It was love at first sight when I spotted a Red-Shouldered Hawk for the first time. He perched on a high tree branch and kept his eyes trained on the water below, watching for prey. I waited and waited for him to take flight until my arms needed a rest. I wanted to capture him in flight, but his watch outlasted mine.
My luck had not run out. About 5 minutes later along my hike in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, another couple had stopped to watch something low in the swamp. It must be the mate! Another red-shouldered hawk was foraging in the forested area, and I got some closer shots of its beautiful plumage. Sure enough, you can observe the red shoulder from this angle.
These raptors are fierce hunters, feeding on mammals as large as rabbits and tree squirrels, small reptiles and even birds of all sizes including the Eastern Screech Owl. Their length is typically 23-24″. Of these two hawks, I’m not sure which one is male and which is female.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This bird photography adventure took place at the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida.
Whenever I’m lucky enough to see Roseate Spoonbills in the Florida wetlands, I am enchanted by their delicate pink color and the wide brush stroke of deeper pink on the wings of the adults. Their eyes are pink too.
Then, while observing the face and spoon-shaped bill, I am amazed at the diversity of nature.
All within the same hour and the same location, my friend Caroline and I observed a wide variety of bird species: many Little Blue Heron, a Green Heron, a Tricolored Heron, some Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, lots of Ibis, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants and the huge migratory American White Pelicans, along with a Yellow Crested Night Heron and an Osprey pair. It sounds like a trip to the Aviary, but no — this was all wildlife enjoying the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida. Keep checking this blog for more actions shots of these beautiful birds.
Silently watching a rookery island at sunset, I observed flocks of ibis, flocks of pelicans and flocks of snowy egret gently glide along the water to land on the island and take refuge for the night. One bird in flight is a graceful wonder to watch, but a flock of one species in flight together is a veritable ballet.
Seconds later, the flock extended their wings and feet to land on the rookery island. Zoom in to get a closer look!