On Wednesday I headed to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve after waking at 3am for baby-feeding duties. It was quite nice to be up so early as I had time to have a cuppa, read some emails and take my time getting ready. I arrived at the preserve at about 6am and as it was still a little dark I thought I would wander around for a while to scout out any new locations. It is surprising how the vegetation has grown since I was last there in March!
As soon as I entered the preserve I could see and hear a warbler in the very first tree – quite an elusive bugger – lots of flashes of yellow, but he always seemed to allude the camera and so no pics. This seemed to set the theme for the day – apart from a couple of Verdin I saw very few hedgerow birds or warblers that I was expecting.
The sunlight never really did come out and the few photographers that I spoke to were very glum, a couple even abandoning their cameras for binoculars. So for 4 hours I wandered around the ponds and hedges feeling happy to be outdoors on this cool morning, but peeved at the poor light!
I had a couple of really nice surprises… the first came when I was sat taking some shots of the Black-necked Stilts and I suddenly noticed a coyote crossing the pond towards the central island. It got about half way to the safety of the island when it stopped and realised that I was there. It took a few moments to decide whether I was a threat and then continued to plod across the shallow pond.
The second surprise came near the end of the four hours. I was trying to find a good spot to shoot a couple of frames of the White-faced Ibis that were in pond #2, but they were way too far out of range, when all of a sudden a female American Avocet startled in the shallows in front of me and proceeded to herd her chicks to distant safety. I am not one for traumatising my models, so I took a couple of steps back, crouched down and let her get far enough away before I re-emerged. When I did I could hear her mate sounding an alarm, then he took off and circled before flying towards me. I sat down behind some reeds so that I would not be perceived as a threat and watched him for a few minutes. He must have made 5 or 6 fly-bys before being satisfied that I was not going to harm his chicks, so he landed about 20 feet from my spot and posed for a couple of shots before I crept away and left him to join his family. The whole event probably lasted 2 minutes.
These 2 encounters are what made the outing a success. Overcast skies meant that the ISO was cranked way up – and even using noise reduction software in my post editing could not get rid of the grain without losing some of the image quality. I guess I have it too easy shooting in the (normally) fabulous Arizona light!
There are more shots from this trip which I will post as soon as I have reviewed them and chosen the shots I think would look good on the blog.