Singing “Mockingbird”

When my children were little, my husband and I lulled them to sleep with a rocking chair and our favorite lullabies.

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”

Those memories are precious.

But I don’t think I have ever SEEN a mockingbird until recently on an early morning bird tour in Naples, Florida. This mockingbird stayed on the pine branch long enough for me to capture this photograph. Now I can SHOW my children (and my grandchildren!) a live mockingbird.

Wood Stork Kneeling

Wood storks are an uncommon bird. They were once endangered, but now the species has been upgraded to “threatened.” This time of year (February) most of them are sitting on their nests, so they are not out and about and easy to find.

This wood stork was preening its feathers on the Royal Poinciana Golf Club early Monday morning. We can’t tell if it is male or female, for the birds offer no outward signs of their sex. Perhaps it will pick up some fish as take-out dinner to take back to the nest.

#woodstork, #bird, #threatened, #threatenedspecies, #nesting, #preening, #florida, #golfcourse, #naples
Because the knees bend backwards, this wood stork looks like it is sitting on its elbows. Its a very large bird, making the great blue heron look like its skinny cousin.

Brown Pelican Yoga

Watching and waiting, and watching and waiting some more is a practice that is rewarding in wildlife photography. As you will see here, some behaviors happen so fast, that a photographer will only capture them if he or she is already poised to shoot.

Not much happening here: two brown pelicans preening their feathers in Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida.
Whoa! One Brown Pelican stretches its neck to give me a good view of its pouch.
Brown Pelican stretches his neck even further! What a moment.
Final image in the surprising series of Brown Pelican yoga.

White Pelicans in Flight

#whitepelican, #pelican, #flying, #inflight, #wings, #sky, #howto, #nikon, #tamron
White Pelicans soar above Sanibel Island, showing their black wingtips. Their wingspan is the second largest for a bird in North America.

It’s certainly a challenge to photograph birds in flight. Your shutter speed must be fast enough (1/1000 second) and your depth of field sufficient to keep the birds in focus (f/20), as they won’t stop for you to capture your photograph. I used an ISO of 800 on a bright sunny day, to allow me to shorten the shutter speed and dial down the aperture. It helps if the birds are flying roughly parallel to your focal plane, rather than toward or away from you. And it takes practice. These beautiful birds look amazing as they come in for a landing, too.

3-2-1 — Contact. Back to the White Pelican Squadron on the sandbar.

The White Pelican says…

As the giant White Pelicans on Sanibel Island raised their wings and assumed different positions, I was poised to capture several close up photographs. Each pose seemed to call for a caption.

To me, it looked like the White Pelican was trying on an oversized dress. “Does this fit?”

The White Pelican’s reflection in the water makes a natural mirror.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to observe these beautiful migratory birds, who arrived from the northern United States in January.

Brown Pelican in Action

I have often tried to photograph the Brown Pelican in action: taking off, landing, flying, fishing but they are so fast moving that it is difficult to track, focus and release the shutter in time to capture a crisp image. But you know what they say: stick with it, and “luck comes to the well prepared” photographer.

#brownpelican, #pelican, #dingdarling, #sanibel, #birdphotography, #howto, #travel, #travelphotography, #nikon, #tamron, #manfrotto
With my Nikon D800 (with 600mm of glass) mounted on a tripod and focus fixed on this Brown Pelican, I captured this image of his outstretched wings.

I have always loved the Brown Pelican, because their grace belies their large stocky body, and they are quiet birds who frequent the beach. It is fascinating to watch them dive-bomb fish by careening straight down into the ocean to stun the fish and later scoop them up in their large beak, letting the whole fish glide into their ample pouch.

After a brief stop on the sandbar, off the Brown Pelican goes again, revealing another view of those huge wings.

This bird photography adventure took place at the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida.

“Honey, I’m Home!”

Sometimes do you just wish that when you walked in the door, your sweetheart would greet you at the door with a big hug and kiss? Or maybe just stop what he/she is doing and look up?

#whitepelicans, #pelican, #cormorant, #dingdarling, #sanibel, #sanibelisland, #florida, #birds, #birdphotography, #nikon, #sandbar, #wings, #wingspan, #attention, #pair, #sweetie, #valentine, #wildlife
Two American White Pelicans share the sandbar with a cormorant in Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida.

That moment, of wishing for for attention from your sweetie when you arrive — or land on the sandbar — came to mind as I watched these American White Pelicans come and go on Sanibel Island. These enormous migratory birds, averaging 16 pounds, have the second largest wingspan of all birds in North America, second only to the California Condor. This one may have wintered as far north as Wyoming, and now the squadron is enjoying the Florida sunshine and lots of fresh seafood.

As the White Pelicans landed and stretched their wings and then preened their feathers, I thought of so many captions, imagining what the body language seemed to say. (More White Pelican photos to come!)

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. May your sweetie look up when you enter the room!