Watching this graceful American egret in the evening light, my mind went right back to Lincoln Center and the vision of a ballerina dancing Swan Lake. The egrets lines were so beautiful as she moved ever so slowly, and her reflection in the wading pool accentuated her grace.
This image of these two great egrets crossing each others’ paths while feeding reminds me of the universal truth about Nature that all of life is interconnected. The food chain ties together many life forms: plants, fish and mammals. Just think of what humans eat. All life forms depend on clean air, clean water and undeveloped areas of Earth.
I photographed these egrets in a nature preserve on Sanibel Island that is named for an editorial cartoonist who was passionate about the environment and was an important early conservationist. J. N. “Ding” Darling was concerned about the pace of development and believed that urban development was suffocating the ever shrinking untouched natural environments. ” D’ing” worked in Des Moines and New York City and won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1924. He was was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as head of the U.S. Biological Survey, forerunner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (Wikipedia)
In 1976, 5200 acres on Sanibel Island, FL were set aside as a National Wildlife Refuge, and the area is known for migratory bird populations. Often large flocks of roseate spoonbills feed there. Keep an eye out for more photos in future blogs.
Have you ever witnessed a large flock of birds roosting as the sun sets? In Florida, the large wading birds like the heron, egrets and pelicans roost together for protection. They will often find a rookery island where predators like raccoons can’t reach them.
In Six Mile Cypress Slough, a large flock of egrets chose this wooded area along the edge of a pond to roost. As the setting sun sheds warm light on the trees, dozens of these egrets decorate the landscape. It is a special sight to witness, especially for a “snowbird” like me.
My camera settings were ready to capture this graceful Great Egret in flight when he lifted off. You need a fast shutter speed, the bird in focus, and a proper exposure (difficult when the bright sky is the background). I was really excited to see this egret with two wing positions and water dripping off his feet.
Since the sky was cloudy, I had my ISO set to 400. My Nikon 70-200 lens was extended to 200 to isolate the bird without moving too close to disturb him. I had my Nikon D800 set to Aperture Mode and set the aperture to f/5.6 to keep the bird in focus if he moved a bit closer or farther from me. This setting gave me the balance between wide depth of field and enough light to yield a fast shutter speed (1/1,000) to freeze action. I also employed the fast continuous shutter mode, so my camera would shoot multiple exposures with one long depression of the shutter button. Of course, you have to make these choices ahead of time, so when the bird takes off, you can pan and press the shutter button.
Captured this Great Egret in the Everglades catching and eating his dinner — a wiggly creature from the wetlands. It was a big morsel to swallow whole. Nearly the last photo of 199 images shot at Shark Valley last Saturday.