Sunday, December 2, 2012
The landscape, dominated by green and gold hues gave me the inspiration to use the "intentional camera movement" technique that I have been experimenting with on mangroves. Here is one creation from this experiment.
The highlight was watching a snail kite searching for food. Only managed to capture it from afar; same with the two bald eagles that circled overhead for a short period. Other than the fact we had to paddle a plastic double canoe that moved through the water like a barge, it was an awesome time on the water. Central Florida has so much to offer.
Friday, November 16, 2012
or otherwise known as the Common Moorhen. In terms of visibility, these red-beaked freshwater marsh birds fall somewhere between the very elusive clapper rail and the social American coot often seen in large rafts moving casually around marshy lakes. Like the coot, the vegetarian moorhen forages in the water and frequently makes head dives in search of food. Unlike the duck, their feet are not webbed and they fall into Sibley's search category of "chicken-like-Marsh". It is the adult's brilliant red beak and facial shield that make this bird not so common.
During my weekend into the Everglades marshes several weeks ago, I came up on a family of moorhens, 2 adults, 2 juveniles. They were busy foraging in a small area of the fast running stream that cuts through the marsh grasses. Quite windy that day, I managed to stake out with some effort and stay in one spot for a very long time to observe the active family. I was happy to find them on the second day and in good light. These are shy birds, but they allowed my boat to come within 6-10 feet of them. Common little birds they are, but in beautifully reflected water they make very nice subjects.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Early on, great white egrets were taking their place along the shoreline of grasses revealed.Typically, I see lots of great white egrets on the bay. Lately though, I have noticed many more juvenile great blue herons in the area. Rarely do I see more than one or two on any given day and it is even more rare to capture them. Of all the wading birds, the great blue heron is the most wary of an intruder in a boat. But today, I somehow got close enough to one as it fished along the shoreline. Enjoy these photos of Biscayne Bay's western shoreline.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
This weekend seemed to mark a change in season, which got me thinking a lot about our camping trips. Instead of afternoon storms and early morning temperatures above 80 degrees, we got our first glimpse into what could be a windy season. We stayed in Chokoloskee Island for the weekend so we could take advantage of the beautiful weekend. No significant rains were expected, but the relentless northeast winds would prevail, and boy did they. Another nice change was the cooler temperatures especially felt on Saturday morning when we awoke to 65 degrees.
As always when we are paddling, the winds dictate our course of action. Rather than spend the weekend on and around the large bay, we decided to launch from Seagrape Drive in the Big Cypress Preserve (off the Tamiami Trail) in an area that would offer more wind protection. Here is an aerial map of the area.
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Anyone in Miami with a boat recognizes this holiday weekend as being famous for the Columbus Day Regatta (a trademarked name that is now known as the BARDARDI Columbus Day Regatta) that is sailed on Biscayne Bay. This weekend marks the 58th anniversary of the regatta, which is the oldest organized event on the bay. The regatta is a sailing race, but over the years it has become associated with the infamous powerboat parties. Hundreds of powerboats anchor near Elliott Key which becomes Biscayne Bay's version of south beach. Everyone in Miami, including those that remotely pay attention to the local news recognizes this weekend to be the most dangerous boating weekend of the year. Alcohol/drugs, stupidity and boating never go well together and with so many boats on the water, the combination of these three ingredients is a common recipe for inevitable tragedy.
While all of that mayhem was happening offshore, I was on the western shoreline Saturday morning, quietly approaching the wading birds. It was dark when my canoe touched the water, but soon, the sun began to peer over the horizon that had already become speckled with boats. I wanted to come here as the low tide was suitable for lots of wading birds in that perfect morning light. I knew there would be more than the usual noises coming from the nearby boat channel, but the birds would still be there.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Took advantage of the beautiful weather and made the drive to Flamingo this morning. Low tide was not scheduled until almost noon, meaning it would be an outgoing all morning. This is a good thing and a bad thing for someone attempting to photograph wading birds on the bay. It's a good thing because there were thousands of birds, including dozens of snowy egrets and dozens of skimmers. But, it was a bad thing as I could not get close enough to 99% of them. I can get rather close to the birds a few hours before low tide, but the problem is that if I stay too long, I am stuck and surrounded by exposed mud & grass flats for hundreds of feet. I would have to drag my boat a couple hundred feet (while sinking to my knees in mud) before I could get back in the boat and drift to deeper water (which, by the way, only exists in the channel coming out of Flamingo marina). So there is that. The other reason is that the lighting in the morning is such that I have to paddle around to the outside of the endless mudflat. This can be very difficult in 1-2 in of water that is thick with grass.
There was another reason today that I could not get close to birds. Every time I attempted to drift toward a group of snowy egrets or roseate spoonbills, the water would begin boiling with bait fish darting away from my boat. The birds were alerted and that's all it took for them to fly off. The one time that I managed to get rather close to several little blue herons and snowy egrets (in the best light), a low flying helicopter came right over us, and off the birds went.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
The Mute Swan is an invasive species from Europe. I associate this large bird with parks and fresh water. I never considered the mute swan to be a salt water bird, but apparently it takes to both fresh and salt water. I didn't know this when I spotted a mute swan on Biscayne Bay this morning, so I was surprised to see it. The only place I have seen mute swans in south Florida is at the old Crandon park, where several species of exotic birds live. A few years ago I watched a pair having sex in the water and a few months later I photographed the parents with their two young. Here is one photo of the swan family.
On Biscayne Bay, I first spotted it near the boat channel that comes out of Deering Bay. The bird was resting on some rocks near the mangroves as egrets and herons foraged the area in an outgoing tide. Eventually, the bird moved off the rock and began to swim south. For the next hour, I followed it until it reached the launch site near the Deering Estate. On occasion, I got myself between the bird and the shoreline and captured it with some frontlight. I had my flash on the camera and with the better beamer was able to splash the bird's feathers with some fill light (see photo above). The water was dead calm, perfect for this type of shot.
Later at home, I got online and reported my siting to the Center for Invasive Species. Apparently, these birds can be a big problem for other waterbirds because of their aggressiveness. As I searched the net, I ran across a few sites that discussed the management of mute swans in Michigan, which contains the largest mute swan population in North America at over 15,000. The DNR of Michigan issues permits allowing people to kill swans and destroy nests and eggs. This isn't the first time I heard of a bird problem in Michigan. The double crested cormorant has also wreaked havoc on this northern state through its voracious fish diet. I hope this siting is unique and is not an indication that mute swans will become a problem for Biscayne Bay's waterbirds.Here are a couple more photos of the invasive, but beautiful mute swan.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Unexpected events happen in life. Some events change our direction or even set us back. Some events propel us forward in a way we never imagined. Sometimes, we don't recognize the event and we simply go on with our life without contemplating the "hows" and "whys". On May 26, 2012, I experienced an event, although at the time, it did not seem so significant.
From a few hundred feet away, I spotted a white bird of moderate size foraging around a mangrove tree. In these waters, a moderate sized white bird is either a snowy egret or a juvenile little blue heron. Nothing special about that. I paddled closer to the bird and stopped the boat just before entering the zone of concern (where the bird becomes alert to my presence). Something was different about the bird; it did not have the slender beak or body of a blue heron or snowy egret. I focused at 400mm, and took a few shots. Through the LCD, I zoomed in on a photo and noticed that the bird had red eyes. Everything about it, except for the white feathers, made me think that it was a yellowcrown nightheron.
As this bird was clearly unique, I contacted the man himself, David Sibley, who confirmed that the white bird was an albino version of the nightheron. He also displayed one of my photos on his website, thank you Dr. Sibley. http://www.sibleyguides.com/2012/07/a-heron-id-quiz/
A couple weeks later, I contacted Biscayne National Park as they keep a running tab on birds spotted in the park. I figured they would find the albino of interest, which they did. I communicated with Dr. Vanessa McDonough, one of the parks fishery and wildlife biologists, and park ranger Gary Bremen. The bird is now listed on the park's site: http://www.nps.gov/bisc/naturescience/birds.htm And ranger Bremen posted one of my photos in his "Featured Creature" Facebook site series. http://www.facebook.com/BiscayneNPS
At this point, I was happy to have found something so unique that others took an interest. But my discovery of the albino bird soon became more than just a rare find. This little bird opened a door for me. It turned out that Ranger Bremen is also the Director of the Dante Fascell Visitor Center's art gallery in Biscayne National Park. I asked him to visit my pbase gallery that displays Biscayne Bay. He liked my work enough to invite me to display it at the gallery. I was in.
So you see, this little white bird, so rare and so lovely became a significant event in my life. I think about it often and have seen it a few times since my first siting. I worry about it and wonder how it will survive out there. I wonder how a white bird will be able to hunt at night. I wonder if it will have the opportunity to reproduce. The albino yellowcrown is not only a symbol of opportunity, but it is a symbol of my love for Biscayne Bay.
Ranger Bremen and I may have several things in common, but one thing I know for sure is that we share a love and appreciation for Biscayne Bay. I believe he recognized that in my photos. Ranger Bremen grew up on Biscayne Bay. He experienced the bay before it became protected waters, when it was on the brink of death from overfishing, over-development and pollution. He has experienced it from all angles. In comparison, my relationship with Biscayne Bay did not begin until 2004, when Vivian introduced it to me from our kayaks. While she fished, I explored. Since 2005, I have been photographing the western shoreline of Biscayne Bay. And now, my work and love of Biscayne Bay will be displayed in print, in public.
So what is the significance of February 28, 2014? It is the opening day of my 3-month gallery at Dante Fascell Visitor Center. It is a very long time from now, but that time is a gift. It is more than simply preparing photographs for a gallery; rather it will be a new level of exploration and learning the bay, and then attempting to incorporate these experiences into my photographs that will make the next 17 months the most important ones for the photographer in me. My goal is simply this: present Biscayne Bay in a way that will make people take notice of its unique and amazingly beautiful qualities that should never be taken for granted. I want them to recognize Biscayne Bay's significance in their lives. Exactly what the albino yellowcrown nightheron did for me.
Friday, August 10, 2012
I hung out with it for awhile, until the reddish egret got my attention. So once again, here are some photos of this rare bird. May it continue to thrive.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
As I concentrated on the albino, a frisky bird flew into the area and it was colored a bit differently that the rest. At first, I believed it was a juvenile little blue heron, but with more observation I was able to see that it was something else. As I continued to watch it, I began to see the tell tale signs of a reddish egret. It appeared to run across the water chasing a bait fish jumping and with that, I knew I had a reddish egret, a juvenile one at that. This bird searches for food in the most comical way with its wing fanning and jumping.
This was going to be great if I could capture it with a full wing span facing the camera while it catches a bait fish. But, it was not going to be easy and ended up being impossible. Here's why. The bird did not like me around and consequently stayed a fair distance away (the closest it came to me was about 30 feet away). Upon approaching the bird, it would move itself farther away and this went on all morning. I chased that dang bird over about 1/4 mile span. Imagine if you will how this happens when shooting from a canoe. In order to move the boat well I need my paddle, which means I cannot photograph. Many times, I missed opportunities to shoot the bird in good light and position because I had paddle in hand. As an alternative, I was able to use one or both feet to move the boat in the shallow water, but with the wind, this took some effort and was slow going.