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Spoonbill Wingspan

Drove down to the Rockport, TX area at the end of April to participate in a workshop with Hector Astorga.  We spent two mornings visiting the Aransas NWR rookery by boat.  We experienced very high winds and high surf but boat captain Kevin Sims did an excellent job as always.  It was quite the roller coaster ride getting to the rookery with three foot waves bouncing the small flat-bottomed boat around in the dark before sunrise.

Once we arrived at the rookery, the waves reduced but the anchor wasn’t successful at keeping the boat still so Kevin put on his waders, jumped into the water and held onto the boat to keep it from moving around.  He would then push the boat around manually when we needed to switch positions around the island.  He definitely went above and beyond the call of duty on this trip

The rookery was filled with great blue herons and spoonbills, along with a few snowy egrets, reddish egrets, black crowned night herons, oystercatchers and terns.  Most of the chicks were fairly large but were still actively being fed by their parents.

Caught this spoonbill coming in for a landing with his wings outstretched while positioned at the upper deck of the boat.  With the wind/waves, it was challenging to keep the camera steady on my tripod.  Took way too many photos but liked how this one turned out.  Very minimal cropping on the right side.  Had to crank up the ISO to 3200 to get a decent shutter speed.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, 500mm

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Pelican Stealing White Morph’s Fish

Here are some photos of the brown pelican scaring the white morph reddish egret in order to steal his fish.  He surprised me as well and they were too close at 700mm and ended up clipping the pelican’s wings in the first shot.  You can see the fish drop in the second photo with the pelican getting ready to enjoy his spoils in the last shot.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500MM F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Flying Fish – White Morph Style

As a continuation from my last post, both white morph reddish egrets that we saw caught some very large fish.  A lazy or very smart brown pelican then started to chase the white morphs to scare them into dropping the fish so that he could reap the benefits of the great fishing skills of the egrets.

This white morph apparently fled the scene and kept the fish in tow while flying, which was a first for me to see, let alone photograph.  Luckily he landed fairly close to us with a very nice wing spread.

Got some photos of the pelican getting one of the white morphs to drop his fish later in the morning.  I’ll post those next time.

This was one of my most successful guiding trips to Bolivar Flats.  This was a very rare event to witness/photograph so I’m very pleased that my client got to see this behavior and get some great photos.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Aperture priority, 1/2500 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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White Morph Reddish Egret

On this recent trip to Bolivar Flats in Texas, the reddish egrets were out in force, including two white morph’s.  I was guiding Bruno from San Diego, who hadn’t seen a white morph before so it was great timing.  They danced around right in front of us and both ended up catching some very large fish and had a close encounter with a brown pelican.  More photos to come.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Brown Pelicans in Missing Man Formation

These brown pelicans were flying in formation in a line when three of them broke off in what looks like the missing man formation.  Taken during my second trip to Galveston’s FeatherFest.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500MM F4 IS II mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F5, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Ground Level Bird Photography Field Trip #1 – Galveston FeatherFest 2017

Last Thursday through Sunday was a very busy time for me at Galveston’s Texas FeatherFest.  I led three classroom workshops and three field trips.  This was my 5th year being one of the photography leaders and it was a blast, as always.

My field trip on Saturday started off by catching the 6:00 a.m. Bolivar Ferry.  I met up with my group once we got off of the ferry and they followed me to Bolivar Flats.  It was going to be a sunny morning with low tide so I was hoping that the birds were going to be out.  Reports from the previous day indicated that the tide was abnormally low along the jetty without many birds in that area.  Upon pulling up to the parking area on the beach, I could see that there were some exposed sandbars and what looked like a flock of avocets, which was a major relief.  After we geared up, I gave everyone a quick lesson on how to try to try to keep their hands clean when lying down and getting up and we headed out.

There were two other photographers lying on the beach shooting the avocets so I decided to take my group out on the sandbar so that we weren’t looking into the sun all morning.  We walked through the water to the sandbar without incident, which wasn’t the case on Sunday.  More on that on my next post.

Ended up having the group lay down on the sandbar in a long row so that we wouldn’t be in each others line of fire for photography.  We had 8 participants along with myself and my liaison, who helps me keep track of everyone and gets us back to the headquarters on time.  I had the first person lay down near the water line at the north edge of the sandbar since the tide was supposed to be receding.  Well that theory didn’t work too well as the water level came up later and the first couple of people started getting wet so we had to shift the line to the right, which would have been an interesting video.

The flock of avocets kept walking back and forth across the area between the sandbars, which provided some decent photo op’s.  It’s always a challenge of trying to get one of the birds isolated from the flock.  Decided to get a little closer after a while so we practiced crawling on the sand while pushing our ground pods along.

After the action died down, I had the group rotate 180 deg. so that we could get some photos of willets that were in the water behind us.  Also, I had noticed several groups of avocets and brown pelicans flying by our sandbar and it finally hit me that we should turn around and get photos of them flying towards us.  That turned out to be a great decision as they birds kept coming our way for the rest of the field trip.

Thanks to Richard Howard for being my liaison and to everyone who came out to play in the wet sand with me.  I’m hoping that you had as much fun as I did and got some great photos from a different perspective that what you normally see.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

This photo is of the flock of avocets that kept walking back and forth in front of us.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Caught these two avocets that were isolated from the rest of the group.  I’m always looking for how two birds will interact of make an interesting photo together, such as their beaks crossing when coming close to each other, etc.  These two made a cool mirror image of each other.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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After we turned around, several groups of avocets flew close to us.  This group was clustered together when I first spotted them and they then spread out as they got closer to us.  The ones on my far right were doing some very cool synchronized flying with common wing positions.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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This is the same group 1 second later as they got a little closer.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Here are the group photos so that I have evidence that yes, they actually laid down in the wet sand and…

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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…that they got wet and dirty.  Mission accomplished.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Willet Wars

On my last trip to Bolivar Flats, the willets were in fighting mode with breeding season in full swing.  While taking photos of avocets, the willets were squawking away and chasing each other around.  These two started going at it and were circling around after one grabbed the others neck.  He then lifted off trying to get away but the other one held on for a while.  He finally broke free and left the area.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @F 7.1, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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