Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summers on Biscayne Bay - Matheson Hammock

Matheson Hammock area of the bay is my favorite for capturing wading birds. They usually congregate near the mouth of the creek located a 1/2 mile south of the canoe launch. There are several lone mangroves off the main shoreline on both the north and south sides of the creek entrance and among these you can find birds roosting or feeding in and around the trees.

At the earliest of light, this is one of the best places for photographing in the direction of the mangroves. the golden light is spectacular and the reflections offer some beautiful contrasts to the wading birds. At low tide, it is not unusual to find several ibises and little blue herons feeding vigorously in the flats. This is the only area of Biscayne Bay where I've seen so many little blue herons in one place. Great white egrets and a lone great blue heron can be spotted here also. Tricolor herons are present, although they tend to stay closer to the shoreline. In winter months, I've spotted wood storks herel. And those winter southeasterly winds tend to blow the portuguese man-a-wars into the shallow areas. I've captured some interesting photos of those creatures.

This summer, I found a couple black-necked stilts in the shallows. Not only was it the first time I've seen them here, it was the first time I've photographed these birds.

Another aspect of Matheson that I like is the creek that runs from the bay back into the canal. Here, I have photographed large mangrove crabs that seem to be more obvious in late summer months. Once, I captured several of them and two that seemed to be mating. These shy crabs are very difficult to photograph, with so much opportunity for hiding among the mangrove mud and roots. A flash is useful and this year, I will have a 180mm macro to take in there making the photographing easier. With my 420mm lens/teleconverter, I have a hard time getting to the right distance away from the crabs. It's easier to get close ups, thus a macro lens will serve that purpose well.

Another creature I find in the creeks is the large female golden silk spider that spins her web above the creek. This is a beautiful spider that photographs well with a clear sky background if you can situate your boat for such a scene. It's worth the maneuvering to get a shot of this large spider, but it takes lots of patience.

As for the birds, this is a great place for photographing, but only at low tides. I find the best time to come here is when low tide is between 7-9 am. The park opens very early and it will cost $5-6 to get in.

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