Saturday, July 23, 2016

Austin Purple Martin Roost 2016

This evening we went down to Austin to see the Purple Martin roost. This is our third time to see a spectacle that is much more impressive than the bats. In 2014, we saw them at the Highland Mall. In 2015, they were at the Capital Plaza. This year, the birds have moved to the parking lot of the Embassy Suites hotel. From the map below, this location is still near the intersection of IH-35 and US. 290. There was less available parking but the show was better. The main roost was in the clump of trees circled.

The public gather on the lawn to the north and were treated to the martins swooping down over their heads from behind towards the trees. This gave an amazing sensation of motion as you can see in video.

The birds crowded into the low trees and eventually settled in for the night. Standing under the trees, the noise and smell were overwhelming. I am glad I have a rain cover on my camera gear. As usual, most of the birds are brown, not purple. This first image shows several different ages. The bird with the yellow mouth lining is a first-year bird that was hatched this season. The brown birds with purple blotches on the breast are second-year males. The solid blue birds are males that are third-year or older. Others are females; their ages determined best by the lack or presence of dark brown in the under-tail covert feathers.

I may have to go back after I know that my new fledglings have left to wish them well on their way to Brazil.

July 30 - A second trip to the roost this evening, to try again for interesting pictures. Perhaps we will see some of our fledglings.

July 31 - Though not an official party night, went back for a third round. Danielle took many movies. I set up the GoPro and took a long panorama movie. It is very hard to get focus on the birds high up and to get the full scope of the experience. I am having luck with setting the camera on fully manual with aperture set to f/9 or f/11 to get better DoF and setting the shutter speed lower, even as low as 250s. I can then rely on the flash to stop the action rather than the shutter since there is so little ambient light. I am still using ISO-1600 which leads to grainy picture that need much smoothing in post-processing.

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