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.
There are so many reasons to like the Brown Pelican. I love to watch them dive for fish along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are so big with a length of a meter and wingspan of 2-3 meters, yet they are docile and quiet.
Yet another important reason to love brown pelicans is the important role they play as an indicator species to help humans monitor the effects of climate change. We can monitor their numbers and migration to help understand the changes in fish population.
As I captured some action shots of the Brown Pelican flying low along the Gulf, I was able to sequence the glide, the “wheels down” position and the soft landing on the water. Today, I combined the three photographs into one to illustrate the sequence. In reality, this sequence would happen over a greater distance.
The brown pelican is a family favorite. They fly in a V formation, and they never bother people. They just enjoy fishing and flying and make our time on the Pelican Bay beach entertaining.
The easiest way to identify a Snowy Egret is to spot his Yellow Galoshes. This image from January 2020 in Naples, Florida shows the Snowy stepping from rock to rock while looking for some fresh fish to catch and eat.
While not very skittish, the snowy egrets generally take a step away from you when you approach. It’s best to give them space and not cause them stress in the wild.
Before leaving Florida for the season, I want to share a series of photos of the unique Reddish Egret. It’s a medium sized heron with a mane of elongated reddish feathers, a pink translucent beak and a cool way of dancing while foraging. You can find them in the salt water shallows foraging at low tide.
I observed this adult breeding reddish egret on Sanibel Island at J. N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve in February 2020. My friend marveled at the bushy neck plumage, asking, “Are you sure that’s not hair?”
While I treasure a close-up of each species of bird in its exquisite detail, and I get excited about a more rare capture of a bird in flight, the trifecta of wildlife photography thrills for me is to witness a drama between animals — the rare sighting that leaps beyond good color, detail and composition to tell a story.
Such was my luck late one afternoon on Sanibel Island in February. So far the visit to J.D. Ding Darling Nature Preserve had been pretty uneventful, and I was apologizing to my friend Mary who accompanied me. We had planned our trip to coincide with low tide to observe the large birds feeding, but few white pelicans or roseate spoonbills were in sight.
Here is how the action unfolded: We set up my tripod between the road and the water’s edge to observe for awhile when a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron emerged from the brush. About 4 onlookers pointed and whispered to each other as it paused in the gentle afternoon light. At Ding Darling, most bird watchers are quiet and respectful of wildlife.)
This heron took graceful giant strides, and within a few minutes, it had grabbed a crab in its beak and held it up in the light right in front of us. I had to adjust my 150-600mm zoom lens to 400mm to see the entire bird in the frame, and I could not believe my luck with the beautiful light and the chance to witness the scene.
We quietly contained our amazement (oh my God!) as the heron shook and stabbed the crab til its legs and claws came off and the prey was manageable to go down the hatch, right in front of us. I have numerous photos of this drama, and I will share them with you in the next few blog posts.
I’m now grateful that I saved this series of wildlife photos for this quiet time we are all experiencing now. Please share this blog with your friends who may enjoy it too.
Near Kelly, Wyoming —- Who knew that bison have black tongues? In this image, I caught Mama Bison chewing some plants while looking in my direction. I was shooting with a 600mm lens from a safe distance. At least, we hoped we would be safe!
In this next close-up, you can see the bison trudging up the hill in fresh snow. It was also snowing, windy and cold. I like the raised hoof indicating the action taking place. In no time, all five bison had traveled from the field where they were lying, through the hot spring, across the road and up the hill.
This was our best sighting of the week in Jackson Hole. While we spotted moose several times, we never had a good opportunity for photos like this. A shout out to our guide with Wild Things of Wyoming, Colin Boeh, for his experience with finding and safely observing wildlife in Grand Teton National Park. Thanks to Colin, we had a fascinating and very educational day!