…morning light is magic…

Posts tagged “Texas Gulf Coast

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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Reddish Egret Dancing

While getting prepared for leading workshops at Galveston’s FeatherFest again this year, went back over some photos from last years event and found this one taken at Bolivar Flats.  This reddish egret was dancing around and put on a great show for my group.

Wasn’t sure why the two birds were hanging out together until observing interesting behavior a few weeks later when a pelican kept stealing fish from a reddish egret.  Whatever works for getting breakfast.

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

1/2500 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Happy New Year!

Hoping that all of you had a great 2017.  My plan was to post my favorite shots for 2017 before now but I got tied up over the holidays so it will have to wait for early Jan.

2018 will start out with a bang for me from a photography perspective and then have some challenges.  It’s going to be an interesting year for sure.

Spend the morning of Christmas Eve at Bolivar Flats along the gulf coast taking shorebird photos, along with a few raptors.  While walking out along the shoreline, saw a dark spot out on the sand that looked out of place.  Trusted my instinct and picked up my camera and spotted a peregrine falcon.  Got very excited and walking slowly closer to him, laid down, took a couple of shots, went to check my histogram and he took off.

Walked away from that area over to one of my favorite spots around the corner and spotted a couple of hundred Avocets feeding just off shore.  Laid down and belly crawled towards them.  The muck was very slimy and ended up on my knees and pushed my ground pod along for about 60 ft and stayed put for a couple of hours.

All of a sudden, all of the birds flew away, which usually means that either a raptor or human was nearby.  Spun around on my stomach thanks to the slimy muck and caught this Northern Harrier flying along the vegetation line.

Ended up seeing a couple of Harriers and four Caracara’s.  Tis the season for migrating raptors.

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, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +2 exposure compensation.

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Reddish Egret Portrait in Golden Light

Golden light at sunrise rocks.  Got this Reddish Egret portrait shot from Bolivar Flats along the Gulf Coast on Friday.  As usual, was using my ground pod to get the low-level look.

I try to get into position about 1/2 before the sun comes up to get some cool pre-dawn color but that’s not practical with the time change.  Have to get up at 4:00 a.m. at the latest to make the 6:00 a.m. Bolivar Ferry.  Was walking out to my spot when the sun popped but it was still good.  Don’t know about the birds, but I had a great time.

Started out shooting black necked stilts when this reddish egret flew in.  He didn’t stick around long but loved the golden light on him and the weeds in the background.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm 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 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Reddish Egret Fight

These two reddish egrets went toe to toe yesterday at Bolivar Flats along the gulf coast of Texas.  Had my ISO cranked up to 3200 while taking static shots of a couple of white morph reddish egrets when these two started fighting.  Should have increased to ISO to 6400 but didn’t have enough time to change any settings as the action happened very fast.  Lots of blurred action in this series but it was very fun to watch and photograph.  More to come…

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

1/20 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Black Skimmer’s Landing Gear

This black skimmer was doing a fly-by and actually skimming at Bolivar flats, which is a somewhat rare event in that location.  From my experience over the past several years, they usually just fly around looking for a place to land so this was a very nice change of pace.  Especially since this was during a guide trip that I was leading with three great guys from New Zealand, Canada and Indiana.

It’s always a challenge to capture these birds in flight while using a ground pod since your range of motion is limited while laying on the ground.  Added bonus was he briefly turned directly towards me.  Also like that his feet were hanging like landing gear coming down.

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 @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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You Lookin at Me??

You lookin at me?  Better not be.  My boys behind me will come after you.

Made another trip to Bolivar Flats over the Memorial Day weekend while guiding three clients for two days.  They were at the end of a 3 week trip across south Texas with the Galveston area their last stop.  Thanks again to Kent, Bill and Ian for allowing me to show you around this part of Texas.  Had a great time and got to see lots of birds.

Made two stops to Bolivar Flats and found some avocets, reddish egrets and lots of snowy egrets.  Had several opportunities for some interaction shots which are always fun.  One was a little weird with an avocet trying to mate with an inanimate object.  More on that later.

While focusing on a avocet, saw two snowy egrets walking behind him.  Switched my attention to the background and visualized this shot coming as they crossed behind him.  The avocet cooperated by staring at me while getting some scratching action in.  Made for a cool shot.

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

1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Pelican Stealing White Morph’s Fish

Here are some photos of the brown pelican scaring the white morph reddish egret in order to steal his fish.  He surprised me as well and they were too close at 700mm and ended up clipping the pelican’s wings in the first shot.  You can see the fish drop in the second photo with the pelican getting ready to enjoy his spoils in the last 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

1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Flying Fish – White Morph Style

As a continuation from my last post, both white morph reddish egrets that we saw caught some very large fish.  A lazy or very smart brown pelican then started to chase the white morphs to scare them into dropping the fish so that he could reap the benefits of the great fishing skills of the egrets.

This white morph apparently fled the scene and kept the fish in tow while flying, which was a first for me to see, let alone photograph.  Luckily he landed fairly close to us with a very nice wing spread.

Got some photos of the pelican getting one of the white morphs to drop his fish later in the morning.  I’ll post those next time.

This was one of my most successful guiding trips to Bolivar Flats.  This was a very rare event to witness/photograph so I’m very pleased that my client got to see this behavior and get some great photos.

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, 1/2500 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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White Morph Reddish Egret

On this recent trip to Bolivar Flats in Texas, the reddish egrets were out in force, including two white morph’s.  I was guiding Bruno from San Diego, who hadn’t seen a white morph before so it was great timing.  They danced around right in front of us and both ended up catching some very large fish and had a close encounter with a brown pelican.  More photos to come.

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 @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Brown Pelicans in Missing Man Formation

These brown pelicans were flying in formation in a line when three of them broke off in what looks like the missing man formation.  Taken during my second trip to Galveston’s FeatherFest.

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

1/1600 sec @ F5, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Ground Level Bird Photography Field Trip #1 – Galveston FeatherFest 2017

Last Thursday through Sunday was a very busy time for me at Galveston’s Texas FeatherFest.  I led three classroom workshops and three field trips.  This was my 5th year being one of the photography leaders and it was a blast, as always.

My field trip on Saturday started off by catching the 6:00 a.m. Bolivar Ferry.  I met up with my group once we got off of the ferry and they followed me to Bolivar Flats.  It was going to be a sunny morning with low tide so I was hoping that the birds were going to be out.  Reports from the previous day indicated that the tide was abnormally low along the jetty without many birds in that area.  Upon pulling up to the parking area on the beach, I could see that there were some exposed sandbars and what looked like a flock of avocets, which was a major relief.  After we geared up, I gave everyone a quick lesson on how to try to try to keep their hands clean when lying down and getting up and we headed out.

There were two other photographers lying on the beach shooting the avocets so I decided to take my group out on the sandbar so that we weren’t looking into the sun all morning.  We walked through the water to the sandbar without incident, which wasn’t the case on Sunday.  More on that on my next post.

Ended up having the group lay down on the sandbar in a long row so that we wouldn’t be in each others line of fire for photography.  We had 8 participants along with myself and my liaison, who helps me keep track of everyone and gets us back to the headquarters on time.  I had the first person lay down near the water line at the north edge of the sandbar since the tide was supposed to be receding.  Well that theory didn’t work too well as the water level came up later and the first couple of people started getting wet so we had to shift the line to the right, which would have been an interesting video.

The flock of avocets kept walking back and forth across the area between the sandbars, which provided some decent photo op’s.  It’s always a challenge of trying to get one of the birds isolated from the flock.  Decided to get a little closer after a while so we practiced crawling on the sand while pushing our ground pods along.

After the action died down, I had the group rotate 180 deg. so that we could get some photos of willets that were in the water behind us.  Also, I had noticed several groups of avocets and brown pelicans flying by our sandbar and it finally hit me that we should turn around and get photos of them flying towards us.  That turned out to be a great decision as they birds kept coming our way for the rest of the field trip.

Thanks to Richard Howard for being my liaison and to everyone who came out to play in the wet sand with me.  I’m hoping that you had as much fun as I did and got some great photos from a different perspective that what you normally 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.

This photo is of the flock of avocets that kept walking back and forth in front of us.

Aperture priority, 1/1250 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Caught these two avocets that were isolated from the rest of the group.  I’m always looking for how two birds will interact of make an interesting photo together, such as their beaks crossing when coming close to each other, etc.  These two made a cool mirror image of each other.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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After we turned around, several groups of avocets flew close to us.  This group was clustered together when I first spotted them and they then spread out as they got closer to us.  The ones on my far right were doing some very cool synchronized flying with common wing positions.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation, 700mm

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This is the same group 1 second later as they got a little closer.

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation

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Here are the group photos so that I have evidence that yes, they actually laid down in the wet sand and…

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

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…that they got wet and dirty.  Mission accomplished.

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

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Willet Wars

On my last trip to Bolivar Flats, the willets were in fighting mode with breeding season in full swing.  While taking photos of avocets, the willets were squawking away and chasing each other around.  These two started going at it and were circling around after one grabbed the others neck.  He then lifted off trying to get away but the other one held on for a while.  He finally broke free and left the area.

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, 1/1000 sec @F 7.1, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, + 1 1/3 exposure compensation

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Pelican in Rising Sun

In preparation for my two field trips that I’m leading to Bolivar Flats during Galveston’s FeatherFest, made a scouting trip to the coast last Sunday.  My original goal was to scout out the area but will have to try that one again as I didn’t get past the parking area due to a flock of Avocets being right there before the sun came up.

Caught this brown pelican doing a fly-by as he passed near the sun.  Was able to see him coming as I’ve learned to shoot with both eyes open, which is one of the tips in one of my classroom workshops that weekend.

Very little cropping on this shot, which made it a little more challenging than normal for a flight shot off of a ground pod with the limited range of motion from side to side.

Here is a link to the FeatherFest website.  We have several great photography leaders with both classroom workshops and field trips.  This will be my 5th year leading my events.  As of a week ago, there were a few spots left on my trips so check them out if interested.

http://www.galvestonfeatherfest.com/

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 @ F7.1, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation

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Reddish Egret vs. Great White Egret

While taking photos of a Reddish Egret fishing, a Great Egret flew in to challenge the Reddish for the best fishing spot.  The Great Egret won this confrontation.

Although the sun was reflecting off of the water, had use positive exposure compensation to get lighted up the birds.  It blew out the water but it still works.

Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X 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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Aperture priority, 1/3200 sec @ F9, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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White Morph Reddish Egret

Found two White Morph Reddish Egrets at Bolivar Flats last weekend while guiding my old buddy Newton.  He brought along Ruth Hoyt, who is an excellent professional photographer/guide at south Texas ranches, like Laguna Seca, where I first met her.  It was great to see both of them again.

The tide wasn’t low but the birds were out in force.  We started with a group of Willets and other small shorebirds with a lone Avocet nearby.  There was a group of Avocets within striking distance but they were spooked and took off.

Spotted a couple of Reddish Egrets further down the shoreline and headed that direction.  The Reddish Egrets weren’t very active initially so Newton and I headed back up the shoreline to a group of Black Skimmers.

We then spotted at least two White Morph Reddish Egrets back down the shoreline so we headed back in that direction.  Lots of up and down on this trip.  Found two White Morph’s and two Reddish Egrets along with one Great Egret standing around.  They eventually started to catch fish with one of the Reddish Egret’s trying to chase the two white morph’s away.

This White Morph was striking some nice poses with his feathers all perked up as he was checking out the other egrets.

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 @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F9, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm

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High Hopes Dashed…Activated Plan B

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

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My two new best friends…

Aperture priority, 1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1/3 exposure compensation

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Willets with some nice crossed beak action

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 2/3 exposure compensation

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Yellowlegs checking me out with some direct eye contact

Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, + 1 exposure compensation

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