After spending a cloudy morning cooped up in the house yesterday, the sun came out and I decided to head to Merritt Island to experiment with afternoon light at the Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. It was less windy than the previous day, and the birds were closer to the trail. The afternoon light was incredible! I had to work hard to get good head angles, though — the silly birds kept looking away!
There were at least fifty Roseate Spoonbills along the trail. Most of them were on the wrong side of the road, and badly backlit. A few flew over my head, but my flight shots were bird-butt. Then I came across this beautiful bird in full breeding colors, almost right next to the trail! He spooned back and forth for me in the wonderful afternoon light. I liked how the mangrove was in the background, and how the whites of the spoonie contrast with the shadows. I tried and tried to catch him tossing a fish into his mouth, but I didn’t get the shot. Maybe next time!
My friend Donna had said that the afternoon light was best for trying to photograph the Northern Pintails, a duck that is wintering at Merritt Island in great numbers right now. We rarely see pintails inland at the Circle B Bar Reserve, so I was excited to get close to some. I found this pair of females along the Blackpoint drive. They were illuminated by the rays of the setting sun, and I loved how their brown colors coordinated with the browns of the grasses.
This male Pintail shows why they got their name — look at that tail! It looks like a pin when the bird sticks it in the air when he is fishing. I used the 2x teleconverter on the Beast to get this shot, and I was surprised and pleased to see how sharp it is.
There were tons of American Wigeons on the water as well, and one swam near a pintail as I photographed him. Birders are reporting Eurasian Wigeons at MINWR as well, but I didn’t see any. Apparently they like to hang out with the coots.
A pair of obliging Blue-Winged Teals came very close to the road, and they posed for me as if they knew that the sun was at my back and the light was perfect. They had to keep fishing for their dinner, though, so I tried to shoot in between head-dives. I like the droplets of water on this female’s head. :)
Want to learn more about nature photography at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge?
Check out my Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!