In the spring of 2017, I was lucky enough to find myself in the Florida Keys during Spring Migration. The really cool thing about this is the fact that there are thousands of birds who migrate from all over the world and end up resting in the Florida Keys. This gives any photographer a huge amount of opportunity to not only get some excellent once in a lifetime shots but also see many somewhat exotic birds for the very first time.
I decided to try my luck at Fort Zachary Taylor state park. An incredibly beautiful state park located in Key West Florida. I decided not to focus on some of the larger shore birds like herons, egrets and ospreys. Instead, I spent an afternoon in some of the areas where there were higher concentrations of trees knowing that smaller birds like warblers would be more likely to hiding there.
Photographing these tiny little birds under the cover of trees is extremely challenging. Not only are warblers very quick but the tree cover reduces the amount of visible light. Low light means extremely challenging photography.
Challenge accepted! I am confident in my photography abilities and I know my Nikon D500 paired with the Nikkor 200-500mm lens will help me capture some incredible shots of these tiny little warblers. During this trip I photographed a lot of birds I had never seen before.
First up is this awesome little Palm Warbler. (Setophaga palmarum) These little birds are fairly common in south Florida but I'll never miss an opportunity to grab a few shots. Here's the first shot and it was captured using these settings. Aperture: F6.3, Shutterspeed 1/1600, ISO 1600.
I prefer to keep my shutter speed around 1/2000 of a second for these little bird because they move so fast, but there wasn't enough light to use that shutter speed and get a proper exposure so I lowered the shutter speed to 1/1600 of a second.
I followed this little Palm Warbler around and was rewarded with a couple of nice shots of it eating a dragonfly. I changed the aperture in this shot to F7.1 because I wanted a little more depth of field. This forced me to reduce my shutter speed even more.
The Nikon D500 is a very versatile camera that can easily keep up with these tiny little birds even when they are choking down a large dragonfly.
This next shot is an Ovenbird, (Seiurus aurocapillus) and it didn't stick around for very long. The Ovenbird is known to forage for insects on the ground and that is exactly what this one was doing.
This is the Blackpoll Warbler, (Setophaga striata) and I literally had about one second to grab this image before this tiny little bird disappeared. I used Single Point Auto-focus, put the single point on the bird's head and the camera focused through all those branches and allowed me to capture this awesome shot even though the bird was deep in shadow.
The Blackpoll Warbler is tiny! It weighs just under half an ounce or 14 grams. But do you know what makes this little bird so cool other than its good looks? It travels almost 1800 miles or 2800 kilometers nonstop over the ocean. They fly at a speed of around 27 miles per hour or 43 kilometers per hour. This means that this little bird flies for over 80 hours straight! That's over 3 days with no food, no water and no sleep! That is absolutely incredible!
South Florida is also home to invasive iguanas. I'll never pass up an opportunity to take pictures of reptiles. These are awesome looking lizards.
Check out this little Black and White Warbler, (Mniotilta varia.) This was yet another first for me. This bird was extremely busy and it was looking under all of that tree bark for some food. I watched this bird for a little while and managed to get one good shot before it disappeared.
Then I came across this white bird resting under the shade of the trees. I'm not too sure if this is a dove or a pigeon. I also don't know if this bird was an escapee from a zoo or a lost pet because I don't think this was a wild bird. There is no doubt about one thing though. This is a beautiful bird and I managed to get a nice shot of it. I used a slower shutter speed of 1/640 of a second because the bird was sitting still. This allowed me to get a lot more light on the subject.
This was my favorite warbler of the day. This is the Cape May Warbler, (Setophaga tigrina.) You will only find this bird in Florida during migration. I really like the colors on this bird and how they fit so well with that blue sky in the background.
In this series of shots, the bird was eating this little red berry. That is where I focused. You'll notice the lower half of the bird isn't in perfect focus in these shots. That's because I was using an aperture of F6.3. If I had chosen an aperture of F8, I would have been a little better because I would have had a wider depth of field.
The last shot from this trip is this cool shot looking out over the beautiful blue water. This shot looks more like something you would see in California along the Pacific Coast but this was the south side of Fort Zachary Taylor state park in Key West.