Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole - Icterus galbula

Earlier this week I arrived home from attending Jeff Wendorff’s excellent Spring in Texas Hill Country Workshop.

We stayed in the quaint town of Fredericksburg, founded in the mid-1800s by German immigrants. All these many years later you will still find plenty of Old World charm … as well as delicious German sausages and schnitzels in its many restaurants. The red cabbage and sauerkraut are scrumptious. Oops, you probably want to hear about the photo ops.

Black-bellied whistling duck

Black-bellied whistling duck - Dendrocygna autumnalis

Block Creek Natural Area offers the photographer a variety of landscape and wildlife opportunities. Our group decided to concentrate upon photographing the resident and migratory birds. The ranchers who own and operate Block Creek have developed a number of morning and late afternoon photo blinds, complete with feeders, natural perches, terrific backgrounds, and water settings. We saw roughly 40 different bird species, including the painted bunting with its amazing Technicolor-like plumage and the Baltimore oriole (I have lived in Maryland for 36 years, and this is the first time I have seen our state bird in the wild). It was a real thrill watching the aerobatics of the black-chinned hummingbirds and listening to the many birds singing to their mates or their potential mates. Jeff provided a generous number of tips on how to capture stunning bird images and regularly pointed out the best backgrounds and angles at each setting.

Big gulp

Big gulp - blotched water snake eating a carp

In addition to a ba-zillion birds and innumerable scenic options, Block Creek is home to a wide variety of butterflies, moths, other insects, reptiles and amphibians. One evening we witnessed a huge blotched water snake capture an equally large carp. It was a clash of the titans, but the fish lost. The snake slowly expanded its jaws to swallow it headfirst. I managed a pretty good photo from the opposite shore, but I dared not wade into the pond for a closer shot lest the snake’s bigger brother were waiting for its dinner.

If you want to learn from one of the best bird photographers around and capture a number of stunning images at the same time, then join Jeff next year at Block Creek Natural Area.

David Muse