Ring-billed Gull in a dive – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 185mm, natural light, not baited
Just a simple image today that I have always liked because of the action even though I don’t have great eye contact with my subject, a Ring-billed Gull. The day I took this image there were huge schools of baitfish running just off the shore of Fort De Soto’s north beach. It almost looked like the Gulf of Mexico’s waters were boiling and there were large flocks of gulls, terns, pelicans and skimmers all in feeding frenzies. I’ve posted about the Brown Pelicans that I photographed that day here, the images are the 3rd through the 6th from the top.
Schools of baitfish running just off the coast can be a great opportunity to photograph flocks of birds, great behavior and fantastic action.
More Ring-billed Gull images
It has been too warm here in Utah to be called “Winter” yet, the snow that we have had hasn’t lasted long and even most of the mornings have been above freezing but the weather forecasters say that is going to change this weekend. Well, weather forecasters are often wrong so I won’t be holding my breath but it does give me a little hope.
Three years ago today though the ground was covered in drifts of snow, the temps were below freezing, there was ice on the ponds & lakes and there was a sharp briskness to the air that can only be found in winter. These are a few of the images I took that morning at a pond a few blocks from where I live.
American Coot wing flapping – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
We have tons of American Coots here in the winter until the water freezes solid and then the coots move to find open water. Coots aren’t the most colorful of birds but they are amusing to watch and photograph and they are a challenge because of the high contrasts between the whites and the darks.
Mallard drake – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f8, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
We also have plenty of Mallards too, domestic, wild and hybrids. Behind this drake this there is a sheet of ice on the pond. By the time I took this image my hands were getting cold even with gloves on and a heat pack tucked into them.
Juvenile Pied-billed Grebe in an icy pond – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/350, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
Pied-billed Grebes are another species that will be on my local pond until it freezes over and they are great fun to photograph because they are feisty little characters. This one was a hatch year bird when I photographed it as it still shows evidence of the striped head that juvenile Pied-billed Grebes have in their first year.
American Coot in pre-attack pose – Nikon D300, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light,
The coots squabble and fight a lot amongst each other, this coot was getting ready to chase another one across the icy pond.
Common Goldeneye female – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/400, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
There are times we get other duck species including Common Goldeneyes but they never seem to stick around long. This female Common Goldeneye was gone the next time I visited the pond a few days later.
Ring-billed Gull on the edge of ice – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light
There are also California and Ring-billed Gulls at my local pond during the winter. This Ring-billed Gull had walked too close to the edge of the thin ice and nearly fell in, it was walking back from where one of its feet cracked through the ice and it was using its wings to regain its balance.
Snow is supposed to arrive this Saturday, I hope it does, it is time for winter!
Ring-billed Gull in flight – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/4000, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
Yesterday I had a bit of fun photographing this Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) at Farmington Bay Wildlife Management Area, I love the snowy whites these gulls exhibit in their plumage year round. This gull flew in towards me then turned to expose its complete underside.
Ring-billed Gull starting a dive – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/6400, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
This image is the next frame I took as the gull turned to dive towards the water. Just one frame can make quite a difference in poses when you are shooting on the wing.
More Ring-billed Gull images
Four years ago today Hurricane Ike was out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and the waves that it generated made a strong splash at Fort De Soto County Park. Think of a rock being dropped into the water and how the ripples move out from the center until they reach the shore and bounce back towards the center from there. Then amplify that to match the strength and power of a hurricane.
Mixed flock flying in strong winds
These aren’t the typical gentle waves seen at Fort De Soto during nice weather, these are the waves caused by Hurricane Ike who was as I recall was nearly 300 miles away. The birds seemed to be constantly on the go that day and the wind certainly affected their flight patterns. That is Egmont Key in the background.
Calm Willet on a not so calm day
One of the first birds I photographed was this Willet (Tringa semipalmata) in what appears to be calm water. It was actually feeding in a tidal pool and even that had some waves as seen behind the bird. Looks can be deceiving.
Black Skimmer flying in the wind
Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger) can be swift fliers on a normal day but add the strong off shore winds and they become extremely difficult to track through a lens. It sure looked like fun flying that fast.
Skimmers, waves, wind and Egmont Key
I wish this image had the sound of the crashing waves attached to it, it was loud, wild and invigorating.
Reddish Egret dancing on the shoreline of the Gulf
I would have to say that this Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) was the Bird Star of the Day. It danced, it twirled and it put on a show that felt like it was just for me. The egret wasn’t taking a final bow here, it was just getting warmed up.
Reddish Egret hunting
Small bait fish were being injured by the crashing waves and then pushed onto a long flat shelf of the shoreline where gulls, terns and the Reddish Egret snapped them up rapidly. It was a challenge to keep up with the running egret to keep it within the range of my lens but it was well worth it.
Reddish Egret defending its prey from a Laughing Gull
The Reddish Egret had the advantage of being able to run faster than the gulls and the gulls tried many times to grab the bait fish from the egret, the egret usually won though.
Look at those the waves!
It isn’t everyday you see waves this large at Fort De Soto! I’d estimate the wave in front of the egret was close to 8 foot high.
Ring-billed Gull in the wind
When the gulls weren’t trying to steal food from the Reddish Egret they were flying around looking for fish themselves. There was one lone Ring-billed Gull patrolling the beach that day and although many people think gulls are common I believe they can be uncommonly beautiful. This one was very aggressive in searching out food.
The Ring-billed Gull makes off with the prize
And sneaky too. Here it is making off with the fish that all the Laughing Gulls were after and they hadn’t even realized it yet.
Nonbreeding Laughing Gull with prey
This Laughing Gull caught a fish and flew in close to me, I wondered then if it did that because the other gulls might not have landed that close to a human. I’ll never know the answer to that.
Before I left to go to Fort De Soto that morning I thought seriously about staying home because I knew it was going to be windy and that there might not be many birds about. I’m glad I ignored that thought.
While I prefer to have beautiful morning sun, photographing in fog can be quite fun too.
Foggy sunrise ~ Fort De Soto County Park, Florida
Nikon D200, handheld, f5.6, 1/2500, ISO 400, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 300mm, natural light
During the winter months sea fogs can roll onto the shore of Fort De Soto and it doesn’t usually show up on radar. After driving for 45 minutes to get to the beach I often felt like it would be foolish to turn around without taking a shot so I would walk the beach with camera in hand. Besides it is difficult to tell how quickly the fog will burn off.
The glowing orb in the photo above is the sun through a thick fog bank.
People feeding gulls in a fog ~ Guess they were ignoring the “Do Not Feed the Birds” signs
Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 400, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light
The fog muffled the sounds, I remember I could barely hear the waves lapping the shoreline the day I took these photos, the cries of the gulls sounded distant and the fog on my skin felt like dew drops. I had remembered to open the windows of my vehicle while driving to the fort so my camera and lens were the same temperature as it was on the beach, that helped to reduce any fogging on my lens.
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light
When photographing in a fog I like to be close to my subject to minimize the softening effect of the moisture laden air. I sand-crawled up to this adult Herring Gull just inches at a time and then raised my lens to photograph the subject.
Preening Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)
Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light
Not too far from the Herring Gull I found this Laughing Gull preening where the gentle waves were being pushed onto the sand. Despite the thick fog I was able to get a catch light in the bird’s eye even in this funny pose.
Resting Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 340mm, natural light
Between the Gulf and a tidal lagoon there was a spit of hard packed sand where I found this resting Ring-billed Gull, how could I resist taking its picture? Some people won’t bother to photograph gulls because they are common, I guess I don’t fall into that group. I like to photograph them.
Sea Star in a lagoon
Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/350, ISO 500, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 145mm, natural light
After photographing the birds on the beach I prowled in and around the mangroves at the edge of the tidal lagoons and found this huge Sea Star, it was about the size of a dinner plate. I don’t know what species it is and would appreciate an ID if anyone knows what it is. I wish I could have used more depth of field to get the tips of the arms sharp too, but I had to work withe the light I had.
I’m glad I didn’t turn around to head home when I saw the thick sea fog that morning, if I had I would have missed photographing some of these beautiful things and the memories of wandering in a fog.