I had a very special evening on my last day in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. I had driven through the refuge twice in the morning and now this last time in late afternoon. There was a group of 100 or so white pelicans hanging out on the same sandbar all day. And, as I rounded the corner one last time, there they still were. The light was different now. The sun was hanging low in the western sky. "I may as well stop and take some more photos of the same birds I have been photographing all day. Who knows, with the light being a little different I may like these shots better. What else do I have to do, other than go back to the hotel and pack."
This was a popular spot for people to stop and view the birds and scenery. There were about 30 nature lovers enjoying the experience. I joined the other photographers with my camera & tripod. After a couple of hours of shooting and visiting with people, the activity was quieting down. Most birds in the area had flown off to find a roost for the night and the pelicans were settling in for the night on their sandbar. People were heading back to hotels for their nightly roost. It was down to me and one couple and we were also giving up, as it didn't appear that anything exciting was going to happen and it would soon be too dark to photograph.
I broke down my camera gear and loaded it in the car but, as I started to drive off, I caught a glimpse of something landing in the water near the pelicans. The couple came running and flagged me down shouting, "spoonbills, spoonbills". Well, now you're talking the Holy Grail. I jumped out of the car with camera & tripod in hand. Two spoonbills were standing in the water and more were dropping in. Now there were a dozen. They had landed in the perfect spot. The light was special, coming in low from the side. The birds were in front of a dark background of mangroves in a narrow band of water that was illuminated by sidelight from the sun as it sank ever closer to the horizon. I couldn't believe my luck. Perfect subjects with perfect lighting, a photographer's dream.
The three of us were clicking off shots of the spoonbills preening & stretching their wings. I made the comment that, " some of those pelicans need to move over to join the spoonbills in that sweet light". I was shocked when immediately, 2 pelicans stood up on the shallow sandbar and walked with wings outstretched, over to the spoonbills and assumed the "portrait position" of tall birds in back. And then 2 more pelicans. It doesn't get any better than this. Wow! I just kept firing that shutter until after the sun had set and was then too dark to photograph.
I'd say definitely among the top photo experiences of my life. It just wouldn't be doing justice to the experience if I posted 1 or 2 photos, so I decided to dedicate a gallery to represent the event. Excuse my indulgence. Hope you enjoy!!
© Thane Rogers Photography