Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, HIFs & DIFs: Little bit of Everything (10/20/20)

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zackiedawg
zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 33,629
Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, HIFs & DIFs: Little bit of Everything (10/20/20)
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Continuing along with the wildlife selections from the local wetlands here in S. Florida, September 19th put the big 200-600mm lens through a workout.  Generally I intend to use it for the reach - and bring the 100-400mm for the closeup work and dark forest work.  But if you're out there on the trail nowhere near the car, and you've got the 200-600mm with you, and suddenly opportunities pop up for some dark forest birds, or closeup action - you're going to take the shots!

There was a good mix of diversity this day - not just birds, but the reptiles and amphibians were active too, and the bugs which are always around gave a few opportunities for a shot.  The birds weren't just the usual waders, but some early migratory birds passing through, and some lucky encounters with the elusive and tiny hummingbird - always a challenge to find out in nature without a feeder to draw them in.

All of the following shots were taken with the A6600 and FE200-600mm G OSS combo, and all are posted at 1800 pixels on the long side if you click the originals:

First, the beautiful yellow-throated warbler.  Back in Florida for winter, these lovely birds were busy feeding on larvae and small bugs to get their energy back from a long flight - always in motion, I caught this one just as he was ready to jump to a higher branch

Even swamp water, if shallow enough, can be clear enough to see through - this Florida softshell turtle was mostly underwater, running along the sandy bottom, with little fish all about - and had just raised his head for a breath

That noisy, elusive creature - always sawing away at those wings and making the wetlands sound like a concert...they always hide on he shady side of a reed or leaf, so you have to really look close to find them - it doesn't help that they stop their wing song as you get close, going silent just when you're trying to hone in on their location!

A tricolor heron hunting its way through the shallows - plunging the bill every 10-15 seconds to try to stab at a fish.  It didn't get one while I was watching - but they play the numbers, eventually if you try 100 times you'll likely get one

Different bill for a different food - the roseate spoonbill prefers to eat crustaceans and smaller fish, bugs, etc that are down in the mud under the water.  So they us their spoon shaped bill to dig and sift around under there like gold panners to find their little snacks

A juvenile basilisk lizard mostly in the shade, with little dapples of light breaking through the canopy.  When it's cold out, they'll be right out in the sun getting heat, but when it's close to 100 degrees, there's no need!

Yes, the solitary sandpipers were still around...for most of September, though just the most recent visit I didn't see them, so they may have moved on from the wetlands and returned to the coast

Pig frogs are big and green, and still difficult to find in the algae and debris covered wetlands waters.  Even harder to spot are the tiny baby pig frogs - though a rich, golden color that you would think stands out, you can see there are other yellows in the water, and browns & greens, that still help hide the little fellas.  Though not quite good enough to evade me this day.

There's a distant dead tree where the spoonbills sometimes like to stand.  There's another much closer one about 1/2 mile away that's much easier to reach with shorter lenses, but they're not always on that tree.  This spoonie decided to use the distant tree to stay out of the paparazzi's reach - though the big 600mm lens plus lots of cropping can still pull him in.  Distance 290 feet.

Here's a HIF - hummingbird in flight.  I was lucky to hear the little 'chee chee' calls of two hummingbirds calling out to each other in the forest, and then spotted the little blur moving around - very heavy tree canopy and low light so not ideal - but I don't get all that many opportunities to shoot them completely wild and natural with no feeders around

It's a ruby-throated hummingbird.  After sampling a few flowers, it started moving around high up in the pine trees, likely looking for small bugs to supplement the nectar diet - always good to get a little protein!

Those who know hummingbirds know just how small they are - it's really hard to describe if you haven't seen them!  Using every bit of the 600mm lens, in a dark forest, with tons of branches and clutter around, and trying to pan and follow a hummingbird darting from branch to branch is quite challenging - and even at 20 feet away, I needed a lot of cropping!

Finally, the little gal took a break - finding a thin twig nicely in the shade about 25 feet from me...at ISO 2,500 and a ton of cropping at 600mm, I could get it to just large enough in the frame for a little feather detail

Then again, that branch wasn't the greatest, so she decided to move to another - allowing me to get her throat (which confirmed her as a female, as the male would have the little red jewel-like feather cluster in the middle of the neck)

And now for the DIF portion of the post...when shooting dragonflies in flight, it helps when you find the larger ones, like this green darner.  It wasn't hovering, but actually flying past, though it was staying in a relatively straight line for a dragonfly, allowing me to get a couple of shots of it as it went by

Comments, questions, and critique always welcomed and encouraged!

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Justin
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snapa
snapa Veteran Member • Posts: 4,864
Justin

zackiedawg wrote:

There was a good mix of diversity this day - not just birds, but the reptiles and amphibians were active too, and the bugs which are always around gave a few opportunities for a shot. The birds weren't just the usual waders, but some early migratory birds passing through, and some lucky encounters with the elusive and tiny hummingbird - always a challenge to find out in nature without a feeder to draw them in.

It looks like you had a very good outing that day with a lot of interesting variety. I've not seen to many hummingbirds myself out there, so that was a good catch. The frog shot was absolutely my favorite shot! The colors, sharpness, correct exposure, low ISO, and excellent composition. I also like the way you can see hidden things in these kinds of shot only after you view them at home. Like that small fish in the lower tight corner, and that bug below it's face, I think it was thinking about eating?

Keep up the good work, I always like seeing what you see when you go out there!

Pig frogs are big and green, and still difficult to find in the algae and debris covered wetlands waters. Even harder to spot are the tiny baby pig frogs - though a rich, golden color that you would think stands out, you can see there are other yellows in the water, and browns & greens, that still help hide the little fellas. Though not quite good enough to evade me this day.

Here's a HIF - hummingbird in flight. I was lucky to hear the little 'chee chee' calls of two hummingbirds calling out to each other in the forest, and then spotted the little blur moving around - very heavy tree canopy and low light so not ideal - but I don't get all that many opportunities to shoot them completely wild and natural with no feeders around

Comments, questions, and critique always welcomed and encouraged!

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icon1 Contributing Member • Posts: 733
Re: Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, HIFs & DIFs: Little bit of Everything (10/20/20)

Lovely images and such a great variety.  I envy you at this time of the year as many of our birds have departed in anticipation of colder days ahead.  Hopefully some owls will appear here soon to provide some interest.

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 33,629
Snapa,

snapa wrote:

It looks like you had a very good outing that day with a lot of interesting variety.

Some days you get lucky - this was a case where the wading birds and wetlands areas didn't seem as active as usual, but if you took the time to look close, you found the reptiles and bugs all around, and in the forests, more migrating and smaller birds.  So still not the really busy, crowded wetlands you expect in winter times, but certainly plenty of photographic opportunities.

I've not seen to many hummingbirds myself out there, so that was a good catch. The frog shot was absolutely my favorite shot! The colors, sharpness, correct exposure, low ISO, and excellent composition. I also like the way you can see hidden things in these kinds of shot only after you view them at home. Like that small fish in the lower tight corner, and that bug below it's face, I think it was thinking about eating?

This frog was so tiny, it was hard to miss.  I was shooting it and had a few people lean over the rail to see what I was shooting, and they couldn't even see it.  Because it was so small, the narrow DOF didn't prevent getting nice focus details all around the frog in the water...I really enjoyed shooting the frog.  The hummingbird of course is just so hard to find anywhere in the wild - almost all the hummingbird shots I see involve a feeder - either in the shot, or just out of frame that helped bring them in close.  Finding these tiny little things in the wild is a massive challenge - it's easy to mistake one for an insect when you catch it in your peripheral vision!

Keep up the good work, I always like seeing what you see when you go out there!

Much appreciated.  Hopefully soon with all the cold waves and snow starting to hit the north, more of those birds should be coming down soon and start to make the wetlands a little more populated again!

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Justin
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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 33,629
Thank you icon1,

icon1 wrote:

Lovely images and such a great variety. I envy you at this time of the year as many of our birds have departed in anticipation of colder days ahead. Hopefully some owls will appear here soon to provide some interest.

We're still a little thin compared to what we should be this time of year - at least going back historically - though the past 10 years have seen the winter population getting thinner and thinner, as we have gone from short winters of a month or so, to a few weeks, to lately no winter at all.  We haven't dipped into the 40s for 3 years - whereas we used to have at least 10-20 days a year that would get there, and even the 30s on rare occasion.

Somehow it seems Covid had some effect too - you wouldn't think it could, yet the two main wetlands I visit regularly are clearly different - with no people for nearly 6 months and many fewer people since reopening, these two spots are unique because of how close the wildlife and humans interact, and many of the birds that nest and roost in these spots likely felt a degree of protection with so many people always walking around them, it kept other predators at bay that might go after them, their chicks, or their eggs.  One stark difference is at the park called Wakodahatchee, which has always been the primary nighttime roost for thousands of ibis and egrets for at least a decade...my last time there getting close to sunset when there should have been hundreds of birds flying in from all directions, there were just a handful.  At Green Cay wetlands nearby, which had very few roosting birds at night, there were hundreds already.  So it seems the birds for the first time in 10 years shifted their roosting spot!  The only thing that changed so far this year was the Covid lockdowns closing the parks, so I have no better guess what caused them to move - Green Cay Wetlands was closed, but was having construction done to their nature center and boardwalk from March through July, meaning there were people present there for much of the lockdown, while Wakodahatchee was pretty well empty the whole time.

I wonder if things will start to go back to normal and the birds will move back...as winter comes on, Wakodahatchee becomes my primary BIF spot...but only if the roosting birds come back!

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Joachim Wulfers
Joachim Wulfers Veteran Member • Posts: 4,562
Re: Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, HIFs & DIFs: Little bit of Everything (10/20/20)

My preferred shot here is the HIF feeding on the little yellow flower. We have those up here and they are hard to spot. I also like the captures of the tri-colour and the spoon bill.

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 33,629
Joachim,

Joachim Wulfers wrote:

My preferred shot here is the HIF feeding on the little yellow flower. We have those up here and they are hard to spot. I also like the captures of the tri-colour and the spoon bill.

Thank you Joachim!  I wish we had more hummingbirds - we only seem to have the ruby-throated with any regularity, and even those are not easy to find.  When we do find them, they're usually in the shade in the forest.

I tried a hummingbird feeder in my yard years ago, but in 3-4 years it attracted one hummingbird that I ever noticed, and several million bees and ants.  So I gave up!

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zackiedawg
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Overflow...
1

Here are some of the 'extra' and additional shots of some of the same birds and such - since a few of them were taken in bursts and I picked out the best of the series, there were some others that still came out decent and good focus, so this will include a few more from those sequences...

One more of the roseate spoonbill fishing for crawfish

One more closeup of the basilisk on the branch

A few more of the hummingbird buzzing around the shadows of the tree canopy

Showing the back colors

Another sitting pose

3 more of the dragonfly fly-by sequences - this guy was doing quick laps around me, so I was able to catch him a few times in motion

His legs were moving around in flight - not sure if he was finishing eating something, or just cleaning his mouth

Those dual bi-wings move around like helicopter blades, changing the pitch and angle as they decide to go up, down, and to the side.  Cool little beasts!

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icon1 Contributing Member • Posts: 733
Re: Overflow...

Kudos on getting those dragonflies in flight.  Looking at the EXIF, you must have amazing light down there to be able to expose at 1/1000s/f7.1  and keep ISO at100!

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 33,629
Re: Overflow...

icon1 wrote:

Kudos on getting those dragonflies in flight. Looking at the EXIF, you must have amazing light down there to be able to expose at 1/1000s/f7.1 and keep ISO at100!

Thanks Icon.  It's a blessing and a curse - of course we're prone to storms and overcast at random times on almost any day, but we do get a ton of sun, and it's super-bright.  The downside is sometimes it's so bright it causes harsh photos and lots of blown out spots even when you try to underexpose - in order to work around it in early afternoons, we need to only shoot birds in shade, or filtered under reeds and leaves that filter off some of the light.

It's one of the many reasons I hate the summers for photography - light that lasts until 8pm or longer, harsh bright afternoon light, extreme heat and humidity, constant chance of thunderstorms, lots of bugs.  Our winters aren't a whole lot cooler - we're mostly mid-80s all winter long - but the shorter day hours make for much nicer light in the afternoons, the rains lessen, and less bugs too.

We're almost ready to roll the clocks back, and I'm much happier shooting then.

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