Birding, like so many other things, is bigger in Texas. How else can you explain the 312 species the Swarovski Optik “Fabulous EL Fifties” racked up in a frenetic five days to win the 2011 Great Texas Birding Classic Big Week?

As their driver for the Fabulous EL Fifties’ phenomenal first 48 hours, I was well poised to report on the team’s Big First Day on the Upper Coast and share choice Scenes from the Upper Rio Grande Valley. But all too soon, my path diverged from the swathe of destruction the Swarovski team continued to cut through the Lone Star State. Fortunately, the team was lead by Killer Clay Taylor, as cold-blooded a bird shooter you’ll find on either side of the Rio Grande. At the speed the team was moving, I could barely raise my bins before everyone was back in the van. Clay, on the other hand, may be the fastest digiscoper in the West: his twitchy trigger finger, tempered in the fires of forty birding festivals a year, snapped shot after shot as he and his cohorts pulled bird after bird. Here are some he’s shared with us…

(All images following are digiscoped by Clay Taylor with a Swarovski Optik STM 80 HD with 20-60x eyepiece and a Pentax K-x D-SLR camera with 50mm lens and DCA adapter.)

Long-billed Curlew was on the sand at Bolivar flats with Marbled Godwits and assorted shorebirds.  1/4000sec @ ISO 2000

Long-tailed Duck was the “star” of the Galveston FeatherFest, and a write-in for the Great Texas Birding Classic.   We found it at the jetty next to the Bolivar Ferry landing.   This photo was shot from the ferry itself, through my spotting scope and with no tripod.  A LOT of cropping for this image.    1/1250 sec @ ISO 2000

The Marbled Godwit was showing off its articulated beak to the curlews.  1/5000 sec @ ISO 2000

The Neotropic Cormorant was perched on one of the pilings at the Bolivar Ferry landing.  1/800 sec @ ISO 2000


The Paraque was sleeping off a night of insect debauchery at the Estero Llano Grande State Park.  1/80 sec @ ISO 2000

The Scaled Quail posed for us on a fencepost along the dirt road leading north out of Salineno, TX, and was a life bird for a few of our team members, including the driver!  1/125 sec @ ISO 1600

The Wilson’s Plover Action Figure was at Bolivar Flats.  1/2500 sec @ ISO 2000

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.