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
Headed back to High Island yesterday to get some more photos from the rookery for an upcoming presentation that I’m doing for Houston Audubon on April 7.
Had the platform all to myself, which was great and worth taking 1/2 day off of work. Challenging to get flight shots from that location so moved down to the second platform and the flight opportunities were amazing. Great egrets and spoonbills were flying back and forth from the rookery island to the trees on the south side of the pond. They would occasionally bank right towards me like this great egret.
1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 800, evaluative metering, aperture priority
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
It’s always fun to watch and photograph great egrets in mating season when they put on a display of their breeding plumage. Caught this mating dance at High Island’s rookery at sunrise.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
1/60 sec @ F4, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, aperture priority
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
There have been lots of posts on Facebook about some short-eared owls hanging out at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in SE Texas. Made a trip over there recently to check them out. Took a couple of trips to finally find them and it was a blast. Ended up spending about 1 1/2 hours watching them fly back and forth hunting over a large area. Most of the photos were at a long distance away but they did make a few close passes, which were very exciting.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head.
1/2000 sec @ F6.3, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
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
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