Per the ancient lore, part 32

unidentified waders in shallows of Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge
This week, we’re doing Birds, and have what is probably the most birds that I have captured in any single photo. Granted, it’s not a murmuration of starlings, which can number several thousand in a huge cloudlike flock, but it’s still an appreciable number, you have to admit. This is in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, somewhere off of Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, and I couldn’t tell you for sure what these birds are. There appears to be at least two species, and I’d lean towards willets and sanderlings, given how common they are and their feeding habits which would point them towards conditions like this, but that’s just a semi-educated guess. Also notable is how much of the water remains, consistently, just a few centimeters deep. I would hazard a guess that, had I attempted to wade out there myself, I’d get more than just my sandals wet, and would probably even leave them behind; most of the region is swampy, boggy, or deep mud, and though it supports a bird’s weight readily, I would likely have sunk in at least to my knees.

The color, for some reason, isn’t very impressive, as bad as some negative films that I’ve tried, and what you’re seeing here has been tweaked to improve it a bit – the original was worse. This is still with the Sony F717, which sensor definitely had a better color register than the Canon Pro90 IS that I later obtained, yet it didn’t measure up to the later Canon DSLR bodies – which themselves have their own weaknesses, especially in skin tones. Looking at the EXIF info just now, I see the White Balance was set to ‘Auto,’ which may have had a lot to do with it given the frame-filling blues and greens – I should have had it set to Full Sunlight.

inset of previous frame
Here’s a peek at a higher-resolution inset in an attempt to identify the bird species – still not enough. That long beak in the front says ‘willet’ or perhaps ‘limpkin’ to me, but there aren’t enough details to pin it down. But yeah, they had to have been finding plenty of food in there. This was on the west side of Merritt Island, with ocean inlets a fair distance off and not terribly big, so I have no idea how much tidal change might occur, but I suspect it was minimal – I’m guessing the rain had more to do with depth fluctuations. And if I remember right, the whole complex contained a variety of fresh, brackish, and salt water pools depending on where you were, so it’s anyone’s guess what this was (or, you can ask someone who actually knows and doesn’t have to guess.)

I would definitely recommend Merritt Island to any nature photographers, despite the photo here – it has plenty of opportunities for wildlife shots, including this one (shot the same day.)

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