Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Little Estero Lagoon

The Little Estero Lagoon is a place most people have never heard of unless you are a bird photographer. Ft. Myers Beach Florida sits on Estero Island in the Gulf of Mexico. There is 3/4 mile long stretch of tidal lagoon that sits between the beach and all the high rise condominiums. At low tide this area attracts numerous birds that like to feed in the shallow water left by the receding tide. This in turn attracts a bunch of photographers who like the fact that they can get really close to a large variety of birds in a confined area. Although it is not marked on any map, this area gets a lot of notoriety in the bird photography world. I have photographed here numerous times in the past and have always had good luck, until this morning. There was a beautiful sunrise with soft thin clouds that filtered the light like a giant diffuser. The receding tide had nice low water levels for perfect feeding conditions. I only had one problem, very few birds. I managed tp get a few decent photos, but it was disappointing compared to what I have always found there in the past.

The above photo on the left is a White Egret striking the water while attempting to catch a fish. The photo on the right is a Willet that missed on his fishing attempt and came up empty.  Working with the 800mm lens gave me a much greater working distance than what I have been used to. I would normally have to spend a lot of time quietly approaching the birds to get close enough to get shots like these. Even then I would usually have to crop in farther to fill the frame. So it was nice to set up and have a great working distance and still be able to fill the frame. 
Then when this Brown Pelican came in close enough,  I was able to create this beautiful portrait. The super telephoto lens does an amazing job of isolating the pelican and blurring the background.
Later in the day I moved over to Sanibel Island. I took a drive through Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, but the sunlight was pretty harsh and the tide was coming in. I checked into the Holiday Inn and hit the beach to photograph some shore birds. When you have a very big lens on a tripod on the beach you tend to attract a lot of attention. I was sitting down on the sand right at the high tide line with the tripod legs spread out to get as low as possible. This makes for a great shooting angle on the little birds. Everyone stops to ask what you are doing, what kind of lens you have, and how much does a rig like that cost. So I spent more time talking than shooting, but managed a few good shots. This shot below is of a Ruddy Turnstone. I really love how the long focal length isolatesthe bird and creates the amazing backgrounds.

The weather prediction calls for rain on Tuesday so I may have a forced day off from bird photography.

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