Zugunruhe..Part 2

     Still feeling restless? You’ve got a bad case of Zugunruhe then. The early morning boat ride under a setting blue moon sky was breathtaking to behold. Unfortunately the moon dipped below the clouds before I could get a good photo. I am already restless thinking about next year’s Swallow-tailed Kite migration.

     Motoring quietly up the channel to the roosting site gives us time to check our equipment and get ready. Dressed in drab colors we blend with the camouflage covered boat and background.  The tall Cypress give us cover as the boat snuggles up to the bank, while the nesting Kites gently stir over head. As the sun rises, a mirror like water surface reflects the trees on the opposite bank. Our Guide had previously told us these calm wind conditions are not good for the Kite skimming activity we hope to capture. Kites prefer to skim in wind-rippled water, because in calm water, they can’t determine where the surface is and might dive too deep or into the mouth of a waiting alligator. Our guide is prepared for the calm water and has brought a small radio controlled boat (painted to resemble a skimming Kite) to run out in the channel to make the needed ripples. Unfortunately, it has a malfunction on launch and slowly drifts away. A small gator surfaces next to the boat and begins a slow swim across the channel.  Apparently the gator mistakes the boat for a real Kite and attacks it. (Later we spot the boat with only the bow floating nose up, drifting down the channel, sadly in need of repair). The good news is the wind picks up a bit and ripples the water. Suddenly the sky is filled with Kites and the skimming action starts. We raise the cameras and start clicking away.

     There are too many birds for our guide to call out; we just pick the closest one. Our arms quickly tire holding the heavy lenses while trying to follow the swift movements of the Kites skimming for water and washing their feathers. The clouds clear. The light is perfect. Tired arms click away. Then, as swiftly as it began, the skimming ceases as the kites leave to forage. Our guide describes the scene we have just witnessed as the longest and most intensive Kite skimming period he has seen in a dozen years. As I preview my later photos I realize that I forgot to adjust my shutter speed the guide had called for when the light conditions changed. Silent disappointment fills my thoughts. I missed the best part of it. Some of the early shots were ok and our Guide helped me salvage a few others in post processing. Whew! 

     Later in the afternoon we return to watch the “kettle” formations of returning kites as they come in to roost. Several have captured tree dwelling Florida rough green snakes for an evening dinner. They swoop by with the live non-venomous snakes dangling from their claws and begin to devour them in mid flight. A Barred Owl calls its mate from somewhere in the canopy. Our guide activates a recorded Barred Owl call on his phone and soon two Barred Owls appear in the tree line to investigate the intruding “owls” in their territory. Flying silently across the channel, they land in a nearby tree and then peer into the boat looking for another owl. It is only a bunch of old photographers in “camouflage” pulling a ruse. Off they go, but I this time I got them. A Kite then flies by in “camo’s” (covered in tree moss) hoping we don’t spot it as it comes in to roost. Wonder where the Kite got that idea?

     The owls and I both learned a valuable lesson. They got fooled. I fooled myself. Don’t get so caught up with the moment that you forget why you came in the first place. Remember to check your settings! Some of the photos etched on my memory card didn’t turn out too well but the pictures etched in my mind are still perfect. Be blessed. Harry

Our radio-controlled boat "Swallow-tailed Kite Skimmer" used to make ripples..a malfunction leaves it dead in the water..and gator bait..

Early skimming activity shot in lower light conditions..

Swallow-tailed Kite "butt bath"....

A little tall feather shake off...

Another dip and drink run..

Hard to distinguish at first but some of these birds do have dark red eyes..

Some fresh water to start the day!

Shake it off...ahhhh

I see you in those camo's Mr Doohickey!

Time for breakfast...bugs anyone? 

Topshot of a Juvenile returning...note the lack of the longer scissor like tail of an adult . 

A juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk checks out the camouflaged  boat...nice job Ron!

Who wants snake for dinner? An unfortunate Florida Rough Green Snake snatched from the tree tops..

Snack time in flight..the Kites often eat their catch on the fly..

Snake, it's whats for dinner!

Swallow-tailed Kites returning to roost in the Cypress tops for the night..

A pair of Barred Owls in the trees fly closer to investigate the Guide's "owl" call!

You're not an owl! If you are you sure are an UGLY one..

Outta here! The Barred Owls figure us out to be a ruse..

A Swallow-tailed Kite wearing tree moss camouflage wings by...where did it get that idea I wonder?

I think I will head for Brazil soon...how bout you?

I see that Zugunruhe in your eyes..until the next migration...

email: selsorhd@me.com

All photographs and materials copyrighted and possession of Harry D Selsor. All rights reserved.

Photos are avail for purchase framed or unframed.