Saturday, October 12, 2013
It's been tough this year photographing on Biscayne Bay with all the rain run-off and virtual lack of low tide conditions. But finally, I got out on the water yesterday and what an awesome morning it was. It was fall holiday for me, so a day off from work became an opportunity to spend a morning on Biscayne. Because it was a work day for everyone else, it was just me, the birds and thousands of bait fish.
Once the sun cleared the low hanging clouds on the horizon, I had perfect lighting on the western shoreline. There were only a couple wading birds in the water and since I was two hours ahead of low tide, I thought I might see more birds as the water continued to recede. I paddled over to the mouth of creek where I noticed a white bird, thinking maybe it was my albino yellow-crown night-heron. it wasn't, but it was a great white egret and near it was a tricolored heron. I suddenly realized what was happening. Bait fish (2-3 inch minnow types) were spraying the water along the mangroves and the birds were staging along the edge ready to capture a meal.
With the beautiful warm light of the sun, the bait fish appeared like golden sparkles. With the mangrove reflections in the calm water, it was a beautiful sight to see. But what made this even better was that the birds were concentrating on catching the fish. I quickly honed in on the tricolor heron that was more active than the great white egret. The juvenile heron stood on the mangrove roots and waited with its beak pointed downward toward the water. As soon as the fish were in sight, it jabbed the water and most times came back up with a catch. The acrobatic fishing style was impressive as the bird held on to the mangrove root with its feet, flung itself beak first into the water while stretching its entire body to twice its normal length.
With the image below, I took the liberty of removing the shadowy mangroves in the background in attempt to isolate the bait fish and the bird. I like that the bird is somewhat shadowed by the trees, like the stealth predator it is.
The whole scene was mesmerizing. I found a good spot to stop about 40 feet or so from the bird. As the bird waited for the right moment, I waited for the right moment. At last, I was back in my zone. I sat still, finger on the shutter button, continuous focus ready to track the bird in the instant it moved. I stayed with the bird for a long time attempting to capture it in action and with hundreds of bait fish disturbing the water below it.
After awhile, there was very little going on, except for a little blue heron and a group of white ibises wading in about 1/2 ft of water. Some time with them provided me a couple more images of the day. It didn't seem like I had spent four hours on the water, it flew by so fast. It always does when you're having fun.