…morning light is magic…

Posts tagged “Bolivar Flats

Magnificent Frigatebird

Paying attention to bird behavior really paid off on Friday morning.  Was taking photos of a reddish egret when he started looking up in the air.  Reddish egrets don’t usually pay attention to other birds in the sky unless it’s another reddish egret.  This one kept glancing to the sky which peaked my couriosity so I decided to look up from my prone position and got a fantastic surprise when this magnificent frigatebird was right above me. 

Decided to quickly take my camera off of the ground pod and rolled onto my back and started shooting straight up in the air.  The wet sand in my hair was a new experience but well worth it.  She was almost too close as I was clipping wings off of the frame.  Got a few shots from that position but it was too difficult to control my 500mm lens so rolled over and sat up to shoot.  Didn’t want to stand up and potentially spook her.  She kept circling me and I wondered if she was checking me out, which I confirmed was the case after looking at the photos on the computer.

Magnificent frigatebirds are huge with a 7 ft wingspan and a forked tail.  Have seen them at the east end of Galveston Island and while in my car on the ferry several years ago but never at the flats.  Getting that close was a major bucket list event for me.  Was thinking about frigatebirds a few weeks ago while on the ferry and envisioned having a close-up encounter.  I need to start dreaming about birds more often…


My Photo in Audubon Annual Report

One of my pelican photos made the inside cover of the 2019 Audubon Annual Report recently. The Photography Director from Audubon contacted me in Feb about using this photo that they found on my website. Was very pleased that they reached out to me but also someone concerned that I did not recognize this photo. Had to dig through my website to find it. Next problem was to find the RAW file to reprocess a high resolution photo as it was taken back in 2011. Started digging through my current attached hard drives with no luck. Had to search the house for all of my external hard drives and finally found it on nearly the last hard drive.

This experience led me to revamp my storage and back-up method for all of my photos. Now have all of my photos on a centralized device and backed up in multiple ways/locations. More on that later.


Bathing Willet

I always get excited when seeing shorebirds take a bath as they almost always jump up and flap their wings to dry off. Usually a good chance for a great photo op.

Took these shots a couple of weeks ago at Bolivar Flats Audubon shorebird sanctuary along the Texas gulf coast. Cranked the ISO up to 3200 to get a decent shutter speed to freeze the action.

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

1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

1/2000 sec @ F8, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation


Reddish Egret in Flight

Hope that everyone out there is well and staying safe. It’s a very strange/surreal world that we are currently living in. I have been working from home for awhile now so nothing new there, just less travel these days. My day job work has actually picked up lately with more projects so that’s a good thing. Have been spending my off-hours backing up my photos and entering some photo contests. I’ll post more later about my updated back-up strategy that I’ve just completed implementing.

Since almost all of my favorite areas for wildlife photography around Houston are shut down, I’ll dig up some of my photos from my newly archived storage unit.

Here is a reddish egret in flight from last year’s July 4.

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 – handheld


Great Blue Heron Golden Silhouette

My first trip to Bolivar Flats along the Texas gulf coast in 2020 was magical.  One of the rare times when the Gulf of Mexico was very calm and the pre-dawn light was amazing.  Caught this great blue heron coming in for a landing and was able to get some decent shots with very slow shutter speeds @ 1/100 & 1/80 sec.  Had to crank my ISO up to 6400 and use 1 2/3 exposure compensation as it was before the sun came up.  Wish that I would have used ISO 10,000.

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

1/100 sec @ F5.6, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, from ground pod

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1/80 sec @ F5.6, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation, from ground pod

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Bolivar Flats Trip

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Hope that you have a great day and get plenty of food to eat.

Had a great couple of days taking shorebird photos this week at Bolivar Flats on the Texas gulf coast.  Went with Lisa and Catherine on Sunday and by myself on Monday with sunshine and low winds.

On Sunday,  we found a good spot to lay down with our ground pods and a huge flock of avocets made their way in our direction.  Was able to turn to my left to get some back-lit shots, which if always my goal with bird photography.

1/2500 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation

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We moved locations and the avocets were walking right in front of us.  They were so close that I couldn’t get some of them in the frame.  A very good problem to have.  This is one of the main advantages of using a ground pod as the birds don’t recognize you as a person when you are laying down.  They will walk right up to you.

1/2500 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation

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Also got this shot that I really like of a dowitcher as he fed in front of us.  It pays to watch all of the birds as the small ones can provide some great photo op’s.

1/1600 sec @ F6.3, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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A highlight on this trip was this lone black-necked stilt that was walking amongst the hundred of avocets.  It was a challenge to get him isolated from the rest of the birds but was able to get a few shots.  Love their long legs, tux looking feathers and red eyes.

1/2000 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation

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Caracara in Flight

Got buzzed by this Caracara while walking back to my car along the shoreline at Bolivar Flats on the Texas Gulf Coast last weekend.  Picked up my camera with the ground pod/gimbal head still attached and started shooting away.  Had to eventually take the camera off so that it was lighter to handhold.

It’s fun to see the migrating raptors back in SE Texas.  Lots of photo op’s this time of 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.

1/4000 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 2/3 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Scores!

This reddish egret scored after going after this fish.  This is why I’m always telling my classes at FeatherFest to start shooting when their head starts to go down towards the water as you never know what they may come up with and it happens very fast.  Had to crank up the ISO to get a decent shutter speed on this one.

1/1000 sec @ F7.1, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +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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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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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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Black Skimmer Blast-off

While taking photos from my ground pod at Bolivar Flats, several hundred black skimmers were hanging out near the jetty.  It was difficult to see what kind of birds were there until you hear them “barking”.  They eventually lifted off and formed a cloud of skimmers, which is always cool to 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

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

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Back to the Gulf

Sometimes the stars align (no wind, no waves, low tide) along the Gulf of Mexico and the waters are very calm at Bolivar Flats, which makes for some amazing conditions for shore bird photography. This happened on Friday when I took some vacation time to get back to Bolivar for the first time in 4 months.

Got very excited when driving onto the beach while seeing the calm water. This happens maybe once a year if you are lucky, from my experience. Pulled up to the parking area on the beach with nobody else in site and quickly geared up before the sun came up. It was 41 deg F and my neoprene waders felt nice and toasty.

Found a small group of American Avocets along the shoreline and laid down with my ground pod for some silhouette shots. Also had some photo op’s further out in the water with pelicans and black skimmers flying by. The sun popped up which led to some interesting photo op’s with the changing light.

Got up from my initial position and turned to my right just in time to see a peregrine falcon taking off from the beach. Wish that I had seen him earlier but he was very skittish and getting close to him would have been very challenging. Was able to get some flight shots as he flew by, which is always fun with hand holding a 500mm lens attached to a ground pod with a Wimberley gimbal head.

Moved offshore onto some sandbars to take photos of willets, long billed curlews, more avocets and hundreds of black skimmers that would periodically blast off and fill the sky. On the way back to my car, a reddish egret landed right behind me so got back down on the sand for some very close-up shots which was a great wrap up to a wonderful morning.

Needless to say, it was great to be back at Bolivar in perfect conditions.

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

1/1600 sec @ F8, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Marbled Godwit

This Marbled Godwit walked very close to us at Bolivar Flats on the same day as we found the white morph reddish egret.  He kept probing the sand for food.

I like this shot as he is facing in my direction, the position of his feet, got some interesting lighting on his bill and the raised tail feathers, which isn’t typical from my experience.

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 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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1/800 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Pose

Finally made it back to Bolivar Flats yesterday after a long hiatus (since April).  Got invited to head to the flats by Lea, who contacted me back in May for some advice.  It was a good time and I needed the motivation to get back out there in this heat.  Feels-like temp when we arrived just before sunrise was 95 deg F.  Decided to not wear my waders or jacket and just get all wet/sandy, which happened as predicted.

There were lots of birds around including reddish egrets, pelicans, willets, long-billed curlews, marbled godwits.  Did not see any avocets.  We spotted 2 reddish egrets and 3 white morph reddish egrets in the area and took some time to photograph them and get closer to this one.  They weren’t very active but we had the opportunity to get some decent shots of them posing and preening.

Reddish egrets will puff out their feathers when they are trying to intimidate other birds.  Not sure what got this one excited but it made for nice looking hairdo.

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

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Caught it!

Reddish egret are quite the fishing experts.  This white morph put on a great display of fishing prowess and ended up catching this fish and looked in my direction.

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 @ F9, ISO 1600, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Jump in B&W

 

This white morph reddish egret was practicing his jumping skills at Galveston’s FeatherFest in April.  This was shot #11 out of a series of 16 photos that he was in the air.

Colors were somewhat muted so I converted into B&W using NIK Silver Effects.

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

1/1250 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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White Morph Reddish Egret Launching

Sunday’s visit to Bolivar Flats with my last field trip for this years Galveston’s FeatherFest.  Was a little worn out after 4 days but it was well worth the effort to take a couple of groups to Bolivar Flats.  It was a new experience for some of them and we had some great photo op’s on both trips.  We couldn’t get very close to the avocets on this trip but I did find a morph reddish egret.  Spotted him at a distance and maneuvered the group close to the water as he was fishing.  He worked his way back and forth in front of us making for some great photo op’s.

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

Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Ground Level Photography from Galveston’s FeatherFest

Here are the group photos from Saturday’s Ground Level Photography field trip at Bolivar Flats.  Had a great time with lots of laughs from this group.

The morning started out ominous with very high winds, close to 30 mph, and high surf.  Wasn’t sure that we would see any birds until we got further down the shoreline.  Found an estimated 3,000 American Avocets huddled together within shooting distance.  You can see some of the remaining Avocets behind the group in the photos below.  Lots of belly crawling involved.  Turned out to be a very productive morning.

Participants can copy full size photos from my website:

https://www.timtimmis.com/Wildlife/Galveston-FeatherFest-2018/

 

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Galveston FeatherFest 2018

As another year at Galveston’s FeatherFest comes to a close, thanks go out to everyone who participated this year. Special thanks to JulieAnn Brown, Executive Director from Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, and her flock of 200 volunteers that make the event possible every year.

Had a great time leading three field trips and three classroom workshops again this year. This was year #6 for me as a leader and can’t wait to do it again.

Extremely high winds on Friday and Saturday mornings provided some challenges but the birds and rain cooperated. We had a flock of black skimmers and beautiful sunrise at East Beach on Friday, a few thousand avocets in breeding plumage on Saturday morning at Bolivar Flats and a white morph reddish egret dancing away right in front of us this morning.

Here are some group photos from today’s Ground Level Bird Photography field trip to Bolivar Flats. They received the full ground pod treatment including laying in some prime-time muck. Thanks again Chris for helping out again this year.
I’ll post more photos later as time permits.

For the participants that would like a full size copy, I’ve posted them on my website that you can copy from:

https://www.timtimmis.com/Wildlife/Galveston-FeatherFest-2018/

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