South Florida must be one of the best places on Earth to be a bird photographer. Go to the right place - in my case, Wakodahatchee Wetlands or Green Cay Nature Center in Delray - and you literally can't miss. On my visits there I almost invariably encounter photographers, often the same ones - what Florida residents who go there all the time do with their presumably vast collections of photos I can't imagine. Anyway, here is a gallery of portraits from my February 2013 visit - not to show what a good photographer I am, but to demonstrate how easy it is to look like one. Let's start with this female Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), posing on the Wakodahatchee boardwalk for anyone with a camera.
You can get as close as you like.
Head shots? No problem. Notice the bright blue ring around the eye, a feature Anhingas develop in the breeding season.
Get the picture? You can even get shots like this of some songbirds; this is a female Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major).
Here is a male, showing off his iridescent colours. In the lower photo he is performing his "bill-up" display, an aggressive warning to other males in the vicinity.
For his cousin the Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), it's better not to be quite so close if your aim is to catch a display cycle. Notice how the wing-patch is covered at first, uncovered as the bird sings, and then covered again as he settles down.
Photographing this extremely complacent Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus), a recently-established exotic in the area, required me to back away just to get most of the bird in the picture.
Taking portraits of herons is just as easy. Here is a Great Egret (Ardea alba) in breeding colour, its facial skin a bright lime green.
This is a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) (why, by the way, is this bird named after Salome's mom?).
Here, a nesting pair share a moment over a particularly suitable twig. Nest-building is a pair-bonding activity for these birds; the male collects the building materials, and the female works them into the nest structure. The final nest can be a metre across.Many of the wetland herons are easy targets for photographers, but this one usually isn't. American Bitterns (Botaurus lentiginosus) are shy and uncommon here, and I count these, of an unusually bold individual, as lucky shots indeed.
Wakodahatchee and Green Cay are great birding and photography spots, but even when I am in Florida I can't get to them every day. Fortunately, I can get my fix in my mother's Boca Raton back garden, where her feeder is frequently visited by one of North America's most spectacular and desirable birds. I don't mean the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), though even this female is spectacular enough. I mean the little green bird next to it - a female, or young male, Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris).
It's the adult male Painted Bunting, of course, that gets all the attention. Few, if any, birds can boast such a gaudy palette (even to the extent of a bright red ring around the eye).
A feeder that attracts these wary creatures is one worth watching, even through a window, And when two males show up at the same time - well, as WS Gilbert said in The Gondoliers, it's too much happiness!