Just Another Day at the Ranch
This was my second year to go down to Santa Clara Ranch in McCook, Texas (South Texas) and as before, it was a fun experience shared with 7 other photographers from the Heard Nature Photography Club. I met up with Terri and Mary and we loaded our gear into Terri's truck and took off to meet Catherine who would follow us down. We had hoped to shoot wildflowers on the way but traveled most of the time in rain.
We did take a ride through Bastrop State Park. According to their website, "In September 2011, Bastrop State Park and the surrounding pine forest were stricken by wildfire that affected 96 percent of the park. However, firefighters were able to save the historic cabins and facilities constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The park is recovering from the fire, and most trails, campsites and facilities have reopened to the public."
We spent the night in Sequin and then traveled to the ranch the following day. The sun was shining brightly and we could see a mirage of "water" on the roadway and could even see the reflection of headlights in the mirage. My traveling companions dared me to shoot it as they doubted that I could capture it... after all, it really wasn't there. So, is it possible to shoot something that really isn't there?
I will let you be the judge. Did I capture the mirage? Crazy, huh? The road was totally dry!
We finally arrived at the ranch and what were the chances that we should all pull up to the gate at the same time? The guys in the last car made the trip in one day.
So... which way to the ranch?
The ranch house has 4 bedrooms (sleeps 8) with 2 baths, a living room, dining area and a fully equipped kitchen.
Santa Clara Ranch consists of about 300 acres... all land untouched by a plow... totally wild. There are two morning blinds (positioned for the best morning light) and two evening blinds. These blinds are dug into the ground and we have the luxury of sitting on folding metal chairs with cushions while we aim our cameras out the opening that is shrouded with camouflage netting. We are literally shooting at ground level. Each of these blinds is placed next to a watering hole and being that South Texas is hot and dry, the water attracts the critters. There are also two raptor blinds and a blind at Dorothy's Pond. This is my kind of photography. Get set up, have a cold drink in my hand and wait for the critters to arrive. We try our best to be quiet so as not to deter the wild visitors but every so often there would be a giggle and some whispering.
We sit and listen and can usually hear the birds calling before we actually see them. It is so exciting as birds come to feed on the seed we have tossed on the log and then we watch as the birds splash in the water.
The rabbits are such fun to watch as they jump and scamper around.
Desert Cottontail Rabbit
And what's not to love about the little ground squirrels? This one seems to be eating a "cookie" of dirt and then he proceeded to "slurp" the algae floating in the water. (Hmmmm... is that gourmet food to a ground squirrel? The equivalent of fiber and veggies, no doubt!)
We had arranged for our meals to be prepared for us at the ranch to save us the shopping and preparation; thereby, giving us time between shooting to play with our photos on our laptops and ID the critters.
We would rise at 6AM and try to be in the blinds by 06:45. Mid-morning we would take a break and go back to the ranch house for breakfast. Later in the afternoon following a late lunch, we would head back to the blinds and stay until the sun was going down and then have a late dinner. It was all about photography and sharing a fun time together.
Check out the slideshow of some of the critters seen at the ranch...
Keywords: McCook, Texas, Santa Clara Ranch, armadillo, cardinal, cow bird, ground squirrel, javelina, lesser yellow legs, photography, rabbit, thrasher, wildlife