Fly Soup: Arlene’s new hobby

     Every once in a while its good to change the pace of things.
When island resident Arlene Koziol dropped in the shop a couple of weeks ago and said she wanted to go out the next day for a 1/2 day backcountry trip, I have to confess I was less than excited. We were in a rut, another one of those major cold fronts we’ve been seeing was passing through, and I knew the following day was destined to be very windy and cold. In addition to the strong winds, we were in the new moon phase of December, which meant we would see extremely low tides. Additionally, the wind was going to move around from the north, and that wind would push even more water off the flats than normal.

Fishing for redfish and snook was likely to be tough under these conditions, so when she told me she wanted to make it a photo trip this time, I perked up at the idea of doing something a little different from the day to day.

Although Arlene has fished with me for many years with her husband Jeff, this time she had come down alone to get away from some brutal Chicago weather and practice her new hobby, photography.

She has always enjoyed the local bird life around the island on our many fishing trips, so she challenged me to find birds, not fish this time. Her goal was to get some quality shots and capture as many different birds as possible with a new camera. 

Shortly after we left the dock, we saw our first subject, a Belted Kingfisher. These little guys are tough to get real close to, they like to keep their distance from people. This was something we were reminded of right away. We tried to approach him, but we could never get quite close enough to “get the shot” and soon he hit the road. We realized we would have to change tactics on the next one we saw. Just pointing and clicking wouldn’t do the trick, we had to become a hunter with the lens to get the close up we were looking for.

I knew another area where I had seen some kingfishers so off we went, and luckily we saw two right away. This time, we sat back from a distance and observed them, being patient and trying to plan a shot. It soon became obvious that one was defending his area from the other. After a few minutes of study, we identified the mangrove branch one of them called home base. He would fly off noisily in chase of the intruder, and return to the same branch time after time to stand watch. Once, while he was away, we eased over to this spot and Arlene got out of the boat and melted into the mangroves, just underneath this particular branch. She set up her shot, focusing on the empty branch in stealthy anticipation as I moved away with the boat. Soon enough, while I watched from a distance, homeboy Kingfisher returned and lit on his branch less than 10 feet from Arlene and her waiting lens.
     It was an exciting and satisfying moment for both Arlene and myself, since a plan had actually worked.                
Photo’s of merit rarely come easily when you are dealing with wildlife in a natural setting. Standing in the cold muck of the mangroves in her wading boots, she had prevailed with a beautiful close up of a wary subject.

We shared a high five.      

Off we went to find the White Pelicans that winter in our area. Since the tides were so low, we found them feeding ravenously and not too spooky in a shallow depression on a turtle grass flat. White Pelicans don’t have a pouch or dive like the more common brown pelican. They herd their food on shallow flats by working together and we caught them in their natural environment, doing their thing, along with many white egrets, cormorants and great blue herons who also joined in on the commotion.

Another high five.

As we eased away from this scene, we were fortunate enough to notice a Wood Stork, content and feeding alone on another nearby flat. They are a protected species and their numbers are not great, so we knew how lucky we were to get a photo opportunity like this in a natural setting.

Snap, snap, snap. Arlene was on a roll.

The next day I was back to fishing, but Arlene had so much fun she wanted to go again. We were able to get Capt. Mark Becton to take her out on the water on short notice. They spent much of their time trying to get a good close up shot of an adult Bald Eagle they had spied, but that was not to be on this trip. However, she was once again rewarded for her patience with a unique photo of a reclusive reddish egret stomping and flapping his wings about to spook a meal from the shallow grass.

It was a great change of pace for me to go birding and take a break from fishing for a day, and it was also a reminder of just how diverse the wildlife is around the harbor.

And its always nice to spend a day on the water with someone who really enjoys and appreciates all our area has to offer and has enthusiasm for the outdoors.

You go girl with the new hobby.

-Capt. Sandy Melvin

%d bloggers like this: