Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Half-Day of Florida Birding

6185 - Great Egret in flight
Today I got out for the first time this season to do some birding, thanks to a friend visiting from Atlanta who was looking for some shooting company. We met at the rookery behind the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida. I was only shooting from 8am till noon, but it ended up being a surprisingly fruitful day. I was sort of bummed because I had to send my main camera in for service, so I was left to shoot with my backup rig, which is a 40d. This camera is slower to acquire focus than my Mk2N, but I was a little surprised at how capable it was once I got used to it. I didn't think about it until I was on my way home, but I actually could have photographed 7 different species of herons and egrets alone, if I had bothered to get at least one image of every kind I saw. In addition to herons and egrets, I also saw roseatte spoonbills and Wood Storks. Aside from opportunities to photograph adult birds, there were also chicks of several species and also some juvies. This post will be long on photos and short on text.

6063 - Great Egret chicks
There were plenty of opportunities for Great egrets, including many nests with chicks. I have never gotten what I consider a really good shot of chicks, and I after today I can still say that. But I did get a few shots that at least show the chicks pretty well. Note that in the photo above, the mother has already lost the bright green lore that you usually see as the birds get into breeding season. In the photo below, you can see another of the same species in full breeding colors. I would guess this one is about at peak color.

6014 - Great Egret breeding colors
I'm not normally a fan of white sky backgrounds, and most of my photos with white backgrounds end up in the recycle bin. But the one below works for me and I like it. It's probably the first time I've posted a photo of a white bird with a white background. I was fortunate in my timing to capture the egret with a nice full wing spread.

6161 - Great Egret with nesting material
I was hoping to get a good shot of a cattle egret, and while I saw a few with good color, all were in nests that were obstructed by too many sticks for a decent photo. I'm posting one anyway, just to show the breeding colors. When the colors are at peak, the lore is a purple and looks pretty cool.

6114 - Cattle Egret
I saw a few snowy egrets, but none in good breeding colors. Here is an example of what I am talking about. These birds look a lot prettier when the lore is bright red.

6104 - Snowy Egret
This tricolor heron hung around for a while so I waited until I could get an unobstructed shot. There was a piece of a branch in the upper right corner of the frame that I cloned out.

6026 - Tricolor Heron
Below is a headshot of another tricolor heron that had a little nicer color. This bird was facing away from me at first, but I liked the background so I waited a long time until it turned its head to give me this shot.

6132 - Tricolor Heron headshot
I saw lots of wood storks in nests with chicks, but most of them were too high up in trees to get a good shot. I waited for a long time before this chick stood up and faced me. There were two chicks in this nest but they never got up at the same time while I was watching.

6271 - Wood stork with chick
As I was about to leave, I noticed a great blue heron standing on a tree limb above the swamp. It did not give me the head turn I hoped for, but I snapped this photo anyway.

6275 - Great Blue Heron
This ended up being a very productive day compared to most outings, and I felt like I got at least a half-dozen keepers. This was partly due to the overcast conditions, which kept the light pretty soft for a good part of the morning, well past the time when the bright sunlight would normally be spoiling most opportunities for decent photos. In addition to what is shown here, I saw roseatte spoonbills and a few green herons, but I didn't have an opportunity to get any decent shots of them. Since I spent the morning walking on a boardwalk above a swamp full of alligators, I'll end with a headshot of a gator. I captured this mage because I liked the color of reflections in the water.

6023 - Gator


  1. Stunning images Tim - if only our heron/egret species were this photogenic!

  2. Beautiful shots!
    And that white on white is definitely a keeper.
    The little chicks shot is a good one too.

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog Tim. Your backup rig blows my P&S out of the water but I still have fun with it. Really great shots and I love the wood stork.

    Craig Glenn

  4. Thank you for stopping and commenting on my birds blog, Tim. I just marvel at your bird photography. These shots are stunning and you deserve something besides a smack on the back. I am impressed and I am not impressed very often. LOL

  5. Beautiful series and nice to see the birds in their breeding plumage.

    I particularly like the images of the egrets, they are such challenging subjects to get the exposure right especially in slightly harsh lighting conditions...Thomas

  6. I have to go shooting with you; I could not get such great images from my former 40D. As a sign of a master, your whites are not blown away as I see in most photos of white birds. Hesitantly just moved to the 50D and found it to be a great improvement over the 40D regardless of the web comments to poor quality images.

  7. Hello Tim, I am delighted to have found your blog! The images of all these species of herons have a great aesthetic and technical quality , my most sincere congratulations on your work. I am very happy to know that we share some species in both continents and that both the photographs! The Cattle egret is a tireless traveler and the arrival of the first birds to the Americas occurred in 1877, sighting in Guyana and Suriname (between Brazil and Venezuela) where it was found breeding from 1930. In a short time began to expand northwards, arriving at Florida in 1941 and less than 20 years already nest in Canada. Congratulations again! Greetings from Spain!

  8. Great shots of the Herons stunning Work Tim the last one of the Blue Heron is my favorite

  9. Such great captures! The colors, the sharpness...
    Awesome photos, fun to watch. Keep them coming :)

  10. Nice series Tim. Always good times at the AF. Your signature image of the GW flier is exceptional. Blue Skies.

  11. ...the Great Egret chicks are adorable...and the Egret in breeding colors is stunning!