In Florida, I watch pelicans and osprey dive for fish, and sandpipers run from the approaching wave on the beach, but I have never witnessed a whole flock of birds jump the waves. That’s why I was intrigued by this sight in Iceland.
First of all, it amazes me that horses, birds, reindeer and seals can withstand the bitter cold and gale force winds of the Iceland winter. I saw all these types of wildlife roaming free and feeding on what Nature provides.
Then, I found myself at the foot of Vestrahorn on a black sand beach at dusk, which is mid-afternoon in January. I was photographing the mountain towering over the beach and reflecting in the wet sad. But a flock of birds floating near the shore caught my eye.
I liked the rosy tones in the sky, the snow in the mountains and the repeating waves approaching the shore. What do you like about this image?
It’s fun to spot the Purple Gallinule tiptoeing through the freshwater stream, pecking around for food. When it steps into the sunlight, its brilliant colors delight the birdwatcher.
The Cornell School of Ornithology describes the Purple Gallinule’s behavior:
Purple Gallinules forage near the water’s edge, where they walk nimbly on muddy margins, or on aquatic vegetation. They hunt a bit like domestic chickens, walking slowly and investigating the vegetation with outstretched neck, or pecking at fruits or tubers. Like most rails, Purple Gallinules swim well, and they sometimes perch high in bushes and trees, where their long toes make them agile climbers.
As an eyewitness to a bird in flight, I know the beauty we see is fleeting. In the blink of an eye, the sighting is a memory — as long as I didn’t blink! On the other hand, two photographs taken in quick succession can be studied, savored and enjoyed forever.
As a wildlife photographer, capturing a continuous series of a bird in flight is one of my goals, since I love seeing those beautiful wings outstretched. That’s not to mention the rewarding feeling of meeting the challenge of focus and freezing action of a fast moving subject!
Contrast these views with the serene beauty of the Great Blue Heron at rest, as it watches the water for a fish to catch.
A fish swimming near the surface doesn’t have a chance when an adult osprey spots it and descends to sink its sharp talons into it. Once the osprey grips the fish, up it flies to the nest where young osprey chicks are waiting. Atop the nest, the osprey parent shreds the fish and feeds the youngsters. It’s a tender moment for any species…
Today’s episode on bird behavior features the Little Blue Heron, now officially named “Blue Heron.” You’ll notice its blue beak and smaller size in comparison to the Great Blue Heron. As you follow along this series of four photographs, you will see the heron wade into shallow water and look for food with a head tilt.
Next, the blue heron suddenly dunks its head under water to pierce or grab its prey.
Finished feeding here, the little blue heron takes flight for a new location.
The Ibis — large white wading birds with pink curved beaks — are often seen in Florida. They feed in groups, pecking the ground in shallow water or near the water. I like them because they are beautiful, peaceful birds with black wingtips, whether I see them soaring overhead, landing on the beach or walking through my neighborhood.
The Ibis were active at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a wildlife observation site near Naples, Florida. A flock of three flew overhead, making a racquet with their unique “quack.” I observed one perched atop a high tree branch, and watched him long enough to photograph him fly into the brilliant blue sky.
Later, I watched an Ibis in a tree gathering nesting material. Usually, I see Ibis in shallow water or in the grass feeding, so this was interesting to watch.
A more typical Ibis sighting is this one from Sanibel Island at low tide, where I observed this Ibis catching a crab in his beak.
Welcome back, American White Pelicans! Every winter it is delightful to see the return of the true snowbird, this beautiful and enormous bird that migrates to Florida from the Great Lakes region. I usually find large flocks on them on Sanibel Island in the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and further south in “Ten Thousand Islands.”
In this close up photograph, the closely packed White Pelicans made an artistic arrangement. I see the composition as a white Christmas tree. I share the image with you as I send best wishes to you for a wonderful Christmas holiday filled with peace, joy and love.
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The start of every wildlife photography outing is overshadowed by doubt. Will I see anything today? Will the wildlife come to me? There is a great deal of luck involved in success: while we plan for weather, the angle of the sun and the tides, we don’t control the wildlife. We just pray for it.
The other half of the success equation is preparedness. How often do we go out there? I tell myself that I won’t see anything staying home or sleeping in! How good is your equipment? How well do you use it?
On my last trip to Sanibel Island, Mother Nature gave me a gift. The sought after Roseate Spoonbills were feeding at low tide in the shadows of the mangroves. I was there with my Sony mirrorless camera, a 600mm lens and a tripod. All the pieces came together.
I delight in the pink hues of the Roseate Spoonbill’s plumage. In this photo the splash of pink contrasts the dark shadows of the surrounding mangrove and water.