Watching an Eagle Hunt

So, if you follow my teaching partner, David Akoubian's, blog he told a story about us getting to watch something pretty amazing one afternoon when we were in Florida.

I'll try my best to summarize...

It was pretty nasty out weather wise.  We were riding along The Black Point Wildlife Drive on The Merritt Island NWR and we noticed a bunch of coots huddled up tightly as if they were on alert.  Then just a few feet from the car, a bald eagle flies right in front of us and makes a dive at the coots.  We quickly jump out of the car and grab our gear.  The wind is howling, but it is at our backs.  The eagle missed the coot initially, but he was one resilient  bird.  He pretty much hovered directly in front of our cameras.  He looked like he was flying on a treadmill.  The wind was so fierce and he was just flying and flying and going nowhere.  He was looking down at the water and every now and again he would swoop down for a closer look.  This went on for what seemed like a lifetime.  We started getting rained on, the wind was blowing the tripods, it was crazy!  Finally this eagle hits the water.  He is in the water about neck deep for probably 10 seconds, then he emerges with a dead coot.  Then he did a fly by right in front of us with the dead coot in his talons.  We never saw the coot come back up.  Best we could figure was the coot drown and the eagle got tired of waiting on him to surface, so he went and got him.  After we got back to a computer we looked at the time stamp on our images and it was over 6 minutes that we got to watch and photograph this eagle hunting, hovering and ultimately catching his prey.  

ISO 800, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/500th second

Hover over the image to see camera settings used.  Click the image to view it larger.

This is one of the images from that sequence.  This guy was on a mission, which he accomplished.

Image made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  All mounted on a Sirui Tripod and PH-20 Gimbal Head.

Flappin' Redhead

On one of our many trips around The Black Point Wildlife Drive on The Merritt Island NWR I caught this redhead duck out of the corner of my eye.

He was very close to the road and seemed to be relaxed and very tolerate of all the photographers.  He was intermingling with all of the coots and blue-winged teal that were also in the area.

I am much more knowledgeable of waterfowl than any other kinds of birds, so I was super excited to get a chance to photograph this guy.  We spent about 15 minutes with this guy and I got some images I am very pleased with.

This image is out of a series I took of him doing a wing stretch.  Although their feathers are practically waterproof, this is just a way that helps them to dry off.   It is fun to watch and pretty photogenic, too.

ISO 800, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/320th second

Hover over the image to see the camera settings.  Also, click the image to see an enlarged version.

If you look closely at the image you can see the water beading off his head, neck and chest.  It amazes me how different birds are equipped with the proper equipment they need.  If you look at a wet bluebird, for instance, it looks like a hot mess.  While waterfowl have feathers that just allow water to roll right off.

I normally try to go with a shutter speed of around 1/500th second when photographing birds, in this instance I wanted to show a hint of motion in the wings, so I went with a touch slower speed at 1/320th second.  Not only does this show motion in the wings, but it also takes your eye straight to the duck's eye, which is super sharp thanks to that Tamron Lens.

This image was made with my Sony A77 II and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  All mounted to a Sirui P-324S Monopod with L-20S Monopod Head.

 

Roseate Spoonbill

One of my favorite wading birds is the Roseate Spoonbill.  And there were no shortage of them around the Titusville, FL area during The Space Coast Birding Festival.

I love the pink coloration of the bird and the oddball shape if it's bill.  Much like the American Flamingo, the pink coloration of the Roseate Spoonbill is derived from their diet.

A common breeding grounds for these birds is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, so it's no surprise that we found the largest concentration of these birds there.  We spent most of our time on a portion of the refuge known as Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It is a 7 mile drive along a gravel road with prime birding habit.  We saw several different types of birds here...we saw herons, egrets, eagles, osprey, kingfishers, blue-winged teal, pintails, redhead ducks and of course roseate spoonbills.  It is a great area to visit if you are in the area!

Here is an image I really wanted to get while I was there.  A roseate spoonbill in flight.

ISO 800, 600mm, F/6.3 at 1/8000th second

Be sure to hover your mouse over the image to see the camera settings.  Also, don't forget you can click the image to enlarge it.

This image was made with my Sony A77ii and Tamron 150-600mm Lens.  I had the combo mounted to my Sirui P-324S Monopod and L-20S Monopod Head.

On my Sony A77ii camera body there is a camera setting that allows the camera to shoot at 12 FPS.  That came in incredibly handy during my trip.  The only catch to using this mode is that it forces you to shoot at a wide open aperture.  I was totally cool with that, because that's what I normally do anyhow when I am shooting birds.  

Heed this warning...you WILL get tired of seeing bird photos in the coming days and weeks ;)