Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Birds on the oyster flats

This is a continuation of the previous blog, from my weekend in Chokoloskee Bay. I love paddling this area of the Everglades but it is an extraordinarily frustrating place to attempt to photograph birds, not to mention LEARN how to photograph birds from a boat. I basically began my photography from a canoe on Chokoloskee Bay. I didn't realize just how challenging this place could be until I started photographing wading birds on the easier-going Biscayne Bay location.

Here are a few more photos of a few bird species, other than the usual white ibis. The roseates are always seen here in the summer and almost always within a small range of the bay. Unless they are in the mangrove tree canopies, I most often see them resting on an exposed oyster flat. As this was a low tide morning, I knew they would be there, in the usual spot. The problem is, they tend to not do much and most of the time have their heads tucked under the feathers. Within a group, there is typically one or two that appears to stand guard watching the intruder while the others rest. Capturing them like this is a bit, dare I say, boring. They do let me get rather close though. Today, I inched myself closer (with one foot out of the boat) and got within 50 feet of the group. After a while, a loud powerboat came by (the birds are located relatively close to a channel), and was loud enough to bother the birds so that they flew away, leaving me behind.

I paddled to another flat where a juvenile yellowcrown nightheron was busy capturing tiny crabs. This bird had no problems with me being close and after several minutes with it, it came to within 10 feet of my boat. This was a challenging bird to capture as its feathers blended too well with the oysters. As it approached closer, I went in for the close ups, shifting between vertical and horizontal positions. I wasn't all together happy with the end results, but there were a few images that you can see the tiny crab in the bird's beak.

One last bird caught my attention, a juvenile little blue heron that I spotted feeding along the muddy edges of the mangroves. I let the current drift my boat slowly toward it, as it was in very nice morning light. The grayish blue and white body was tiny among the mangrove roots, but it contrasted enough to be seen well. I thought I would take my time drifting toward it and at one point, grabbed the paddle to maneuver the boat. Just at that moment, another juvy came flying our of nowhere towards the feeding bird and within a few seconds, both were flying off to another distant place. How irritating! Now, I have seen this before with pairs of tricolor herons. Just like this, I spot one bird and get rather close to it, then another comes along, scuffles with the first one for a few seconds, and then they fly off together far away. Why must they do that?

After spending time with the wading birds on the oyster flats, opportunities were declining so I headed toward the marina where many pelicans and terns rest on the pilings. More on that later.

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