Fieldtrip to Shark Valley by Fabiola Forns


The trip to Shark Valley, regardless of the 11 mile road work, proved to be very interesting. I would say even better than the Burrowing Owls at Brian Piccolo Park.
We had been very disappointed with our session at Anhinga Trail, which we found very neglected and with very few subjects for this time of year.

Backlit Great Blue Heron and catfish. We had to run for this one and he never gave us a good light angle.
Backlit Great Blue Heron and catfish. We had to run for this one and he never gave us a good light angle.

Snowy Egret dancing the water looking for fish.
Snowy Egret dancing the water looking for fish.

Shark Valley, although not shinning like other years, still gave us plenty to do, especially it was a good workout for photo skills, since the light kept changing rapidly (very common in Florida). As we came in, it was overcast, and we had to work in ISO 800 to get any kind of shutter speed.
Although I’m a fan of Auto ISO on my Sony cameras, I don’t trust old 7D over ISO 800 and don’t want to have surprises. So I prefer to change manually and make sure my picture is taken at the best possible, given the action gives me time to make decisions.

Great blue Heron expressing his unhappiness at another bird in his territory.
Great blue Heron expressing his unhappiness at another bird in his territory.

I usually prefer to work wide open, which means f/5.6 on my extended 100-400L IS.
Unless I want more depth of field for more than one subject or very close proximity, blurring shoulders and such.
After mid-morning, the sun was shinning very bright, and the contrast was brutal, especially to get the Snowy Egrets,, that read 4000 s/s even at ISO 400. I didn’t consider going under that, since speed is a bonus in most cases and I’m happy with the grain at 400 ISO, in other than gloomy conditions.
The images opened up the blacks nicely in Lightroom and all the highlights were there after checking them. I was very happy with the results, even though the contrast was very high at the end of the morning.

Juvenile female Anhinga ready to throw herself at the tree. They are not the most graceful landers.
Juvenile female Anhinga ready to throw herself at the tree. They are not the most graceful landers.

Here are some pictures, and this is a location that we will probably repeat in the second term of the class. Hoping the road work is better by then. If you plan to visit, allow yourself extra time because of the stops you have to make on a one line road.

May the light be with you!

Tricolored Heron in full breeding colors.
Tricolored Heron in full breeding colors.

Snowy Egret posing on his Everglades habitat.
Snowy Egret posing on his Everglades habitat.

Purple Gallinule showing their ability to walk the reeds.
Purple Gallinule showing their ability to walk the reeds.

Green Heron enjoying the first rays of sun that morning.
Green Heron enjoying the first rays of sun that morning.

Tricolored Heron getting ready to come in after a round of fishing.
Tricolored Heron getting ready to come in after a round of fishing.

Snowy Egret having his crown blown by the wind.
Snowy Egret having his crown blown by the wind.

From Courtship to Relationship- by Fabiola Forns


Anhinga courtship (Anhinga Anhinga) could be extremely amusing and very fast, as we were able to witness this past Saturday morning at Shark Valley, West entrance to Everglades National Park, while there on a Miami-Dade College photography class.
There had been some action, especially with Purple Gallinules that were very abundant and in plain view, some Snowy Egrets and Tricolored Herons dancing the water, the invariable and always present great Blue Herons.
It is breeding time for many of them, even a big alligator was rumbling calling for a mate. Early for them, but this year, the water level at the park is on the high side, accelerating some things.

A male Anhinga was doing his ritualistic wing dance to attract a female. Sure enough, this beautiful female answer and flew in. Some of us were standing right in front of the nest, that had just fledged two big female chicks, still hanging around the area, not missing a beat.

The first few kisses, full breeding plumage.
The first few kisses, full breeding plumage.

Well, it was love at first site and they proceeded to kiss and fence and celebrate the beauty of the day and the getting together. A couple of minutes later, they mated and, as expected, he climbed down the tree and brought a beautiful green branch, to her absolute delight
Getting to know each other
Getting to know each other

The actual moment of the first mating.
The actual moment of the first mating.

One more branch and another mating, before things settled and the nest was officially inaugurated. Let us hope that they can produce healthy chicks and no cold front gets in their way. It will be a beautiful location to photograph, just across the narrow canal, and as branchy as you can expect from a nest.
The first branch after copulation.
The first branch after copulation.

Feeling newlywed pride.
Feeling newlywed pride.

A new branch for the belle.
A new branch for the belle.

It was a privilege to witness the beginning of a new cycle of life.