Friday, October 7, 2011

Pic of the Day

     Least Bittern – Wakodahatchee Wetlands; Palm Beach, Florida:  If I had to make a list of  birds that are the most challenging to photograph, the least bittern would be near the top.  Bitterns are secretive birds and are most often seen in the breeding season when they are busy chasing each other through their weedy habitat.   I have spent hours looking for bitterns; slowly driving along drainage canals and pond edges looking for the slightest movement that might give up this master of disguise.  Their delicately streaked feathers provide the perfect camouflage among their golden marsh reed habitat.  On occasion I do find them; and when I do, I savor the opportunity to shoot.
     Finding bitterns is one thing; finding them in a good location for shooting is another.  I found this least bittern while walking the boardwalks of the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Palm Beach. Florida.  The day was late and the sun was inching toward the horizon.  As the sun dropped this bittern came out of hiding to hunt among the lily pads that sheltered small fry.   I immediately took advantage of the situation and began shooting.  As the bittern slowly tread across the lily pads it would pluck a small fry from the water.  With each stab I shot a burst of frames.  These two images captures the essence of the hunt.  As the bird stalked it would stretch its head forward, slowly turning it left and then right to gauge the distance of the prey.  Then, with lighting speed the bitters thrust forward. Before the eye can realize what has happened, the head springs back to the body with a fish in its beak.  In less than a second the small fry is gone and the routine begins again as I continue to shoot beyond what the light will allow.  I savor each moment with each frame shot and  look forward to the next hunt for the least bittern.

Nikon D300, Nikkor 500mm f4,  1/320 second @ f7.1, Arca Swiss Ball Head on Gitzo Tripod

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