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
About 3 minuets after the brown pelican sunrise photo per my last post, caught this group of American Avocets passing under the sunrise. Made for a cool silhouette 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
Aperture priority, 1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation
After a tiring work week, it was a challenge to drag my old carcass out of bed early on Saturday. However, calm winds in Galveston coaxed me out of bed at 4:00 a.m. and I headed to the gulf coast. The last two trips have been less than stellar with the tide being too low, which spreads out the birds with Avocets nowhere to be found. Had high hopes on the way to Galveston with seeing the distant water vapor from Texas City plant stacks going straight up with no wind. The clouds were a gorgeous pre-dawn red color as the ferry approached Bolivar. All promising signs.
Geared up in my waders and headed out across the flats as the sun started to break over the gulf. That sight in itself made the trip worthwhile. Found a flock of Avocets nearby. Walked slowly towards them and laid down in order to not spook them. Started belly crawling to get closer when some birds to my left took off. Looked behind me and saw two wade fisherman walking along the shoreline, which is not a good sign for getting good bird photos. As anticipated, they ignored what I was doing and walked out into the water and headed straight towards the Avocets, per the photo below. Needless to say, my Avocet high hopes for the day were dashed.
With my prime targets flying away, had to come up with a plan B. After looking around at my options, decided to move closer to the water line and wait it out, hoping that the birds would return. No Avocets but the Willets and a Yellowlegs cooperated for me. Frustration turned into some decent shots and incentive to go back again another day. A slow morning at Bolivar is 100 times better than sitting at home.
On the way back to the car, got a chance to talk to a couple of other bird photographers, which is always a good time.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod and Wimberley II gimbal head.
My original target – flock of American Avocets
Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1/3 exposure compensation
My two new best friends…
Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1/3 exposure compensation
Willets with some nice crossed beak action
Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation
Yellowlegs checking me out with some direct eye contact
Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 exposure compensation
2015 ended on a high note with my last trip this year to Bolivar Flats in Texas. The sun hasn’t been out much lately in this part of Texas so it was time to shoot in cloudy conditions. It was great weather to be lying on the wet sandbars at 44 deg F (with waders on of course). The Avocets were out in mass with several hundred of them hanging out off shore near sandbars. Found a decent location and ended up crawling closer to a flock of Avocets. Several more came in to land, which provided some action shots.
Just before getting up to leave, all of the birds took off, which usually means that a raptor is in the area. Turned to my right and saw that a Peregrine Falcon had landed on a sandbar. I’ve never seen one land that far from the shoreline before. Didn’t think that he was going to stick around long so I stayed in place focusing on him while anticipating some lift-off and flight shots. He obliged soon after and it was a great way to end this outing.
Also it was nice to meet Hal on this trip, a follower of this blog.
Have a great new year everyone!!
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, 1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600 + 1 1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm
Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F5.6, ISO 2500, + 1 exposure compensation, 700mm
Aperture priority, 1/2000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600 + 1 1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm
Made a trip back to Bolivar Flats last weekend working as a guide, which gave me a chance to try out my new Canon 7D mark II camera.
From a guide perspective, it turned out to be a good trip with Newton. It was very low tide and we found a large flock of Avocets not too far off shore before sunrise. Got some decent shots and moved on to several other locations shooting Willets, Long Billed Curlews, Marbled Godwits, a Yellowlegs and several smaller shorebirds. Ended up working our way around the bend and found a Reddish Egret and then a flock of Avocets worked their way towards us, as I predicted. What appeared to be a lucky guess was actually an accurate prediction based on several similar encounters at that location. Ended up being a very good morning.
From a testing out the new camera perspective, it was also a good outing. I’m a little too spoiled with my 1DX but the new 7D II worked well. It’s obviously not as good with high ISO as the 1DX but it’s much improved over my old 7D. Looks like it will be a good back-up camera. It’s also very light compared to the 1DX.
Ended up getting the new camera as I recently experience problems with my 1DX. Made a trip during the week of Thankgiving and found that my 1DX wouldn’t focus on my 500mm lens. Experienced issues with the contacts as the mounts were bent up from a previous crash/burn from my kitchen table. Got my lens repaired from a local repair shop in Houston but have to send my camera to Canon as they wouldn’t sell him (or me) a replacement ring mount. Took my old 7D to the Santa Clara ranch a few weeks ago as a back-up but would have had major issues with the low light levels. That convinced me that that I needed a newer back-up camera and getting $500 off during black Friday week also helped my cause.
These photos were taken with Canon 7D II with Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F5, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm
This photo was a little dull due to being taken before sunrise so I increased the exposure in Photoshop to make it more of a “high key” image which worked better.
Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F5, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm
Taken after the sun came up
Time for an Avocet flight shot. It’s almost always a group shot with these birds as they travel in flocks.
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 @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Getting close to a flock of feeding Avocets is always exciting but the photo op’s can be limited if there isn’t any action besides the feeding. You can only take so many photos of birds with their heads in the water. They feed by moving their long curved beaks back and forth to stir up the bugs and crustaceans. The good thing about a flock of feeding Avocets is that there is a constant shifting of positions as the birds move for better access to the food. Focused on these birds as they were landing, just after sunrise.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head
1/640 sec @ F8, ISO 4000, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation