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White Morph with Wings Up

The reddish egrets have been out in full force lately at Bolivar Flats on the Texas Gulf Coast.  This beauty was chasing fish around with his wings extended, as reddish egrets are known for.  Always a good time to watch these birds dance around while fishing.  They are very fast and a high shutter speed is highly recommended.

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

1/3200 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1/3 exposure compensation0941_Bolivar_Flats_06292019-2

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White Morph Reddish Egret

Spent some quality time on July 4th at Bolivar Flats along the Gulf Coast taking photos of reddish egrets at high tide.  They weren’t as active as my previous trip but they finally came out to play as we were ending our morning trip.  I’m not a major fan of taking photos at the beach with cloudy skies but it was still fun.

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 @ F7.1, ISO 1600, +2 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret – Wings Up

Reddish Egret raising his wings while fishing. They are the best egret at catching fish in my opinion. Always fun to watch them dance around.

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

1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation

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Back to Bolivar Flats

Made my first trip to Bolivar Flats along the Gulf Coast since April and it was epic.  Saw on Jim Strough’s post that there were lots of reddish egrets in the area and that was enough to convince me to get back out there.

With high tide, there weren’t any exposed sandbars off shore, which concentrated the birds along the shoreline.  Luckily for me, they were accessible and not out of reach around the corner or just near the jetty, which can also happen.

When driving on the beach to get to the parking area, it become very evident that I was going to be sharing the beach with several wade fisherman.  Total of 10 trucks plus my car.  Most of the fisherman were already out in the water with a few still getting ready.  Knew from experience that bird photography and wade fishing don’t exactly mix so I decided to hang back and let the fisherman walk past me.  On cue, one of them walked right through the flock of birds that were in my sights and scattered them in all directions.  This gave me an opening to get to the spot that I wanted to lay down while the birds returned.

Had 16 reddish egrets to choose from including 9 red and 7 white morph’s.  The highlight was when the tide started to come in.  I was shooting away and saw the water getting closer so had to keep pushing myself backwards up the beach.  Looked up and saw 12 reddish egrets moving in with the tide and they were all converging on my location.  Wish that I would have had a wide-angle lens or my iPhone as it would have made a great video.

Ended up leaving early when thunder started rumbling in the distance.  Didn’t want to leave but decided that it wasn’t a good idea to be walking on the beach in a thunderstorm while carrying a hunk of metal.  A great morning that will need to be recreated, very soon.

1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation

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Snowy Egret Portrait

Found this Snowy Egret on the Texas City dike a few weeks ago.  Was too close to get a full body shot so went vertical and got this portrait photo.  Had to go negative on the exposure compensation to keep from blowing out the whites.  Flashing highlight alerts, aka “blinkies”, works very well to show when the photos are over exposed.  Just remember on your histogram, expose to the right side but don’t climb the wall.

Was using my back-up camera, Canon 7D Mark II as my 1DX was back at Canon getting a new shutter installed.  Started to get a bright line at the top of my photos which led to some research on the web that indicated my shutter was likely starting to fail.  Canon confirmed it and got it replaced.  Had over 423,000 shutter actuations and it was rated for 400,000.  I’ve worn out several shutters on my other cameras so not surprising that this one would go one of these days.  Glad that it didn’t happen during my last Yellowstone trip.

Took about 7 days after they received it for the repair so it was time to break-out the back-up camera.  My 7D II worked well but it’s not the same as the pro body.  It felt like a toy in comparison without a grip attached, but it took good photos.

Taken with Canon 7D II with Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens with 1.4X III teleconverter, 700mm, hand held out the car window.

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, – 1/3 exposure compensation

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Sliver of Sunrise

Took this shot at the Texas City dike on Sunday morning.  There was a small gap in the clouds as the sun started to come up.  Started to go negative on exposure compensation as the sun started to pop.  Really like how this one turned out.

Used my back-up 7D II as my 1DX is at Canon getting the shutter replaced after over 420,000 photos.  My back-up camera works better than my original 7D but it doesn’t compare to my 1DX at high ISO capability plus it feels so small without a battery grip.  Works well for a back-up but can’t wait until my 1DX returns.

Taken with Canon 7D II with Canon 500mm F4 IS II and 1.4XIII teleconverter, handheld out my car window

1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 100, evaluative metering, – 2/3 exposure compensation

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Blurred Avocet

When the light doesn’t cooperate, there are always blurred shots to be taken.  American avocet in a blur from Bolivar Flats during one of my Galveston FeatherFest workshops that I led this year.

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.

1/125 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 2 2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

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American Avocets

Mentioned to my FeatherFest group before we hit the beach on Saturday morning that one of my target birds for this field trip was avocets. Score!

Low tide turned into high tide with the winds from the south due to the storm system. The high tide drove all of the birds near the shoreline and luckily most of them were along the beach facing south before you go around the bend. We started with a small group of avocets and worked our way down the beach until we hit the jackpot with thousands of them that just kept flying into the same area.

The legs have it in this full frame shot from my ground pod with only cropping to pano format. If you look close, had some light rain going on at this time. Also a photo bomber flying in.

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

1/200 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

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Galveston FeatherFest 2019

Just finished up leading workshops and field trips for Galveston’s FeatherFest.  Had a great time as always.  Thanks to everyone that showed up and participated.

Here are some of the group photos.

Shorebird Photography from East Beach, Friday April 12, 2019

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Ground Pod Photography from Bolivar Flats, Saturday April 13, 2019

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Ground Pod Photography from Bolivar Flats, Saturday April 13, 2019

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Brown Pelican in Golden Light

Caught this brown pelican doing a fly-by while in the prone position with my ground pod.  Got a nice series of shots with this one being one of my favorites with the wing position just off of the water.  The calm water and reflection helped as well.

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

1/500 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority

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Great Egret in Flight

Headed back to High Island yesterday to get some more photos from the rookery for an upcoming presentation that I’m doing for Houston Audubon on April 7.

https://houstonaudubon.org/programs/adults/flight-in-focus.html

Had the platform all to myself, which was great and worth taking 1/2 day off of work.  Challenging to get flight shots from that location so moved down to the second platform and the flight opportunities were amazing.  Great egrets and spoonbills were flying back and forth from the rookery island to the trees on the south side of the pond.  They would occasionally bank right towards me like this great egret.

1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, aperture priority

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

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Great Egret Mating Dance Silhouette

It’s always fun to watch and photograph great egrets in mating season when they put on a display of their breeding plumage.  Caught this mating dance at High Island’s rookery at sunrise.

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

1/60 sec @ F4, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority

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Back-lit Great Egrets

Finally, some sunshine in SE Texas.  This day was a little to windy for Bolivar Flats and my gut was telling me to head to High Island to see if there was any activity yet.

Got up at 3:15 a.m. and make it there well before sunrise.  One of the challenges at the rookery at sunrise is the mosquitos, which can take swarming to a new level.  In preparation for the skeeters, bought a mosquito net to fit over my had, which worked wonders.  Best $10 ever spent at REI.

https://www.rei.com/product/780999/sea-to-summit-head-net

Got to the last platform in complete darkness so it was difficult to tell if there were very many birds present yet.  Could hear the pig-like grunting from some cormorants, which always show up first.  Once the pre-dawn light started falling over the area, finally could tell that there were enough great egrets to make it a worthwhile trip.  Before the sun came up, several more great egrets came to the rookery and started displaying their breeding plumage.  Didn’t take long for the courtship’s to begin.  Only a few minutes were required for them to arrive, find a match, mate and then take off to find sticks to build a nest.

I always go to the rookery at sunrise to get back-lit photos.  Exposing for the brightest areas of the birds with the sun coming through their feathers can make for some amazing photo opportunities.

This is a photo of a pair of great egrets that I watched after the sun came up.  One would take off to find sticks and then arrive with great fanfare and pass of the stick to their mate for nest-building.  Felt great to get back in my element.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F5 IS II lens on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority

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Long-Tailed Weasel from Yellowstone

We were lucky enough to find a long-tailed weasel.  He was across the river on a hill and was very difficult to spot.  I couldn’t find him after he was spotted.  Had to try to find his black tail bounding across the snow.  Cute little critter but a very vicious carnivore with sharp teeth and claws.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld

1/800 sec @ F6.3, ISO 1600, spot metering off the snow +2 tops, manual mode

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Yellowstone Coyote – Head Shots

To cap off my coyote encounter at Yellowstone, the coyote almost face-planted while nearing the top of the hill. The snow must have gotten deeper or the hill was steeper causing him to almost fall into the snow. He was able to maintain his laser focus on what he was looking at and didn’t miss a beat.

Minor cropping off of the left side of the frame on these head shots.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm lens, handheld while sitting in a snowbank.

Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400

 

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Yellowstone Coyote Full Frame

Here is a full frame shot of the Yellowstone coyote as he went around me after jumping up the hill.  Was a very good day.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld while sitting in a snowbank.

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manual mode

 

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Yellowstone Coyote Among the Cattails

Yellowstone coyote on his way to the small creek before he ran up the hill.  Full framed shot without any cropping.  Saw this composition coming as he got near the cattails.  Used back-focus button to get him in focus and then recomposed to put him in the lower left corner with the cattails in the top of the frame.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, handheld

1/3200 sec @ F8, ISO 800, manual mode

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Once-in-a-Lifetime at Yellowstone

Our second coyote encounter on Day 1 at Yellowstone was incredible.  One of our workshop leaders spotted a coyote crossing the river at a distance.  We got out of the snow coach and walked down the road to try to get a better view of him.  He got up on the bank and made his way to our right in the snow, catching some food along the way.

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Three of us went with Jared further upstream and waited for him to come to us.  While sitting in a snowbank, got some cool shots of the coyote working his way along a small winding creek at the bottom of our hill.  Was very happy to get those shots and expected him to continue along his way at the base of this hill.

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All of a sudden, he took off and ran/jumped up the hill directly towards us.  Luckily didn’t have my tripod or would have missed some of the shots as I had to lean back and to my left to shoot as a small tree got in the way.

He bounded up the hill while glancing from left to right with making direct eye contact with me several times.  He would blast up out of the snow, which created a cool ring of snow around him.  As he got closer, began to wonder if he was going to run right into me so I briefly lifted my head up to see how close that he was getting and he veered off to my left, leaving me with some full frame shots as he went by.

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He kept going up the hill while almost face-planting into the snow allowing for a couple of cool head shots.  At the top of the hill, he looked back at us and then went down the road like nothing happened.  He left us with the thought “What just happened and did we capture it?”  Downloading my photos revealed that I got 37 out of 40 photos in the sequence in focus when he ran up the hill in about 75 seconds.  Have a 12 frames/sec camera really paid off.

I keep having these once-in-a-lifetime photography experiences in Yellowstone, which will ensure that I keep going back.  Thanks again Jared and Doug.  One of my favorite Yellowstone encounters ever.

All photos were taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld

Manual mode, 1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 400, 500mm


Yellowstone Coyote Mousing

Just got back from another trip to Yellowstone with Jared Lloyd and Doug Gardner. This was my third year in a row but had to grab a cancellation spot to make it. Was another awesome trip with meeting some great people and critters.

Although the park was somewhat slow for animal activity based on the last couple of years, we had some outstanding photo opportunities. The area finally got some snow right before we arrived. Coldest temperature was –22 deg F but much warmer than that for most days.

My first trip with Jared was the year of the fox, last year was the year of the wolves and this trip was the year of the coyote with some great bighorns thrown in.

This day 1 encounter featured a coyote that went mousing fairly close to us. He was successful and moved on. Thought that we were lucky to see this until the next coyote sighting, which was off the charts spectacular. More on that later.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II

Manual exposure, 1/2000 sec @ F4, ISO 1000, spot metering off of the snow + 2 stops

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Short-eared Owl on Fire

Got very excited when the Anahuac short-eared owl flew towards the sun giving me a chance to play in the light with back-lit photos.  Was heavily cropped but still fun to see and take photos.

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

1/2000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Short-eared Owl

There have been lots of posts on Facebook about some short-eared owls hanging out at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in SE Texas.  Made a trip over there recently to check them out.  Took a couple of trips to finally find them and it was a blast.  Ended up spending about 1 1/2 hours watching them fly back and forth hunting over a large area.  Most of the photos were at a long distance  away but they did make a few close passes, which were very exciting.

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

1/2000 sec @ F6.3, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

 

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One of my 2018 Favorites

Happy new years everyone!  Hope that everyone had a great 2018 and is having a safe new years eve celebration.  Have a wonderful 2019!

Here is one of my favorite photos of 2018, an American Avocet from Bolivar Flats.  It’s a challenge to get one of these birds isolated from the flock and this one did not disappoint.  Sometimes before they take off, they will stretch out their wings and dip their head.  This one did it right in front of me with a slight turn of his head and then looked right at me.  Loved it.

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

1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm, aperture priority

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Coyote at Anahuac NWR

Had a most excellent adventure with a coyote yesterday at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. I arrived at Anahuac around 6:30 a.m. and headed to Frozen Point to try to find the short-eared owl. With the cloudy conditions, it was very dark before sunrise and couldn’t spot any activity.

Drove back towards Shoveler’s Pond and saw a couple of trucks tracking something along the canal. Found my buddy Doug in full camo pointing out where a coyote was working the opposite bank of the canal. Luckily, he started coming back towards us and we started shooting away. He eventually got back to the main road and I backed my car up and followed him for a short distance until he started hunting in the grass along site the road. It was very cool to see him jump up and down like a mousing fox.

Got a couple of decent head shots and he then came up with his prey, a field rat. He brought it out on the road and ended up playing with it like a puppy would play with a toy right in front of my car. Tried to take photos of him out my car window but my car wasn’t in the best position with my side mirror kept getting in my way and it was challenging to shoot over it. Didn’t want to spook him by opening my car door initially. Stopped taking still photos a couple of times and took video with my iPhone. I’ll post one of those later. Eventually opened my door to get an unobstructed view of him.

Parents always tell their kids not to play with their food, but this coyote was a master at it. He would pick up the rat and throw it around and then try to intimidate it by baring its teeth as he stood above it. He eventually ate the rat and then started staring at something to my right, which ended up being Doug laying down near the right side of my car. He slowly started to stalk Doug and then Doug showed up next to me.

Here is one of my favorite shots. Don’t worry Doug, I would have repositioned myself to get the shot if he wanted to play with you.

With the low light, had to use full open aperture and sacrificed depth of field to get the shot. Initially was using ISO 6400 but backed off to 3200 for this photo.

1/125 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation, aperture priority, 700mm

 

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Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!  Hope that everyone is going to have a great time with family and friends over this holiday season.  Stay safe!

This is an iPhone photo from my last trip to Yellowstone in January.

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