Birding at Tanglewood

Little Blue Heron in Flight

Little Blue Heron in Flight

I’ve spent quite a few hours during late afternoons sitting at the edge of one of Tangelwood’s ponds trying out my new Canon 600mm II lens.  I was out the other day using a 2x extender with the lens, so an effective focal length of 1200mm all told.  I’m not sure I’ve got the lens focus micro adjusted correctly but it is coming along..  This last time I took out my big Gitzo tripod with the Wimberley head on it.  This offers a much more stable platform for shooting than the monopod I used the previous two times.  Three legs are much better than one after all.  I played around watching and taking a few shots of a snowy egret, little blue heron and a juvenile tricolored heron as they foraged for food in the pond.  For the most part, all the birds stayed on the opposite side of the pond from where I was set up with my camera, lens and tripod, but it seemed that the birds kind of warmed up to my presence after 40 minutes or so and they started foraging closer to my position.  Of course, they got spooked when one of the residents let his large dog swim near their position but once the dog left, the birds got back to business.  Generally my shooting time is good until just after 5 pm.  After that the shadows are just too long and it is harder to get a good shot of the birds without having to boost my ISO considerably.  I’m finding the Canon 1DX offers up great image quality even at moderately high ISO speed and I can routinely shoot at 800-1600 ISO.  That gives me some pretty fast shutter speeds to stop most movement cold.

 Snowy EgretSnowy Egret

I got the first shot of the Little Blue Heron by going handheld as both the Little Blue Heron and Snowy Egret circled the pond as the dog played around in the water.  I just couldn’t get a good angle on either bird while mounted to the tripod because I was pretty low to the ground.  The only way to even attempt a shot was to go handheld.  Now the 600mm with 2x extender and my camera probably weighs close to twenty pounds so wielding it accurately was no easy task but the in flight shot of the little blue heron turned out very well.  I managed to get off three frames and the top one gave the best wing position and head angle without obscuring any of the bird.  The shaking snowy egret image was taken using the tripod again but is a little soft as far as focus goes.  The feathers seem to be sharper than the eye of the bird but I’m not sure where I focused.  I added a slight oil painting filter in Photoshop CS6 to the above image.  You can see the long shadows creeping in across the background behind the egret and also across it’s legs.

Juvenile Tricolored Heron ProfileJuvenile Tricolored Heron Profile

The last image is a profile shot of a juvenile tricolored heron as it sat on the edge of the pond about 20 yards away from me.  His upper body was in the sun and his lower body and legs in the shade.  He sat there patiently as I snapped away.  He is pretty colorful!  Now today I heard there is a bald eagle nest on the local college grounds just up the road from Sebring, so you just know we’ll be checking that out in the coming days, so stay tuned for more photos.  We are off to the Tampa RV Super Show in the morning.  I’m leaving my camera at home.