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Trip Report - Photographing Birds in the Rio Grande Valley

This year has been quite interesting for me photographically, as I was able to do some travel exclusively for bird photography. The first of my trips this year was to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. I went in May, which research indicated was one of the better times of the year to visit - it was before the weather got really hot, but late enough in the year for the migrant birds to have arrived. I usually set myself some photography goals before every trip - this gives me something to work towards and helps me evaluate whether the trip was a success or not. For Texas, my goals were as follows:

  • Get some decent photographs of the Painted Bunting, which in my opinion is one of the most beautiful birds you will ever see in your life
  • Photograph the American Kestrel
  • Photograph the Crested Caracara
  • Do some songbird flight photography. By the way, it's harder than it sounds!

Well, I ended up accomplishing three of my four goals, so it was a good trip! Unfortunately, the Kestrels had already left the area by May - I have since learned that the winter is probably the nest time to photograph Kestrels in the Rio Grande Valley. I was photographing at the Laguna Seca private ranch, which has blind setups that are quite productive for songbird and raptor photography. My routine for four days included getting up at 4:30am, hitting the road by 5 and being set up in one of the blinds and being ready to photograph by 6am. It's a lot of work, but someone's gotta do it!
I did get some good shots of the Painted Bunting, though the opportunities were a little limited. The Green Jays were really the stars of the show - the beautiful coloring along with the striking black-and-blue head makes for a striking subject. I took over 8,000 pictures over the four day trip, so I still have a lot more pictures to select and process - stay tuned for more to come.

Painted Bunting

Green Jay

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Long-Billed Thrasher

Crested Caracara

Northern Cardinal

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