So much of what I photograph is actually far from my home state of Florida. Sort of ironic I think. Very often I get asked for advice for shooting locations in Florida … when I myself am on a photography adventure in another area of the country. LOL. Having grown up the vast majority of my life in south Florida, I have learned to appreciate other areas of the country, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t truly love what Florida has to offer. Usually that means birds, which Florida is known for. On this particular day, we were IN FLORIDA and shooting BIRDS.
Nothing says springtime in Florida to me than my first sighting of swallow-tailed kites. It’s usually on a trip down to the Everglades. To say that I’m excited by the sighting of a dozen of them is an understatement. So you can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to photograph them as they roosted in the trees … getting some much needed rest before their migration out of the area. The beautiful day started out early and very quiet.
Once the sun rose, we could see them sleeping in the trees. At first, just a few, but as our eyes adjusted, we could see hundreds! It reminded me of one particular year in Alaska when we followed some bald eagles to their roosting grounds and found ourselves in what had to be the mecca of them … all little white dots in the trees … with the screechy call of the eagle coming from just about everywhere.
As the kites began to awaken, a few began testing their wings and the wind about them. Before long, they were soaring about. Of course, we were waiting for more than just soaring.We were waiting for the moment that they would come down to the water before us and complete fly-bys along the way. I was so fascinated by their beauty.Once flying over the surface of the water, they would descend and grab a drink of water, as their image was mirrored on the lake.How could they hit the water at such a high speed and not endo? But rather, they would do a “drink, drag, and fly away” maneuver. Then back off to soaring they would go. Swallow-tailed kites are the largest of the North American kites. They are easily identified by their deeply forked tail, white head and body, and black topside wings.If you have never had the opportunity to observe one of these in real life, you’re missing a fascinating acrobatic show. Their inflight maneuvers are simply stunning. Tracking with the lens is often a challenge. Though on this morning, we didn’t observe them directly feeding around us, that’s another amazing feat … they eat their prey on the fly! Impressive!It seemed that they were coming and hitting the surface of the water regularly. Over and over. Sometimes their purpose of hitting the water was to clean off their bottoms.Of course, when they did that, a bit of extra effort was needed to pull themselves back out of the water and take flight again.As if the action of the swallow-tailed kites wasn’t enough, I just loved the way that the light danced on the underside of their wings.After grabbing a sip of water, they would always spit some leftover out as they flew off and prepared for another go around.Sometimes as they flew off, they would almost collide with one another. Clearly there were favorite areas to dip into and the “runway” would get a bit congested. 🙂That’s when we looked overhead … OMG, look at them all … catching thermals right over our heads. Hundreds at a time.But the action continued right before our eyes … for a few hours.I felt a bit in heaven and now I’m curious if the dozen sighting of the past would even phase me anymore. LOL. OK, maybe this spoiled me.Such grace, beauty, agility, and poise. I could sit there forever and watch. Sometimes, like other wildlife opportunities, I found myself lost in the moment … just observing and soaking it all in … rather than shooting.It was a fabulous experience that I won’t soon forget. I look forward to another day out on the lake again in 2017. Can’t get enough of these swallow-tailed kites. Until then, I wish them the best and safe migratory travels. Thanks so much to Scott Helfrich for sharing this experience with us. Fun times. 🙂Thanks to my better half, Tom Tubridy, who photographed alongside me this day. Hey, got to give him sherpa duty break ever now and then. LOL. Good thing too, as when we compared shots on this day … his limited shots yielded many more keepers than mine. He needs to do this more often, I say. What do you think?
Next Up: More exploring in Florida
© 2016 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy & Tom Tubridy