Friday, June 14, 2013

Last Day of Texas Birding Trip: Sabal Palms and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges

The revived image of the underexposed photo of a female Crimson Grosbeak which made a rare appearance in the U.S., Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
THE GOOD = 60 bird species and 2 Lifers
THE BAD = a flat tire, and my camera going haywire
THE UGLY = My photos needed a lot of Photoshopping to make them presentable.
The final day of my birding trip started out with bad karma. I woke up with a low tire and had to continually make sure I checked in to gas stations to use their air to keep the tire full. Then when I arrived to Sabal Palms NWR, to try to get a glimpse of the rare sighting of a Crimson Grosbeak, my Canon EOS 7D decided to go haywire and the exposure would automatically underexpose by 6 stops, which was bad timing when the Crimson Grosbeak showed up. I could take pictures with manual focus but all the photos would be underexposed; furthermore, my auto-focus would not work at all. Because of the considerable negative underexposure, the sensor could not detect any images. I would have to go into my menu to correct the exposure. But after a couple of normal pictures, the exposure setting would again automatically lose six stops. This went on all day until my camera quit working altogether. So many of the pics on this post are from underexposed images, that I had to try to bring back to life using Photoshop. The photo (Above) of the rare Crimson Grosbeak was one of the underexposed images (as were all of my Crimson Grosbeak photos), so the strange dark and grainy appearance is the result of what I could get from reviving it up in Photoshop.

Black-crested Titmouse, Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
My visit to Sabal Palms was not indicative of my usual visits to places in which I do birding outings. I am a hiker-birder, not a drive-by-birder. When I go somewhere with the sole purpose of looking for birds, I usually make a hike out of it and hope to find the birds during my hike(s). I hardly ever go somewhere, at which I just drive to a location, get out my car, scan the terrain, find birds, take their pictures, hop back in and my car and drive to the next location. But when I heard about the Crimson Gosbeak, which made a rare visit from Mexico to the Sabal Palms NWR, in Brownsville,Texas, and since it was only a 30 minute drive from where I was staying, I decided to try my luck finding it. But because I only had a half of a day to bird, so I could make my 6 hour drive back to Houston, I made the decision to drive out to Sabal Palms, (after filling up my low tire) with the sole purpose of just viewing and photographing the Crimson Grosbeak, then I'd take off to my main location of the day - Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
When I arrived to Sabal Palms by 7 AM, there were already a couple of photographers sitting on the deck of the Visitors Center with their cameras on tripods aimed out into the feeding station area. I learned from them, that the Crimson Grosbeak had not appeared yet that mourning,  but usually likes to feed on a certain apple that was nailed to a nearby tree. While I was waiting I took pictures of other birds that appeared at the station. Then the Crimson Grosbeak showed up. I take most of my photographs manually as I was that mourning, so I didn't know my camera's exposure setting lost 6 stops. I took at least a dozen photographs of the rare bird, and after it left, I checked my images, and they were all black. I panicked. I thought I didn't capture the Grosbeak at all. I had no idea why my pics were dark, and when I tried to change my shutter speed, to let more light in, my camera would not let me change any settings. It was frozen. Even after shutting off the camera and turning it back on, nothing worked.

Carolina Wren,Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
I went to my car, found my Canon EOS 7D guide book to look up what to do. After repeatedly turning on and off the camera, I finally was able to get to the menu to turn on from which I was then able to find the exposure settings and fix it. I breathed a sigh of relief, and then decided that I would go back to the deck and hope the Grosbeak would return. I waited for another 45 minutes with no such luck. Again while I was waiting I was able to get a few more shots of birds visiting the feeding station. My exposure setting went haywire again several more times and I had to reboot several times to get it fixed again. During my hour stay, standing in one place I was able to get 16 different species - list below... 

Total Species: 16
Lifers: 1 (Crimson Grosbeak)
Birds Identified: Black-crested Titmouse, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Carolina Wren, Common Ground Dove, Crimson Grosbeak, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Gray Catbird, Green Jay, Northern Cardinal,  Northern Mockingbird, Olive Sparrow,  White-tipped Dove, White-winged Dove, Wood Thrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-rumped Myrtle Warbler.

Of the pics from Sabal Palms the underexposed pictures revived with Photoshop were of a Crimson Grosbeak, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Gray Catbird, and Green Jay. The Black-crested Titmouse, Carolina Wren, and Olive Sparrow were taken when my exposure was working correctly.
Golden-fronted Woodpecker,Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
Gray Catbird, Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
Green Jay, Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
Olive Sparrow, Sabal Palms NWR, Brownsville, TX; 4/19/2013.
My only other destination for the day was the Santa Ana NWR, which turned out to be an awesome place - one that I would love to return to someday when I could spend the entire day there. But because of time constraints - driving back to Houston; and Camera problems - my camera finally quit working altogether, I left after only after two hours. Santa Ana had great birding habitats - wetlands, woodlands, large ponds, grasslands, and it also ran along the Rio Grande for river birds. All of the pics in this section were from one hike. I choose only to post the images from when my camera's exposure was working. I had hundreds of images that I had to take manually when my camera decided to go haywire again.

Ibis and Egrets sharing a downed tree, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.
The photo (Above) with the White-faced  and White Ibis, and Snowy Egrets was indicative of the viewing at Santa Ana. I also saw a couple of Havalinas while out on my hike. 
Total Species: 47
Lifers: 1 (Ringed Kingfishers)
Birds Identified: Altamira Oriole, American Coot, Barn Swallows, Belted Kingfisher, Black-crested Titmouse, Black-necked Stilts, Blue-winged Teals, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Brown-headed Cowbird, Cattle Egret, Cinnamon Teal, Common Grackle, Common Yellowthroat, Couch's Kingbird, Double-crested Cormorants, Forster's Terns, Gadwalls, Glossy Ibis, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Great Egrets, Great Kiskadee, Greater Yellowlegs, Great-tailed Grackles, Gull-billed Terns, Harris Hawk, Hudsonian Godwit, Indigo Bunting, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Logger-headed Shrike,  Long-billed Dowitchers, Long-billed Thrasher, Mottled Ducks, Mourning Dove, Neotropic Cormorants, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Northern Shovelers,  Ringed Kingfishers (2), Ruddy Ducks, Savannah Sparrow, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Snowy Egrets, Sora Rail (Heard only), Spotted Sandpiper, Tree Swallows, Tropical Kingbird, White-faced Ibis, and White Ibis.
Photos from Santa Ana below...
Entrance Sign, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.
In fact, if I would have gone here first in my entire trip, I would have seen 9 of my Lifers of my week-long trip in less than two hours.
Couch's Kingbird, Along the Rio Grande, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

Gull-billed Tern, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

Harris Hawk, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

A pair of Ringed Kingfishers showing off their huge bills, Although the pic is of poor quality (I blame it on the far distance), I included it because it was my last LIFER of my week-long Texas Birding Trip.Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

A good look at the Savannah Sparrow's yellow lores, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.

A drab variation of a White-faced Ibis, Santa Ana NWR, TX; 4/19/2013.
Santa Ana NWR was a great stop to finish off my week of birding in Texas. If only my camera didn't wig out, and I didn't have to stop every couple of hours to put air into one of my tires, it would have been an awesome day. Thus ends my blog posts from Texas.

As a side note, I sent my EOS 7D to Canon, who fixed it for a fee of $250 and I was without its services for less than two weeks, and used my backup - Canon Rebel T1i. $250 may seem like a lot, but it sure beats having to buy a new camera. It has been working great ever since.

1 comment:

Zaungast said...

Hi Joh, is it possible to contact you directly?
You can send a contact address to my ("disposable") email address at:
contact AT
All the best