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.

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