Have You Ever Seen an Unfledged Black Skimmer Chick Fly? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Have You Ever Seen an Unfledged Black Skimmer Chick Fly?


Fort DeSoto in fall is rife with tame birds. All the images on this card were created at Fort DeSoto in either late September or very early October. I hope that you can join me there this fall. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Caspian Tern, Great Egret, Sandwich Tern with fish, Willet, Black-bellied Plover threat display, Snowy Egret, 2-year old Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron.

The Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tours

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #1

3 1/2 Days: Tuesday 27 September through the morning session on Friday 30 September 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers/Openings five.

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #2

3 1/2 Days: 7 October through the morning session on Monday 10 October 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers.

Fall 2022 Fort DeSoto Instructional Photo-Tour #3

3 1/2 Days: Monday 31 October through the morning session on Thursday 3 November 2022. $1899.00 includes three working lunches. Limit six photographers.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds and terns in fall. There they join hundreds of egrets, herons, night-herons, and gulls that winter on the T-shaped peninsula. With any luck at all, we should get to photograph one of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher is pretty much guaranteed. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and White Ibis are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two. And we will get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. In addition, Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork might well be expected. And we will be on the lookout for a migrant passerine fallout in the event of a thunderstorm or two.

On this IPT, all will learn the basics and fine points of digital exposure. Nikon and Canon folks will learn to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, and SONY folks will learn to use Zebras so that they can be sure of making excellent exposures before pressing the shutter button. Everyone will learn how to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. Most importantly, you will surely learn to evaluate wind and sky conditions and understand how they affect bird photography. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it). The best news is that you will be able to take everything you learn home with you so that you will be a better photographer wherever and whenever you photograph.

There will be a Photoshop/image review session during or after lunch (included) each full day. That will be followed by Instructor Nap Time.

These IPTs will run with only a single registrant (though that is not unlikely to happen). The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Once you register, you will receive an e-mail with Gulfport AirBnB information. If you register soon and would like to share an AirBnB with me, shoot me an e-mail. Other possibilities including taking a cab to and from the airport to our AirBnB and riding with me. This saves you both gas and the cost of a rental car.

A $600 deposit is due when you sign up and is payable by credit card. Balances must be paid by check two months before the trip. Your deposit is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out with six folks, so please check your plans carefully before committing. You can register by calling Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand, or by sending a check as follows: make the check out to: BIRDS AS ART and send it via US mail here: BIRDS AS ART, PO BOX 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions, clothing, and gear advice. Please shoot me an e-mail if you plan to register or if you have any questions.


Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, juvenile Tricolored Heron, Marbled Godwits, Great Blue Heron, juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Stork, smiling Sea Scallop, Ruddy Turnstone scavenging needlefish, Great Blue Heron sunset silhouette at my secret spot, and southbound migrant tern flock blur.

Up Early, Stay Out Late!

Obviously, folks attending an IPT will be out in the field early and stay late to take advantage of the sweetest light and sunrise and sunset colors (when possible). The good news is that the days are relatively short in early fall. I really love it when I am leaving the beach on a sunny morning after a great session just as a carful or two of well-rested photographers are arriving. The length of cloudy morning sessions will often be extended. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

What’s Up?

I started the day with a 3.5-mile walk along the lakefront. I have been assuming that with the heat, still, wet weather, there would not be many birds around. I was wrong. I saw several pairs of cranes and one of them copulated. There was an Anhinga on the only piling out of the water to the right of the pier. It had its wings spread and there was a perfect reflection. A pair of handsome caracaras was hanging out at the base of the pier. As I headed north, a flock of about 150 Cattle Egrets blasted off. Groups of White Ibises flew by several times. I saw several Ospreys. And the Bald Eagle pair was still at their long-empty nest. The most interesting sighting occurred on my second of three walks on the pier when three medium-sized, very white below Tringa-like shorebirds flew toward and then over the pier just 30 feet in front of me. I thought they were Lesser Yellowlegs but did not look right for that species. Perhaps they were Solitary Sandpipers. I did not see that one landed on the pier until it took flight to catch up with the other two. If I had seen it after it landed it is likely that I would have nailed the ID. I did see several Spotted Sandpipers flying around the pier, easily identified by their stiff, rapid wing beats. I came upon the best photographic situation as I walked by The Perch in the North Field: there was a Black-bellied Whistling Duck on The Perch and another on a smaller, closer perch that rarely gets any action.

I did not get into the pool until 6:15pm as it had poured, thundered, and lightninged all afternoon beginning at about 1:00pm.

Today is Thursday 8 September. I am going to get a very early start on my rope flow walk and then take a spin around the lakefront in my SUV in hopes of doing some photography, hoping to find a perched whistling duck or two. Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope that you too have a great day. This blog post took about two hours to prepare and makes one hundred sixty-seven days in a row with a new one.

Please remember to use the B&H and Amazon links that are found on most blog pages and to use the BIRDSASART discount code at checkout when purchasing your new gear from Bedfords to get 3% back on your credit card and enjoy free second-day air FedEx. Please, also, consider joining a BAA IPT. You will be amazed at how much you will learn!

Spoonbills at DeSoto

Over the past years, Roseate Spoonbills have become regular visitors to Fort DeSoto Park. I know when and where to find them and can teach you to approach them successfully. Do consider joining me on a DeSoto IPT.

Ever Seen an Unfledged Black Skimmer Chick Fly?

This image was created on 6 August 2022 by yours truly at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, NY. While standing at full height, I used the no-longer available (except from BAA) Induro GIT 304L tripod/Levered-Clamp FlexShooter Pro-mounted Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens with the Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter, and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless Digital Camera.. ISO 2500. The exposure was determined by Zebras with ISO on the rear wheel: 1/640 second at f/5.6 (wide open) in Manual mode. RawDigger showed that the raw file brightness almost one stop too dark. AWB at 7:38:58pm on cloudy dark afternoon.

Tracking: Zone/AF-C with Bird-Eye/Face Detection performed perfectly. Click on the image to enjoy the high-res version.

Image #1: Needlefish Tug-of-War

The Situation

Two photographers to our right started screaming and pointing to the small hill just to the left of Anke and me. I spotted the tug-of-war and got on it quickly. I was working at 840mm, greedy as always despite the low light conditions. Note that my shutter speed was only 1/640 second, less than ideal for flight and action. I created a 20+ frame sequence of the tug-of-war on the ground. Once the adult took flight, I was much too tight at 840mm, and had zero chance of creating a sharp image at 1/640 second.

This image was created on 6 August by Anke Frohlich at Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, NY. While standing at full height, she used the handheld Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens and The One, the Sony Alpha 1 Mirrorless digital camera. ISO 6400. Exposure was determined via Zebras with ISO on the rear dial: 1/2000 sec. at f/4.5 (stopped down 1/3-stop). RawDigger showed that the raw file brightness was within 1/6-stop of perfect. AWB at 7:39:28pm on a cloudy dark afternoon.

Tracking: Spot S/AF-C was active at the moment of exposure and performed perfectly. Be sure to click on the image to enjoy the larger version.

Image #2: Adult Black Skimmer hoisting chick into the air

Another Approach

Anke got on the action less than a second after I did. She caught some of the tug-of-war and created an amazing sequence of the liftoff that included Image #2 above. Her style involves almost always abstaining from the use of teleconverters, almost always choosing a shutter speed fast enough to capture action (even when it is not expected), and working wide and then cropping. With wide apertures and fast shutter speeds, she will always make sharper images than someone using a teleconverter. And, as in this situation, framing wider often pays off in spades. All things being equal, shooting wider rather than tighter gives you a much better chance of keeping the action in the frame. With her approach, Anke consistently makes many more excellent images of birds in flight and in action than I do.

You can see more of Anke’s work on her Instagram page here.

Your Thoughts?

As always, feel free to comment on either or both of today’s featured images, or to ask a question.


With all blog posts, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors.

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