After my wife and I arrived at our resort in Cuba in late January, the first thing we did after dropping off our bags in our room, was visit the wetland area adjacent to the hotel. During our previous visits to this resort, the area had been a terrific spot for birding and bird photography. During past visits I had typically spent hours every day on the walkway over the water photographing a wide variety of bird species. This year my challenge was adapting to a changing birding environment.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
As we strolled from one end of the walkway to the other side I did not see a single bird, compared to the dozens we would have observed in previous years. This was initially very unnerving.
Where there once were mud flats and large stretches of shallow water ideal for feeding shorebirds, egrets and herons, the marsh was now flooded. In spots the water looked to be almost a metre (~3 feet) deeper than our last visit in 2016.
Quite a few of the trees had died and were completely void of vegetation. This indicated to me that the area had been flooded for some time.
It looked like a water-filled wasteland. Almost all of the water close to the elevated walkway was far too deep to be a good fishing area for birds. I studied the surface of the water… all was not lost!
I was relieved to see plenty of small fish fry in the water. That meant that the bottom of the food chain was healthy. It also indicated that at least some birds were likely feeding somewhere near the marshland. My challenge was to find them… then develop some tactics to photograph them.
As I walked around the perimeter of the wetland I took mental notes of what I observed. The water had infiltrated beyond the treed border of the marshland, reaching out towards the paved sidewalk. In four previous visits to this resort I had never seen so much water in the marshland.
It was clear that in some places the grassy scrub areas were also soaked with water and full of thick mud. Since I had not brought any waterproof footwear this appeared to be yet another obstacle.
There was one stretch of shoreline that looked somewhat promising. It appeared more rocky, with less water intrusion. The area also had some small bushes. I thought these could provide some camouflage and cover for me, should I try to quietly approach birds feeding in the shallow water.
After this initial assessment, we went back to our room so I could grab my camera and continue with my scouting mission. I thought it was quite probable that due to the changing birding environment at least some of the birds had left the area to feed elsewhere. My challenge was to adapt my photographic approach to make the best of the conditions and not let the changing birding environment win out over me. More on that in my next article…
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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