Great Texas Bird Trip – Martin Refuge
Part 1 of my Great Texas Bird Photography Trip
Over a 2-week period in early May I travelled all over South Texas and up in to the Hill Country photographing birds. I was on a tour photographing at many of the famous private ranches that have opened up their property to birders and photographers as a means to supplement their income as well as to conserve the land that they all love. With nearly 95% of Texas in private hands, if you don’t know someone these ranches are the only way that you will ever see this part of the country.
It was a Texas twister of a trip with 10 ranches on the itinerary. I did have help and lot of it from John and Audrey Martin as well as Gail Hoffman from Images for Conservation. None of this would have worked out or would have even been attempted without their kind efforts.
One of the places that I have always wanted to photograph was the Rio Grand Valley. The valley is an oasis for bird photography with a large variety of birds and many species that are only found in that part of the US. The grand dame of the Valley’s bird photography is Martin Refuge: The Javelina.
The Javelina is 300 acres of thick brush near McAllen TX. The Martins have added professionally designed photo blinds, water features and feeders in order to attract birds, mammals and reptiles to a perfect proximity for your camera. Many of the 7 blinds are sunken which gives you a perfect eye level view of your subject, which is of course a key to any great wildlife photograph.
This was my very first time using blinds to photograph birds. I must say I may be ruined to the good old stalk and shoot method. It was amazing to have all of the birds come right to me while I sat in comfy chair camouflaged and ready. Of course, creature comforts were fine, but at 102° it was still hot sweaty work and I loved it. I spent about 6 hours photographing at the Javelina and during that time I saw approximately 40 species of birds. Out of those 15 or so were new species for me. Needless to say it was a big treat. Some of them were quite exotic like the ubiquitous Green Jay.
And others although not so bold, were equally great to find, like this Olive Sparrow.
As any of you know that regularly photograph birds things come in waves. During the in between time, I took this shot of a couple of Yellowjackets. Patty Raney the guide and professional photographer for Javelina will attest it took a lot of silicone to get this one and she even joined in the fun trying to grab these shots…
John and Audrey were tremendous hosts and I owe them a big thank you for all of their help. Really nice people were a trend started at the Javelina that continued throughout the trip. I cannot wait to get back and spend more time photographing and just having fun with John and Audrey. You can also watch the PAW website for workshops in South Texas and the Hill Country in 2010.
I give the Martin Refuge: The Javelina unreserved recommendations. You can contact them at 956-381-1264 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website has all of the details. www.martinrefuge.com.
You can see all of my images and order prints from Martin Refuge on my website.