…morning light is magic…

Posts tagged “Reddish Egret

FeatherFest “Birds Eye View” Field Trip to Bolivar Flats

Took a group of willing photographers from Galveston’s FeatherFest to Bolivar Flats on Friday morning for some down and dirty action while taking photos of shorebirds on my “Birds Eye View” field trip.  Several members of the group had never been to Bolivar before so it was going to be a treat if the weather and birds cooperated.  The weather forecast was bleak up until the morning of the shoot.  Instead of forecasted thunderstorms, we were met with clouds, waves, light winds, temps in the low 70’s (deg F) and very high humidity.  Along with lots of gnats.  It didn’t look very promising when we turned onto the beach as there were waves and no sandbars or birds in sight until we got to the parking area.   Spotted some birds further down the shoreline so my hopes were raised.

We started out at the first small sandbar sticking out from the shoreline to practice the technique of getting down low and eye level with the birds.  There were several ground pods being used in the group along with a few tripods.  There were a few Willets, Terns and Sanderlings in that area but nothing overly exciting.  Spent a few minutes there and moved on down the beach to try to get close to a group of Black Skimmers.

Aperture priority, 1/400 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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There were lots of  Skimmers hanging out at our next stop.  We got as close as I felt that we could without spooking them and ended up with some good photo op’s of the Skimmers taking off and landing back at the same location.

Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F 5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Further down the beach, I spotted a Reddish Egret standing near the shoreline.  We made him our next objective and got into position, hoping for some fishing action.  He then just basically stood there on one foot looking around and occasionally squawking.  After a while, I mentioned to the group that we could stay and wait for him to move or go back to the Skimmers.  He then quickly took off and headed back up the beach past the Skimmers.  My initial reaction was that he took off because I stated talking.  However, he ended up flying off to confront a White Morph Reddish Egret.  Reddish Egrets are very territorial and don’t like company when feeding.

Aperture priority, 1/500 sec @ F 9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation

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We got up and heading back up the beach towards the Reddish Egrets.  The White Morph was dancing around fishing so I focused on getting close to him.  We ended up with some great photo op’s as he was very close to shore and catching lots of fish.  Some of the group stayed with the other Reddish Egret and had a similar experience.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F 11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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It turned out to be a great morning at Bolivar despite the cloudy weather.  The group had a good time and hope that they got some great photos.  Didn’t get them quite wet or dirty enough but they got a good taste of the possibilities at Bolivar Flats.  Thanks to everyone who signed up for this trip and to Chris for helping me out.  I’m looking forward to next year already.

Also, special thanks to Julie Anne Brown and her team of volunteers for all of their hard work to pull off another very successful FeatherFest.  They do all of the hard work and I get to take people to play in the sand.

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F 11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Catching the Light

With the water jumping above the surface from the quick thrusting of his beak, this Reddish Egret was able to catch some food and some nice light.  As he came up with a small bite, the sunlight reflected off the water at the tip of his beak and radiated down in its reflection.

My goal every time that I go out is to play with the light at sunrise.  This Reddish Egret was literally playing along with me.

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

1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Fur-Like Feathers

The feathers on a Reddish Egret’s head can sometimes look more like fur than feathers.  The textures make this bird one of my favorites to photograph.  They can be very territorial and ruffle up their feathers when another Reddish Egret comes around as shown in the first photo below.  On a previous post, Lyle commented about the “mane” on these egrets, which is a good description, especially in the last photo.

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

1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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1/1000 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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1/1000 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret Up Close

This Reddish Egret landed near by and ended up walked around me.  Makes lying around  in the wet sand worth it.  These are close to full frame shots cropped to vertical.

Had to crank up the ISO to 5000 to get up to 1/500 sec shutter speed.  Helps to justify the price tag (to me but not my wife) on the 1DX as I wouldn’t have gotten this shot with my 7D as the noise would have been too bad at these settings.

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

1/500 sec @ F8, ISO 5000, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/500 sec @ F8, ISO 5000, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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B&W Splash

While walking back to my car, saw this Redding Egret fishing near the shoreline.  Almost kept walking as I was worn out from an active early morning shoot but decided to lay down one more time.  Glad that I did as he cooperated with some good feeding shots.

One way to get action shots with shorebirds is to start shooting a burst of shots when their head starts moving down towards the water.  Was able to capture a nice see-through splash as his head dove into the water.  The high shutter speed froze the action when the splash was at its peak.

With the light being harsh around 9:00 a.m., the colors were very muted so decided to use B&W on this one.

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

1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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A Very Good Day

Bolivar Flats along the Gulf of Mexico in SE Texas continues to amaze me.  Made my second trip over the long holiday weekend yesterday and this one was special.  My typical goals at Bolivar include trying to find and photograph Avocets and Reddish Egrets.  All other birds are icing on the cake.  It was a target rich environment and had the opportunity to have my cake with lots of icing on top.

In my FeatherFest workshops, I stress to the participants to keep your head on a swivel and look behind you as the best shot may be there.  Took my own advice and it paid off big time on this outing.

All photos were 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.   Very little cropping on most of these photos.

Got up at 3:30 a.m. and made it to Bolivar before the sun came up.  Hiked along the beach to check out where the birds were located and saw this Great Blue Heron flying by.  Picked up my rig, including the ground pod, and got a series of blurred flight shots.  Got a nice blurred wing spread when he landed.

1/20 sec @ F16, ISO 1600, +2/3 exposure compensation, evaluative metering, handheld

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Worked my way down the beach and saw a group of White Pelicans, Gulls and Avocets in the distance.  Didn’t see a practical way to get close to them so headed to one of my favorite spots and settled on a small sandbar just off shore within reach of a Reddish Egret.  Got a few shots of him dancing around when the tide came in and the sand bar went under water.  Decided to stay put and laid in the water waiting for some more bird action.  Patience paid off as I heard a group of three American Oystercatchers coming in for a landing near by.  Got off my first shot as this one was landing and he gave me a very nice wing spread.  They only hung around for a couple of minutes and took off.

1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 4000, +1 1/3 exposure compensation, evaluative metering

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Looked behind me and saw a Reddish Egret dancing in the distance so headed back in that direction.  Saw what I thought was a Snowy Egret and decided to lay down and get a few silhouette shots.  Discovered that he was actually a White Morph Reddish Egret, which ended up providing some great shots over the next hour.

1/4000 sec @ F9, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Followed this White Morph back to near my original location when a Reddish Egret flew in and scared him off.  After the Reddish Egret didn’t do anything but stand there, turned around to see that the White Morph had landed back in the area where I first spotted him.  Moved my position again and ended up working his way back towards me.  Got some of my best White Morph shots as he danced around.  I’ll post some more shots of him later.

1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 800, +1 exposure compensation, evaluative metering

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After the White Morph walked passed me, heard a familiar bird and looked behind me to see a single Avocet starting to feed along side a Yellow Legs and a Willet.  The challenge at this point was to rotate around in the wet sand without spooking him.  The Avocet kept moving back and forth and got close enough for some head shots.  This one is uncropped.

1/400 sec @ F16, ISO 800, evaluative metering

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A very good day indeed.


Reddish Egret in Golden Light

Made another trip to Bolivar Flats on Saturday.  The wind was supposed to be fairly calm on Sat. and got confirmation of that when heading into the Texas City area and could see the steam coming off the of refineries going straight up.  Always a good sign.  Was hoping for completely calm, like glass, water but didn’t get that lucky.  Arrived at the Flats around 6:30 a.m. and had plenty of time to head down the beach and set up on the ground before the sun came up.  Picked a location on a sandbar with water on both sides of me and the sun at my back.  Turned out to be a good location with an abundant amount of bird activity, i.e. a target rich environment.

Was getting shots of a Marbled Godwit to my right when I looked around and saw this Reddish Egret to my left.  He gave me a nice pose when the sun popped out above the clouds.  Nothing like seeing a gorgeous sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico and having birds like this to photograph.  I’m very luck to live in this neck of the woods.

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, 1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Reddish Strut

Here are a couple of shots of the Reddish Egret that walked by me as described in my last post.  It pays to take shorebird photos from the prone position.  Only minor cropping required.

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

1/400 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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1/1000 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Reddish Chase

Here are a few more shots of Reddish Egrets from my last trip to Bolivar Flats in Texas during my FeatherFest field trip.  One Reddish Egret was fishing when another came in and started chasing him around.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II head

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/640 sec @ F9, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm

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Reddish Egret Landing

While taking Skimmer photos, this Reddish Egret came in for a landing right in front of me.  There were 4 of them that flew in together and this one made the most dramatic landing in decent light.

1/1250 sec @ F4, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation

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The Catch

My Reddish Egret buddy dove his head into the water and came up with this very large fish.  Another one of my tips from my bird photography classes is to start shooting when you see their head starting to go down towards the water.  That way you can get a cool spash shot or if your lucky, a fish coming out of the water.  I was surprised at how big the fish was and I’m always amazed that they can swollow it whole.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens with 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II head.

Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 400, evaluative metering

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Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 400, evaluative metering

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Dance of the Reddish Egret

What a difference a week makes.  At FeatherFest, Bolivar was at high tide with limited shorebird activity.  A week later, it was low tide with lots of birds.  I was disappointed that my field trip participants didn’t get a chance to see what I did.  There was another photographer already at the flats shooting when I got there before sunrise.  Good for him.  Made my way past him to check out my favorite spot and eventially hit the jackpot.

During my classroom presentation, two or my recommended tips are to 1)  keep your head on a swivel and look behind you as your best shot may be there and 2)  be patient.  Luckily I practiced what I preached and laid down and waited for the action to happen.  Was taking photos of some small shore birds when I turned around at one point to find a Reddish Egret dancing around right behind me while trying to catch a fish.  Had to turn around slow enough not to spook him.  Luckily he was more interested in the fish than me.  They are one of my favorite shorebirds to watch and photograph.  They dance around with their wings outstretched to scare the fish.  This one was in prime form and a second one joined the fun a few minutes later.

He was almost too close at 700mm but was able to get some decent nearly full framed shots of him dancing around and catching a very large fish.  I’ll save the fish photos for later.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens with Canon 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

Aperture priority, 1/800 sec @ F9, ISO 400, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation or flash, 700mm

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Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, evaluative metering, no exposure compensation or flash, 700mm

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Fish Racing

This Reddish Egret was trying to catch a fish but didn’t notice that he had scared another one out of the water right beside him.  Let the fish racing begin!  Taken at Bolivar Flats while laying down with my ground pod.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens and 1.4x III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head

1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm


Reddish Wings

The Reddish Egret saga continues from Bolivar Flats.  Here are a couple of photos of a Reddish Egret is full fishing mode.  They are very animated with spreading their wings out to scare the fish.  These full frame shots were taken while laying down in the sand with my ground pod.  Had to crank up the exposure compensation on this one with the bright background of the water causing the camera to reduce the exposure.  Always have to play with the exposure compensation while using Aperture priority to get the proper exposure.  Becomes second nature after lots of practice.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II head.

1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation


Reddish Egret…almost but…

Here are a few more shots of a Reddish Egret fishing from Bolivar Flats, TX.  From stalking its prey to going for the gold.  This one was so close to catching the fish in mid-air.  Would have been the money shot.  I’ll have to settle for bronze.  Hopefully won’t have to wait another 4 years to try again.

It’s always challenging to shoot action shots from laying down on your stomach but using the full Wimberley head on the ground pod makes it easier.  Having practiced with my 100-400 and Wimberley Sidekick for about 5 years made for an easy transition to the big lens.

Taken with Canon 7D + Canon 500mm F4 IS II + 1.4x III teleconverter, mounted on Skimmer ground pod with full Wimberley head.

1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, evaluative metering

1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, evaluative metering

1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

1/800 sec @ F7.1, ISO 500, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation


Reddish Egret Fishing

I’m always amazed at how good Reddish Egrets are at catching fish.  They dart around with their wings extended and almost always come up with a fish.  Other shore birds tend to stand around and watch as these guys are getting their stomachs full.  I thought that last weekend was going to be a bust at Bolivar but it turned out to be one of my best Reddish Egret outings to date.  There were tons of people camping out on the beach and lots of wade fisherman in the water off of the beach, which is not a good combination for bird photography.  The beach was also not cooperating.  About 75% of the beach was covered in several inches of dead seaweed, which I haven’t seen in this area before.  It was also high tide which is the worst time to go.  However, with wanting to try out my new 500 F4 IS II lens, I wasn’t going to wait.

Got some silhouette shots at sunrise and then headed down the beach to see if any Peregrine Falcons were around.  No dice on the falcons so I headed back towards the car.  A Reddish Egret was standing on the lone exposed sand bar near the parking area.  He flew back down the beach so I followed him around for a while.  Didn’t have much luck and ended up back at the sand bar and laid down to get some Willet shots.  Then the fun began.  Three Reddish Egrets then showed up to fish in my area with one being right in front of me.  Good times were had by all of the local critters, especially me.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, 1.4x III teleconverter,  mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley gimbal head.

1/400 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, evaluative metering, + 1 exposure compensation

1/400 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, evaluative metering, + 1 exposure compensation

1/500 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, evaluative metering, + 1 exposure compensation


Down the Hatch, Reddish Egret Style

Found this Reddish Egret chugging down a fish at Bolivar Flats.  Faster shutter speed would have been good but I’ll take it.  Ended up chopping off his feet in the original shot so I cropped the photo to this perspective.

 

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II, 1.4X III teleconverter,  mounted on Skimmer ground pod/Wimberley head.

1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, evaluative metering, + 1 exposure compensation

1/640 sec @ F7.1, ISO 400, evaluative metering, + 1 exposure compensation


Reddish Egret Close-ups from Bolivar Flats

After five months, finally made it back to my favorite location for shore bird photography, Bolivar Flats.  The high tides in the morning have kept me away but went back today to continue to test out my Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens.  Very glad that I went as there was more action than anticipated, including several Reddish Egrets.  Used the 1.4x III yesterday at Galveston and today at Bolivar.  Didn’t even take the bag along to put the teleconverter in, which ended up being a mistake as one of the Reddish Egret’s was too close for 700mm.  Had to settle on head shots several times.  Ended up missing some great fishing sequences because that he was too close.  Live and learn.  The teleconverter worked well but the focus would hunt with busy backgrounds.  Ended up using all focus points on the close up shots when he would go for the fish. I’ll post some of the action shots later.  I’m going to have some fun with this lens.

Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4x III teleconverter, mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley gimbal head.  These are all close to full frame shots.

1/640 sec @ F7.1, 700mm, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, AV mode

1/1250 sec @ F7.1, 700mm, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, AV mode

1/800 sec @ F7.1, 700mm, ISO 400, evaluative metering, AV mode


Reddish Egret Striking a Pose

One of my favorite shore birds is the Reddish Egret.  They are fun to watch when fishing as they raise their wings up to scare the fish.  They jump and fly around like a crazy person as they go after their prey.  They put lots of effort into it but are usually successful.  They can fish circles around nearby Great Egrets.  I’ve seen Great Egrets follow the Reddish Egrets around and then steal their fish away from them.

This Reddish Egret was hanging out last weekend at east beach on Galveston Island.  Initially was only getting silhouette shots of him and had to work my way around to get some better light.  Gotta love the early morning light…at least I do…

Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens

1/1,000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, spot metering, no flash, hand-held

1/1,000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, spot metering, no flash, hand-held


Reddish Egret Fishing

Here are a few Reddish Egret shots from Bryan Beach, TX taken about 3 weeks ago.  It was a very windy day and slightly overcast.  Got there late as I took the long way around via Bolivar and San Luis Pass.  Nothing going on around there so I kept going west.  Glad that I did.  Lots of activity that day with a couple of Reddish Egrets dancing around.  Haven’t seen them since but got lucky that day.  It’s always cool to see how they fish with them raising their wings up in the air to scare the fish.  They are excellent fisherman and can fill up while other birds just stand around and watch.  Their eyes must be better than mine. 

Windy days can be a challenge but also rewarding.  You can see the wind blowing the water in the second shot and the egret leaning into the wind on the last two.

Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens