Stop Phone Batteries Dying In The Cold

Common redpolls chowing down on thistle at a bird feeder.

Ah winter! Where I live it can bring a host of species we can’t see any other time of year like snowy owls and redpolls. There’s a famous birding destination in Minnesota called Sax Zim Bog. This top winter destination, which hosts a bird festival every February is popular because it’s easily accessible from airports and gets you a ton of boreal species you can only see in the United States in winter. Quite a bit of birding can be done from your vehicle with some residents purposely setting feeders (and a donation box) near the road. If you want to get photos, you’re generally going to have to exit your vehicle like I had to in order to get this snowy owl shot:

 

Note how I didn’t have to be as close to the owl to get the video like those other photographers are?

If you’ve ever tried taking pictures with your smart phone out in the cold, it can really eat up your battery, especially if you are taking photos and videos with location services on. I’ve had the phone be at 40% battery power and then suddenly just shut down mid-redpoll video because it couldn’t take the freezing temperatures. It can be really frustrating especially when it happens right when you have your shot lined up.So what can you do?

 

I have several tricks and PhoneSkope helps me with some of them. The first and easiest is that my phone is always plugged into the car charger while I’m driving. The second is that I always keep hand warmers in my pocket with my phone or keep my phone on an inside pocket of my coat so my body heat will keep it warm. That only goes so far when you’re filming in -3 degrees Fahrenheit and your phone is attached to your scope. At that point you need to have an external battery to keep the phone warm and charged.

 

Solar/USB Battery, regular USB Battery and cable for charing either an Android or iPhone.

PhoneSkope now offers two different batteries to help with this problem. One is the Electronic Power Bank and the other is the Dual USB and Solar Charger. Both are handy for keeping things charged. Both batteries can be charged ahead of time with a USB cable but the Dual version can also be clipped to your backpack or jacket to charge up for solar. Where I live, winters get dark early, sunset in November is around 4:30pm and more often than it’s cloudy. I may not get a full charge on the Dual battery walking around outside in winter, but I’ll get a little bit to help me out in an emergency.

 

The flat shape of each of these external batteries make them easy to keep in my winter coat pocket while I’m digiscoping. If you partner the Power Bank with the Bluetooth Remote Shutter, you can keep your hands warm in your pocket while you take photos to your heart’s content.

 

Also, if you want to be a hero among among your birding friends, check out this little charging cable that works for both Android and iPhone. When someone forgets their charging cable and you can offer this doo-hickey to your battery, you will not pay for lunch or drinks for the rest of the day.

Versatility Of The Phone Skope Neck Buff

 Are Neck Buffs Versatile

Now and then I get one when I run a 5k, but I never do anything more creative than wearing it as a cowl around my neck and then use it to wipe up the sweat, or it becomes a cleaning rag. I’ve seen the instructions and have wondered if I have what it takes to fashion them into the many shapes and skin coverings the packaging say you can do on there. During spring and fall when the weather can have you shivering in the fog when it is in the thirties in the morning and sweating a sunny sixty degrees in the afternoon, these little doo-hickeys can be handy for covering your ears or sweeping your hair off of your neck.

The Phone Skope Neck Buff

I decided I’d try the Phone Skope neck buff and the different looks based on birds I’ve encountered in my travels and to see if it’s possible for me to follow the instructions on the package to make it work and do what it is supposed to.

Get that classy pouch look of a brown pelican.

Chili Night in a Hawk Banding

Ever have one of those mornings when you can’t get your nose warm? Or ever get stuck in a hawk banding blind with your buddy who overate chili the night before? The cowl will do the trick. Tuck in a sprig of balsam to aid with the smelly gas aroma.

Turning the Phone Skope neck buff into a hat that gives me a rounded bald head like a turkey vulture.

Neck Buff to Hat

I first attempted a basic hat, something to keep my ears warm and to keep snow off of my hair. It took me a few tries to get the twist just right, but then, the hat stayed in place and seemed to work fine for a late fall/early winter hat. I wouldn’t trust this with anything below twenty-five degrees, but for spring and fall, it would be fine.

You can use the neck cowl to tie up your hair to get that cute crested look of a Phainopepla.

Versatile Weather VS Versatile Neck Buff

Do you ever have days where it feels like you have so much hair you can’t even think? Or your morning in Arizona got hotter faster than you expected. Just use the neck buff like a scrunchie and up your hair goes, right off your neck.

 

When it’s cold, you want to hole up like a bare-legged owl.

Neck Buff Covers Face

Maybe you want to be incognito? Maybe you want to hide as much of your face as you can? Perhaps some cold gale force winds brought in a cold front, and you need to cover as much of your face as you can. The neck buff can do the trick; it also works when you want people to leave you alone on public transit.

Get that mantling red-tailed hawk look.

Bring Out the Rock Star

Are your ears a bit frosty? Are you scanning the ground looking for owl pellets but your bangs keep falling forward? Or do you have that sudden urge to live the hair rock band lifestyle and rock a 1980s Bret Michaels look? Fold it down and slide it over your head and there you go. It can also serve you well if you’re going for that modern day Bret Michaels look too.

How have you used your neck buff?

Year of the Bird

I drove through downtown St. Paul today, it was sunny and beautiful. Two adult bald eagles soared overhead, cruising the Mississippi River for ducks and fish between the chunks of ice. Without thinking, I mumbled to myself, “Good morning, Sky Carp.”

 

In the Twin Cities metro area, bald eagles are almost as common as crows, they nest in downtown Minneapolis next to the 35W Bridge. I have a complicated relationship with eagles. They are very cool, but we have a running joke in the birding community that if you are out trying to get a rare bird or enjoying some sparrow or duck action, someone will inevitably walk up to you and say, “Hey, did you see the eagle?”

 

One man even got angry with me that I wouldn’t turn my scope and attention away from a Lincoln’s sparrow I was filming to look at the bald eagle a mile away behind me. I told him that I’d already seen eagle, he apparently needed physical evidence of my eagle viewing ability. As I said, eagles are cool, but sometimes I just want to watch something else.

 

As I watched the eagles over St. Paul, I took moment to remember how rare eagles were when I was a kid in the 1970s and 80s. The only eagles I ever saw were in books and magazines. From what I read, if I was lucky, I might grow up and travel to the Alaskan wilderness and see eagles soaring over the rugged and mountainous terrain. It never occurred to me that eagles would be part of my usual rush hour commute in the city one day. I realized that if someone like me who grew up without eagles turned into a nonchalant adult about them and even on occasion refer to them as “sky carp” what will kids who grow up with them think when they’re my age?

 

I grew up with all kinds of laws that were not only supposed to protect the wildlife and public lands we love, but also to correct some of the mistakes of our nation’s past like shooting the passenger pigeon to oblivion and reintroducing the bald eagle. I grew up with the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Act .

 

Eagle digiscoped with Swarvoski ATX 65mm scope and PhoneSkope case and iPhone 7.

This year the Migratory Bird Treaty Act turns 100 years old. The Act essentially says that you can’t have non game bird parts in your possession without the proper permits. If you do have the permits whatever bird parts you collect needs to be for research or eduction, you still can’t use it to sell cardinal feathers earrings or make a dress out of blue jay feathers. As part of the 100 year anniversary Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and National Geographic and Birdlife International are calling 2018 the Year of the Bird. Some people like me look at that and think, “Dude, every day is Year of the Bird to me.” But I’m taking it as an idea to tell people why birds matter to me and get out and enjoy these birds as much possible. I’m also using it as an excuse when my choice is to go birding or do laundry: birding it is!

 

It’s also informing how I will use my days off this year:

 

I haven’t been to Sax Zim Bog in a few years to look for owls. Hopefully that will be corrected by the time this is published.

 

I’m going to book some time in either a Greater Prairie Chicken Blind or Sharp-tailed Grouse Blind (or both).

 

I’m going to take the time to visit Golden-winged Warbler breeding spots and get better photos.

 

I’m going to keep an album on Flickr of bird pictures to see how many different species I can photograph! I’m going to work the heck out of my PhoneSkope case.

 

And I’m going to try and find my nemesis bird: the Spruce Grouse. I’m also going to keep an album on Flickr to see how many species I can digiscope this year.

 

 

 

 

 

Resolutions – What are your Birding Goals for 2018?

What are your birding resolutions for 2018? Since it is the time of year when people set resolutions, I was thinking about what some of my birding goals and resolutions might be for the next year. I’m happiest when I’m outdoors and getting a great shot of a bird. I had some great trips this year but didn’t feel like I birded nearly enough and time outside is way better than time getting irritated with people on Facebook. Here are some ideas for resolutions that I’m kicking around. I’m not sure that I will do all of them, but certainly incorporating one of them will help insure that when I’m debating between one more load of laundry or spending that out hour outside will put me on the right track and out with my PhoneSkope set up.

 

Photography Big Year

 

Birders are known for their lists of new birds. Some are even known for doing a Big Year or trying to see as many birds in a designated area in the span of a calendar year. There’s a book and movie about it called (surprise) The Big Year.

 

You could also try this but make it how many different species of birds can you photograph in a year’s time. Some have done it via traditional photography means, but I don’t think anyone has done with a smart phone. You could be establishing new ground! If you’re just trying to see how many photographs of species you can get, remember that they pictures don’t have to be perfect, just identifiable. Years ago I was part of a big day competition to see how many species of birds my team and I could photograph. We one and I took one of the blurriest photos of a prothonotary warbler. Yet, it was identifiable and counted!

 

Here’s a photo of a Virginia rail that I need to add to my patch illustrated checklist in eBird.

Help eBird with Illustrated Checklists.

 

In 2017 eBird released their Illustrated Checklist feature which will show photos of each species that were taken in that region. I have a favorite patch that I visit and there are very few photos that are part of its checklist. My goal is to see if I can have a photo for every bird seen in my patch or at least have the most contributions for my for my patch. If you enter in your eBird sightings using your computer, you can add your photos as you go. If you’re like me and use the eBird app on your phone to enter your sightings while in the field, you’ll have to add the photos later while on your computer. But how cool to have a record of all the birds in your patch taken by you.

 

Enter Photography Contests.

 

What are we doing with all of our photos, just sharing them on social media? That’s all well and good but I think I’d like to try my hand at some contests. Smart phones have come a long way in regards to photo quality. A few years ago, an editor in the UK asked for submissions of digiscoped images for a special edition they were working specifically about the technique of using cameras with spotting scopes. They asked if I could submit 12 photos for them to chose from. I asked if they wanted images from an SLR or iPhone. They scoffed at the idea of the iPhone and said SLR only. They scoffed at the idea of iPhone images. So I submitted 12 images, six using an SLR and six using an iPhone with my scope. They chose four and three of those were taken with my iPhone and one eded up on the cover. If you take your time with images, you can get some quality shots. 

 

There are several photography contests out there. Simply by typing in “photography contests” you will find many photography sites with links to favorite contest. There are some contests that are specific to digiscoping like Swarovski’s Digiscoper of the Year and some that are specific to iPhones. But don’t worry if it’s smart phone specific, the quality in a smart phone can rival many traditional cameras on the market. You could also look into you submitting your images into your local or state fairs. Just give it try. See if your images do well. If they don’t, try to see what you can do to up your coming. At the very least it will be a learning experience.

 

A white stork photo could be a new bird or it could also be perfect for a photo contest looking for urban wildlife shots.

 

Try Finding 12 Birds You’ve Never Seen.

 

OK I may have stolen this resolution from eBird and their suggestion to see ten new birds, but I think the game can be upped to a new bird for each month. Maybe there’s a sparrow that shows up to a nearby wildlife refuge that you haven’t looked for before. Perhaps there snowy owls are popping up in your state. Have you heard that harlequin ducks sometimes show up on a nearby lake during the fall migration? Follow up on these birding adventures–and get a souvenir photo of your new bird.

 

What are your birding resolutions for 2018?

 

We want to know what your birding resolutions and goals are for 2018! Let us know in the comments and be sure to share this post with a birder that needs help setting goals this year. Happy New Year!

Birdchick – Castle Birding

A White Stork with a nest on a church in Trujillo photographed with Swarovski ATX 65mm scope, iPhone 7 and PhoneSkope adapter.

When birders get together and talk about their favorite places to go see birds you usually hear Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador…but me? I like Europe. Don’t get me wrong, going south of the Equator has lots to offer but if you sometimes travel with a non-birding spouse who isn’t a huge fan of the outdoors, Europe can be a great compromise. And as cool as it is to be on top of a volcano after a five hour hike up uncountable switchbacks in high humidity to glimpse a guan or warbler, there’s something to be said about wandering centuries old streets where you can stop for a quick coffee and pastry watching Eurasian Kestrels and listening to the haunting song of a European Blackbird echo off of city walls. And all towns are full of rich history to add flavor to stories learned long ago in history classes.

The luck of the draw with some of my work commitments has put me in Europe twice this year. Some of my time was spent in Austria and some of it was in the fabulous Extremadura area of Spain.

While you’re birding around Hohenbregenz Castle make sure to take in the view of the town and Lake Constance. You might see some kites or buzzards.

Austria offers alpine birding as well as some great shorebird and marsh opportunities. I spent some time in Innsbruck and then headed over to Lake Constance. After we finished our meetings, the man who organized the trip knew that a few of us were birders and there was one particular European specialty we really wanted: a Wallcreeper! When you get into birding, you will scan field guides for birds you’d like to learn about and see. Some birds just pop out at you and you know in your gut you need to see one before you die. In American field guides these would be Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Scarlet Tanager—you get the picture.

Check out those flashy pink wings of the Wallcreeper on Hohenbregenz Castle

In European field guides, it’s the Wallcreeper. Imagine a sleek looking nuthatch covered in silver with bright pink wings that likes to crawl up and down the sides of castles. I’ve tried for it more than once and every time failed. This time, our organizer knew a local bird guide who had a solid lead on a Wallcreeper spending the winter on a castle in Bregenz.

So on my final day in Austria, we found ourselves heading to Hohenbregenz Castle to look for the elusive bird. It took some time, but the Wallcreeper was found and put on quite a show on the castle walls. It started up high while foraging for insects and then worked it’s way down where we were all able to digiscope it. I even got some video and posted it to Facebook Live because really, there’s nothing quite like trolling your friends who are stuck in an office while you are watching one of the birds of your dream. Here’s a video of the Wallcreeper:

About a month later, I spent some time birding in Extremadura in central Spain. Most people think birding involves being up at 4am and trudging out all day. Things are much more relaxed in Spain. We would have a lovely breakfast and then head out to Monfragüe National Park to climb up to a castle to watch Griffon Vultures soar by.

After a leisurely hike up a mountain, you can rest at Monfragüe Castle and watch Griffon and Black Vultures rise up with the thermals. There’s also a coffee stand nearby to keep you alert for photos.

Griffon Vulture nest.

It’s not a bad uphill climb and you can take your time to see other species like European Serin and Great Tits as you go. Once at the top you get a gorgeous view of the landscape and vultures and there is a little coffee cart ready to caffeinate you while you take vulture photos in perfect sun. The birds show up late morning because they need the sun to warm up the ground to create warm currents of air they can soar on to get their large bodies floating high in the sky, on the look out for carrion. As a bonus perk, there’s a tiny cafe where you purchase snacks, coffee and a beer to fortify yourself as you spend the day photographing the birds and gorgeous landscape around you. There are plenty of other areas to explore in and it’s a great opportunity to view Spanish Imperial Eagle and find Griffon Vultures on nests.

Towards the end of my trip we spent time in Trujillo. The fortified castle in that town is supposed to be part of the set in an upcoming episode of Game of Thrones. When you’re at the top, you can see so much of the untouched countryside. The town dates back to 600 B.C. and includes stunning residents built by Spanish Conquistadors using their newfound wealth after returning from their colonization quests. We were on a history tour and I brought along my spotting scope and PhoneSkope kit. Every time I take along my kit and a guide says, “You won’t need that,” my response is, “I always regret when I don’t have my digiscoping set up, never when I do have it.”

Besides birds, you can use your scope to study the art and architecture of the buildings.

And even if birds aren’t part of the official agenda, I like to use the scope to focus in on architectural details. Sometimes you find great scary faces carved in homes or in some cases a sneaky restoration professional will incorporate their favorite football team’s logo. But time in towns with a scope might also allow me a chance to get a great shot of a bird that is very common for a person who lives there but new and special for me. For years I’ve wanted a photo of a stork nest but the birding trips I’m on rarely get me to where they are nesting in good light. And as luck would have it, as we were walking around Trujillo we found a beautiful stork nest from the castle walls and I was able to get photos and video.

Don’t forget that while you are birding in a city, there are plenty of ways to celebrate from coffees, cheeses or beers.

Celebrating European life birds with a beer from Budvar, the original and more flavorful Budweiser made in the Czech Republic.

The Birdchick – Digiscoping Tips for Beginners

Digiscoping Tips
Sharon Stiteler

One of the big complaints I hear from people about digiscoping is how awful their photos look. My first question is always, “How many photos have you taken?”

“Oh, maybe sixteen or twenty,” is the usual answer.

That’s not nearly enough. For every great photo you see online or in print, there are anywhere from 20 to 500 terrible photos that came before it. As a matter of fact, the more bad photos you take, the closer you are to being a pro!

As easy as digiscoping with a smartphone can be, there are some tried and true photography tips that come into play and those tips are what lead to the fantastic photos you see on Digiscoping Gurus or Worldwide Digiscopers pages on Facebook.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Take a day and take as many craptastic photos as you can. It’s very easy to delete them, but use that time to see what works and what does not. Find a bird feeder either in your yard, a friend’s yard or nature center. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or soda and just allow yourself a few hours of time to get to know your setup.

Figure out which feeder gets the most activity, aim your kit at that feeder and practice focusing. Even if a bird isn’t there, just focus on the feeder and take a few shots. As you focus on the feeder, inevitably a bird will fly in and you’ll mostly be in focus at that point.

Bird feeders are a great way to practice using your equipment. As you watch the birds move, you’ll notice that some like the White-necked Jacobin may perch on a nearby branch while not feeding you can try to get “natural” shots. Photo by The Birdchick.

If you want to try and get shots of birds that come to the feeder but don’t want the feeder in the shot, consider placing branches nearby. The birds will often sit on those branches before coming into the feeder and if you aim your setup at that you can get some “natural” looking shots.

Keep Sun In Mind

On an overcast day you don’t have to worry about sun angle so much. But when it’s out, it can affect your shots. Many photographers like the golden hour of just after sunrise or just before sunset when the birds are in a lovely golden light that brings out their colors. The harsh glare of the noon day sun can really wipe out colors and bring on heat shimmer that will make it impossible to get a sharp photo.

When the sun is out, try to keep it behind you so you are using its brightness to light up the bird. Keep this in mind when you’re looking for places to digiscope birds. This can save you a lot of time in the field when you’re planning on going out. Photography blinds at lakes and wetlands can be fun, but they’re useless to you if the sun is facing the blind when you go. A very handy app for planning your outing and thinking about sun is the The Photographer’s Ephemeris available for both iPhone and Android.

http://photoephemeris.com/

If you are setting up feeders in your yard so you can digiscope birds, try to keep sun angle in mind to make getting shots easier.

Get Closer To The Bird

The advantage of using a spotting scope and smart phone to take pictures of birds is that you can give the bird a comfortable distance. However, that doesn’t mean that eagle nest that is two miles away is going to be a great picture. Yes, you can see it in the scope and depending on the quality of your scope have a great view, but a warm day will give you lots of heat shimmer making a tack sharp photo impossible. The closer you get to your subject, the less atmosphere you will have to deal with while taking the photo.

Here’s a series of photos showing you the difference in quality from distant bird shots to those that are much closer.

 

This is an ok shot of a Turkey Vulture that was very far away. To get better photos, try to get closer with scaring the bird and get it in a more colorful background than the sky. Photo by The Birdchick.

 

Note the Turkey Vulture is on the ground with grasses and daisies behind it. This colorful background enhances the colors of the vulture’s head and feathers. Photo by The Birdchick.

 

This is the same turkey vulture but a little closer. I waited until the bird was preening its feathers and took twenty steps closer and got a head shot. I dared no closer, vultures vomit in self defense. Photo by The Birdchick.

 

Phone Skope Digiscoping Tips – Digiscoping with Binoculars Part 1

Folks often think that digiscoping can only be done with a spotting scope, but you can also digiscope with binoculars! I like to call this “digibinning.” Digibinning is super easy to do with your smartphone using a Phone Skope Adapter. All of our kits are two-piece, a phone-specific case and a optic adapter, which is either optic-specific or universal. In the video below, Cheston shows you how to hook a phone up to a pair of Vortex Viper binoculars using the Phone Skope iPhone 6 Plus Phone Case and U-1 Mini Universal Optic Adapter. This setup is extremely easy to use in the field and takes seconds to attach to binoculars.

How does the system work?

Here are the steps you should take to successfully take pictures through your binoculars with your phone.

  1. Put your phone into the Phone Skope Phone-specific Phone Case
  2. Adjust the diameter of the U-1 Mini Universal Optic Adapter to the size of your binocular eyecup
  3. Lock the U-1 Mini Universal Optic Adapter into the Phone Skope Phone Case
  4. Twist the eyecup out on the binocular
  5. Slide the system over the eyecup
  6. Start taking pictures or video

What can you digiscope through binoculars?

Anything! Anything you see through your binoculars can be captured on your phone by using a Phone Skope Adapter. The Phone Skope makes it easy to take pictures through binoculars by centering the phone camera lens on the optic.

Where can I buy one?

You can purchase a Phone Skope through our online store or at a dealer near you. Please see our Dealer Locator and we urge you to call a dealer first to see if they have the items you need in stock.

Where can I share my photos?

Share your pictures and videos with us on social media with the tag #phoneskope! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube!

The Birdchick – The Fun of Gator Farms

The Fun of Gator Farms 
Sharon Stiteler 

The best way to hone your smart phone photography skills is to find cooperative subjects. I know what you’re thinking, “Sharon, give me a break, birds are about as cooperative as a two year old.”  

However, you can find situations where birds somewhat stationary or mildly predictable. One of those is a feeding station. Another is a rookery, a large colony of birds nesting together. Rookeries can be found all over from an island in the middle of lake in a city to the middle of zoos. Some of the most fun rookeries can be found in Florida at the various alligator farms. Herons and egrets have figured out that a great way to avoid raccoons crawling up their trees to eat their eggs and chicks is to nest over hundreds of alligators and crocodiles. Of course, there is a price to pay, if a chick falls out of the nest before it can fly, they will become a gator snack but for the most part, the birds flourish in these reptile zoos.

I visited one called St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park in Florida. This place is aware of what a hot ticket their wading bird rookery is with photographers. So they offer an annual membership with special pricing and hours just for people to take pictures when the rookery is the most active. For $89.95 you get a year round membership and access to the park and hour before they open and an hour after close. And before you ask, no there is no discount for someone who is only going to be there for a few days on vacation. They know what a hot ticket it is and if photography is your bag, it’s worth it even for only two visits. The photography pass is a win/win for everyone involved. Photographers and tripods won’t be competing with families who want to walk the boardwalk for alligators and those extra hours also happen to coincide with that magic hour light just after sunrise and just before sunset.

The photo passes allow you to be out with fellow photographers to get the shots of birds nesting. Photo by The Birdchick.

Most of the photographers that were around me had a traditional set up and I noticed had to be closer to the birds than I did. However, with my Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope, iPhone 5s and Phone Skope digiscoping adapter, I was able to hang back and get some spectacular photos of Florida birds.  

If you arrive in the morning, you get there just before there’s any light. As you find a place in the dark with other photographers you can hear and smell that there are a lot of fishing eating birds around. And as it gets lighter you can get photos. The perks of using a smart phone with a scope and a Phone Skope adapter is that the phone is very forgiving in low light and you can get some fun silhouette shots.  

As the light reaches perfection, you will soon have field worthy photos of Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Snowy Egrets ad Tri-colored Herons just to name a few of the species. In fact, you biggest challenge may be that some of the birds are far too close to the boardwalk to digiscope.

It won’t take you long to get field guide worthy shots of wading birds when visiting an alligator farm rookery. Photo by The Birdchick.

However, after you have easily gotten your perfect full body shot of a Great Egret feeding its chicks, try to get arty with your photos. There are oodles of full body shots of herons and egrets out there, try to get a view of these birds that someone else hasn’t captured. These are gorgeous and elegantly shaped creatures. Try to find a way to capture the way their feathers flow around those crazy long beaks. Play around with getting both vertical and horizontal shots.

Note how the Great Egret’s skin turns green during breeding seasons. Photo by The Birdchick.

You’ll also start to notice some interesting changes in these birds during breeding season as you take their pictures. For one thing, the area of skin between the eye and the beak of the Great Egret turns a vivid lime green during breeding season. If you happen to catch a Snowy Egret before it displays, the skin between the beak and the eyes is yellow, but once the display happens it turns bright red.

Note the wild and crazed look and red patch of skin when a Snowy Egret displays. Photo by The Birdchick.

You can even play with video a bit, but the challenge is that you’ll be on a wooden board walk so when someone walks by, that will cause some vibration to the image. Also, sometimes the alligators start growling and that will also cause your image to shake.  

The rookery is active at only certain times of year. You can check the St Augustine Alligator Farm’s website for the best times to visit (https://www.alligatorfarm.com/). There are other gator farms with rookeries too so if you and your family have a vacation planned near one, find out if and when wading birds might be nesting inside the gates.