I drove three hours roundtrip last evening to Sanibel Island, hoping to observe and photograph some birds during low tide at the Ding Darling Nature Preserve. It seems you never find what you expect to find — the white pelicans or the roseate spoonbills — but lucky for me, I met a big bird that was new to me: the Reddish Egret.
The medium-sized heron is not too common, categorized as “Nearly Threatened,” and this bird wore a transmitter on his back. Some naturalist is keeping track of his movements. I enjoyed watching the unique way the Reddish Egret fishes by wading in shallow water and using his wings to shade the prey right before spearing it. With my 600mm Tamron lens, I had a close look and spent about a half hour tracking it as it moved about in the shallows. Of course, I had to use a tripod to steady the heavy lens.
Binoculars or a long lens (600mm) can give you a closer look at the delicate green heron, quietly perched on a branch at the water’s edge, enjoying the morning sun. A few yards away, we are quiet and careful not to disturb him.
There are many reasons to love the Pileated Woodpecker. First, you notice its brilliant red crown feathers and the red, black and white plumage, which would be a striking way to dress yourself today. Second, you can observe its impressive ability to steady itself vertically way up high in an old tree or utility pole. Then, you may marvel at its ability to hunt for food or carve out a nest by tapping its beak into the wood like a hammer 10 to 20 times per second. How can its head withstand all that impact?
Lastly, you may like the woodpecker for these traits you would admire in a human: it is non-migratory, inhabiting the same territory for its lifetime. It chooses and is loyal to a single mate. It benefits many other bird and mammal species in its environment, as song birds, owls and even raccoons later inhabit the old tree holes that the woodpecker has carved out for its nests.
And here is a mixed blessing. That pileated woodpecker in your backyard may be giving you some free advice: that dead tree needs to come down.
These White Pelicans can fly and float anywhere they like, but they all seem pretty happy to crowd onto a tiny sandbar, wing to wing with one another. This image shows only a third of the line of white pelicans gathered at J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve on a sunny Sunday morning.
This tall and tranquil bird stood still for quite some time at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary as I set up my tripod to make this photograph. He/she is a classy bird, seeming confident, or should I say, comfortable in his feathers.
Snowbirds from the Great Lakes region, these large White Pelicans are fun to watch, especially when they spread their wings to fly, soar over the Gulf and come in for a quiet landing on the sandbar.
It was a balmy morning on Sanibel Island, Florida today in the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Bird lovers cruised slowly in cars and on bikes, and perched themselves along the shoreline with binoculars and cameras. The highlight of the morning was when one of us would say quietly to his neighbor, “Incoming!”