Kevin K. and I went over to Black Point Wildlife Drive last Tuesday. The water levels were low and although we saw quite a few birds, many of them were far from the road and hard to photograph. Here are some images from the trip that I like.
Hunter’s Dance – A Reddish Egret stalks fish in the marsh
These Egrets have a distinctive dance they use to scare up fish. It seems to work for them!
Morning minnow meal
Green Herons use a different technique. This one was wading carefully through the mangrove roots on the side of a canal looking for a snack.
Stalking in the Mangroves
And finally, here’s a photo of a Great Egret taking off from a tree beside the trail.
Great Egret Launch
This one was a little slow – normally birds are gone by the time I get my camera ready!
One of the first birds we watched was a Redish Egret fishing close to shore. It’s great fun to see these birds dance and pounce.
Reddish Egret and Minnow
I had the Olympus E-M1 Mark II with me and practiced with the “Pro Capture” mode (I brought the right lens this time). This really helps you catch a decisive moment – it’s almost cheating. You’d better have a large card in your camera and time to go through all the images, though. I used low-speed and still had way too many frames. Here’s one example:
Wood Stork and Minnow
There were a huge number of White Pelicans and they treated us to “air ballet shows” all morning.
Several (3 or more?) large fish (carp?) swimming in the canal near the road. These were about two feet long.
And there were more gators visible than usual. They look well fed – perhaps they’ve been after those large fish. These monsters stay so still that you can take your time and make a stitched panorama of them. Unless they’re chasing you 🙂
We also spotted Belted Kingfishers, a Bald Eagle, Osprey, several varieties of duck, a wild pig, and many other interesting things.
This is a five frame composite B&W image of a single Reddish Egret patrolling a small pool of water at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
There was some interest in how I did this and it’s relatively simple, so I thought I’d show you the steps.
To start with, the light was very strong, so I overexposed to get details in the bird and this washed out the water / background. I’d made several frames, so I processed all of them identically in Lightroom to force the background further to white and then loaded them into layers in Photoshop.
I selected all the layers and set their blend modes to “Darken” which forces only the darkest parts of each frame to show through. This is a key step – with the right background, the blend mode does all the work and you don’t have to do any selection / cutting / pasting.I made the canvas larger so I had room to work:
Then I used the move tool (top of the tool bar) and selected each layer so I could place them:
Once I moved them to where I thought they looked good, I use curve adjustments on each layer to reduce brightness differences and followed with the clone tool to smooth a few remaining variations. After cropping out the extra canvas, and adding a bit of clarity to the bird shapes I was ready to return to Lightroom.
In Lightroom I finished tweaking it (white and black points, sharpening, vignette, etc), converted to Black and White “and Bob’s your uncle“.
I’m sure there are other ways to do this, but I found this method easy enough. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments. And if you’ve tried anything like this, I’d love to see your images.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! And maybe some composites too!
Reddish Egrets aren’t as common in Florida as some of our other wading birds. I seem to see them fairly reliably over on Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. They’re handsome birds and they also have some interesting behaviors. They dance along in shallow water and wave / flap their wings while they’re fishing. I made a video this morning as I watched one catch minnows in the canal along the drive.
Reddish Egret fishing for minnows (~40 seconds)
Perhaps you noticed the splash at the beginning and the brief shadow on the right after the egret catches the minnow. I was trying to figure out what those were and stayed a little longer. Here’s a “big reveal” still shot that I managed to get.
Redish Egret and large fish
That fish is about as large as the bird. It seemed to follow the egret around – maybe it was trying to steal the minnows that the bird scared up? Anyway, it was a very interesting time with the Egret – and the fish!
I never really know what I’ll see when I head out and look around. That’s one big reason it’s so much fun.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! Or a video!
Dawn yesterday was nothing to get up for – cloudy, dim, no color. But we were up and out, so I made a photograph anyway.
That taken care of, I switched cameras and used the Sigma 150-500mm to scout shorebirds. There were many Gulls (Laughing, Ring-Billed, Herring), Pelicans and Black Vultures, a few Royal Terns, Black Skimmers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Northern Mockingbirds, and Ospreys, and a Reddish Egret, and Snowy Egret. I also saw a couple of Hawks and was puzzled by the look of this one that flew over the jetty and out into the inlet until I got home and did some research. I’ve never seen a Peregrine Falcon in the wild before yesterday!
Reddish Egret in the surf – quite a “do”
By the time we moved up the coast to MINWR, it was a bit brighter and the conditions were better for photography. We’d heard about a sighting of a Redhead duck and wanted to see if we could find it. We came across it about half way round the drive on the right hand side swimming with several other ducks. I think it’s amazing how a few bits of data over the internet can lead to sighting a semi-rare (for Florida) bird. With so much information available it’s a great time to enjoy this kind of thing.
Other birds we saw on BPWD: American Avocets, Common Snipe, Lesser Yellowlegs, American Robins, Roseate Spoonbills, Gulls, Belted Kingfishers, Northern Harrier, Northern Shovelers, Coots, Greebes, Green Wing Teals, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Great Egrets, and others.
Once again, a wonderful day outside in our natural Florida paradise.
A few of us visited Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge yesterday for the first time in a while. We wanted to see what’s going on at Black Point Wildlife Drive and Scrub Ridge Trail. Since it’s now officially summer time here in Florida, the temperature and humidity is soaring and it’s hard to get motivated for a long hike to see / photograph nature and wildlife. So it’s nice to go out to a place like Black Point where you can drive through instead of having to walk.
The water levels were quite low, which I think is typical this time of year. There weren’t a great many birds, but there were enough to make it interesting. We saw a few of the usual Egrets and Herons, as well as a couple of adult and three or four juvenile Reddish Egrets. There were also some Black Neck Stilts, a Willet or two and a wild and very muddy pig.
We decided to go by Scrub Ridge trail on the way home to check out how the Scrub Jays are doing. They’re fine, although somewhat feisty. Several of us were “dive bombed” and one came so close to Kevin M. that he felt the wind from its wings on his head. While at Scrub Ridge trail we also saw a very young Gopher Tortoise and a rabbit.
I’ve included several photos from the trip below, and you can click on these to see larger versions on Flickr.
Florida Scrub Jay watches us – There was a family of Florida Scrub Jays out yesterday. One or two were real posers. And one of those was a “dive bomber”. It flew at our heads a few times trying to discourage us.
Juvenile Reddish Egret
Rabbit – This little guy froze and looked the other way hoping we wouldn’t see him.