Saturday, June 18, 2011
Finding magic on the bay
I had low expectations today; SSE winds were relatively strong. Not so bad for paddling, but far more than enough to stir up the water to make photographing from a boat difficult. Low tide was around 6:30 am and a fast rising incoming would be complimenting those winds enough that I really did not expect to take many photos. From the Deering launch, I watched the sun rise over Chicken Key. There were enough scattered clouds to give the sky some color. Here is how the day started.
About a half dozen long necked great whites were scattered around the shallows near the launch site while the rising sun cast a beautiful orange on the water. Silhouettes of these birds feeding in the water are quite beautiful with the warm morning light. But as can be seen here, the rough water was not going to let this work.
I paddled out to face the birds with a back light. The sun moved in and out of small clouds, pretty much the entire morning. Of course this challenges my metering. I noticed some smaller birds clustered over by the people's dock. When I got there, I attempted to stake out my new pole. If there was only one item I could bring aboard my boat along with the cameras it would have to be the stake out pole (OK two items, I am legally required to have a PFD). I cannot photograph from my canoe without a stake out pole. Hands down, it is my most important tool for photographing from a boat. Sometimes, the water is too deep for it, but not often. My tried and true stake out pole recently broke (the tip broke off). Vivian made another, about 1/2-in thick pole used for holding up plants. It's made of steel and is flexible. I stuck it in the water and it caught hard rock. I tried to stake out but no use. The pole bent and when I tried to bend it back in shape, it broke. Long story short, with a rising tide coming in, I had no stake out pole and there were birds feeding everywhere. Fortunately, the water was shallow enough that I could plant a foot on the ground.
After some time, I headed back over to where the great egrets were still feeding. One bird was relatively close to me. I scoped it out and quietly approached it. GWEs tend to not have patience with intruders as a rule. But sometimes, you come on to one that is being so successful with fishing that it doesn't take notice of much else. It's simply focusing on the fish. Today, the birds were feasting on pinfish. This bird appeared to catch a fish at a rate of about 1 per 1-2 minutes. Lots of photo opps with this guy. Using my foot, I followed the bird along the shoreline. It continued moving parallel to the shoreline, never attempting to get away from me. After some time, it started moving closer to my boat. I was soon shooting at less than 140 mm.
The bird gave me lots of opportunities for various lighting effects and a combination of vertical and horizontal shots. The sun continued moving in and out of cloud, but mostly out. I must have spent a good hour with this lone bird until it flew off toward the mangroves. Just as well, the water levels were rising enough that I would no longer be able to hold my boat still.
I paddled on and decided to go into a couple of the creeks to find the golden silk weavers. They usually start coming out in the summer months. This is when you can paddle down a mangrove tunnel and see a continuous row of female spiders above your head. Today, I found several and many of them with their mate. The male spider is about a fifth of the size of the female. Here are a couple shots. The first is a couple with what looks like a cluster of leftover meals. The second photo is a shot of a female gorging on a beetle. Her head is buried in the bug's thorax.