Friday, May 6, 2011

Pic of the day

Least Bittern, Image 1
Least Bittern, Image 2
    Least Bittern – Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands; Viera, Florida:  Least bitterns are one of the least (no pun intended) seen birds among birdwatchers.  I went years without ever seeing one, that is until I learned the real secret to finding them.  That secret is not just where, but when.
    The where, is among wetland reeds and cattails where they feed, sleep and breed.  The when, is early April in South Florida and late April in Northern Florida.  I happened to be at the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands in Viera, Florida in late April, and Least bitterns seemed to be everywhere, it was the time of bittern breeding.  I saw bitterns fly from reed patch to reed patch, stalking prey and copulating.  The breeding season seems to make the bitterns less wary, less reclusive and less inhibited.
    The first image is of a bird I stalked for about forty-five minutes before it stepped into a semi open area among the reeds.  The shooting opportunity was short, just a few seconds.  As I began shooting, the bittern plucked a frog from the water and paused for just a moment.  I took the image as the frog dangled from its beak, its eye visible between the reeds, and its body partially obscured with vegetation, typical of the secretive bittern.
   I found the bird in the second image as I drove along the dike roads of the water impoundments.  The bird was at the edge of a reed bed about fifteen feet off the road. The bittern was in a classic pose, feet stretched between two reeds, neck and head pointed upward, and an eye turned toward the camera, the kind of image I have wanted to shoot for years.  
   Bitterns are a challenge to photograph, as they stay hidden among reads most of the year. Breeding seasons brings them out of the depths of the reed beds, providing opportunities to photograph them, even though those opportunities are brief.   Knowing when Least Bitterns begin breeding in your area will increases your shooting opportunities as well.

Image 1.  Nikon D7000, Nikkor 500mm f4, 1/640sec. @ f6.3, ISO 200
Image 2.  Nikon D7000, Nikkor 500mm f4, 1/500sec. @ f6.3, ISO 200

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