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Hello everyone! I recently got back from a weekend shooting at one of the best bird photography ranches in South Texas with 8 of my best buds! We've heard about all the good shooting there by all the big name pros, so one in our group took the initiative and contacted one of these places. Before we knew it, our tickets were bought and off we went.
Located in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas, nine miles west of McCook lies the Santa Clara Ranch. Owned and operated by Dr. Beto Gutierrez this 300 acre wildlife sanctuary is comprised entirely of virgin brush land. The Santa Clara Ranch is part of a growing group of land holdings owned by forward thinking landowners in the lower Rio Grande Valley who have realized the importance of creating and preserving natural habitat for wildlife over the past three decades. Their tireless efforts have resulted in the return of many native species to their lands, some of which are found nowhere else on earth. This has developed an increased interest in the area and its wildlife, as well as the opportunity to view an amazing amount of migratory song birds during their annual spring migration.
This type of photography is not for everyone. The birds and wildlife are drawn in by water-pools especially created in front of bunkers that provide the best possible photographic angle to thirsty critters that come in for water. It couldn't be easier! The opportunities of getting just about anything is so great, you'll not know what camera/lens to hold in your hand. Sometimes you'll not know what bird to shoot as there are so many that appear at once! I'm not gushing over this place because I got 7000 keepers. I truly enjoyed my stay, and enjoyed Hector Astorga (Ranch Manager) and Beto Gutierrez's company. They are good people who enjoy what they do and I highly recommend it to those who want shots like these.
Anyway, on with the show!
1. Here is the gang from NorCal, and one from SoCal. Some FMers, some lurkers, but all good folks I've come to call my good buds! (all the people pics were donated by Anhtuan - Thanks man!)
In order from left to right:
Anthony Whitmore (Ant-man), Mallardg500 (Phoo), Major K (Khai), lepane (Quang Pho), Lurker #1 (Tan Huynh), Lurker #2 (Hai Ta), Lurker #3 (Anhtuan Truong), yours truly (Conrad Tan) and lastly Anhthinh180 (Thinh Bui)
2. Every morning someone (usually Anhtuan) makes breakfast for the whole group. Good eats from that man! This particular photo is Phoo making some fried rice. We're Asian, we like rice
3. Anthony was our token white guy for the trip. After a few bowls of rice, he started looking like this LMAO
4. Every morning we start at the crack of dawn and drive to one of the hides.
5. Lets start with some mammals! This is a Mexican Ground Squirrel
6. These guys were also all over the place. Collared Peccary
7. Bugs Bunny!
8. We had a choice to make and create our own perch setups. Here I am making my perch better than Ant's
9. Then the waiting begins.
10. Doesn't take long till the action begins! White Winged Dove
12. Brown Headed Cowbird
13. Common Ground Dove
14. House Sparrow
15. Mid afternoon and we head back to the cabin and off load our files. Here's Anthony deleting someone's pics.
16. Then back to the hides again! Who do you think got the better pics, Canon on the left or Nikon on the right?
17. Black Crested Titmouse
18. Nashville Warbler
19. Black Throated Sparrow
20. Sometimes the birds only appeared in harsh light like this Varied Bunting
21. But most of the time they appeared right on cue like this Lincoln's Sparrow!
22. At the end of each day there was post processing time!
23. And at the start of each day there was this kind of thing
24. Gold Fronted Woodpecker
25. Grey Catbird
27. Inca Dove
28. Young Lazuli Bunting
29. Female Indigo Bunting
30. There were HUGE birds like this Crested Caracara
31. And small birds like this Pyrrhuloxia
32. Curved Billed Thrasher
33. Harris's Hawk
34. There were some surprises like this Western Diamondback
35. And I got my three target birds, Scissor-tail Flycatcher
36. Painted Bunting (thanks for the flash assist Ant)
37. Green Jay
38. Quite a show put on by this Bronzed Cowbird
39. Probably my favorite shot of the trip!
40. We actually went a month too early! The weather was in the 80's and 90's, and the watering holes didn't see the action they will in June when it will be in the 100's! I hope to return then and try for more new species. I hope you enjoyed my little post!