Thursday, May 17, 2012

Egret and Pelican Rookery: the Hustle and Bustle

Nesting adults work very hard. Chicks must be fed, nests must be reinforced continuously as chicks grow and adults have to eat too. With all that, school is in as the adults must also teach the chicks to fly and forage. At the rookery, I watch all this activity and with several visits can observe the progress of the pelican and egret families.

Because of lighting and wind protection, I have a narrow range from which I can photograph the bird activity. The highest concentration of brown pelican nests are located on the periphery of the island cluster that serves as the rookery. Although the pelicans can be photographed in good morning light, it is the exposure to the open bay that makes it difficult to photograph them. And during my most recent visit, there were strong easterly winds. Despite that, I gave it a try before the winds increased. The concentrated pelican nest site is noticeable from a distance as I crossed the bay. In the early morning hours before the sun burns high above, the adult pelicans (and 1-2 yr old juveniles) are busy flying to and from the island. The morning light on their brown wings is quite beautiful. I love their landing and take-off wing patterns and can spend long periods of time attempting pelican flight shots.

As I paddled toward the island, I could not resist the temptation to photograph the pelicans, but in less than ideal conditions. In early light (around 7 am), a high noisy ISO (had it at 1600 at one point) is required to keep the shutter speed reasonably high (1/640 is the slowest acceptable which incurs a nice wing tip blur). But with my boat being broadsided by the winds, a sharp image was unlikely. Consequently, these photos are for journal purpose only.

I moved over to the more protected area where I spend 90% of my time while at the rookery. From this vantage point, I can observe several great egret nests. There was one couple that appeared to not have any chicks and may still have eggs incubating. Something was going on because one of the adults was frequently bringing in twigs. This particular nest was located in the best light, so consequently, they were the highlight of the day. Other nests around them clearly had chicks, some of them close to adult size.

During this visit, I had few ideal opportunities to photograph the egrets. From my vantage point, I had rookery islands surrounding me, but only a relatively small portion of it located in the best light. As I sat in my canoe and waited for some action in the good light, lots of activity was going on to my right in a side light that shadowed the white birds. Most of the time, I sat waiting for that perfect shot that would take advantage of the warm morning light hitting the white feathers directly. This is most ideal with an easterly wind so that the birds display their beautiful wing spans as they land. Consequently, there are few photos in this collection illustrating the hustle and bustle of the egret and pelican rookery.

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