After shooting Bosque del Apache NWR and White Sands NM in New Mexico I headed down to south Texas to shoot with my friend Butch Ramirez around Laredo. He has a ranch down outside Laredo with considerable wildlife and bird photography opportunities. On the ranches we photographed from semi-permanent blinds that were positioned near food and water stations that were used by wildlife year-round. These feeding stations are used to both attract wildlife and provide better feed for them, thus keeping a healthy population of wildlife close by.
At one point there were three of us in this blind (left) shooting whitetail deer and a multitude of bird species. They would absolutely hear the three cameras firing and see us inside the blind, but as long as the continuity of the blind was maintained – we didn’t stick our heads or hands outside – they would settle down almost immediately and after a few minutes would completely ignore us. Some of the deer would walk to within 6 feet of the blind and just ignore us. One day Butch and I were on another ranch in Zapata, TX in separate blinds and a group of 9 Javelinas came right up around the blind I was in too feed, leading to the point blank images I shot of them. The sound of the camera firing only caused them to glance up, but never run.
The south Texas brush country isn’t for the faint of heart. It is desolate country criss-crossed with creeks and ravines and covered by flora that sticks (mesquite trees and paddle cactus) and fauna that bites (javelinas, rattlesnakes, etc). But inside that habitat lives an amazing assortment of critters that aren’t found anywhere else. I marveled at the new birds I was photographing, like the Green Jay and the Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, as well as large numbers of Cardinals, Pyrrhuloxia, Bobwhite, Scaled Quail, Black-throated Sparrows, Long-billed Thrashers, and Curve-billed Thrashers. There were many other species we saw but they didn’t come in close enough to photograph. Butch has shot bobcats from the same blind. There were numerous Javelinas and cottontail rabbits, as well as a large population of Rio Grande Turkeys. On the last day, late in the afternoon we also saw a large feral boar – from population of European pigs that had gone wild probably a century before.
Another point of interest to me was how some landowners had high-fenced their property to keep the wildlife inside. Many, like the ranch near Zapata, not only feed the deer and other wildlife but breed them as well. During the hunting season many less desirable deer were taken, while better-bred, more desirable bucks and does were protected. Butch has photographed many of these famously large whitetail bucks on the game farms that specialize in breeding better, bigger whitetail bucks. Wow … and they have huge racks. When the book he has contributed to is published I will do a blog article about it.
One day I hope to get down to Laredo again. It was new country to see, new wildlife to photography, and a great safari experience with my friend Butch.
More images are in the Jan 2011 West Texas Safari gallery on my Facebook Page. But here are a few more to enjoy.