Thursday, July 29, 2010

Make that three perfect days

I love summers in Miami! I live here and this week, I feel as if I am on vacation in Miami. Perfect tides, perfect weather and I have the time to take advantage of it all. What better way than to get out on Biscayne and photograph the waders. The negative tides this week have brought them out in great number. I had pretty good luck near Mattheson, so today I thought I would head over to Deering and see what was going on at the rookery.

I arrived at 6:15 am but the gate was not open. This is one of the reasons I do not like to launch from Deering. The park did a good job paving the road and parking area, but you can't access it until sunrise. I waited only about 15 min and soon, I was on the water. The sun was coming up over the horizon and the ibises roosting in front of the estate began their flight over the bay. The water was very low and lots of grass on the surface as I paddled north. There was no cloud cover over the sun this morning and soon, the water was on fire.

The water was as calm as can be; my boat was the only disturbance except for an occasional bait fish jump. As I headed north, I noticed that near the roosting area was a large number of white birds in the water. Ibises no doubt, the low tide gave them several areas to wade in front of the Deering estate. Several of them were on the east end of the island and about twice as many were clustered on a flat right in front of the estate. I have never seen the water so low in this area. I had two choices, go for the backlight that was flaming orange and shoot some ibis silhouettes or face the group in front of the estate with beautiful front light. I did both. the ibises near the island were quite tolerant of me. They offered some fun silhouettes but mostly they were heads down and too close too each other to make a worthwhile composition. I headed over to the other group. The birds were thick and while it was an interesting sight, not a good set up for photographing. The shoreline in the background was busy and from my perspective, I really could not distinguish the birds. Some were flying in but always facing away, so no flight shots either.

I had the rookery in mind this morning so I began to paddle north again after spending about 30 min with the ibises. Another large flat appeared and I recognized several bluish and some white birds. The white birds were juvenile snowy egrets, not yet adorned with yellow slippers. Several juvy little blue herons were present, most with the combination blue and white feathers. One or two adults were seen as well. Of course, several ibises were there too. I paddled around the flat to get into the good light and concentrated on a couple birds. For the most part, they cooperated quite well as they were very busy catching little fish, worms and who knows what else. All good stuff I'm sure.

The sun continued to shine bright and after about an hour I continued on, this time toward the sponge farms. Upon noticing a few gulls, I thought maybe they would be hanging out in number on the sticks. I got closer to chicken key and the grasses were laying heavy on much of the water. Several great white egrets were scattered around the bay, none close enough to make to photograph. I crossed the channel and while many cormorants were flying here and there, no birds appeared to be resting on the sticks. I made a left turn and headed toward the rookery island. I paddled on the edge of the channel and noticed several small snappers in the water. Later I spotted a blue crab. The bay waters look good, but no tails were seen today (except for an occasional shark). The bonefish and redfish have been few and far between, so my fishermen friends tell me. I always try to get an eye open for fish so I can give a report, but this week, nothing except for birds, lots of birds.

The rookery was still alive with fledging cattle egrets and cormorants. They hide very well from me and I never really had a chance to photograph. Several of them fly around the island, testing their wings. It's difficult to capture a shot because they fly out of the tree quickly and bank sharply and turn circles over the island. I managed one good shot. By now it was 9:30 am, and I was ready to head back. I decided as I paddled the open bay that I would come back tomorrow. The conditions are too good to be true, may as well take advantage. I'll sleep in on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Two perfect days on the bay so far

A rare occasion, I was able to get to Biscayne Bay twice within a span of 24 hrs. Low tide today was a bit later than yesterday, affording me a little more time with the waders before the water levels increased beyond their preference. I expected to see the ibises come flying in like clockwork. I've noticed that within a few minutes after the sun begins to appear over the horizon, flocks of ibises fly in to the grass flats. Yesterday, about 100 of them flew in within a very short span of time. Today, I would be ready for them as I parked my boat in prime wader real estate.

I was on the water by 6:30 am. I paddled over to the area I wanted to park and already, several birds were out. There were about four juvy tricolor herons in one area, I noticed a couple yellowcrown nightherons, one that was a juvy and allowed me to get fairly close. The juvenile birds tend to be less wary than adults normally.

There was a lone great blue heron farther out where I could capture him in back lighting (more like a side light). The great bird caught a mudfish and flew with it toward the shoreline where it would drop the fish several times in attempt to clean it, or so it appeared. After eating it, it flew back out into deeper water and repeated its fishing maneuver, this time, I captured some of it.

In the meantime, the ibises were not appearing. They were running late. Too bad because the large grassy flat in front of me had lots of empty space between a few tricolors and night herons. Then they started coming in. This time, not as quickly, a few here, a few there, eventually they showed up in great number again. By now, the sun was warming things up quite nicely.

The water rushed in like it did yesterday. Maybe an hour was spent capturing the birds before they flew away to hide in the mangroves. Remaining behind was a juvy yellowcrown that I had captured earlier and an adult that was a bit more shy. Now, the adult had captured a large water worm and seemed to be struggling with it. The bird was in bad lighting from my position, but it was only about 40 ft away. After a few minutes of this, I decided to try to get the boat to a better lighting position. The bird stayed where it was and continued working the worm. Finally I was in a good spot to capture this interesting spectacle. The worm was about 8 in in length and the bird had it between its beak so that the worm was freely moving around outside the bird's mouth. This went on for several more minutes as I captured the scene using a vertical hold on the camera. The lighting was sweet and there were no distracting mangrove seedlings getting in the way of the photo. In a flash, the bird finally swallowed the worm. It continued to stand in the same spot, seemingly digesting its breakfast. I was very close to it, less than 20 ft. Normally, the bird would not tolerate me being so close, but I suspected that it might have been unable to fly off from where it was standing. Instead, it eventually walked slowly toward the mangrove tree near by and hid there.

I headed into the creek with the water levels now very high. I found some golden silk spiders at close range and hung out with a couple for awhile, using the flash. One was a male, or I guessed that it was being about 1/4 the size of the female. Beautiful spiders, they are among the largest orb weaver spiders in the world.

Another great day on the water, I was in the car with AC by 9:30 am. The air felt drier and a bit cooler today than yesterday, surprisingly given that the winds never increased above zero. Another pleasant surprise was the lack of bugs. Here's one more shot of an ibis with something it found on the water. From what I could read from it, it's from Cuba and has something written about air conditioning and alcohol. Say, that sounds like a nice way to spend an evening here in Miami!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ibises rule Biscayne Bay

Still dark, I drove to Matheson this early morning with no AC and the windows partially opened. This was an experiment to test whether or not it was worth the slight discomfort to get my lens defogged before entering the water. These days, the hot humidity steams up the lens once it is taken out of the pelican case and keeps it that way for a very long time. Meanwhile, birds fly by and photo opps are missed. My little experiment worked and when I arrived at the launch site at 6:15 am, the camera and lens were ready to go. I attached the flash and better beamer before getting out of the car

The sun had not quite peaked over the horizon that was layered in some low lying clouds. There was a slight breeze out of the east. The tide that was at its lowest 1/2 hour earlier had already begun to advance on the near full moon that would push it along. The grasses of the bay were exposed widely along the shoreline. So far, no flying birds, but I expected to see a large number of ibises appear at some point.

In the meantime, the feeding grounds behind me were starting to lively up. I noticed some little blues, a snowy egret, great blue heron and yellowcrown nightherons. And as a bonus, I had a couple raccoons in there. Cute little buggers, they were taking advantage of the low tide and filling up with breakfast, something more healthy than trashed leftovers.

Soon, the ibises started flying in. I faced a shallow tide area where by now, the sun was lighting up the surroundings quite nicely and the birds were increasing in number. The ibises by far outnumbered all others and there might have been over a hundred of them within a 1/4 mile distance of the shoreline. This was going to be a classic bay experience, and the sky so far was cooperating with light cloud cover.

I pushed the canoe along the grasses as close as possible to the birds. There were several laughing gulls in the mix. But the ibises did not like that. Seems that even among birds, gulls are considered low class and were promptly booted out of the wading birds' territory.

The water continued to move in, which is a nice set up for me. It means that I can continue to move closer toward the birds and if I am lucky, they will get use to it.

It was a good day, although I would have preferred a later low tide as I only had about an hour of wading birds. Tomorrow should be better. I only have a few weeks before my semester begins, so this week is all about the bay for me. Perfect tides and so far, perfect wind conditions.

Off the water before 10 am, I decided to head over to Fairchild for awhile. I was treated to some fun photos of blue land crabs. There were several of them crossing the grasses and hiding in the stone walls. Here's one of the shots.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hundreds of birds on the bay...

...and very little to show for it. It was another day on Chokoloskee Bay, chasing the birds around a 2 1/2 square mile area. I couldn't have asked for more perfect conditions today. The winds trailing tropical storm Bonnie had died down considerably, making it a very welcome calm morning on the bay. I didn't even mind the heat today, it just felt so good to be here. I expected to see some birds with the 98% moon outgoing and a low tide at about 9:30 am. Eager to get on the water, we launched before 7 am, the sun not yet reaching over the island landscape.

I headed south toward the area where I knew there would be birds, most likely roseates and white ibises. A large flock of juvenile brown pelicans flew overhead and an occasional great white egret could be seen. A couple osprey were fishing the bay and as I approached the channel leading out to Rabbit and Chokoloskee passes, I noticed the small mangrove island next to the channel was loaded with whitish birds. I say whitish because from that distance, I didn't know if they were roseates, egrets or ibises. I saw several clusters of whitish birds scattered about along some of the mangroves and oyster bars; some quite far away.

Soon, I was approaching the oyster bar area of the bay and was on the channel. I heard a power boat coming from behind as it came around the southeast point of Choko island. It would be upon me very soon so I paddled closer to the shallow area. As soon as it breezed by me, all the birds in the mangrove island took off into the air. A massive exodus was underway and there must have been a few hundred birds. As I attempted to capture some of this scene (not from a good angle), I noticed that the majority of them were ibises, a mixture of juvys and adults. There were some roseates around and I noticed them flying off in other directions. Most of the ibises landed on oyster flats, some flew off farther away.

Now I had large oyster beds on my left full of birds, rabbit key pass ahead of me where a large mud flat appeared to be riddled with various types of waders, and more oyster bars to my right where I noticed a small group of white birds about the size of snowy egrets. Where should I paddle? I started over to the closest group of birds on my left. They appeared to be mostly egrets. From their size, I figured they were snowys. I had enough water to get into a good light, but as I continued paddling softly several hundred feet from the birds, they decided to take off, one by one. I got snubbed and that would be the first of many more snubbs to come today.

"Fine", I thought, "I'll paddle somewhere else". I headed toward the mud flat that would give me a couple advantages. First, there were so many birds over there that most of them would be more inclined to stay even with an approaching boat (safety in numbers). Second, there were no sharp oyster shells to compete with. And third, it would be an easy stake out for me as I drifted closer to the birds. I continued on toward the birds and started to get fairly close in the very shallow waters. There were roseates, great whites, snowys, juvy little blue herons, tricolor herons, and lots of ibises. It was a smorgasboard of wading birds for sure. I was starting to think that I might get relatively close to these guys as many of them searched for food or preened in earnest. In other words, they weren't paying too much attention to the intruder. I snapped some shots and honed in on a preening great white egret that has enough clearance around its fanned out wings that I could isolate it for a nice shot. Another powerboat was approaching. This time, it was coming up behind me as I sat near the pass. It passed by several hundred feet away but the wave action was strong. It didn't matter anyway because as soon as it came into the pass, the birds were gone. All but 3 ibises and one tricolor heron that attempted to stick around were gone.

How frustrating! I decided that these birds go on alert despite my quiet approach and any disturbance beyond me is enough to take them over the top, so to speak. There I was, sitting in the shallows and looking all around me wondering where the hell all the birds went to? So close, yet so far when you are in a canoe!

I noticed more in the distance on various oyster beds. All ibises except for a roseate or two. I did spot a yellowcrown nightheron on a couple occasions, but it was less tolerant than the social ibises and would fly off before I got within a couple hundred feet.

Later, I got a bit lucky with a flock of American oystercatchers. Sometimes, I hear them before I see them. They "twitter" loudly as they fly across the bay looking for a good place to dine. Other than those guys, it was all about the ibises today. Even they were not allowing me too close.

My theory is that in this full moon low tide these birds have lots of choices for places to feed. I sometimes find that if birds are confined to a small area and are successfully feeding, they are less inclined to get up and leave. Not the case today where they had lots of choices. And the oyster mounds on the bay are sometimes wide enough that the birds can move across to the other side where I can only see the tops of their heads.

It wasn't a great bird photo day, but I was impressed with the number of birds I saw on the bay. I can't remember ever seeing so many birds here. Glorious as they are, they frustrated me to no end today. I wonder if there is a way that I can camouflage my boat for these waters.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Biscayne Bay and missing the right tide

I didn't think about it much beyond the fact that the low tide was scheduled at about 5 am (but I remembered it as 6 am), because I figured I'd have at least a couple hours of wading bird traffic before the incoming increased the water depth. Mattheson Hammock has always been my favorite place for wading birds, particularly near the opening of the creek. So that is where I headed Monday morning, another hot Miami day ahead. I arrived shortly after 6 am and was on the water before 6:30 am. Except for a couple kayak fishermen, it was lonely on the glass surfaced bay. The calmness was overwhelming, without a breeze it felt hot quickly. But who cares? This is a prime area to enjoy the water, take in the sunrise and watch the early morning bird flocks fly overhead.

Surprisingly, the no-see-ums were not too bad as I began to paddle south toward the creek opening. The sky was a bit overcast across the horizon, dampening the bright sun for next 1/2 hour or so. By 7-7:30, the sun was blazing fully. There were no birds around, none what so ever. Where I sat had about 1 foot of water, a location that would be completely void of water at the lowest tide. I began to think that maybe I miscalculated the tides. In the meantime, I noticed a couple lone cormorants fishing around, between me and the sun. This is a nice set up as the water glowed orange and the cormorants were silhouetted against the light. I tried to capture some cormorant fishing and managed to get one of them with a mud fish.

A large flock of ibises flew across the sky in front of me. There must have been 30 of them, a common site at this time of day. They flew so close to me that there wing motion made a loud "woosh, woosh" sound. I believe the ibises roost on the mangrove islands on the bay at night and then make their morning flight toward inland where they spend the day looking for food. Shortly after the ibises, a flock of tricolor herons flew by. The heron flock consisted of about 12-15 birds. The tricolors must be nesting somewhere around the bay. I see them mixed in with the cormorants and cattle egrets at the rookery, but never in large numbers. A fishing guide in the Everglades told me he has come up on tricolor heron nests in some creeks. Wish I could find one of those on Biscayne Bay.

I decided to check my tide chart again because by now I suspected I missed the low tide all together and now was experiencing an incoming. I thought I had read it wrong. Sure enough, the low tide for Cutler Bay was at 5 am and being it was a new moon, the incoming was coming in fast. So much for wading birds today.

By now, the mangroves were glowing with sunlight, my favorite scene on the bay. I headed to the creek entrance where several small mangroves are scattered in the water. They are far enough away from the main shoreline that I can paddle in and around them. They offer beautiful scenes and I especially like the high key look of the front lighting. I switched my telephoto for the macro lens on the a700. I normally do not like to switch lenses when on the water, but today, I did it anyway. the a700 is a better camera than the a100. I wanted to use the macro lens for some mangrove scenes but also in the creek where I might find some female golden weaver spiders, a favorite subject of mine.

The sun was intense and there was very little bird activity on the water. Bait fish punctuated the water now and then, but that was about it. I headed into the creek thinking maybe the bugs might make it intolerable. But to my surprise, no bugs! I paddled around looking for spiders and crabs and found few. It was still quite early, but it was getting hotter by the minute. It was only 8:30 am, early for getting off the water by my standards, but since nothing was happening, I got out.

I have my good days and not so good days on the water when it comes to photographing wildlife. But I have come into this photography-from-a-canoe past time with the philosophy that being on the water was the driving force behind all this, irrespective of the camera. The camera follows the canoe. The photography is a bonus, and the combination of the canoe and camera is unique. With that in mind, I let the water and my canoe guide me toward the photo opportunities, not the other way around. And even though I could count the number of birds I saw today at eye level on one hand, it was worth every second being on the water.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chasing the Roseates Spoonbills

I come to Chokoloskee Bay dozens of times throughout the year. Everytime I launch from Choko Island Park, I immediately look toward the southwest end of the bay where the heads of Chokoloskee and Rabbit Key Passes begin their run out to the gulf about a mile away. near the channels are several oyster bars where during the winter months, white pelicans hang out. During the summer months, the bars are the feeding and resting grounds for the roseate spoonbills. Depending on the time of year, when I gaze out across the bay waters toward that oyster bar, it's either a wall of white or a wall of red that I find.

Today, I did not notice the red on the bar, but I did notice several large birds flying near the mangroves in that area. I could also see several white (pinkish) birds on the mud flat near the entrance of Rabbit Key Pass. I began the mile long journey to the bird. Boat traffic was moderate this morning; seems everyone was taking advantage of the calm waters and clear skies, an unusual morning for this time of year. Leaving the marina at 7 am, the low tide would be 2 hours later as I paddled in very humid conditions toward my destination. The heat and humidity coated my entire body as I got out the camera to let the lens get use to the environment.

As I approached the area, I noticed several birds perched in mangrove trees in various places. The closest group was on an island next to the channel. This is an island where I have seen dozens of brown pelicans, but today, there were roseates. Large white birds, great egrets no doubt speckled the area in fewer number and most were on the mud flats.

The roseates are particularly shy and are quite difficult to photograph, except when they are comfortably perched in the canopies, several feet above. And as far as fly shots are concerned, its mostly them flying away (unexceptable head angles!). Last year, I got lucky with several of them perched in the mangroves as a storm approached from behind them. The winds were such that as the storm became louder and the birds became more nervous, they would fly off the trees in my direction. This allowed me some good flight shots.

I approached the roseate island where I could see about a half dozen on the eastern side, perfect lighting. I approached very slowly and simply let the slow current move my boat. They noticed me right away of course. Once they spotted me, they began their alert signals. What they do is raise their bills and long necks straight up, as if blowing a trumpet. As soon as I noticed this, I took a few shots before they began to fly away, one by one. I did not approach them any closer, but still, they were not tolerant of me and my boat.
Some of them flew over to the mud flat. It was another 1/3 mile away, so I began to paddle to it. After passing through the oyster bed areas, I came into the sandy area near the pass where I glided along in 2-3 inches of water, approaching the mud flat slowly. There were a few great white egrets, one or two immature reddish egrets or little blue herons, not sure which. And several roseates. The birds slowly moved themselves to the far side of the mud flat as I approached. At this point, they were 250-300 ft away from me, way too far for my 400mm lens. Eventually, all the birds except for about 15 roseates flew off to the nearby trees. All I was doing was sitting in the canoe, not moving and keeping my distance. In the meantime, 2 or 3 powerboats powered by and the wake of the boat pretty much sealed the deal. The birds either moved farther away, or flew off.

Eventually, I decided to stake out the boat (it was too shallow to drift closer to the birds) and walk on the relatively firm mud. I walked for about 15 feet through 1-2 inches of water, making it difficult to be perfectly quiet. Once on higher ground, I could be more stealth, but the birds would notice the approaching intruder regardless. I walked a few feet, stopped and waited. If any of the birds stopped feeding to look up, I immediately froze and waited for it to resume. This went on for some time and eventually, I got about 120-150 ft away from them. I was not close enough to fill half the frame with one or two birds, but at least the lighting was right.

Another boat passed by and as soon as the wake reached the birds, they flew off. Those are the Chokoloskee roseates, unfriendly types. Oh well, can't blame them; those coveted photo subjects among bird photographers. I walked back to the boat and scooted out of the shallow flats to where I could paddle. I started to think I should have heeded my friend's VHF call to tell me she spotted several oystercatchers on the other end of the bay closer to the marina about an hour earlier.

By now, the sun was blazing as I paddled along the edge of the bay. In the high mangrove canopies, several roseates and a few ibises rested. In a clearing, I saw a juvenile ibis and roseate and thought the ibis to be quite beautiful with its brown and white feathers. Soon after, I spotted a great blue heron working the oyster-encrusted mangrove roots. It stopped and stood straight up and assumed its classic "flasher" pose with wings splayed half way as it tried to cool itself.

I came across a few ibises feeding on the oyster beds not too far from the marina. I stayed on with them for awhile. In the meantime, I watched a green heron and a tricolor heron also looking for food. This was the first tricolor heron I've seen on the bay. And this is the first time I've seen a green heron on the oyster beds. The mullet were jumping like crazy all around. I tried to capture one in mid air, but it's like "wack a mole" with those guys, you never know where they will pop up. But they were everywhere. Soon, a dophin joined the party and I followed it around for awhile trying to capture it as it worked the mangrove shoreline or oyster bed edge. As always, getting a good dolphin shot proves to be one of those things I simply cannot do. Dang those mammals (maybe I'll start calling them fish)! One of these days...

The sun was now too high and besides, the ibises had left and gone into the trees. I put away the telephoto and took out the wide angle lens attached to the second camera. There were about 9 or 10 kayak fishermen (one in a canoe) in the vicinity so I took my time heading toward the area where they would all be fishing. The oval-shaped cumulus clouds were becoming more dominant, scattering across the deep blue sky. I love these scenes, so I photographed as I made my way through the labyrinth. When I came out into the open, I spotted the fishermen, scattered about in their various colored boats; bright yellows, blues and reds, all of them with at least a couple fishing rods sticking up like antennaes.

It was terribly hot by now, and the photographs were pretty much over. I headed back to the marina where a new dock was under construction from the property next to the launch site. Several tall pilings were lined up, giving the pelicans a several more resting spots. There were about a half dozen juveniles and a couple adults resting there. All were facing away from the sun and toward whatever little breeze there was. From my angle, I could not get a photograph of a pelican facing me. I did get a shot of a young brownie cleaning its feathers and that was it.

Chokoloskee Bay has provided me several bird photo opportunities, but some days it's a challenge, like today. It goes without saying though, a bad photo day on the water is better than a day off the water.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Return to the Biscayne Bay Rookery...finally

For the past 2 years I've been visiting a rookery on the bay beginning early May until mid-August or so. Today was the first visit for me this year. For various reasons, I just have not been able to get out to Biscayne (one trip to Blackpoint in May). Let's see, The Deering launch site didn't open until late May, i was out of town for half of June and the dang winds (20-25 knots most days) have been never ending, and so has work. To top all that, my roof rack was stolen, AGAIN! Second time this year that's happened. Seems the hoodlums are taking a strong liking to Yakima racks. At the end of the day, I came out even in the matter of $ and I had a permanent track drilled into my car roof. It's been a learning experience but finally, I think the rack that carries the canoes is theft-proof.
The 1.5 mile paddle to the rookery islands began at about 6:30 am, still dark with the full cloud cover over the rising sun. On que, the large ibis colony that spends their nights on the island in front of the Deering Estate began their daily flight across the bay in a southerly direction, to where I have no clue. I paddled in very calm waters as the tide slowly went out at a half moon pace. At one point, I spotted some tails in the water (bonefish maybe?) and soon after, I saw the tell tale dorsal and caudal fins of a bull (or nurse?) shark. I gave the shark a bit of scare as it scouted for food and headed right toward my boat. About 3 feet away, it finally took notice and in a split second, turned and bolted away.

Finally, I arrived at the rookery with a veil of gray covering the sky. This would be fill flash day for sure. Before getting to the rookery island, I had the camera out, defogging along the way. I got my anchor system ready to go and I attached the flash and better beamer; all this before getting too close to the birds. The less noise I make, the closer they let me get to them. Several cormorants were fishing and some let me pass quite close. They looked young, perhaps less wary than their adult parents would naturally be. I crossed the deep channel and came within about 100 feet of the island where several cattle egrets speckled the south end. Unlike 2 years ago, this particular island is not housing as many egrets; instead the primary occupant here was the cormorant. And there were hundreds of them, adults mingled with adult-sized babies still needing to be fed. Many get into the water and you can watch them practice their fishing and flying skills.

While crossing the channel, I noticed that the other rookery islands that sit on the edge of the channel closer to the main shoreline were loaded with white birds. I decided to head over there where I could set anchor and get on the other side away from the channel where I would not be disturbed by boats. The lighting was such that a frontlight really didn't exist with the cloud covers. A good day for the flash.

The islands were hustling with little birds. Lots of flying in and out, both cattle egrets and cormorants. There were some tricolor herons in there as well. I tried to anchor but I guess it was too deep, so I had a difficult time staying still. This was not ideal, I'd much rather go back to the less busy island where it was much shallower. There, I could anchor and use the stake out pole.

I headed back and paddled around the island a bit, stopping here and there. Finally, I settled in a spot where the white birds were more numerous. The east wind had picked up a bit, so I anchored in a spot where I could get a good angle on the incoming birds. Birds land and take off against the wind, so this would give me some front views of the birds and with the flash, I wasn't worried about the side light coming from the meager sun.

I stayed on with the family of egrets and cormorants. A few anhingas were seen, but they are much too shy to get any shots of them. After a little time, I figured out the flight pattern of the egrets. I learned this a couple years ago when I first visited this rookery. When you see one bird take off from the rookery, others soon follow, within seconds. Then, after about 5 to 10 minutes, they all start coming back, sometimes with sticks. and they almost always use the same course. Today, none came in with sticks, so it must have been food they were going after. They fly to somewhere just south of the Deering launch site. Cattle egrets do not fish, so where they go for food is unknown to me. Some high ground place where they can dig up worms and yummy insects I suppose.

I had a good time with the rookery today, pretty much ignoring the cormorants. They were flying and swimming about every where. I spotted a couple blackcrown nightherons and a great blue heron in and around the rookery as well. For my first visit back to the rookery, I concentrated on the egrets.
The paddle back was calm as well and I watched my egret friends fly overhead. A couple great white egrets were wading in a shallow low tide area near Deering, but it was time for me to get off the water.

One last post, my visit to Blackpoint several weeks ago was not a great day for photographing, but I did take out my macro lens at one point and played with some of the mangrove seedlings in the water. Here's one of the photos I took that day.