Monday, January 10, 2011

Mangroves and Birds

One of my favorite places to photograph wading birds is on Biscayne Bay, in calm waters and during early sunlit hours. That's when the rising sun casts a gentle glow on the browns, golds and greens of the mangroves and the reflections cover the calm shallow waters. In those waters, several species of wading birds can been seen, white ibis, tricolor, nightcrown and little blue heron, and the great white and great blue and yellow footed snowy egret. Sometimes, other types of birds show up. In the winter the gulls (ringed billed included) appear in large quantities, as they were yesterday morning.

I paddled out of the canal at the Matheson marina at 7:30. Low was about that time and the north wind was relatively calm as a paddled past the boat ramp where several powerboats were launching. Soon I could see the shallow grasses adjacent to the deep channel. Silhouetted by the sun, I noticed dozens of little bird bodies scattered about and one or two larger long neck types. I paddled around the flat to get into frontlighting on the birds and watched several hundred gulls resting and leisurely floating in the water. Among them were a handful of ibises and one or two blue herons. I found a good spot but repelled most of the birds that flew to a slightly further point from me and my boat. Some of the ibises flew away to greater distances. The birds were facing the north winds, meaning they were not facing me. Not ideal.

There were a few white ibises that were busily catching food. They made nice subjects as the wind rustled their clean white feathers. Always a favorite bird of mine to photograph, I try to capture a captivating moment, as I have so many photos of ibises in similar poses. But always looking for the one special shot, I stayed with them for awhile. A black bird landed and splashed around a bit. That was something new for me here and the lighting was very nice. I changed my compensation from white bird to black bird and rifled off a few shots before the bird flew off.

A tricolor heron came into the picture and soon, I was harrassing it all along the shoreline. If given a choice among my subjects today, it would be the tricolor heron. It offers a greater variety of movements, often times spreading its wings and shuffling around the water. Not as dynamic as the reddish egret, it does have a pattern of movement that gives you lots of variations in poses, especially at 5 fps. Like the little blue, the tricolor appeared to get use to me and got quite close. It was very challenging keeping the skinny necked bird in focus as it moved through various colors of well lit mangrove roots and darker shadows of mangrove leaves.

Eventually, the sun and water were getting too high. Content with my morning photos, I paddled into the creek where my fishermen friends had been searching for snapper. They spotted a woodstork back in there (not exactly the snapper they were looking for). I once saw 4 woodstorks on the bay, a couple years ago in December. I paddled to where they saw the bird today and although I did not find the wood stork, I did watch a racoon hustling from one mangrove root piling to another. I also spotted several yellowcrown nightherons, both adults and juvys hiding out in the roots.

So today, the main focus was on the birds surrounded by impressionist mangrove reflections. Another perfect Biscayne day.