Saturday, March 17, 2012

Summer already?

The temperatures have been unseasonably high this winter. What is generally a winter season speckled with cold fronts, has turned into a very mild, very breezy (typical) year. And now with daylight savings, it is beginning to feel a lot like summer around here.

And in summers, I spend much time on Biscayne Bay. That is what I did on this mid-March Saturday morning. Normally, this would be a camping weekend, but it just seemed nice to stay home for a change. And Saturday morning appeared to be a good time to get out on the bay. Recently, the park opened a canoe launch site on a canal that runs out to the bay near Deering. About 1/4 mile away is the entrance to the hidden lake on the north side of the canal. On the south side is a clearing where you can portage across the dirt road into a creek that leads into the bay in a southerly direction. That route cuts off about 1 mile to the sponge farm sticks and the rookeries, where I wanted to be this morning. Wearing my mosquito headnet, I got my boat into the creek and was on the bay early enough to see this scene.

I figured the clouds would eventually burn off, so I headed south toward the rookery, about 2 miles from the launch site. This was going to be a fact-finding trip more than anything, or so I thought. This is not the time of year I find myself on Biscayne Bay. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I figured if the great white egret and brown pelican were already nesting in the Everglades, the cormorant and cattle egret must be nesting here on the bay. In May, I begin my summer visits to the rookery and at that time, I don't see very many babies in the nest. I figured in March, the adults might be busy building the nest and setting up for a long summer of raising young birds.

I had a high tide this morning, with an outgoing the remainder the morning. No wading birds to photograph, I headed over to the sponge farm sticks where some terns and gulls were roosting. A few years ago, I started photographing birds here and had a great time with the laughing gulls. Their territorial antics are awesome to photograph in the right conditions. On a calm day, I can stake out the canoe close to the birds (gulls are so much friendlier than other birds) and take my pick at what to shoot. Typically, I do not see the birds in number until August or September. And always, they are in their winter attire. Here is one shot from a few years ago.

Today, there were a few royal terns and one laughing gull. This time, the gull was already in its summer plumage. I staked out about 40 ft from the birds, but the winds were a little challenging as my boat sat broadside to the winds. I somehow managed to turn it so that the bow was facing away from the wind, which decreased the rocking considerably. I set the camera to continuous shooting on Hi (8 fps) and started rifling off some shots. A friend in a kayak came up, and while I stopped to visit with him, a mild rain started. After putting away the camera, the rain came down harder, but only lasted about 10 minutes or so. It was beautiful on the bay. The rain drops on the water were illuminated as the sun was uncovered. A rainbow appeared on the south shoreline. This is when I wished I had a canopy or umbrella set up on the boat. I could have continued shooting with the beautiful rain all around. After the rain stopped, I pulled out the camera again to capture what was left of the rainbow.

Here are a few more photos of the laughing gull in its summer plumage. I was able to capture the bird in the warm morning light.

After spending time at the rookery (photos for another blog), I headed back to the launch site, taking my time. The tide had rolled out nicely and the wading birds were back in great number. I stopped to photograph some of them, despite the noonday harsh light. Before entering the creek to get back to the launch, I passed this scene. The bay at low tide is no place for a large boat like this. Someone is going to have a very long day ahead of them on the bay. I wonder what happened?

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