Sunday, August 23, 2009

Biscayne Bay: Storms and skimmers

What a weekend! Yesterday on Chokokoskee Bay offered some surprises and today, Biscayne Bay did not disappoint. Seems that this year has been more interesting than usual on the bay. I've spotted three birds that I have never seen here before; woodstork, black neck stilt, and today, black skimmer. To top it off, the summer storms have been fantastic to photograph from the water.

It was a perfect tide, low at 7 am as we got on the water at Matheson. There were very large clouds covering the eastern sky and through much of the morning, the clouds would prevail allowing the sun out only on occasion. I noticed several birds to the north near the channel, so I headed in that direction, opposite of my usual route. Little blue herons were out, they tend to feed farther out in the water and are easy to photograph with the morning frontlight casting over the water. Dozens of laughing gulls were in the shallows near the grasses. Amongst them were a few egrets and nightcrowns. I attached the external flash and attempted some flight shots with several gulls and some ibises. And then I saw it, the skimmer, skimming along as a silhouette against the morning sun light. I captured a few shots, watched it come back and circle around near the shoreline. Soon, it flew off, never to be seen again. Surprisingly, there were no others that I could see. The only time I've seen these birds on the water was in Florida Bay off of Flamingo where a large flock hang out in the winter and spring months. Once again, Biscayne Bay surprises me.

I stayed on with some ibises feeding among the mangroves while I kept the flash on. I captured a nightcrown and a tricolor heron as it spread it wings over the water. After a couple hours, the sky started to look black as large storm clouds covered the Miami skyline and were soon on top of me. I quickly put away the equipment as it begain to sprinkle, but not before capturing the storm clouds looming over the bay. I wished I had my wide angle lens today, but did the best I could at 70mm.

It started raining hard as I paddled back to the launch site. The equipment got a bit of rain so I got back to the car to dry everything off. By then, it had stopped raining and the sun was out again. I dried off the equipment, and headed back out on the water. I paddled around the creek area and used the macro lens for some photos of mangroves

There was an enormous storm cooking up out on the bay and mushroomed upward into the sky, splaying out to the north and south. Soon, thunder could be heard and then the lightning could be seen. The storm appeared to be moving more north than west, so I wasn't to concerned. I was only a few minutes away from the car, so I captured several photos of boats passing under the stormy sky. One kayaker had just gotten on the water and was heading south as I photographed him and his lime green boat, contrasted against the black sky. He changed his mind and started heading back north and soon after, decided to go south as planned. While doing this, I continued photographing him and a sailboat that was further out on the bay, much closer to the storm.

We were back in the car by 11 am, in time for the rain to come back. My days on Biscayne Bay will become fewer for the next several months as I begin a new semester tomorrow. I hope to get back to the rookery, maybe next weekend.

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