The Dry Tortugas, 80 miles off Key West, Florida, have the only nesting colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds in North America. For birders it is one of the attractions of the islands in spring. The colony is actually on Long Key, which is closed to human traffic during nesting, so the only way to see the birds on the nest is in a kayak or small motor boat, cruising out along the no-boats markers in the very shallow water in front of the key. To see them in flight, however, you just have to look up…at any given moment there are a dozen or more circling over Ft. Jefferson, and several hundred circling over Long Key. This shot was taken from the top of the Fort, where the birds are often at eye-level and certainly no more than 20 feet above your head. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications (minimum shutter speed ISO set to 1/2000th in the excellent light). Processed in Polarr.
I still have lots of photos from my three spring trips to post. Portugal, The Dry Tortugas, and the Biggest Week in American Birding in Ohio, all packed into a one month period. 100,000 Sooty Terns nest on the Dry Tortugas. You can not get very close to them during nesting but the mass of them over, on, and around Bush Key as seen from the top of the fort is totally impressive. If you are lucky enough to have a small boat and cruise out along the no-boats markers past Bush Key (on your way to Long Key to view the Magnificent Frigatebirds nesting, for instance) you have a good chance of seeing the Sooty Terns rise and circle over the shallow waters to fish and drink. They can literally surround your boat…often passing within a few feet. On our last day on the islands, the Sooty Terns rose and circled us not once, but three times. It was spectacular. Catching them on the wing, and as they drink, is a challenge…but one that few bird photographers can resist at least trying. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications (1/2000th minimum shutter speed ISO). Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.
Pelicans are among the best birds to practice your Birds in Flight skills on. They are big, so the camera focuses well, and when they are using the air currents over waves or breaking surf, or along a cliff, their flight is relatively predictable, so they are easy to track. Plus, the boldly textured feathers in all seasons, and the colorful breeding plumage in season, make them attractive subjects. Finally, shooting from sea cliffs in southern California, they are often at or below eye-level. This bird was below the cliffs at La Jolla Cove in La Jolla, California. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4.5 @ ISO 100. -.3EV. Processed in Polarr.
I think it might be the guano streaked cliffs behind the bird that give this shot, to my eye, a slightly prehistoric aspect…and the pose of the bird below only adds to the effect. In reading this morning I discovered that the modern Pelican probably dates back 30 million years, so, yes, the bird is indeed legitimately prehistoric. La Jolla Cove, California. Sony RX10iv at 600mm. Program mode with my birds in flight and action modifications. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 400. Processed in Polarr. This is a good example of the tracking auto focus of the RX10iv. I have the whole sequence of the bird coming in and landing.
One morning on Black Point Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, Florida, a small group of White Pelicans flew pretty much directly overhead. I was able to catch a few as they passed over. It was a good opportunity since the light reflected from the ponds illuminated the underside of the wings, which otherwise would have been in heavy silhouette. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. My birds in flight and action modifications to Program mode. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 100. +1EV exposure compensation (to help with the wings). Processed in Polarr.
I posted a shot from this Roseate Spoonbill flyby experience a week ago or more…we were photographing a mixed feeding flock of waders in one of the pools along Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, just past the turn by the rest area, when a group of Roseate Spoonbills flew in, one at a time. It was an opportunity not to be missed. I switched to my Birds in Flight and Action memory, and caught several of the birds as they came by. This one was close. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. 1/1250th @ f8 @ ISO 100. -1EV. Processed in Polarr. Such wings!
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has a huge population of Osprey. Sometimes they are every other power post along the causeway and the road coming in, and they are certainly the most common raptor along Black Point Wildlife Drive. My Advanced Point and Shoot Nature Photography class was practicing flight shots so we stopped when I saw two Osprey circling over a pond, and waited, and were rewarded with one of the birds passing right over head. I was perfect light, with enough light reflected from the water to illuminate the underside of the wings. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. My birds in flight and action modifications to Program mode. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.
Roseate Spoonbills are striking birds at any time, but in flight, with the light behind the wings, they are spectacular. I happened to be in the right place at the right time on Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to catch a group of Spoonbills moving from one feeding site to another, passing close overhead. My birds in flight modifications of Program mode enabled the Sony RX10iv to catch the birds against the clear Florida sky, and there was enough light reflected from the pools of water to nicely light the underside of the wings. 1/1000th @ f4 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.
In keeping with yesterday’s “it is not all Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes at Bosque” theme, here is one of the many Northern Harriers currently hunting the fields of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. More Harriers this year than I have ever seen at Bosque in the 25+ years I have been going there. Mostly I saw them far off cruising the back edges of fields. This one came right over on its way from one field to the next and I caught it! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. My custom Birds in Flight and Action modifications to Program mode. Processed in Polarr. Makes me really glad I am not a mouse or a vole!
Snow Geese “panic” several times a day at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Panic is the word I use to describe the times when a contagion of agitation sweeps the flock and they all come up into the air at the same time…calling and swirling. Generally half of them think they ought to move west and half east, or half think they should circle clockwise and half counterclockwise, and the mixing and mingling segments of the flock is mesmerizing. To be there when the Snow Geese panic is reason enough for a visit to the Bosque…and, in fact, brings folks back year after year. It was gettin on toward sunset when my Point and Shoot Nature Photography workshop got to see this panic up close. Nothing like it! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. My Birds in Flight modifications of Programed Auto mode. 1/1000th @ f6.3 @ ISO 100. Processed in Polarr.