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.
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
Nest Building Ritual
When the mate arrives back at the nest with a stick, the ritual begins with lots of squawking. The stick is then transferred with an abundance of fanfare to the other egret. They often both hang onto to the stick while placing it into the nest. It’s quite the ceremony and interesting to watch and photograph.
I tend to keep my focus on one pair of birds that are in a good position with a decent background. If you get lucky, they repeat the ritual time after time and allow for some great photo op’s. This was one of those times. One of my favorite shots from High Island so far this year.
Using manual exposure and exposing for the brightest spots on the white birds keeps the whites from blowing out, darkens the scene and resulted in the black background.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II head
1/1250 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manual exposure, 500mm
High Island Nest Building – Part 1
The nesting activity has started early this year at High Island’s rookery. It’ my favorite time when breeding plumage is on display along with the Great Egrets busy mating and building nests. The rookery is filling up quickly with it being difficult to get isolated bird shots.
My keeper rate has gone up this year with my 500mm lens and using manual exposure more. However, 500mm with a crop sensor camera is almost too close in some cases as I’ve clipped lots of wings on action shots.
Caught this Great Egret with wings spread flying back to the nest with a stick. Unfortunately, the mosquitos have almost the same wing span. They are very nasty this year, at least around sunrise, so be prepared.
More to come…
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens mounted on a tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
1/800 sec @ F8, ISO 400, manual exposure at 500mm