Meet the Avocet

I met an avocet for the first time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. These birds sometimes live on the south east shores of the United States, but they are more common on East Texas coast and in California. I was captivated by the unique thin beak  curving up. The bird is about 16″ tall and slender with delicate legs and beak. If you find it feeding in the wild, you will see it wading along the shore and in marshes, sweeping for little insects and other edible creatures.

#avocet, #bird, #wildlife, #monterey, #aquarium, #shorebird, #wadingbird
The avocet’s delicate beak sweeps the sand for tiny bits of food.

While American avocets display a rust colored neck during breeding season, this one was purely grey and white.

#bird #wildlife, #monterey, #aquarium, #shorebird, #wadingbird, #beak
The graceful avocet at the Monterey Bay Aquarium has an unusual beak that curves upward.

Have you seen this bird? Where?

Iceland’s Arctic Terns

Vigur Island in the north of Iceland is a dynamic place to observe Arctic Terns and Puffins nesting. Talk about isolation? Only one farmer lives on the island with his family and his own electric generator. In the summer he hosts small groups of visitors coming from nearby Islafjordur.

We were among those lucky visitors last week, and we spent all our time meeting the great challenge of photographing these quick birds in flight. Both the arctic terns and puffins would catch some small fish in the sea, and then swoop onto the thick grass to feed their tiny chicks. Since the arctic terns have a way of attacking the heads of nearby humans, my husband held two yard sticks over our heads with little blue flags on the end, to deter any incoming attacks. He was successful, and so was I — getting a few action photos of these beautiful birds.

#birds, #wildlife, #arctictern, #chick, #sea, #iceland, #nesting, #july, #vigur, #island
With wings backlit by the sun, the adult Arctic Tern lands to feed its young, while another adult tern looks on. This rocky promontory provided a clear view of the birds.

While traveling, we learned an amazing fact about the Arctic Tern. It is the longest migrating creature on Earth — traveling from nesting grounds here by the Arctic Circle 44,100 miles to the north Antarctic every year — in search of endless summer. I had to hear that fact more than once before I believed it. That’s a long distance to cover with just those two wings!

Here is a close-up of an Arctic Tern chick. The chicks had no fear of us, and luckily no instinct yet to attack our heads.

#arctictern, #tern, #bird, #chick, #baby, #iceland, #vigur, #nesting, #wildlife, #birdphotography
Arctic Tern chick on Vigur Island. Better eat lots of fish to get ready for the journey south!

Stay tuned to this blog for some very cute Puffin photos coming soon!

Focus on the Eye

Standard advice when shooting wildlife: focus on the eye.  Not always possible, such as when the subject is moving, and the photographer is panning. On this day in the Florida Everglades, I had enough time to focus on the great blue heron’s eye while hand holding my Nikon D800 with a 200mm lens.

#blueheron, #greatblueheron, #heron, #bird, #profile, #wildlife, #nature, #florida, #everglades. #sharakvalley, #nikon, #nikond800, #eye
In this close up of the Great Blue Heron, you can admire the delicate feathers of the neck, the plume, the eye and the well worn beak.

Blue Heron Landing

Recently in the Florida Everglades, I shot a series of images of this blue heron as it took off and landed. I was pleased to see this magnificent bird with its wings outstretched. In order to freeze motion of wildlife, I usually increase the ISO on my camera making the sensor more sensitive to light. That way, I can still get a good exposure with a very fast shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second. In this case, I increased the ISO to 2000, anticipating the bird’s flight. (I was just explaining this formula to my daughter who will be traveling to Africa to enjoy a safari in a few days.)

I also made a conscious choice for the f stop setting. A lens is usually at its sharpest in the mid-range (f/7.1 here), and the depth of field is forgiving — keeping the bird in focus for the split second between the time I focus and the shutter releases. Had I opened the lens aperture wide (to counter balance the fast shutter speed), it would have been very difficult to keep the flying bird in focus. You can see, the image is successful, as long as you don’t mind a little grain, resulting from the high ISO. I will share some of the other photos in the series in subsequent blog posts.

#blueheron, #wings, #blue, #flight, #sharkvalley
This blue heron in Shark Valley spread its wings as it came in for a landing on this tree.

Egret Composition

This great egret wading near a mangrove tree makes a serene scene. When you take a careful look, can you see the circular bands of light reflecting up on the egret?

#greategret, #egret, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #florida, #wildlife, #nature, #bird, #reflection, #blueandgreen
The great egret stands alone in the still water, accompanied only by his reflection.

My favorite part of this image is the composition, in which the strong vertical lines complement the horizontal lines. In addition, the generous amount of negative space adds to the simplicity and the serenity of the image. The color palette is also simple and natural.

What do you see? What do you like?

White Pelicans of Sanibel

I was an early bird this morning, driving an hour from Naples to the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge to photograph the American White Pelicans. These giant snowbirds only live here in Florida from October to April each year. I enjoyed watching them in the early morning sun. Nearby white ibis, great egrets, anhinga and sandpipers waded and fed in low tide.

#whitepelican, #pelicans, #florida, #wildlife, #snowbird, #morning, #sun, #dingdarling, #wildlife, #refuge, #birds, #florida, #sanibel
Gathering of American White Pelicans on a sandbar on Sanibel Island.