January 25-30 ~ Fellsmere and Cape Coral, FL
A trip that I try to do every time I'm in the Sebastian area is to the wading bird rookery at the Stick Marsh in nearby Fellsmere. During my entire month in Sebastian I had not made it out there so 5 days prior to heading to the west coast I made an evening visit to the Stick Marsh rookery with my sister.
I always try to plan my visits to this location for a clear evening with no clouds for the best lighting conditions to capture the birds flying in to roost for the night. On this particular evening the weather didn't fully cooperate and the late day sun was hidden behind some clouds here and there making the lighting rather challenging.
The reason for visiting this spot is the group of small islands just off the shoreline from a large public boat ramp that become the overnight spot for hundreds and possibly thousands of wading birds each evening. During the last hour of the day you can stand in one spot and watch a steady stream of White and Glossy Ibis, Snowy, Cattle and Great Egrets, Little Blue, Tri-colored and Great Blue Herons as well as Roseate Spoonbills fly in to land on these islands to sleep for the evening. The closest island to the boat ramp parking area is about 250 feet away which is a bit far for good photos but plenty of the birds will fly much closer to you. They will be flying in from every direction, left, right, and many times from behind and overhead. It is non-stop action and I usually end up taking a lot of photos.
As I mentioned earlier this outing was a bit different since I didn't have full sun. When the sun got low in the sky I had to resort to some other techniques and one I tried was silhouettes. Just before and just after sunset the sky was changing a variety of beautiful colors so I tried to find birds that would fly in front of the colorful sky and be facing the right direction to create an interesting silhouette. It was more challenging then I thought it would be and I was really happy with a few of the photos I got from the visit. By the time the sun goes down the sound from the rookery is incredible, all those birds make a lot of noise and you can hear it from across the water. If you are ever in the area be sure to make a stop, you most likely will not regret it.
A few days after my visit to the Stick Marsh it was time to pack up and head across the state to Cape Coral on the Gulf coast of Florida. We would be staying with my in-laws for about a week before heading back home to New Jersey. As much as I knew I would miss the Sebastian area, I was equally excited to visit Cape Coral, especially for the variety of wildlife spots including the famous Burrowing Owls of Cape Coral.
My in-law's home is a gorgeous house nestled in a golf course community. On the backside of the house there is a huge screened in lanai that overlooks a large water hazard on the course and is surrounded by lush green grass. This pond attracts plenty of wading birds and I get to watch some great wildlife right from the house. The day after I arrived in Cape Coral I went for a short outing around the golf course and also visited a local park.
With all of January 2016 being an incredibly rainy month a lot of areas were flooded. One spot was a couple of empty lots on the golf course which attracted a small flock of Glossy and White Ibis that would feed in the shallow water. I was able to slowly crawl on my stomach and get pretty close to them and I got the series below with some wonderful reflections.
Next up I visited Joe Stonis Park just a short drive away from where I was staying. My main goal was to capture Loggerhead Shrikes at this park since I had seen many of them there in previous years. While they were not quite as cooperative as I had hoped I did manage to find a couple of them. I did however find a very cooperative Great Egret perched on a low branch. When I arrived at the park it was overcast but while I was watching this egret a small break in the clouds allowed some gorgeous sunlight to peek through that lit up the beautiful white bird.
After the egret decided to leave I spent just a few more minutes at the park and was able to capture a few of the Loggerhead Shrikes I was after. My first full day in Cape Coral and with very little effort I already had some great photos. It was apparently a sign of what was to come during my week visiting this beautiful Florida town. Be sure to follow along for the next part of this series I'll be visiting Bunche Beach and sharing a collection of shorebirds.