ADVENTURES IN NATURE – part 5
I have always been fascinated by flight. I am a retired airline pilot with over 15,000 of flight time and in addition, I have had the joy of flying my body for 12 hours and 40 minutes of free-fall time during my skydiving adventures. Unfortunately, in the latter activity, gravity dictated that my flight was always downward leading to the necessity of saving my life by deploying my parachute.
As a photographic hobbyist, not surprisingly one of my favorite subjects is birds in flight. In addition to my fascination with birds in flight, it is one of the more challenging photographic subjects to capture properly. In this installment of my Adventures in Nature series, I am going to deal with the subject of birds in flight.
One of the more spectacular species are the various raptors. This shot of an osprey with its recently captured breakfast is one of my favorites. Excitingly, it placed 3rd out of 663 entries this very week in a photo contest with the theme, “Show Your Best Wildlife Photos.”
Here is a continuation of the sequence that I shot in which this osprey landed on his adjacent nest and shared his catch with his mate who was sitting on the nest:
And another dramatic shot of the same osprey captured some months prior to the above photos:
And finally one interesting overhead perspective of an osprey flying by with its talons extended:
I love capturing shots from unique perspectives. Here is one that has caused a bit of a stir on the National Geographic website – it’s a shot of a Great Egret flying away not only leaving a wake with each wing, but reflected on the water such that it looks like the jaws of a shark:
As long as the subject is Great Egrets, here are a couple more of that species. The second one is an egret who is a regular visitor to my house. The photo shows is arrival one morning.
Silhouettes always make for interesting shots. Here is a group of Sandhill Cranes flying by just prior to sunset:
One of the most maddening subjects I have tried to capture in flight is the elusive Kingfisher. They are probably the most skittish birds on the planet and it is extremely difficult to get close to them. One day, I got my dream shot. A Kingfisher suddenly appeared overhead hovering just prior to diving for the prey it had obviously spotted. Quite excited at the prospect of finally capturing one of these creatures in flight, I raised my camera skyward, but as I started shooting, I noticed I was not getting good focus for some reason. I took a few shots, the bird departed and I discovered that my telephoto lens had been set for distant, not close focusing. The result was anything but the tack sharp photos I love, but here is the result:
Everyone loves ducks – here is a fly-by by a couple of Redhead Ducks:
One of my favorite birds is the Great Blue Heron. Here are a couple of shots of them in flight:
This shot, although not terribly good photographically in that it was shot at considerable distance, depicts an interesting nest-building ritual practiced by Great Blue Herons. The male retrieves material for the nest, brings it back to the nest, does a bit of a victory dance for his mate, hands over the material, and she then applies it to the nest. This shot depicts a Great Blue Heron performing the pre hand-over-the-nest-material dance:
A very spectacular bird in flight is the Wood Stork; here is one coming in for a landing:
Wood Storks were once an endangered species and fascinatingly, there is one 10 million year old fossil that is identified as a Wood Stork. Here is what this fascinating bird looks like up close:
A fascinating bird that is quite prevalent in this part of Florida is the Black Skimmer. It skims along the water catching fish with its unique beak – the bottom portion is shorter than the top allowing it to efficiently scoop up small fish. The first shot is a group of them flying around the Gulf of Mexico and the second is an interesting “V” formation of two of them flying together:
Here is a close up look of their unique beak structure:
Speaking of unique bills, here is a shot of a bird with a rather unique bill – the Long-billed Curlew:
Another bird with a unique bill is the White Ibis:
Something that you might not be aware of is that there is no such bird as a seagull. The term “seagull” is a generic term used to describe the rather large family of gulls. As a matter of fact the term is even more of a misnomer when you consider the fact that many birds termed “seagulls” live, feed and nest inland. Here are two shots of gulls – one is a very young gull and the other a mature gull. There are so many species; I am not going to bother to specifically identify these two:
Closely related to gulls are terns – here is a shot of one:
Vultures are rather spectacular in flight – here is a Turkey Vulture that has apparently spotted something of interest on the ground:
Of course many creatures other than birds have been known to fly – an example would be my retired, racing greyhound Kitty (racing name KittyHawk) shown showing off to her housemate at the local dog park:
Finally, a tip for photographers which will assist in your efforts to photograph birds in flight. Many modern lenses are equipped with image stabilization as is my favorite lens for shooting birds in flight, a Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L USM IS lens. In that your shutter speeds are usually quite fast for this type of photography – often 1/2000th of a second, you will find that you more rapidly and readily capture focus on moving objects with the image stabilization feature turned off.
I hope you have enjoyed this brief photographic journey exploring birds in flight.