So much of nature photography is luck, being in the right place at the right time, but it takes more than mere luck to get that special photo. This morning at Shark Valley the weather was cloudy and even though the forecast was for only 20% chance of rain, it felt more like 80%. Once every 20 or 30 minutes the sun would peek out from behind the clouds and shine upon us photographers and gathered beasts for a few short minutes before being hidden again by a large rain cloud. The rest of the fish that were killed by the week long cold snap at the start of the year are now too ripe even for the most determined vultures and alligators. The fetid smell of rotting fish carcasses permeates the air for yards around the spots where the current have gathered the decomposing cadavers. There were few birds flying by. The wood storks that were everywhere a week ago feasting on the dead exotic fish have moved on. Only a few hardy birds work the shore looking for the few remaining fish. It wasn't one of those days when it was wonderful to be in the Everglades. And then a snowy egret found a perch and started to preen itself. It didn't take more than a minute for the egret to pick through it's feathers and shake out the dirt, but in that minute I got images that made my day. Persistence and the skills to catch the moment when something happens made that “lucky” shot possible. In order to get lucky, I had to be there, in the rain and fetid air, ready to capture that magic moment.
This Sunday morning was quite cold for the Everglades, temperatures reached below 32°F overnight. Native species of fish can survive such cold conditions but the tropical exotics like the oscars, blue tilapia and Mayan cichlid can't survive the cold. The presence of so many easy meals meant that birds like black vultures and crows were enjoying a rare treat of fish.
Normally selectively killing these exotic species would be a good thing, except that if there aren't enough native fish species left, the birds that usually populate this area in the winter will have to move on and search for food elsewhere. In the meantime the scavengers like the vultures and this crow as well as the herons and egrets are enjoying a banquet of exotic sushi.