I have been writing about birds inhabiting Leasburg Dam State Park but I didn’t have any photos of these birds. We have known this area very well and know where to look for birds. So I started to carry my 300 mm lens around and hoped to get some wild birds photos.
We took our morning walk in the warm sun. As soon as we approached the bank of the Rio Grande River, we saw three black-crowned night-herons across river on the upstream. One was standing in the water. Another was in the bush several yards away from the first one. And the third heron was in the bush far away. We walked along the dense bare salt cedars and found a small opening under the trees. The night heron in the water was straight across the river. I slowly lowered my body and squat there taking photos. Luckily, the night herons didn’t fly away and stood still. The night heron stood in the water motionlessly. Its reflection on the water created a perfect mirror image. Night herons have red eyes. I whistled and the heron in the water looked around. Not until then did I see the two long strands of white hair at the back of its head. It returned to its original posture again shortly. The other heron in the bush didn’t move at all.
As we stepped on the bridge across the dry canal, some ruffling sounds come from beneath the bush by the bank. It was a spotted towhee foraging under the bush. It hopped around flipping brown grass and sticks. It is a handsome bird with red eyes on black head, black wings with spotted white, rufous flanks and white breast. I managed to get some photos of it. In the early afternoon, a curved bill thrasher sang its melody on top of the sky box of our truck. I carefully pushed the screen door of the trailer ajar and took photos of it.
The late afternoon walk was equally fruitful on wild bird photography. My beloved bluebirds stood on top of the tree catching the sunlight. They looked like music notes on tabs against azure sky. It was picture perfect! But a phainopepla chased them away. According to allaboutbirds.org, phainopeplas are territorial in the desert. They eat over 1,100 mistletoe berries a day and rarely drink water. Male phainopeplas have shiny black feathers whereas female phainopeplas are gray. I followed two bluebirds to a small tree. They perched on the bare branches and didn’t mind me walking under and pointing the camera towards them. Another small bird also landed on the same tree. Amazing harmony!
Walking along the riverside trail, we spotted two night herons hidden in the salt cedars. But it was hard to get photos through the network of branches. On our way back, we met our new neighbor, the Andersons from Nebraska, and had a pleasing chat. They started traveling in their fifth wheel since last year and had been to Alaska. Like Stephen, Jim has never towed anything in his life before getting his trailer. But he is good at driving the trailer now and enjoys the travel.
At the northern riverside picnic area, I saw a spotted towhee hopping on the ground and determined to get better photos of it. So I followed it. But the little towhee played hike-and-seek game with me. It hid among the grass, behind the fence, jumped to the trunk, hopped to another tree, ducked to the hole of the tree, flipped through falling leaves, grass, and sticks. Finally, I got a nice shot of it with a seed or small nut in its mouth.
The setting sun cast a dreamy alpine glow to the magnificent Organ Mountains in the distance. That wrapped up my happy wild bird photography day.