Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Initial Report - Pedernales Falls State Park Blind #2 - October

Northern Mockingbird - ©
This is a follow-up blog post to one I made over at Jim's Assorted, Usually Photographic, Ramblings.  As I blogged over there, about a week ago I made my first return to a blind since returning to Texas.  It was also the first time I've been in a blind since Christmas.  It was awful good to be back.

I visited the new bird blind at Pedernales Falls State Park.  Okay, it isn't that new any more but it is new to me. The second blind was put up while I was away on exile in Ohio. 

And okay, technically I did visit both blinds.  They are right next to each other, but the potential for photography is like night and day.  The older blind continues to be a photographic challenge--the lighting is very poor for photography.  I'm sure that with the right equipment (a bigger lens than I carry and a Better Beamer) that really nice images could be made from that blind.  But with what I have it is a non-starter.

However, the new blind is outstanding.  The lighting is very good to almost too much.  The blind is very intimate with the front of the blind being very close to the water feature and the back vegetation that frames the inside of the blind.

For as good as things are for light, this blind seems to line up with the newer blinds that TPWD and their supporting "Friends of" groups have done.  Lots of tilted glass and very small lens openings for photographers.  But at that I will say that the glass is very clear and I had zero issues getting focus and clarity through the glass in the blind.  It may be age of the glass.  It may be the way it has been kept up.  Heck, it may be the angle of the glass.  But I found it very easy to shoot in this blind.

Also of importance to us as photographers was the ability to get our tripod where it needs to be.  No problems here.  There were two rows of benches, but they were very movable and I found it very comfortable to shoot from the position present.  I might have preferred something slightly higher in terms of seating, but everybody is built different and it worked for the purpose at hand.

 Western Scrub-Jay - © 
What I also found effective about this particular blind was the positioning of the perching and landing materials.  Everything looked very natural and there were plenty of items to land on.  Two large twisted pieces of wood (probably mesquite) that sat up very nicely as perches with multiple levels on either side of the blind provided awesome landing spots.  Plus in those perches were places to put peanut butter which did a great job of attracting birds that may not have been as receptive to seeds but loved the semi-solid protein.

There were additional natural landing spots within the blind to include other pieces of wood, rocks, and a very natural looking water feature.

Species spread was pretty darn good for mid-October before the Winter visitors made it in.  Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Lesser Goldfinch, Clay-colored and House Sparrows, Western Scrub-Jay, Black-crested Titmouse, Mourning and White-winged Doves, House Finches, Carolina Chickadees, and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker were species that I identified while I was in the blind.  Add to that a Gray Fox wandering in a couple of times and a pair of Southern Leopard Frogs hanging out in the water feature waiting for unsuspecting dragonflies and it put together a really fun morning of shooting.

Speaking only for October visits, I'd say earlier is better than later and a little bit of overcast might help diffuse the sunlight some.  This blind appears to work for both morning and afternoon, but I'll have to be there for an afternoon to confirm that.  Maybe while I'm waiting for the body to heal up after surgery.

In short, this blind has my seal of approval.  Comfortable, well-lit, well-perched, and really all in all a great shooting experience.  It reminded me how much I love shooting in blinds and how much I can't wait to do it again soon.

About the images:
Both shots were from my morning in the blind, though chronologically they may be backwards.  The Northern Mockingbird was a bit of surprise.  Not that it was in that neck of the woods, but that it was spending time in the blind.  They're a more moving food source type of bird, but this one stayed for a while.  Truth be told, I did have to do some dodging on the rock because it was really, really, REALLY bright on the original.  The Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) was a life list add for me (#116... Yes, Bob, I'm still catching up :] ).  Beautiful bird and allegedly it is rare in the blind to have more than one at a time.

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