South Texas Bird Safari Trip Report & 2010 Announcement

South Texas Bird Safari Trip Report & 2010 Announcement

Every bird photographer knows how difficult it is to photograph woodland birds--especially the colorful ones like warblers and buntings. And for those with either too little mobility or too much sense to race around the woods with a tripod it is usually impossible.

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Varied Bunting from our 2009 Rio Grande Valley Bird Photo Safari
Nikon D300, 200-400mm lens

That's why I'm always so excited about our trip to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas each April. Through painstaking construction of photographer friendly blinds several of the ranch owners there have made their properties a bird photographers' paradise. With the use of water features and steady feeding the birds--both local and migrants--are drawn in to where it is possible to get great shots of literally dozens of species that are not only hard to see elsewhere in the US but nearly impossible to photograph.


[img_assist|nid=202|title=Male Bobwhite Quail|desc=|link=popup|align=left|width=430|height=640]

This April was another great experience for our group. We always keep our groups very small so there is plenty of time for individual instruction. This year we had five participants and my daughter Annie who was assisting with the food and logistics and myself. The slideshow at the end of the week was a testament to everyone's success, as were their very positive comments (See feedback form)


For our small group trips we focus on some of the premium private ranches which are only available to groups on a guided basis. That helps ensure that the result is a unique experience for the participants and plenty of excellent photo opportunities. We spent enough time on each property so that everyone got to try a variety of blinds including both baited Raptor blinds and the more traditional "songbird" blinds with water and birdseed to attract a large variety of birds in from the desert.


One of this year's highlights was the variety of Buntings we were able to photograph. In addition to the beautiful Indigo and Painted Buntings we were treated to excellent opportunities with a Varied Bunting two days in a row. The Buntings complemented the many good opportunities we had with local specialty species including Greater Roadrunner, Green Jay, Scaled (Blue) Quail, Bobwhite, and of course Northern Cardinal and the hard to find Pyrrhuloxia.


As always we had a great group of participants. Rhodes & Sarah from Florida were already avid birders and involved in environmental projects at home. Larry & Debbie from Texas spend a lot of their time photographing underwater, so birds were a great change of pace for them. And Michael was happy to get out of the office for a week and savored every minute of the beautiful Texas desert country and the wildlife we found there.


In addition to plenty of instruction in the field we had classroom sessions at lunchtime on Digital Workflow, Using Photoshop to improve your Bird Photos and how to make a professional quality book of your trip or photo safari. In the evening we had some entertaining slideshows of Africa, Southeast Asia, and of course a showcase of the participants best images from the week on our final night.


The workshop was full of little tips on bird photography, like the ones we published on and a tip for .



So we're excited to announce that we'll be returning to the Rio Grande Valley for our 5th straight year next year, with our South Texas Bird Photo Safari from April 18th to April 24th, 2010. It's not to early to !


We've , and you can read some comments from participants this year and prior years on our .

















Here is our Complete Species List for our April 2009 South Texas Bird Photo Safari (Thanks to Sarah Robinson for compiling the list!)

Scaled Quail

Northern Bobwhite

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

White-tailed Kite

Harris’s Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Crested Caracara


Rock Pigeon

Eurasian Collared-Dove

White-winged Dove

Mourning Dove

Inca Dove

Common Ground-Dove

White-tipped Dove

Greater Roadrunner

Nighthawk (species unidentified)

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Great Kiskadee

Couch’s Kingbird

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Loggerhead Shrike

Green Jay

Western scrub jay

Horned lark

Black-crested Titmouse


Cactus wren

Carolina Wren

Bewick’s Wren

Hermit Thrush

Northern Mockingbird

Long-billed Thrasher

Curve-billed Thrasher

Tennessee Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Northern waterthrush

Common yellowthroat

Yellow-breasted Chat

Olive Sparrow

Green-tailed Towhee

Chipping Sparrow

Lark Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Lincoln’s Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Northern Cardinal


Blue Grosbeak

Indigo Bunting

Varied Bunting

Painted Bunting


Red-winged Blackbird

Western Meadowlark

Great-tailed Grackle

Bronzed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird 

Note: Bird names follow Arvin, John C. 2007.Birds of the South Texas Brushlands: A Field Checklist, Second Edition. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. PWD BK W7000-1033 (6/07). 20 pp.