The weather forecast was showing nothing but sunny skies in the San Angelo area. As you as a loyal reader know, clear sunny skies in the middle of winter make for lousy images at the San Angelo State Park blind. So rather than go a full weekend without any images (heaven forbid that would happen), I got a road trip pass from my significant other and headed down the road to South Llano River State Park. Darn good decision...
I arrived at the park a couple minutes after 8am, took care of the administrative issues of getting my permit as well as confirming with the park rangers that with the winter closures that I could still get to my favorite blind, Blind #4 (aka the Acorn Blind). Large portions of the park are closed to visitors this time of year to give the Wild Turkeys a chance to do that voodoo that they do so well so that their population can return to historical levels. If you're going to make a trip for the blinds, let it be known that all four blinds are open and available even with the restrictions. In the case of at least #4, access is blocked beyond that point. Blind #1 does not allow access beyond the blind and all of the area surrounding it is restricted. I would assume that #2 and #3 also have some degree of restrictions around them but I did not check them out.
I physically got into the blind at about 8:15 and let the good times roll. The blue skies are not a show stopper in this blind this early in the morning. The left side of the blind is nearly completely in play while the right side is workable, though with really slow shutter speeds.
First bird photographed: a Spotted Towhee. I'd been waiting all winter to see one in the blind at SASP so I guess it took a 90 minute drive south to South Llano to see my first of the season.
Northern Cardinals (male and female) were very much present when I first arrived along with a few different sparrows. But then things got interesting. Two dual-listers. That is, both a Life List addition (first time I'd seen the bird) as well as a Portfolio List addition (first time I'd gotten a good image of that species). First was a female Downy Woodpecker (top picture). Second is to the right of this paragraph - a Dark-eyed Junco. Honestly, I spent a long time trying to figure out what species this bird was. A Black Phoebe was my first thought, but the bill was way wrong. Another hour of looking and I finally figured it out. Twas a good feeling, but it sure made me feel dumb.
The rest of the day was a steady stream of Black-crested Titmice, sparrows of many different types, lesser goldfinches, house finches, wrens, and a chickadee or two. Oh yes, and the three or four Wild Turkeys that flew over the enclosure and landed hoping the find a morning meal.
Things picked up significantly after the volunteers came in and refilled the water feature and added some seed to the equation. And yes, the Turkeys came back and weren't all that irritated that I was there. Light started to get to bright and harsh so I packed it up around 11am.
No laundry list--still trying to identify a couple of the birds I shot. Likely another list addition or two in there. Overall 411 images shot, with about 35 that I've set aside to do a little magic to. Hoping to print 5 or 6.
The 322RC2 behaved admirably, though most of my shots were at eye level or below. I found myself taking the camera off in a couple of instances, but that's par for the course in this blind anyway. Still searching for the replacement for the 322RC2, but we'll live with this one for now.
Downy Woodpecker (Female), South Llano River State Park, ©2009 Jim Miller
Dark-eyed Junco, South Llano River State Park, ©2009 Jim Miller