Birding the Edwards Plateau

This past weekend Kris and I found ourselves back in Llano TX in a small cabin on a working ranch. Luckily for us, the other cabins and guesthouses were not booked so we had the entire property to ourselves. To make things even better, the ranch-hands had the weekend off which meant other than a quick call to the owner, letting her know we arrived, we would be completely in isolation the entirety of the weekend. 

Typically, when we are at a remote cabin, we like to read, write and do some night-time astrophotography. On this trip, I wanted to mess around with my “newer” refurbished telephoto lens during daylight hours shooting photos of the local wildlife. 

Upon wandering around the back portion of the grounds I decided to setup at a small fire-ring where I would have about a 50 meter distance between the watering hole and the fence around it. Honestly, it wasn’t too difficult of a decision due to the fact that there were a couple chairs, no fire ant mounds and a small table for me to unload gear and place my mug of coffee. At this moment it was late afternoon and very still. With only the lightest of breezes, the old windmill creaked as it turned; pumping cool water up from the ground into the well.

Without hearing any bird-song in the still afternoon, both Kris and I retreated from the old fire-ring to the shaded comfort of the porch swing. Swinging gently and enjoying the solitude of our location, we heard some rustling beyond the fence and well. Just then, two small deer appeared next to the well. Moments later another deer then another and finally a large buck. I had my iPhone handy so I captured a quick video of the deer grazing and watering, it was really an incredible experience. After about ten minutes they disappeared back into the low woodlands where they had emerged. Kris and I spent the remainder of the daylight hours relaxing on the swing both reading and writing.

At the crack of dawn and as the rooster crowed, I arose from bed and clumsily attended to my morning routine. Slipping on my sandals and with coffee and camera in hand, I returned to the fire-ring. The sheer volume of bird-song was incredible this morning! As I sat at the fire-ring I decided to forgo the tripod and instead utilize the three-point camera strap for stability. I am glad I decided to utilize this rifle technique as it made it very easy to rapidly swing around to acquire “targets.” On a side-note, I’m not a gear snob, but people… ditch that strap that comes with your camera kit. Get a nice padded one with a little bit of extra length to it, you’ll be so much more comfortable. If you are comfortable, you will take prettier pictures. Okay, off my soapbox before I fall.

In the end, I was able to capture quite a lot of images. Some of my favorite images were of these two cardinals that were nesting. They would repeatedly gather up little bits of sticks and sage then return to their nest. Eventually these same cardinals would drink and bathe at the well then perch along the tines of the fence. I was also able to capture some images of an Eastern Bluebird, Northern Flickers and the usual Doves and Bluejays of the Edwards Plateau

Much of the morning went on in the fashion of me hollering out some obscure bird name to Kris in an excited fashion as she read her book beside me… “Holy shit, it’s a black crested titmouse!” This continued well into the early afternoon. Since this was to be a short weekend excursion our check-out time was 1pm however the owner was kind enough to let us stay well into the afternoon (as these days demand for cabins is still quite low). Satisfied with the weekends photos, we packed up and returned to Austin. 

I’m not sure when we will return to that particular ranch, but I would really like to sometime this summer. As of late, Kris and I have been traveling to our regional state parks and plan on continuing those visits until the summer heat drives us out. 

Published by DW

Freelance writer, photographer and traveler who enjoys sharing his experiences with others.

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