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Dinner at Ding Darling


by Donald E. Chamberlain

Spoonbills and Friend
Spoonbills and Friend

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is my favorite place to photograph birds. So many photographic opportunities present themselves. On this day I arrived early in the morning (7:30 is the earliest you can enter the refuge)to take advantage of sunrise lighting conditions.

A short distance from the entrance (near Weir #1) is an area where large expanses of water are found on both sides of the road. In the early morning, combinations of egrets, herons, ibises, and spoonbills may be seen probing the sands for food. The early morning light casts special lighting over these feathered foragers as spoonbills on a sand bar tolerate their "guest".


Red-Shouldered Hark Eating Black Snake
Red-Shouldered Hark Eating Black Snake

A mile down Wildlife Drive, I spotted a red–shouldered hawk that had captured a small a small black snake and was busily engulfing this morning meal. He was very tolerant as I snapped away just a few feet from his tree.


Brown Pelican Feeding
Brown Pelican Feeding

I drove to the Cross–dike area of the Wildlife Drive. This is a raised dike that connects the Wildlife Drive to the Indigo Hiking Trail. On this morning the area to the left of the dike was lined with white birds in the midst of a “feeding frenzy”. Egrets on each side of the channel would fly across the channel and “hover”, picking morsels from the channel with their beaks and feet as they flew to the other side.
In the same channel I photographed brown pelican feeding by dipping its beak into the water and noisily emptying the contents into its gullet.


Crested Flycatching Eating Dragonfly
Crested Flycatching Eating Dragonfly

At the end of the Cross–dike I spotted a Great Flycatcher near a nesting box with a large, red dragonfly in its mouth. He sat on the nesting box for the next few minutes while I clicked away.


Osprey Feeding on Fish at Dawn
Osprey Feeding on Fish at Dawn

The final “diner” encountered that morning was an osprey feeding on a fish in a tree east of the Cross Dike. He was so far away I had to use my 400mm lens for a close–up picture. The early morning light added greatly to the photo.

After this last encounter, I left the refuge for the morning. Watching all this action had made me hungry.