2022—Gripping Drama

A female Least Bittern is partially obscured by tall, dense reeds on a floating island on Lake Kissimmee in Florida last week. She stabilizes herself by gripping two different reeds with her long talons while she searches for prey. I’m not sure if the small red ladybug on a stalk facing away from her is something she would eat but it was safe for the time being and I didn’t get any images of the bird eating.

What I did get was lots of in focus images of the bird even as I tracked it through the dense reeds, keeping the eye in focus as it passed in and out of the light and behind stalks and sometimes briefly obscured by swaying leaves. Although I’ve had the incredible Nikon Z9 camera for almost three months and have photographed mammals in Yellowstone, birds in my backyard, and stationary lighthouses in Michigan, this trip on an airboat on a lake gave me my first real test of the Z9 on birds. In my mind, it passed with flying colors! Or maybe flying colored feathers! Birds in flight. Birds perched. Birds clamoring through dense vegetation like this Least Bittern. I took this image near the end of our first day of shooting on Lake Kissimmee. It’s shocking to me to think that I took more than 18,000 images in just three hours! Most were of the endangered Snail Kite which was our target species but in the last half hour, I took slightly more than 2000 images of this Least Bittern. I did calm down a little during our next two days of shooting and took fewer in both days combined than I did on Day 1. But, I loved seeing the results and it was such fun I can’t wait to do it again.