Learning About Red Tide and Its Causes. And a $1,000 Price Drop on a Near-mint Canon 600 II! « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Learning About Red Tide and Its Causes. And a $1,000 Price Drop on a Near-mint Canon 600 II!


We lucked out on Sunday afternoon as the wind switched from east to west. We enjoyed two hours of flat calm silky blue water background bird photography. Ed Dow did great getting low and approaching the birds slowly. We photographed lots of shorebirds including Short-billed Dowitcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Wilson’s and Semipalmated Plovers, Least Sandpiper, and Willet. We had tame great blues and Great Egrets along with Snowy and Tricolored Herons, all in great light. The terns included Sandwich, Royal, Forster’s, and best of all, several Caspians.

Our luck ran out on Monday morning as the unprecedented mega-feeding sprees and the accompanying flight photography that we had enjoyed over the weekend never materialized. We did well at my back-up morning spot with point blank opportunities with Reddish, Great, and Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Ruddy Turnstone, and Double-crested Cormorant (among others). On Monday afternoon we enjoyed a second consecutive fabulous pre-thunderstorm session with the species mentioned in the first paragraph.

News on the Galapagos Front/Limit 12/Openings: 3

Right now I have nine folks committed to the 2019 Galapagos Photo Cruise. A friend who had committed to the trip learned that he and his wife might not be able to attend. Thus, I have room for a couple or for two same-sex roommates, and for a male single. If the archipelago is on your bucket list, please get in touch via e-mail asap with questions. If you might be registering with a friend or a spouse do ask about the two at a time discount. See the complete details here.


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the 5Ds and 5Ds R, the old Canon 500mm, the EOS-7D, the Canon 200-400 with internal extender, and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. Most recently the price of used Canon 600mm f/L IS II lenses have been dropping like a rock with the introduction of the 600 II. You can always see the current listings by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

September Sales

Ron Gates sold a Canon EOS 7D in near-mint condition for $350 in mid-September.
Will Craig sold a Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens in excellent condition for $674.00and a Canon EF Extender 1.4X III in near-mint condition for $329.00 about one week after they were listed in mid-September.
Will Craig sold an original Canon EOS 7D camera body in excellent condition (with fewer than 26,000 actuations) for $299.00 soon after it was listed in September, 2018.
Anthony Ardito sold a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV body in like-new condition (with extras) for $2,499.00 in early September, 2018.
Anthony Ardito also sold a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens in like-new condition (with extras including a 2X III TC) for $8,500.00 in early September, 2018.
I sold my Canon 1.4X III teleconverter for $329.00 in early September before listing it.
Amy Novotny’s Nikon TC-E-20 (teleconverter) sold the first day it was listed in early September for $249.00.
Richard Gollar sold his Canon EF 500mm f/4 L IS (the original IS model, the “old five”) in near-mint condition for $3399.00 in early September.

Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens

Price Reduced $1,000 on September 25, 2018.

Ramona Boone is offering a Canon 600mm IS II in like-new condition for $7,699.00 (was $8,699.00). The sale includes the lens trunk, the front lens cover (R 185B), the rear cap, a RRS LCF 53 foot (installed), the original foot, a Real Tree LensCoat, the lens strap, an AquaTech ASCC-6 Soft Cap, and insured ground shipping via major courier. Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Ramona via e-mail or by phone at 1-719 231 5874 (Mountain time).

The 600 II has been the state of the art super-telephoto for birds, nature, wildlife, and sports for many years. When I was using Canon and could get it to my location, it was always my go-to weapon. It is fast and sharp and deadly alone or with either TC. With a new one going for $11,499, you can save a cool $3,800.00 by grabbing Ramona’s pristine lens now. artie


For the past few months, I have been hearing folks use the word Airbnb, most notably, Amy Novotny. Out of curiosity I asked a few questions. What I learned amazed me. Join Airbnb and become part of a community that connects global travelers with local hosts across the world. Find a place to stay and discover things to do. Airbnb lists more than 4.5 million homes across 200 countries; you’ll find spacious, affordable options for every occasion. With Airbnb you will travel with confidence as reviews from past guests help you find the right fit. Once you do, our secure messaging makes it easy to coordinate with your host. And Airbnb support teams are available 24/7. Last night I made a reservation for an Airbnb apartment for my upcoming January San Diego visit: 13 nights with a full kitchen and two bedrooms.

Yikes. I almost forgot the best part: Airbnb rates average less than half of even the least expensive chain hotels and motels. If you would like to save $40 on your first booking sign up by using this link: Airbnb. Airbnb does charge clean-up and service fees that make short stays less attractive bargains than long stays.

Those who prefer to stay in a motel or hotel are invited to use the Booking.com link below to save $25.00.


Several folks on the UK IPT used the Booking.Com link below for their Edinburgh hotels, got great rates, and saved a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body as well as for the Canon 600 IIi. He already has two BAA blog orders for the new Canon six.

This image was created at Fort DeSoto Park on the morning of September 24, 2018. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens (at 34mm) and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850.

ISO 1600. Matrix metering -1/3 stop: 1/50 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. AWB before the sun hit the mud.

Two below the center AF point f-9 shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure.

Image #1: Red tide fish kill

Learning About Red Tide and Dust From Africa …

The first e-mail that I received after requesting red tide information was from BPN Avian Forum regular, Joe Przybyla. He referred me to a fine newspaper article in the Tampa Bay Times by Craig Pittman: Why is Red Tide so bad this year? Could dust from the Sahara be to blame? The piece is well-written and informative.

Next I received an e-mail from multiple IPT veteran John Johnson who will be joining us in the Galapagos next summer. Here it is in its entirety:


I don’t think global warming is the issue with red tide. Red tide has been around for ever. The following article paints a good picture of why it has been so bad this year.


Red Tide Info

One reason Florida’s Red Tide is so bad this year: Dust From Africa

From the excellent Craig Pittman/Tampa Bay Times article here.

Red Tide hits Florida on a regular basis, but rarely is one of the algae blooms as deadly as this year’s. Already declared the worst in a decade, it’s killed a dozen dolphins, scores of manatees, hundreds of sea turtles and untold thousands of fish. Why is this year’s bloom so bad? The Sahara Desert may be to blame. “It’s possible,” said research scientist Kate Hubbard of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, which is the agency in charge of monitoring the bloom. “It is a nutrient source.” Bolstering the dust theory is the fact that, according to Hubbard, markers showing the dust’s presence have been detected near shore this summer.

The explanation for how this works demonstrates what an incredibly complicated mechanism the Earth’s weather can be.Every year, over about 100 days from spring through the fall, winds in Africa will pick up tiny dust particles from the desert and carry them thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. The tiny bits float along on the wind, soaring up to 3 miles above the surface of the water. Sometimes they clump together into a hazy configuration as large as the continental United States. Then they land at last in and around the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Usually the dust particles feed phytoplankton, build Caribbean beaches and fertilize the Amazonian rain forest. Sometimes the dust creates beautiful sunsets. Sometimes it causes a thick haze to hang in the air over Texas. Sometimes, according to a Texas A&M study, it suppresses hurricanes from developing in the Gulf.

And sometimes it feeds a Red Tide bloom.

This image was created at Fort DeSoto Park on the morning of September 24, 2018. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens (at 34mm) and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850.

ISO 1600. Matrix metering -1/3 stop: 1/50 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. AWB before the sun hit the mud.

Two below the center AF point f-9 shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure.

Image #2: Red tide fish kill

Another reason Florida’s Red Tide is so bad this year: Pollution from the Mississippi River

From another excellent Craig Pittman/Tampa Bay Times article here.

The Red Tide algae bloom now tossing tons of dead fish on Pinellas County’s beaches has been fueled for months by many things — runoff from over-fertilized lawns, leaking septic tanks and sewage lines, even dust from the Sahara Desert. (Note: this links to the same article that Joe sent me.) Now add another ingredient to the mix making this the worst Red Tide bloom in a decade: pollution flowing from the Mississippi River. A 2007 federal study concluded that the extremely large amount of nutrients flowing from the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico can stimulate Red Tide blooms growing on the continental shelf off the west coast of Florida.
The lead author of that paper, oceanographer Richard Stumpf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in an interview this week that that’s exactly what happened this year — and it’s why this Red Tide resembles the horrific one from 2005. The nutrients are not what spark the Red Tide algae to suddenly multiply by the thousands and become a bloom, he said. But they do feed the bloom and make it larger.

“Every possible source of nutrients is feeding it,” Stumpf said, noting the same thing happened in 2005. That bloom, deemed one of the worst Red Tide outbreaks in Florida history, spent more than a year killing fish and shutting down beach tourism from the Alabama border to the Florida Keys. The impact on sea life was so catastrophic that it created a dead zone — an area of the Gulf devoid of oxygen and sea life — that stretched from New Port Richey south to Sarasota. “There was just no oxygen on the Florida continental shelf,” Stumpf said.

The Mississippi River connection to the two Red Tide blooms is another sign of what an incredibly complex mechanism the Earth is — and also the unintended consequences of pollution. As the Mississippi rushes southward toward the Gulf, the river picks up a lot of passengers. That includes more than 900,000 metric tons of nutrient pollution from the farms and homes along its banks that use fertilizer to grow crops and keep lawns green. Most fertilizer in the United States comes from phosphate mined in Florida and shipped through the Port of Tampa. Most of the time the river flows south, and so the pollution feeds a type of plankton that dies and creates a massive “dead zone” near the mouth of the river. But sometimes currents in the Gulf push the flow eastward, toward Florida. That’s been happening for months on end this year, according to Robert Arnone, a University of Southern Mississippi professor who analyzes the river’s flow into and through the Gulf.

“It’s not just one plume,” he said, “but it’s like all the waters (from the river) are moving to the east.” The Gulf’s loop current “is pushing all the waters to the east.” The nutrients settle into deeper water, where the Red Tide algae first begin feeding off the bounty, the study found. As the blooms grow on the continental shelf, they’re then pushed toward shore and concentrated by the prevailing wind patterns of late summer and fall. The current Red Tide bloom was first detected last November and appeared to move offshore around February. Usually, Stumpf said, Red Tide fades away around March, but that didn’t happen this year. Instead, “it came back inshore in the spring,” he said. And that time of year, there are no other types of algae around that might compete with Red Tide for the nutrients in the water, he said.

“That’s why it’s such a bad problem” this year, he said. “Everybody thought it was gone, but it wasn’t.” Harmful algal blooms such as Red Tide occur in the waters of almost every U.S. coastal state, caused by numerous species. The direct economic effect in the United States is estimated to average $75 million annually, and scientists predict climate change will lead to more blooms that are more intense. No one knows what starts a Red Tide bloom, and no one can predict how it will end. In the case of the 2005 bloom, Stumpf said, it took another major natural disaster to stop it. “It was broken up by Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “That’s the only good thing we got out of Katrina.”

This image was created at Fort DeSoto Park on the morning of September 24, 2018. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR lens (at 34mm) and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850.

ISO 1600. Matrix metering -1/3 stop: 1/100 sec. at f/11 in Manual mode. AWB before the sun hit the mud.

Three below and three to the right of the center AF point f-9 shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure.

Image #3: Laughing Gull carcass in wrack; dead from red tide?

My Red Tide Questions

If you know or have a link to exactly how red tide kills fish, mammals, or reptiles — I am trying to understand the mechanism — please leave a comment and/or a link. Is it the toxins? If yes, how do they kill. Does oxygen depletion add to the death toll?

Your Red Tide Questions Answered

Read yet another excellent Joe Pittman article here.


I learned a lot in the short video here.

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5 comments to Learning About Red Tide and Its Causes. And a $1,000 Price Drop on a Near-mint Canon 600 II!

  • avatar Richard Steel

    Hi Artie

    Nitrogen tends to be the limiting nutrient for marine algae growth (as opposed to phosphorus in freshwater systems) . Red tides are caused by an algae group called dinoflagellates that when they bloom create a range of toxins which will bioaccumlate within foodchains. For example, red tides cause a range of shellfish poisoning i.e they don’t kill or cause death of shellfish but the animals that consume them. Where you have dense algal blooms over a wide area, localised algae population collapse will occur due to factors such as nutrient exhaustion. The collapse can be catastrophic on local water quality due to microbial decomposition processes. This will cause not only sudden loss of dissolved oxygen but will also elevate the concentration of other potentially toxic decomposition products such as ammonia.

    Global warming will raise sea temperature and increase algal reproduction rates but the key driver is nutrients from waste water and agricultural run off to rivers and the sea. We have to start being smart and stop thinking of the sea as an infinite dumping ground.


    Rich – not the one above 😉

  • avatar Andrew

    Or maybe it has something to do with Ricky 🙂


  • avatar Richie

    Algae/Phytoplankton are tiny microscopic plants that form the base of the marine food chain and are the most important living things on the planet because they produce oxygen, more oxygen than anything else does, including the rain forests.
    Blooms occur naturally when the growth of these creatures explodes out of control due to an excess of nutrients in the water. Blooms used to be rare but are becoming increasingly common due to eutrophication – excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in the water caused by sewage, animal slurry and fertiliser run off into the ocean.
    Some types of algae can be very toxic both to marine life and animals including due to the production of brevetoxins and ichthyotoxins. In excess, they can also harm other marine life by blocking light to seaweeds, seagrasses, corals, sponges, etc and even by physically blocking these creatures breathing mechanisms gills, filters etc.
    When algal blooms eventually die, they and the other creatures they have killed, are broken down by bacterial decay. This in turn causes oxygen depletion in the water which in turn kills creatures further up the chain such as fish, shellfish, etc. A vicious cycle of death.
    Who is to blame? We are. If we treat the ocean as a toilet, there are consequences. If we also heat up the contents of the toilet, the consequences become more severe and more frequent.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Richie for sharing your knowledge. And yes, I agree that we are trashing the planet in just about every way possible …

      with love, artie