Come along for the trip. Watch the video below.
It didn't take long to find my first two subjects for the day. This first bird is a Northern Parula and these birds are tiny. This bird stayed in the shade of a larger tree so I lowered my shutter speed to get more light into the camera. Even at this lower shutter speed, the image came out good.
This next bird is a Blue Gray Gnatcatcher. It is pretty easy to see where this bird gets its name and man was it quick. It never stood still for more than a half a second but I manged one nice shot before the bird vanished.
The first bird to make an appearance in the oak trees was this beautiful yellow throated warbler. It is really easy to see where this bird got its name. Look at that brilliant yellow throat. I decided to keep my shutter speed low in order to get enough light. Even though this little bird was busy bouncing around the branches, it would occasionally stop for just a moment to pose for a shot. These little birds are known for being cute but on this day I learned all of these little birds are incredible predators. I watched this one pull a small moth off the oak tree and swallow it whole.
Then I found this cute little Eastern Phoebe. This bird comes from the Flycatcher family but it wasn't hunting flies this morning. This small bird was hunting lizards. Yet another small bird of prey that was very good at what it was doing. The lizard is a baby Brown Anole. This is an invasive species. Here you see the bird trying to swallow the lizard and you get a nice shot of that bright yellow throat. And finally, only the lizard's tail is left.
The trail turned north and brought me close to a large group of mangrove trees. There were plenty of birds in those mangroves. This first bird is a Common Yellowthroat. I believe this is an immature male. It was busy checking me out and when a nice wind gust blew in an ruffled those tail feathers. Within a few seconds, the bird forgot I was there and started looking for food by flipping over leaves on the sandy shore. A quick meal of this tiny worm before getting even close so I could capture this incredibly detailed shot. Just look at all of that feather detail. Keep in mind, this bird is only 4-5 inches tall or 11-13 centimeters.
Immediately after that I spotted this little Ruby Crowned Kinglet in the oak trees to my right. I only managed this one shot before it vanished.
Way back in the mangroves I found this tiny little Black and White Warbler who had just snatched a dragonfly out of the air. That is an amazing feat. I'm still not sure how this bird managed to grab this dragonfly but it did. All of these little birds were proving to be quite the hunters and as if all of these great birds weren't enough, things were about to get better.
I heard a splash on the other side of the mangroves and I struggled to see what had just hit the water. I could see a bird in the distance so I frantically looked for an opening in the mangroves so I could grab a shot. I found an area just big enough to look through and grabbed this amazing shot of an osprey with a giant mullet. What an impressive bird. Look at those big meaty talons. I would bet that fish weighs more than the osprey. Check out how the Osprey has positioned the fish so that it is more aerodynamic. That's just incredible!
This Tri-colored Heron was about to show me why it should be called a bird of prey. This was one hungry bird. Today's appetizer is fresh tadpoles so fresh in fact that they are still wiggling with life.
Apparently this bird wanted two appetizers. The second course was a big fat minnow that disappeared in one gulp.
We might as well add some type of huge water insect to the menu. A couple of quick head shakes and this strange looking bug was gone.
At this point you would think this Tri-colored heron was full but no. This bird was about to give me the shot of a lifetime. Can I get a drum roll please!
Not only did this bird catch a huge frog and fly, but it managed to look right at me with its prize. To be honest, A drop of sweat had just rolled into my right eye. I was basically shooting blind at this point. I pressed the shutter button and hoped for the best. The D500 grabbed a perfect focus on the bird's face. Here's a nice close up shot. Look at the frog. It has one front leg or hand grasping its belly and the other is reaching out towards the sky. I know things look really bad for the frog but the frog had a plan. I managed one more shot before the frog initiated operation "Scream like a small child." The frog quite literally screamed and when I say it screamed, I mean it screamed like a small child who just woke up from the worst nightmare ever. This was not the reaction the Tricolored heron expected. The Tri-colored heron got a little freaked out and dropped the frog. The rest is history!
You would think that entire Tri-colored Heron series would be the perfect end to an incredible day of bird photography, but there was one more surprise for me. The Tri-colored Heron was suddenly spooked. It quickly flew away and then I saw why. This Juvenile Bald Eagle was quickly approaching. It banked and started coming right towards me. I zoomed in as the eagle turned its head and our eyes met. It was looking right at me and then it turned showing me that impressive wingspan before vanishing somewhere over the tree line. A perfect way to end what might go down in history as my best bird photography day yet!
Thanks for coming along with me. I had a great time sharing this trip with you.