Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My first time on Anhinga Trail

I was looking forward to seeing Anhinga Trail. Since I live in the Everglades/Big Cypress ecosystem, it may sound strange to say that I have never been on the most popular trail in the Everglades National Park! Clyde doesn't photograph birds, so we never made it to this particular spot. However, for this project he wanted to see if he could get a couple of bird shots with a large format camera. Not any easy endeavor!

He didn't take his camera for this walk. He just wanted to see if it was at all possible for him to get a picture. The problem with shooting animals is that they move! Just when you think they are going to settle down they make a sudden movement. It takes a lot of film/exposures to get a good picture of an animal or bird, and large format film is very expensive!

While he meandered down the trail, I went crazy over the birds. WOW! This is a birders paradise and a bird photographers paradise! The birds are accustomed to people, so they don't spook and fly away. All I have is a 300mm lens, but it worked ok...but then I'm not a "real" bird photographer. They use those very large lenses...sometimes I didn't know which was more fun to photograph, the birds or the photographers!

This Anhinga had a 'hair-do' that reminded me of a punk-rocker!

It seemed that at every turn there was a bird sitting waiting to be photographed! Between all of the photographers snapping away, I felt like one of those paparazzi photographers, only the stars were birds!

The brilliant red color of the Cardinal was beautiful against the green background. I only got one shot off..and a blurry one at that...before he flew away.

One of my most favorite birds are vultures. They are so much fun to watch and, I swear, they have facial expressions! They are very social birds and take care of each other.

At the gallery we once had a vulture that was hit by a car. It wasn't hurt, but it was stunned. It sat there next to the front pond for the longest time and Rene was afraid a gator would get it, so she sat down to keep it company. I will never forget the look on that birds face when she sat down! It was as though it said, "Oh my gosh, how embarrassing...a human has come to sit with me!" Rene stayed with the bird until The Conservancy of Southwest Florida came out and picked it up so they could repair its wing. However, as it turned out, the bird wasn't injured, just stunned, so they released it.

Often, when one of the vulture clan is injured other vultures will stand watch for days before they leave the bird to its demise. It's wonderful to watch the pecking order of the group. It seems each bird has its own personality. Funny, strange birds to watch.

I believe these vultures are Black Vultures. Florida also has a vulture called a Turkey Vulture, its head is red like a Turkey. The Turkey Vulture is the only bird in North America with a sense of smell. (Black Vultures are also in South America) Vultures rely on keen eyesight and smell to locate food. The Black Vulture takes advantage of the Turkey Vultures powerful nose and follow them to the carcasses and then exclude them from the meal! Of course, watching vultures argue over a meal is always fun...such a social group!

The beautiful black and white wings of the Anhinga are patterns that photographers love to photograph. I am not a "birder", but I do enjoy birds. I can't tell you a lot about the Anhinga, but perhaps someone who reads the blog can fill in the blanks. However, for those of you who don't know what an Anhinga is I can tell you this much: The bird is very similar to a Cormorant. It doesn't have oil on its wings because it dives for fish, just as Cormorants do. One of the common names for the Anhinga is Turkey Bird because when it is swimming it often spreads its tail feathers like a turkey. A fun place to watch them swim is at Shark Valley. When you walk up to the look out tower you can look down into the pond below and watch them dart back and forth under the water. Anyway, because they don't have oil on their feathers they must take the time to dry them before they dive. Photographers lust over images of them sitting in a tree spreading those beautiful wings.

The Purple Gallinule is a rainbow of colors. They are very quick moving birds and rarely do they hold their heads still so capturing them in a photograph is tricky. It's hard to see in this tiny picture all the of the colors in feathers, not to mention the bright red beak...mmm I'll have to try for a better image next time on I'm on Anhinga Trail!

Clyde finally found the photo he wanted to take. We came back early the next morning and he set up to photograph a male Anhinga with his mate on her nest. The nest practically on top of the rail of the boardwalk. A great opportunity for any photographer, and especially for a large format photographer!

The pair were so sweet to watch...it was like a first love. She was all curled up in the nest and never moved until he brought her a new twig to decorate their home. She'd wake up, they'd discuss it, and then she'd take the twig and twist and turn until she made it fit into their home (nest). Then he'd get all puffed up, preen his feathers and be so very proud.

By the time the day was over Clyde was almost out of film, which meant it was time to unload the film from the film holders and load them back up. To accomplish that he sets up a small special tent that has light-tight arm holes in it so that he can do the work in complete darkness.

We spend our evenings unloading and loading film while listening to the Commentary CD's from Brook Jensen, the publisher of Lenswork magazine. Brook Jensen always provides us with opinions and concepts that either we agree with, or very much disagree with. His CD's (and commentaries in his magazine) give Clyde and I much to discuss and debate every evening. He is the only well known person in the field of photography that I know of who is not afraid to give his very unique OPINION. It is very refreshing and thought provoking.

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