Gallery: A Roseate Spoonbill’s Liftoff

By Steve Allen
March 31, 2019
A Roseate Spoonbill takes off in Florida.

From the Spring 2019 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

This photo was taken last February at the Richard T. Paul Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary, two islands that sit at the mouth of the Alafia River near Tampa Bay, Florida. The sanctuary does not normally allow visitors, but I was allowed to approach within several hundred yards of the islands as part of a photography workshop.

The spoonbills were on the wing and along the shore almost constantly throughout the morning and afternoon workshop sessions, accompanied by Long-billed Curlews, Reddish Egrets, and Brown Pelicans. Balancing the low light and the considerable distance from the birds was a challenge in making this photo. This lovely Roseate Spoonbill raised its wings as it prepared for the first downward wingbeat to lift off from the shore and fly away. In the photo, the spoonbill appears to be looking right at me as intensely as I was looking at it.

Audubon Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries Statement about Bird Photography

Living Bird reader from Florida alerted us to concerns about photographers at the Audubon Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary disturbing courting birds there. We reached out to Audubon Florida Tampa Bay Area Regional Coordinator Ann Paul and Sanctuary Manager Mark Rachal about these concerns. They said that when photographers use a long lens to observe the spoonbills from a distance, then that shouldn’t disturb the birds. They emphasized that all photographers, birders, and visitors to the sanctuary should observe the buffer zone posted around the islands.

Paul and Rachal said the Alafia Bank Bird Sanctuary is now posted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a “Critical Wildlife Area,” with signs located in the water that create a buffer approximately 100 feet from the shoreline. The signs are meant to notify boaters (including but not limited to nature photographers) that the area landward of the posts is not to be entered. Audubon and the Wildlife Commission ask that all boaters stay outside of the posted buffer area to avoid disturbing and protect the courting, nesting, roosting, and foraging birds.

Additionally, Paul and Rachal referenced the National Audubon Society’s standards for nature photographers, which are also good rules for all birders.