The Gull Feather


Alone –

on a bleak winter beach

endlessly pelted by crystalline sands


Alone –

half exposed midst the grains

held fast in its tomb as by invisible hands


Alone –

worn, frayed – yet still strong

once one of many, now gone from their sight


Alone –

nevermore to be preened

nor feel the air move in the magic of flight


Alone –

cast out and replaced

now blown by cold winds to whence it might lie


Alone –

I perceive its sad fate

we be one in the same, that feather and I.



Dean Carrier

Rio Grande Valley, Texas-Part Two

My next two days were spent at Laguna Seca Ranch with their 5 bird-blind areas.  My guide, Ruth Hoyt, was exceptional…fun…and extremely knowledgeable, helping me through my periodic, “Now why in Hell is my camera doing this?” problems.  Although we had rain and wind the first day, the second day was bright and sunny.  Good opportunities for image both days.

Photographic blinds are rented by ranchers who have found there’s more $$ in catering to photographers than trying to raise cows in this area.  Water and food is provided and birds get used to coming into the sites.


Ruth Hoyt is the primary guide for the Laguna Seca Ranch, although she guides on several others and on South Padre Island.  A very accomplished bird photographer.


The habitat is mesquite scrub…not very picturesque and as the area is FLAT (the highest spot I was on was on a freeway overpass) there are no opportunities for “scenics.”


Caracara-Actually a falcon but adapted to scavenging.

Northern Caracara 2

Caracara-Adult & juvenile

Northern Caracara 3

Harris Hawk-A desert-loving hawk, often hunting in groups.  Found in Arizona, southern Texas and Baja California.

Harris Hawk 3

Turkey vulture-Ubiquitous over this continent.  Likely one of our most valuable species in that they rapidly clean up dead animals from rodents to deer.

Turkey Vulture 1

Black vulture-Smaller, hangs around with turkey vultures.

Black Vulture 5

Scissor-tailed flycatcher-A very showy bird, flying to and from a roost (often a barbed wire fence) but this one was on a natural snag.

Scissor-taile Flycatcher 1

Green jay-The most colorful of the jays and found only in the Ruio Grande Valley of Texas and a small part of Mexico.

Green Jay 4

Bobwhite-The quail found in most states east of the Rocky Mountains.

Northern Bobwhite 1

Black-crested titmouse-Be quick as they are in and gone.

Black-crested Titmouse 5

Cardinal-Never get enough shots of this common species.

Cardinal 4

Olive sparrow-Very pretty and fairly tame.

Olive Sparrow 3

Long-billed thrasher-Somewhat more arboreal than the curve-billed thrasher.  Very pretty song.

Long-billed Thrasher 1

Curve-billed thrasher-A ground-lover.

Curve-billed Thrasher 7

Ground dove-Secretive and cautious.  The sound of the camera shutter and off it goes.

Ground Dove 4

Mourning dove-Ubiquitous but always photogenic.

MourningDove 11

Golden-fronted woodpecker-Brightly colored and aggressive.  Only the green jays are not intimidated.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker 2

Mockingbird-State bird of Texas…appropriate!

Mockingbird 5

Rio Grande Valley, Texas-Part One

Looking out the window while flying from Houston to Harlingen one can only think, “My God, how humanity has changed the face of the earth!”  Urban, rural, agriculture, petroleum, wind farms, you name it…it’s there.  Not that the country was scenic grandeur before…flat as a pancake and covered with mesquite with an occasional depression holding water.  There are still a few ranches and many of these are being converted from scratching out a living raising livestock to providing habitat for birds to entice photographers — like me — who pay to use their blinds to get images.  Also, there are a number of federal, state and private refuges scattered within this area.  All one really has to worry about is not looking like you are smuggling in drugs or people or get caught in the numerous road-blocks the Border Patrol instigates.

My first morning was spent on South Padre Island at the World Birding Center where a boardwalk follows the coastline through wetland habitats.  A good place for migrating songbirds although I was a couple of weeks too early, but, there were still a lot of resident species that made for exciting images.


Scene 7

Boat-tailed grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle 4

Boat-tailed Grackle 3

They’re EVERYWHERE where there’s any humanity.  A very invasive species.

Gt. Blue heron



Very tame in the east…never could figure why as you can’t even slow the car before they fly out her in California.



Sora rail

Sora Rail 5

Clapper rail

Clapper Rail 1

It appeared out of nowhere and disappeared before I could change to a smaller lens.

Tri-colored heron

Tri-colored Heron 3

Snack time!

Roseate spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill 2

Common moorhen

Common Moorehen 6

Bonapart’s gull

Bonaparte's Gull 1

Water Thrush

Louisiana Water Thrush 3


Alligator 1

Green heron

Green Heron 1

That afternoon I drove up to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, an area of scrub forest, wetlands and coastline.  Paved trails were pretty easy walking for an old guy carrying 30 lbs. of camera and lens and there was a photo blind with benches to boot.

Green Jay

Green Jay 1

The most flashy bird in this area and as aggressive as are all jays.


Roadrunner 5

Posing for me along the entrance road.

Baby alligator

Alligator 3

A number of these were in a pond with their mother.


Eastern Cottontail

Long-tailed weasel

Long-tailed Weasel 1

Probably looking for the cottontail.  Here in the SE states they have the distinctive face masks.


Chachalaca 1

Tame and always around but never come out so one can get a clear image.