Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Birding in Florida - Part 1

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Last week my friend Ken Conger was planning to visit so we could photograph the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery.  Ken has been wanting to see a launch for some time, so I am bummed (and surely so is he) that the launch has been delayed until at least April 5th.   We decided to spend the time visiting some wildlife sanctuaries instead, so we set out a plan based on some target species we both wished to photograph.   We started out at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, where we had hoped to photograph skimmers and reddish egrets.   There was an abundance of roseatte spoonbills there also, which is one of Ken's favorite species.   

I had for a long time wanted to capture a photograph such as the one above, and found it challening to do, since a bit of luck is involved in finding a place to shoot where the birds are likely to fly past in close proximity.   You can see a closer look at the beak action in the water in the image crop immediately above.  [click on any image to enlarge]

While in the wildlife refuge, I was pleased to  have the opportunity to meet up with up with fellow birder Rod Ostoski , whom I had gotten to know through email the last few years, but had never actually met.  Rod showed Ken and me some good places to watch for skimmers, and I'm pretty sure I would not have gotten the skimmer shots posted here without his direction.   Rod is probably best known for has amazing images of the space shuttle.  You can see them, as well as many bird images on his website linked above.  It was Rod who helped me out with some initial camera settings for photographing the space shuttle launches on several attempts I have made in the past.

One of my favorite images from this trip was a great blue heron that we sort of happened upon when we rounded a bend on Biolab Road.  I shot the image at left from the car, fearing that the bird would fly if I tried to get out.   This guy was in perfect light on smooth water, and I was able to fill the frame with the 100-400 lens I had on my 40d backup rig in the front seat.

I made a very similar image of a tricolor heron, although the bird was not as close as the great blue and had to be cropped.  The light and reflection looked amazing, and I patiently waited for the bird to turn into the soft early morning sunlight before taking this shot.   I already have lots of images of tricolor herons, but none that I remember in water like this one.

One species I had hoped to see is a white morph reddish egret.  Unfortunately I did not see one all week, but did have the opportunity to photograph the reddish egret shown below as it fished along the shoreline.

The day would not be complete without some flyers, so I have included a few below.  There were an abundance of white ibises and roseatte spoonbills.
CLICK HERE  to continue to Part - 2.

You can also check out my Birds in Flight  gallery here.


  1. I love all of them, especially the one where the redish egret takes a bath! :) Looking forward to part 2!

  2. Hi Tim,
    Wow the part one is simply marvelous. The skimmer pictures are awesome, but the spoonbills and herons are also wonderful... i guess you got a pretty enjoyable day there! fantastic!

  3. LOVE the Reddish Egret photos...stunning, and how cool that you were able to catch the Black Skimmer skimming! We just returned from Florida. I loved every minute of it. I think we are going through withdrawal now. I miss the beautiful and fabulous birds and the strong Florida sun. It really seems gloomy up here compared to those southern skies.

  4. An excellent group of photos, Tim. You captured some fantastic action.

  5. Hello Tim... Excellent work. Outstanding light and a pin sharp images! Despite of the "luck" the first one is just incredible... Congratulations!

  6. Hi Tim. A fabulous set of images that brought back some long forgotten memories, particularly watching the Skimmers plus Egrets dancing in the surf. Cheers, Frank.