Sunday, October 2, 2011
Return to Flamingo
It has been over two years since I photographed on Florida Bay, near Flamingo. So I was happy to finally get back to the vast low tide mudflat that spreads across the bay in front of the marina. The Everglades comes alive in the winter and this weekend felt like the first day of the dry season with cooler temperatures and skies clear of rain clouds. Instead, what replaced the bold cumulus clouds were the wispy cirrus clouds, the leading end of a front.
On the water by 7:30 am, I had no expectations as low tide would not be reached until after 2 pm. I paddled in 1-2 feet of water across the flat that would later be covered with wading birds. The photo above shows how the day started. I and my fishing companions paddled east into the sun toward Snake Bight (recently, the park made this a no motor zone). Here are a couple scenes as we approached. The brown pelicans were busy diving. In the second photo, the bird is standing on the "no motor zone" sign. The dark specks are dragonflies which were in great number.
Osprey are plentiful on Florida Bay and their nests are often easily photographed, by land and by water. Today, I watched several of them criss crossing the sky on their fishing expeditions. Here's one with a pinfish.
Within a few hours, the mudflat near the marina channel was exposed and several birds had begun to congregate. First, it was primarily laughing gulls, willets and a few royal terns. One of the challenges of photographing at this mudflat is to avoid the background noise which is the park's very large visitor center and the channel markers. But, I have learned that sometimes, the buildings can offer colorful reflections in the water, such as in this photo.
Later, egrets and herons flew in and joined the mudflat party. Among them were some osprey that had landed in the water. It appeared they were preening or simply cooling off. Here's one of them that was shrieking at another bird.
I approached the mudflat knowing that I would not be able to stay in one spot for long as the water levels declined. This is not where you want to be stuck without water. The mud here is like wet cement. With my canoe, I can glide through 1 inch of water, but I do not want to do that over a great distance. At one point, a reddish egret appeared, quite close to my boat. This is the only location in the Everglades where I have been able to photograph reddish egrets. Every once in a blue moon I see one on a paddling trip, but rarely to photograph.
Now, I concentrated on the dancing egret, but continued to be mindful of the declining water level. This bird is a joy to photograph (but challenging), offering endless poses with its theatrical fishing technique. At one point, the bird came within 15 feet of me. Here's a few photos of this fanciful egret. It has a needlenose fish in one of the photos.
It was getting hot and the sun was fully exposed. Not wanting this day to end, I paddled over to the east side of the tiny island near the marina channel. The birds had almost completely surrounded this island that sits in the middle of the flat. I paddled around in the deeper portion and began facing the west toward the island were a willet was foraging. Several egrets were wandering around but at this point, I was very limited as to where I coul go with the boat. I concentrated on the willet, a dullish type bird. But what attracted me was the light on the water, showing again the red reflection of the building. The pastel blue and red was attractive, even though the bird was not so colorful. Here is one image.
I paddled back to the channel opening. There, a young great blue heron greeted me with a classic flasher pose as it cools off.
What started with low expectations ended several hours later with a stack of excellent photo opportunities. Not included in these photos are the black skimmers, shark tails, jumping mullet and the best of all, the season's first siting of a flock of white pelicans. Yes, winter is definitely here!