Thursday, April 29, 2010

Roseate Spoonbills

One bird that seems to usually be pretty elusive for me is the roseate spoonbill.  I don't see a lot of them very often, and usually when I do the chances of good photos are slim.  When the birds are roosting, the backgrounds are almost always too cluttered so the best chance at a keeper is usually a flight shot.   This presents a whole different set of challenges because it seems that I seldom get many opportunities at flight shots either.  Even when I do, everything has to be just about perfect to get a decent photo.   The light needs to be in the right direction, and a small amount of flash should be used to partially light up the underside of the wings to balance the ambient light hitting other parts of the bird.  If all these factors are in place, then the challenge is to capture a good flight pose and also get a sharp, well focused image.    The majority of my attempts end up in the recycle bin due to one or more of the items mentioned above not being just right, but most often due to just not capturing an attractive pose.

On my most recent outing, I hooked up with a friend who was visiting Florida from Texas and we set out to try and get some flyer shots.   I had some decent opportunities with various bird species, including two chances where a roseate spoonbill flew close by.   I am only including the spoonbills in this post and all of these flight shots came from the same series.    In the image above, the bird was flying to the left and preparing to bank back toward the right. 

As the bird came back around to the right, I was fortunate to get a shot with a full wingspread.  Although the flash did not fire, I got a little bit lucky that the wings were back lit enough to prevent the underside from being too dark.   When I checked the exif data on this series of photos, I was surprised when I noticed that flash did not fire on any of them.   Thinking back, I remember changing my flash batteries at one point after discovering they were spent.  I must have shot this sequence prior to that time.  I must remember to watch that indicator more closely from now on as I believe some fill flash would have helped these images.  

As yet, this species has not nested this far north in Florida. But folks around here are hopeful that they may start soon as some nesting behaviours have been observed in St. Augustine.

In a bit of unrelated news, I was fortunate to get NASA Causeway tickets again for  the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on May 14.   So if all goes well and there no delays, I am hoping to get some better images of a shuttle launch in a couple weeks.  This will be the last flight of space shuttle Atlantis, and after this there are only 2 more launches left in the entire shuttle program.  I'm sad to see the program end.


  1. Hi Tim,
    Wow these flight shots are just wonderful! I'd like to get some like this!!! And the species is also fantastic I'm eager to see more of your shuttle launch pictures, they are quite splendid too!

  2. The "spoonie" is definitely not a bird species to be expected to be seen like so many other waders in our area.

    Even here in SW Florida, the observation of a roseate spoonbill at all is a treat. It's not a guaranteed species to be seen a notch above the ranks of the black-crowned night-heron as I've observed.

    Your post reminds me of my visit to DDNWR 11 FEB 2010 where I had the opportunity to be shooting the wildlife with Artie Morris and his supporters and patrons on his President's Week 2010 Tour. I recall him saying that he was getting too old to shoot the bird (roseate spoonbill) flying at us at great speed. I would never consider it possible to get the shot at all with the bird flying south with the wind at its back, so he was at the least reassuring.

    I think you're too critical of an image that may show the habitat of a given species in a photograph. There are certainly different qualities in a shot of that kind.

    Flight shots are indeed different animals with their own attributes. You've made a nice blog entry about them here.

    All the best to you in your next Space Shuttle photo op and beyond.

  3. Wonderful entry of perfect balance of light and subject...your shots are grand indeed. I love the way the wind caught the spoonbills wingtip on your last photo.
    Congrats on getting passage to photograph the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch. How exciting. I can't wait to see your entries. Have fun.

  4. Stunning shots Tim!

    You probably were lucky that your flash did not fire, there is no way it could have improved these shots.

  5. Wonderful photos

  6. icing from an eight-year-old girl's birthday cake, dripped onto the sky. Beautiful photo, each feather wonderfully delineated for us. Thank-you.

  7. Well... what a beautiful pink and a great sky contrast! Really loved these ones.

  8. Beautiful! I have enjoyed looking at all the photos on your blog. Excellent!