COAST AND SOUTH TEXAS BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY
Text and photos copyright Heather Forcier
state of Texas boasts roughly 450 species of birds along its Gulf
coast. A collaborative effort of agencies produced a series of marked
sites called The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, a number of
“loops” to explore for birds. Many locations are equipped
with informational kiosks, trails, boardwalks, and/or observation
diversity of habitats and a fall-out area for passing migrants,
birding along the Texas coast can prove quite fruitful. A notable
feature is the approximate three hundred fifty miles of barrier
islands. Barrier islands run parallel to the coastline and are of
significant ecological importance. Sheltering the mainland from
the effects of winds and sea, intracoastal waterways in between
also benefit from similar protection. Constantly evolving, barrier
island sands are affected by the elements and may be naturally removed
or relocated elsewhere. Human trespass and development has promoted
their deterioration. Simply walking or driving on the dune vegetation
can weaken or kill it, and as the plant roots help anchor the dunes
this makes the sand more vulnerable. Signs or literature warn of
areas not to walk in order to protect the dunes.
mid-April trip to Texas for bird photography included two areas:
the general location surrounding Corpus Christi on the Gulf coast
and Roma in the Rio Grande Valley.
This area provided for a broad diversity of habitats. Our initial
time was spent by invitation on a private ranch that had been set
up for bird photography. The majority of our time off the ranch
was spent along the coastal or intracoastal waters. We visited the
Packery Channel, Padre Island, Mustang Island, and Port Aransas
on certain beaches is permitted and this was a productive way to
scout for bird activity. We were often able to photograph right
from the vehicle. This was not only convenient but several skittish
birds seemed less so when we remained in the car. In other areas
the birds were quite cooperative and we were able to photograph
on tripods or from the ground. Birds found along the shorelines
included Black-bellied Plovers, Willets, Sanderlings, Laughing Gulls,
Franklin's Gulls (brief migrants), Royal, Common, and Least Terns,
American Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Ruddy Turnstones, and others.
also found a good number of species at the Port Aransas Birding
Center. A boardwalk environment with an observation tower, we found
Roseate Spoonbills, White Pelicans, Black Skimmers, Least Terns,
Tricolored Herons, Common Moorhens, Blue-winged Teals, and more.
Roma is situated in the lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas.
We had access to a private ranch set up with blinds for bird photography.
Feeders at the blinds were maintained daily and water was run in
some areas to collect into small pools. These stations attracted
an amazing variety and number of birds.
our choice of any of the blinds we quickly found a favorite and
spent the majority of time there when not at the raptor blind. We
had the flexibility to set up perches to our liking and after some
fine tuning we photographed the birds from chairs inside the blinds.
from the sun and a cooler of cold beverages by our side, we took
frame after frame of birds as they came in. Green Jays, Golden-fronted
Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, a number of dove
species and several different thrashers were frequent visitors.
There were also some unexpected but treasured appearances by a Pyrrhuloxia,
Painted Bunting, Plain Chachalacas, and a few different flycatchers.
raptor blind is set up near one of the highest tree snags in the
general area. Crested Caracaras, Harris's Hawks, Ravens, and Turkey
Vultures flew nearby and some would stop to perch. We parked our
car some distance away and walked up so that our presence would
be less noticeable. Some of our best luck came at times when we
remained completely quiet. At one point even an oblivious woodpecker
went to work on the exterior of the wooden blind. While there was
substantially less activity at this location an investment of a
few hours for the opportunity to photograph Crested Caracara and
Harris's Hawks was well worth it in our opinion.
back into town each afternoon for lunch we had our cameras in tow
looking for what opportunities might present themselves. Seeing
the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers perching frequently on the barbed
wire fences at ranch perimeters, we took every chance we got to
photograph them. Witnessing the grace of these birds in flight,
especially with their long, forked tails was memorable. Several
of the birds were willing subjects for brief periods, and we ended
up getting some images we were pleased with.
town of Roma is small but had all the services required during our
visit, including an inn relatively close to the ranch and restaurants
open during some of the odd hours we kept during our pursuit of
landowner was a gracious host and our experience at the ranch was
AREA NATURE PHOTO CONTESTS
in Texas have creatively established multi-objective photo contests.
In the general area surrounding Corpus Christi, the Texas Coastal
Bend Wildlife Photo Contest pairs land owners with nature photographers
who share in the prize proceeds for winning images. With much of
Texan lands privately owned, this partnership helps document the
many landscapes, plants, insects, animals and birds that might otherwise
be difficult to see. Placement in the contest is prestigious and
the resulting published photos provide educational benefit and exposure
for nature conservation. The organization that administers the contest
also actively participates in land conservation efforts.
there is The Valley Land Fund covering certain counties in south
Texas within the Rio Grande Valley. Established originally to preserve
a tract of land, it continues land conservation activities today
while also conducting its nature photography contests. Landowners
and photographers are again partnered and share in the prizes
more information on the internet, visit: