Fluffy Black Skimmer Chicks

The Florida West coast hosts a few Black Skimmer colonies. In the midst of nesting season, I had the chance to visit my preferred location to photograph some of my favorite shore birds. With good timing for young fluffy chicks, it was a delight!

Black Skimmer Chicks - Florida
Black Skimmer Chicks – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 5000 | f/8 | 1/1000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The adults were very active and kept on skimming the water close-by to bring back food for the young chicks. The image above is a display of the home coming with fish. Note the broken egg shell at the feet of the adult.

Black Skimmers Family
Nesting Black Skimmer with chicks – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 2000 | f/8 | 1/1000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The chicks above should be about one week old. They were quite cute and fluffy! The nesting colony is actually very busy, with many nests and lots of activity. I chose to clean up the other nests in the background for the viewer to focus on the action around a specific area.

Nesting Black Skimmers - Florida
Nesting Black Skimmers – Sarasota Bay, Florida
ISO 5000 | f/8 | 1/1000 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

For those who had the chance of visiting other rookeries, you will recognize the loud young-lings singing their hunger to the bewildered parents. By the way, did you know that the skimming fishing technique of the Black Skimmer does not come from natural instinct? It is a taught behavior from the parents.

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 5 people – 2 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake. Many nests are at eye level, allowing shooting from up close in a natural habitat. No big lens needed! An ideal setup for beginners… 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,390

February 22nd-23rd 2020 / limit 6 people – 5 openings

May 2nd-3rd 2020 / limit 6 people – 4 openings

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Breeding colors are a bit more intense in February, while May is likely to have new fledglings in the open. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Florida Brown Pelicans With Breeding Plumage Tour

Florida Brown Pelicans with breeding plumage tour? The recipe to this pursuit is to attend the Florida Spoonbill tour from March/April, when Pelican’s activity is at its peak. The Florida Spoonbill tour occurs in the biggest rookery in Florida, located in the Tampa Bay. Brown Pelicans are very well represented there! See for yourself a few images from the recently concluded March workshop.

Florida Brown Pelican Photography Tour
Brown Pelican with breeding colors in flight – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Brown Pelicans very frequently fly in and out from their nests. This creates tons of opportunities for flight shots and spectacular over the water images. In the image above, the bird gets close to the water after dropping from its nest.

Florida Brown Pelican with breeding colors
Brown Pelican with breeding colors portrait – Tampa Bay Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focus
Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The portrait above gives you a very clear view over the breeding colors on the Brown Pelicans from the East coast. Do you like them? I really like the blue background all around on this head shot.

Florida Brown Pelican flapping its wings
Brown Pelican flapping its wings after bathing – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Since the Pelicans are hanging close to their nests, you will often see them bathing in the water (sometimes quite close to us). As most birds, the bathing is followed with some memorable wing flaps: not to be missed for the action photographer!

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,290

April 27th-28th 2019 / limit 6 people – FULL

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Do not hesitate to shoot me an email to be put on the early contact list. You will be among the very first ones to know about future dates πŸ™‚

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 5 people – 3 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Images from the March 2019 Florida Spoonbill Workshop

The March Spoonbill workshop just concluded and photography was great! If you like what you see, there is still one open spot for the April 2019 Spoonbill tour! Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com to reserve your spot. In late April, we are very likely to see some newly fledged chicks in the open πŸ™‚

Roseate Spoonbill landing
Spoonbill landing on a perch – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The image above is a reflection of the numerous opportunities to create action images at the Tampa Bay rookery. I purposefully position our group to cover the best shooting angles possible.

Brown Pelican banking in flight
Brown Pelican banking in flight – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The Tampa Bay rookery is the biggest rookery in Florida based on the sheer number of breeding birds. Another well represented species is the Brown Pelican. Many can be photographed going back and forth from their nests with branches and nesting material. Flight patterns are fairly predictable once explained and banking shots are on the menu!

Florida Spoonbill in flight
Spoonbill flying over the blue water – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/2500 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II at 400mm coupled with the 1.4x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

In the afternoon, we tend to mostly shoot from the boat. This changes the perspective a bit and it is a good time to bring some very appreciated blue colors in the background.

Spoonbill Workshop Testimonial

“Thank you so much for a most wonderful weekend! I left Tampa yesterday with a smile and great memories. Having experienced a photo tour with you, I see why you are sought out and have the reputation you do. You are a highly professional, experienced photographer and excellent teacher. You convey information in a manner photographers with all levels of experience can understand and you make it interesting and fun. I loved your itinerary… great time in the field, personal time together at lunch where each of us could relax and get to know one another, time to re-energize, and Photoshop time which I particularly enjoyed.
Thank you again for a great experience and I look forward to another tour with you – perhaps Alaska in a couple of years!” — Patti G.

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,290

April 27th-28th 2019 / limit 6 people – 1 opening

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Even if you cannot make it to those dates, do not hesitate to shoot me an email to be put on the early contact list. You will be among the very first ones to know about future dates πŸ™‚

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 4 people – 3 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

More from the February 2019 Florida Spoonbill Tour

As I mentioned two blog posts ago, the first morning of the February 2019 Florida Spoonbill tour was quite exceptional! See a few more images from the shoot. There is still one open spot for the April 2019 Spoonbill tour! Send me an email to reserve your spot before it is too late. πŸ™‚

Roseate Spoonbill preening - Photography tour

Roseate Spoonbill preening – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1250 | f/8 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

There were many birds calmly preening in the shallow mangrove waters. 95% of them had stunning breeding colors. I created the image above with the intent of having a second group far behind as a nice blurred backdrop. The key to this is to find a subject that is standing ahead of the rest of the group, then to work on a pleasing composition.

Florida Spoonbill with breeding colors

Florida Spoonbill portrait – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/8 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The same idea than the first image with a bit of a twist. It is always a good idea to vary compositions from wide to tight and from horizontal to vertical, so to bring more diversity to your photographic portfolio. The intent here was to have some blurred pink surrounding the head of the foreground subject for a pink on pink effect.

Roseate Spoonbills in action - Photography workshop

Roseate Spoonbills in action – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1250 | f/8 | 1/3200 sec. | Manual mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 600mm f/4 L IS II coupled with the 2.0x extender and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

Now this type of image is a lot harder to come by! Not only you need to have multiple subjects in a good pose, but you also need to have the two forefront birds exactly parallel to you so they are both in focus. This can be quite challenging to accomplish when working with very long telephoto lenses. You may increase the aperture or step back to help widen the depth of field and increase your chances of success.

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,290

March 30th-31st 2019 / limit 6 people – Full

April 27th-28th 2019 / limit 6 people – 1 opening

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 4 people – 3 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Bird photography pleasing blurs at the Spoonbill rookery

Since we start the Florida Spoonbills tour at least 15 min before sunrise, we have a chance at creating pleasing blurs when the colors are right. It is a prime opportunity to bring out your artistic fiber into bird photography. See in this blog post a few examples from the February Spoonbill workshop.

Spoonbill pleasing blur - bird photography tour

Roseate Spoonbill and Brown Pelican pleasing blur – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 1000 | f/6.3 | 1/25 sec. | Tv mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II at 400mm and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

It really pays off to wake up early if you want to have a chance to capture pre sunrise orange and pink colors! For pleasing blurs, I will typically shoot in shutter speed priority mode (Tv for Canon) or manual mode between a shutter speed of 1/15 to 1/30 of a second. Many bird photographers rediscover their artistic instincts after trying this πŸ™‚

Spoonbill motion blur - bird photography workshop

Roseate Spoonbill motion blur – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 400 | f/5.6 | 1/25 sec. | Tv mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II at 400mm and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

The advantage of shooting with shutter speed priority over sheer manual mode is that you may quickly move from shooting against the sun light to shooting against the mangrove trees in the shade. In the photograph above, I strived to create a motion blur of the bird in the sky while having some of the trees underneath to bolster the motion effect.

Double crested Cormorant artistic blurs

Double crested Cormorants artistic blur – Tampa Bay Spoonbill Rookery, Florida
ISO 200 | f/5.6 | 1/25 sec. | Tv mode | AI servo rear focusing
This photograph was created with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II at 400mm and the Canon EOS 1DX mark II.

This last artistic blur was actually created first during the first morning of the last February Spoonbill tour. A good way to capture bright colors is to pan with birds in motion on the sides of the sun.

Testimonial from the February 2019 Spoonbill Tour

The Spoonbill tour was a fantastic trip on so many levels and for anyone interested, I would HIGHLY recommend reaching out to Steven for more info. In addition to the trip being an all around good time, I am elated to be able to support Steven and his family and I would encourage others to do the same. Steven is one of those people that I am thrilled to have encountered in this lifetime! Thanks for the great time and your gracious hospitality Steven! I cannot wait for the next trip! — Michael F.

Florida Spoonbills Photography Tour – $1,290

March 30th-31st 2019 / limit 6 people – Full

April 27th-28th 2019 / limit 6 people – 1 opening

Florida Spoonbills Photography Workshop

2 working lunches and 3 boat rides to the absolute best rookery to photograph spoonbills with breeding colors. $250 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

Florida Ospreys Photography Tour – $1,490

March 28th-29th 2020 / limit 4 people – 3 openings

Florida Osprey Photography Tour

3 boat rides on a pristine cypress trees lake and 2 working lunch sessions with lunch included. $300 deposit. Send me an email at steven@stevenbirdphotography.com

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