Sunday, February 26, 2012

A window of opportunity

It certainly has been a windy winter season, so what else is new in south Florida. With that, along with other distractions, I have made it to Biscayne Bay only twice this year. Finally, yesterday was the one day of opportunity and with good fortune, it provided calm winds and sunny skies. By afternoon, the winds were greater than 20 knots and continued that way for the remainder of the weekend. Perfect. Photos shot on Saturday, photos edited indoors on Sunday.

We launched from Chapman Fields, which begins in a canal that empties into the hidden lake. On the north side of the lake is a beautiful creek that leads out to the bay. On the water by 7 am or so, we came into the lake with the morning sun barely over the mangrove canopy. I headed into the creek and thought about coming in here on an overcast day with a tripod so that I could stand on ground and photograph the scene. The mangrove islets intermingled with oyster bars scatter throughout, make the path of the creek less obvious. As a result, it gives one a panoramic view of mangroves and water, rather than a narrow, mangrove lined creek. As these thoughts continued, I watched several birds feeding on oyster beds, hiding among the mangrove roots or flying above. I watched two woodstorks swirling overhead, a site I rarely see on Biscayne Bay. Ibis, little blue heron, tricolor heron, great blue; they were all in the creek.

The water was a bit slack as low tide was about 7:30 am; soon it would reverse. Just before getting out into the open bay, something large in the water near my boat spooked and made a big wake. It was likely the resident manatee, only a baby a couple years ago when we first spotted it in the creek. On the other hand, it could have been a large tarpon. Whatever it was, I was glad it was not directly under my boat as it made a rough wake.

Leaving the creek, I entered the bright, flat calm bay. The low tide was evident as several egrets and ibises were wading. Once the bay was in full view, I spotted a concentrated area of cormorants and laughing gulls. There must have been over a hundred gulls sharing a small area with about 50 cormorants. I stayed with them for awhile, attempting some high key shots of the cormorants.
I turned toward the mangrove shoreline that was glowing with the morning sun. As always, their reflections cast over the water giving it an impressionist feeling. The calm water provided perfect conditions to attempt some shots of the wading birds. I focused on a couple juvenile little blue herons. I thought they were juvy snowys, but I was fooled. Difficult to distinguish, the juvy little blue heron has a duller beak, grayish around the eyes, while the brighter snowy has a yellowish base at the beak. Nevertheless, they cooperated with me well enough that I stayed with them for a long time.
I had no reason to go anywhere else today, the tide was already rolling in. The wading birds were decreasing in number and with the rising waters, the two little blue herons flew closer to the mangroves, continuing to provide me good photo opportunities. With such conditions, I have two choices; at the low tide the birds are far enough from the shoreline that I can photograph them with only the surrounding water reflecting the shoreline. The other choice is to photograph the birds closer to the mangroves as the tide moves in, which provides some interesting textures, as seen in the two photos below and the first photo above. It becomes tricky as some of the background can look quite messy. Not a problem today. My goal is to frame the bird with the mangrove leaves and roots above or behind and their reflections surrounding the bird. The juvy little blue heron provides a nice contrast white to all of that.

Enjoy these photos from a beautiful morning on Biscayne Bay.