2021: Photographic Year in Review

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2021 was a year of photographic discovery fueled by change. While I stayed close to home and distanced due to COVID, I found a wonderful new tool that put new regions of the Lake Apopka area within the reach of my lens – my bike! 2021 also introduced me to the magic of mirrorless autofocus. I tried a Canon R5 and promptly sold most of my DSLR kit. So here are my favorite photographic moments of 2021…

In early January I found that the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher really does exist! Rich and I had visited his stakeout many times without seeing him. Turns out it helps to go in the morning…and when I finally met him, he put on quite the show for me!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Lifers were few in 2021. I had a Least Flycatcher at Apopka (thanks Sam!) and I made it over to Chinsegut to see the Purple Finches during their irruption. Later I found my lifer Barn Owlets and a Louisiana Waterthrush in Lakeland. The cats had better luck and added several birds to our backyard list, including Black-and-white Warbler, American Kestrel, and our Christmas present of a flock of American White Pelicans!

Least Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher

It was on a trip to Joe Overstreet in March that I discovered the R5. I was photographing a huge flock of Tree Swallows as they congregated prior to their spring migration. The sheer numbers of the birds was amazing – and then a fellow photographer started describing his new R5. A few minutes of playing with eye autofocus and I realized that this camera was a huge game-changer. Mine arrived a couple of weeks later, and I returned from my next visit to Lake Apopka more excited about photography than I’d been in a long time!

Osprey with Fish
Osprey with Fish – Flight shots are practically effortless once you have initial focus with the R5

The wildlife drive is overrun with cars on weekends, though. But you can go any time on a bike! In the spring I started taking my bike to Apopka. It was great exercise for a work-from-home computer geek, and the photographic opportunities were amazing. Like the morning that I came across the Black-necked Stilt nest with a just-hatched baby still wet from the egg…

Black-necked Stilt Family at Nest
Black-necked Stilt Family at Nest

In April I discovered a new place to visit: Stick Marsh. It’s a spoonbill rookery and the flight shots were simply amazing. All year I dreamed of returning in 2022, until I saw that the area around the rookery is now a construction zone. I’ll have to find my spoonies elsewhere!

Roseate Spoonbills at Stick Marsh
Roseate Spoonbill at Stick Marsh

Summer visits to Florida’s Gulf Coast yielded my favorite Least Terns in all their courtship rituals, plus a few fuzzy and very cute babies! I was also rewarded to see several clutches of Snowy Plover chicks. Snowy Plovers are a state-designated threatened species. Finding adults can be a challenge, so the opportunity to watch the babies scurry along the beach is a precious gift.

Least Tern Fish Offering
Least Tern Fish Offering
Under my Wing (Snowy Plover Mom and Baby)
Under my Wing (Snowy Plover Mom and Baby)

I spent the better part of a weekend in June observing a family of Least Bitterns at Lake Apopka. It was my first time observing this species for an extended period (all from the long range of my Beast lens and 2x teleconverter). The babies are like fuzzy miniatures of their parents, and when Mom or Dad brings in food, the babies come running!! I’m not quite sure how everybody grew up without at least one parent losing an eyeball.

Least Bittern Feeding Time
Least Bittern Feeding Time

During the hot summer months, Rich and I visited the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to say hello to the nesting sea turtles. It’s always fun to watch the mother turtles lay their eggs in the soft morning light, then photograph their slow return to the sea.

Return to the Sea - Loggerhead Turtle
Return to the Sea – Loggerhead Turtle

Before I knew it, it was fall and I was stalking migrant songbirds from my bike at Lake Apopka. It was an especially good year for Prairie Warblers and Yellow Warblers. My regular bike rides let me observe the fall migration more closely as each species returned to Florida.

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler

As the sun sets on 2021, I’m looking forward to the 2022 season of springtime bird photography. My favorite time of year is just around the corner! I hope that 2022 brings you health, happiness, and plenty of fun birds to enjoy. :)

8 thoughts on “2021: Photographic Year in Review

  1. Happy New Year my friend. I don’t always comment, but I do look at your blog … always a treat! I echo your feeling about the bike reaching new areas. We did that this year with our kayaks and a bit with the bikes too. Glad that you’re enjoying your mirrorless as well. Hopefully our paths will cross one day and we can shoot together again. I sure wish we could get back to “normal”, whatever that will be anyways. Miss you!

  2. Enjoyed your recap of 2021! Like you, I purchased the R5 this year but only the 1.4 teleconverter thus far. I may consider getting the 2x this year. I saw many of the same things you did, with the big exception of the Snowy Plover chicks, which is on the list again for 2022. Best wishes on your continued success in your adventuring behind the lens!

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