This Snowy Egret, with its distinctive yellow feet, flew by us at the Orlando Wetlands Park on Sunday. I was doing some hand held panning practice with my Nikon D5 and Nikkor 500mm PF lens.
While we were “beach panning” on Huguenot Memorial Beach near Jacksonville, FL the shorebirds were mostly snoozing in the morning sun. Instead of darting back and forth near the surf, they were statue-like perched on one foot. They looked like cotton balls on a stick. This bird is a Dunlin.
Candy Corn is one of those sugary confections that appears briefly in the fall in time for Halloween and disappears until the next Halloween rolls around. It is pure sugar with little flavor other than sweet, has absolutely no redeeming qualities, and I’m not sure anyone actually eats them. I do know, however, that it looks just pretty much like the beak of a Common Gallinule (formerly known as the Common Moorhen) and that must have been what it was modeled after.
The Anhinga, also known as the Snakebird, is a large regal looking waterbird. This rather exotic bird uses its long, dagger-like bill to stab fish under water. On our last day in Florida, we visited the City of Orlando Wetlands Park and this male Anhinga perched cooperatively at the tip of a skeletal tree branch while we photographed him. He kept his eye on us as the winds began to pick up, rustling the feathers on his back and touseling the feathers on his head.
As one Laughing Gull said to another, “Blow in my ear and I’ll follow you anywhere.”
I’m back beach panning, one of my favorite ways to photograph birds. In beach panning, I lay flat on the sand so I am at eye level with the shorebirds with my camera and long lens affixed to a panning plate attached to a Frisbee. This allows me to be up close and personal with some of my favorite photographic subjects. But, things have changed a little since my last beach panning trips in Florida and Texas. I no longer own my Nikkor 600mm lens which is the lens I used when I was introduced to and fell in love with beach panning. I now have a Nikkor 500mm PF lens which is about half the height and half the weight of my 600mm lens. What I didn’t take into account until I was laying flat on the sand at Huguenot Memorial Park in Jacksonville, FL, my head scrunched sideways and my face almost pressed into the sand, was that the 500mm lens mounted on the panning plate was several inches lower than my old setup. Moose saved me by reminding me that I can easily hand-hold my Nikon D5 and 500mm lens. I could still lay flat on the sand and prop myself up on my elbows getting me to the perfect elevation. Problem solved and one of my favorite shorebirds, the sandeling, walked toward me while I took its photograph to commemorate the event.
North to Alaska again for more big game. This time, it’s Alaskan Moose. We didn’t see any Moose in Wyoming last week although the habitat was similar to Chugach State Park near Anchorage where I photographed this bull moose.
Whiskey Mountain in the Wind River Range in Wyoming is home to the largest wintering Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep herd in North America. This young Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram trotted effortlessly across the treeless, high elevation alpine tundra, his habitat which provides quick access to the steep rocky slopes nearby, an escape from predators.
The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Rams we saw near Dubois, WY last week stuck together in small groups within the band of Bighorn Sheep we were photographing. It was such a thrill to watch them deftly pick their way down a sheer cliff then rumble together down the hillside, stopping to munch on the grasses protruding from the snow. They exhibited a toughness and confidence that impressed me and must have impressed the ewes they were undoubtedly trying to attract.
We were fortunate to come across several small herds of Mule Deer when we drove along the East Fork of the Wind River near Dubois, WY. There were several bucks in each herd and even more does.