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!

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