Photographing Red-Winged and Yellow-Headed Blackbirds on the Mexican Border

About a month ago, yellow-headed blackbirds were migrating through South Texas. Since I do not have any images of those birds, I was anxious to try and get a good one. I heard that the yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds were congregating at a local grain elevator so I took a drive to investigate the area. When I tell you that there were birds hanging around, I mean there were BIRDS hanging around. It was a sea of black. However, this was not going to be an easy photographic task. Well, if a guy could work an area enough, perhaps the task would be easier, but showing up and trying to isolate a bird on a nice perch, in the right light, and with a nice background was not just going to happen.

Yellow-Headed Blackbird. Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm

Yellow-Headed Blackbird. Canon 7D | 500/4.5mm

I found the yellow-headed blackbirds and I longed for a great shot. On my scouting trip, I managed to find one perched on some barbed-wire as I was driving around. One of the grain silos served as the background so I opened up the aperture to its widest setting (f4.5) and blurred the background. At a focal distance of 500mm, I was able to narrow the field of view and isolate this one bird from the others on the fence. This would be my one and only good image of this particular bird. I would make about three return trips (morning and evening) trying to bait them to an open field next to the grain elevators. While my efforts with the yellow-headed blackbirds on a natural perch were unsuccessful, I was able to get some nice images of the red-winged blackbird. I didn’t have any good ones of this particular bird either so I was happy to get them.


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I will say that the experience of shooting at this location was a first for me. The grain elevator is within view of the Mexican border. As I was driving on a dirt road scouting the area, I was pulled over by the U.S. Border Patrol and asked about the nature of my business. I didn’t mind being questioned and detained for about 10-minutes as they have a tough job to do to help secure our borders. Anyway, I was cautioned about photographing there because of the dangers associated with the drug cartels that frequently cross through the area. I’ll admit that made me a little uneasy, but the reality is that this is life on the Mexican border and the dangers are the same across all the ranch country. So, I kept on shooting. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Until next time, Keep Shooting and may all your images find the best light. –KEVIN

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