Florida Birding Safari Report

Bald eagle with prey, Merritt Island NWR, Florida (click to enlarge image)

I’ve returned from leading my annual birding workshop in Florida, and it was a great success. We had the kind of weather that makes people like me want to live in Florida in the winter… mid 70’s and partly cloudy skies– perfect for sunrises, sunsets, and the diffuse front-lighting that makes for amazing shots of the white birds.

We had a couple of special treats on this trip, in addition to the great weather. We were joined in the field one evening by Nikon Pro Deb Sandidge, who talked about infrared photography. Deb even was so kind as to bring a couple of IR converted DSLRs along for the students to try out. A few people took home autographed copies of Deb’s book, Digital Infrared Photography Photo Workshop, a must-read if you want to explore IR photography.

We saw the usual range of bird species, but we were incredibly lucky to see bald eagles on three separate occasions. When I lived in Florida, we knew that eagles were around, but I never seemed to see them other than out on the horizon. This time, we not only saw eagles in flight, but came across one having a light “snack” of a grebe. We only had a brief opportunity to be in these bird’s presence, and we all got some killer shots.

We took in one sunrise at Canaveral National Seashore, in the shadow of Launch Complexes 39A & B, where you could almost hear the roar of the shuttle engines echo in the past. We practiced our BIF (birds in flight) techniques with the shorebirds there.

At Merritt Island NWR, we not only had a spectacular sunrise, but we also got to shoot Roseate Spoonbills at close range. Our primary shooting spot was at the Ritch Grissom Viera Wetlands, where we photographed herons, grebes, coots, Hooded Mergansers, Blue-winged teal, Osprey, and Sandhill Cranes. I had a little fun using the Nikon V1 with my 600mm lens to grab some shots of an Osprey.

The best part about this workshop, though, was the students themselves. Once again, I was lucky enough to have a great group join me in the field. I answered lots of questions about camera and lens setup, autofocus, and tripod technique. We had several image review sessions which allowed us to identify technical mistakes (like slow shutter speeds) so we could improve our shots the next time out. We also had a couple of amazing seafood lunches dining on rock shrimp at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville. I can’t wait to get out there again!

See all of my field workshops for 2012 here. 






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