He Does Exist! Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Lake Apopka

Rich doesn’t think the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher exists. He’s gone with me on numerous outings to this open meadow, and we’ve never seen the bird. Other birders report it as an easy find, “sitting right out on the power line.” Well, I got there the other day and found him posed out in the open, right on a barbed wire fence. He does exist! He made up for his long absence by giving me some amazing photo opportunities!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – Hanging out on the Fence

Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are fairly rare in Florida. They usually hang out in the open meadows of Texas and in the south-central US. This bird, however, seems to like to winter in Apopka. He returns this field year after year. Birds amaze me.

Why is that rare birds tend to be fond of ugly human-made elements like barbed wire fences? I wanted to turn cartwheels when he moved over to a patch of lantana…

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on a Lantana Bush

Can you imagine going through life with a tail that’s twice the length of your body? It sounds uncomfortable. Here’s another view of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher when he gave me a full tail-shot!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – Tail Shot!

Flycatchers often perch on tall items, like power lines and fences, while they scan open fields for bugs. When they spot a bug, they dart off their perches, grab their prey in mid-air, and often return to the perch to eat. Like this insect, yum!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher with Insect for Breakfast

The real excitement of the morning was the opportunity for flight shots. I was using my car as a blind, and the bird was directly across from me. He perched on the fence and started flying down range, regularly hopping from one section to the next. So I put on my intermediate telephoto and tried to catch him in flight.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Barbed wire fence removed from the bottom of the photo)

Angle is everything. When I was directly across from the bird, he was flying away from me. I re-positioned, moving a little farther away, but where he’d be flying towards me. I also perfected the technique of framing the shot to allow him room to fly into the frame. Here’s my favorite!

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

This last shot was a little blurry, but it definitely shows why this bird is called a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Look at how he spreads his tail in flight! So I took the blurry image and applied some artistic filters, trying to convey the feeling of the bird darting and soaring in mid-air. He was beautiful!! I can’t wait to go back. :)

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

First 2021 Visit to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Lake Apopka

When your first bird of the year is a beautiful male Painted Bunting, you know it’s a good sign. When you turn around and snap a quick Merlin in flight, that’s another good sign. 2021 has got to be better than 2020!

Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting

Merlin in Flight
Merlin in Flight

I made it out to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive the second weekend in January. I spent some time wandering around the Lust Road entrance, where I found the bunting and the merlin. Then I proceeded through the drive. There are so many people on it these days!

The stars of the day were definitely the Fulvous Whisling-ducks. They filled the skies again and again, the air resonating with their happy calls. Fulvous are hard to find in Florida, and we’re lucky to have a hotspot so close by.

Fulvous Whistling-ducks in Flight
Fulvous Whistling-ducks in Flight

There always has to be one that doesn’t cooperate, though…these five posed for the camera, and four of them looked to the right. The other one just had to look left!

Fulvous Whistling-duck
Fulvous Whistling-duck

I didn’t linger at the Crazy U on this visit, but this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher did beg me to stop and take his photo. He was busy looking for bugs for breakfast!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

As I rounded the bend at what I’ll always think of as Grebe Corner, this Green Heron stood silently in the reeds. He was super-intent on something and hardly noticed when I stopped to watch him.

Green Heron
Green Heron

The ducks are in town, and I wished I could linger. My favorite duck image of the day was this Ring-necked Duck. A lot of new birders call this the Ring-beaked Duck because of the markings on the beak. Look closer, and you’ll see the brown streak around his neck. That’s why he’s called a Ring-necked Duck! It’s easiest to see in direct sun.

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck

The Fulvous waved goodbye and told me to come back soon. I plan on it! :)

Fulvous Whistling-ducks in Flight
Fulvous Whistling-ducks in Flight

Lifer Pictures aren’t Always Great….like this Ruff!

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Other Places

Last February, a rare Ruff was spotted in a retention pond near Tampa. I headed over there with hopes of a nice image of my lifer Ruff. Then I arrived and found myself staring through a chain link fence into the sun at a distant flock of shorebirds. Eventually I picked out the Ruff based on his size, but my pictures were terrible.

I downloaded a demo version of Topaz Sharpen AI, a computer program that sharpens photos based on deep learning and artificial intelligence. While this was an extreme case of trying to save an image, the software is very effective at improving sharpness. I’m looking forward to playing with it more.

Now if only Topaz would invent a utility for levitating the photographer, moving the sun, and bringing the birds closer! :)

Searching for the RuffSearching for the Ruff
Ruff in horrible photography conditions – sharped with Topaz Sharpen AI

Species in this post: