What a weekend at the Florida Birding and Foto Fest 2013. Well I didn’t win but had fun and learned some more bird stuff and had a great time. The winning photo of the contest was of a pair of Swallow Tailed Kites. I almost had the “trophy” bird on the hood of my truck though. A pair of Swallow Tailed Kites swooped down in front of the truck on the way home one of the nights I was at the Bird Fest. It is a fairly large bird with long black and white wings. Another foot closer and it would have been a hood ornament. I went back to the Alligator farm also and wanted to share some more photos. There are lots of birds there now. The speakers at the conference also confirmed the lack of birds seen elsewhere this time of year is because many of the local species are brooding and nesting. That is why it is so quiet on the Broward.
I see my first Green Heron as I enter the bird-walk area sitting near the Alligator Farm sign. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology “It can be difficult to see as it stands motionless waiting for small fish to approach within striking range, but it frequently announces its presence by its loud squawking.” (Sort of like teenagers I think). There are several more bird species nesting now. The cattle Egrets, tri-colored Herons and Snowy Egrets are busy building nests and carry sticks to the nest site for approval. The beaks on the male Tri Colored (and Little Blue) Heron show a bright blue hue during breeding season. One of my favorite birds, the Roseatte Spoonbill is there also. I watch an adult fly back and forth to feed three young Spoonbills. One young Spoonbill is particularly hungry and really digs deep for some food. I have them pose for a family photo. The adult Spoonbills have a balding greenish head where the feathers have disappeared. Like the Wood Stork, the Spoonbill’s head feathers are destroyed by bacteria in the mud when they feed. Breeding Spoonbills have a yellowish orange tail and bright pink patches on the wings. The pink feathers and spatulate-shaped bill are very distinctive identifiers for this bird. It sweeps the bill back and forth in shallow water at low tide and snaps shut when it detects something edible. A large bull alligator arches its back and begins to emit a large series of grunts. The water vibrates from the grunting behind the head. Another answers and soon the whole farm is alive with gator grunt “music”. It must be catchy because the Great Egret arches its back in a similar manner and goes into a display.
Nothing like a good piece of humble pie to get one back to reality. I was beginning to think I was getting the hang of this bird photography thing. I was truly in the presence of some great bird photographers this weekend. Their work makes mine seem pale and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But I have to remember they have spent years and years and thousands of dollars and countless days and nights perfecting their art and skills. I just started so I will be back next year hoping again (Lord willing). I also figure if a photo of the moon rising over a building can win second place in a bird photography contest though some of them judges was smoking something besides cigarettes! Be Blessed, Harry