Nov 2, 2018 ~ Mud flats and marshes close to the coast can be tidal or rain-fed depending on the location. With the abundant rain over the last few weeks a lot of areas are overflowing and too deep for the smaller waders. After cruising around the regular locations we have found our best birding spots to be on the coast. Days are still mild but most of the beach goers are back in school or have other activities. The fishermen are out in big numbers, but they generally stay in one place.
We made three trips over to Bolivar in October. The ferry is always fun and besides, you NEED hundreds of photos of gulls following the boat…. right?
Just after getting off the ferry turn left on Frenchtown Rd. A winding road through the marsh is usually good for long-legged waders, Clapper Rails and even ducks this time of year. But water was almost over the road with just a few birds perched on fence posts, such as the Little Blue Heron shown above. It was just too deep for the waders and especially the little guys. Of course, when the water does cover the road, that can be fantastic as they all hunt for fish being swept from one location to another.
Not that high now, but you never know.
The road nears the Intracoastal at the repaired bridge. There were tons of fisherfolk and we got out and worked on Brown Pelicans with our small lenses. For BIFs you really have several choices with the autofocus modes. We have been using the Dynamic 9-spot but we both have been trying the 3-D mode. IF you can get it to lock on to a bird AND the background is plain sky, it can be awesome.
It tracks the bird even if it is about to fly out of the frame. Which is fantastic if you have trouble panning and keeping up with the bird.
This is a YUGE crop; he was really too far away but I dont think I have ever gotten one diving straight down like that.
After not much luck with Frenchtown or the rural areas, we checked out Rettilon Road. Scissor-tail Flycatchers are abundant in the fall and this one was fairly close to the road. Bill was able to shoot out the window, I got this braced across the hood of the truck. You can get skunked doing that if the engine is giving off heat waves, so be careful.
Note: this was shot at f/9 since the little guys move that long tail around and you want it ALL in focus.
On this trip the beach at Bolivar Flats was fairly empty. Gulls, a few Sanderlings and Western Sandpipers. We were looking for Long-billed Curlew as we have seen them numerous times before. We found ONE Marbled Godwit along the surf. He started moving inland a bit, we were ‘triangulating’ him to get closer when he had enough of us and took off.
I had the big lens braced on a bean bag in the window of the open truck door. Being short, it works pretty well. I was tracking him probing the sand when he turned and took off. I was so excited to get this shot AND my shutter speed was fast enough for the quick take-off. If the light allows, I try to keep the shutter speed set at 1/2000 sec or even higher. You know, birds do fly.
The south end of the beach has post barriers and parts are blocked off for ground nesting plovers and terns. Lots of folks explore this area and get great shots but we have not had much luck. We did see a standing Reddish Egret far off at the edge of the water and we walked even with him.
We knelt down in the scrub brush and waited.
He did absolutely nothing so we hiked back to the truck.
Piping Plovers just reek of cuteness. I think this is a juvenile; they do breed in the dunes behind the beach. This little guy pulled a tiny worm out of the wet sand. Bill got out and got low, I was lazy and stayed in the truck.
Every time we go out we see numerous young Oystercatchers. This one was working hard on a washed-up fish; you know birds are opportunistic and will always take advantage of free food.
We explored the north end of the beach on our last trip. It is blocked by a deep cut from the marsh. In drier times it can be crossed with a 4-wheel drive, but it was a veritable river this past week. And most of the gulls and terns were on the far side.
We practiced using the 3-D focus tracking on a Black Skimmer too far out in the surf, on passing Brown Pelicans and finally declared it a day. Maybe there would be a Harrier in the fields along side Rettilon Road on the way out.
What we found was a Reddish Egret just beside the porta-potty at the exit. Of course we got out with our 300 f/4s and expected to get a few shots before he flew off. Nope.
He did fly, but only a short distance behind us. He was defiantly staying and did not seem to bothered about us.
OK… we got out the crates and sat down to see what he would do.
He started to feed right in front of us. The water was on a few inches deep and full of tiny minnow-sized fish. No wing flapping or shading, he just continually plucked out little fish.
This fish was a bit larger. He hunted back and forth in the small stream just 15 feet or so in front of us. We could have been big rocks; he totally ignored us.
He caught one after another. I have dozens like this. It was hard to decide which ones to show you.
A solitary Roseate Spoonbill came up to see what was going on. He joined the Willet, a Yellowlegs and a Blackbellied Plover in the stream. A Snowy Egret checked out the area but moved on.
Eventually I removed the 1.4x teleconverter and just enjoyed the closeness. He was an adult but not much of a shaggy chest. Still, this time of year Reddish Egrets can look rather shabby as their bill seem to shed layers leaving it with a scraggly whitish residue. He was so cooperative; I have over a thousand images of him looking for little fish in the shallows.
It got dark, we got tired, so we left the group to their fun. Our movement caused him to fly just a short distance, but he was moving back as we left.
As we started back to catch the ferry we were remarking how so many times the best shots of the day come late as you are almost ready to pack it all in. Does that happen to you? Or do you get your best shots early in the day? Let me know in the comments below.