligators here, nightjars there, with night herons, turtles and woodpeckers in between.

Day four we spent the morning driving north to Port Aransas for an afternoon shoot at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center.  From the board walk we photographed grebes, egrets, and a huge assortment of shore birds, snipes, and alligators.  It was a great place but all of us were on the worn out side of the day and decided to head for Rockport and our hotel.  We were hoping for a good night sleep prior to our early start on our concluding tour; a boating tour on the Inland Coastal Waterway that runs through the Aransas Wildlife Area looking for Whooping Cranes.

We were to meet on the dock at 6:30 am to leave on Captain Kevin’s boat but ran into a fog delay and didn’t get out until 8:30.  Once out, the fog began to lift and after about an hour we found our first Whooper as we cruised north up the Inland Coastal Waterway.  Capt. Kevin was advised by another tour Captain where two cranes were hanging out so away we wen.  Sure enough two Whoopers presented themselves for our pleasure.  While we watched, one of the cranes went to work on a snake, stabbing at it with its beak then picking up and shaking it until it made my spine hurt.  Eventually the crane raised its head high in the air and swallowed the snake whole.  And yes, we got the shots.  As luck would have it I let one of the participants put her camera on my 600mm lens and she was still attached when this action happened so didn’t get the up close and personal shots I would have liked shooting with just a 70-200mm with a 1.4x converter on it.  It was still a blast and loads of fun.

Cruising back down the coastal waterway to port, a female Northern Harrier decided to participate in our adventure and hunted small critters near the edge of the waterway.  Staying side by side with us for perhaps 15 to 20 minutes allowing us to get great in flight photos.

Once at port our five day photo safari was at an end and we separated and headed off into the sunset or airport as it really was.  This trip was a wonderful experience and highly successful from a photography point of view.  I’ve attached just a few shots I hope you’ll like.  Tom

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