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Page 14 Fabiola Forns

Written By onci on Friday, July 24, 2009 | 6:57 PM


Swallow tailed Kite: Spirit that soars. by Fabiola Forns

The native Calusa people called them Ta-ti-na: spirit that soars, because of the graceful flight almost as high as the clouds.

These birds come to Florida from South America to nest in the spring, returning home in big flocks late in the summer. Adults go first, juveniles after, the latter seems to know where to go.
They like to nest in high trees and line their nest with Spanish moss they pick up from other trees.

They are avid hunters. They lay two eggs, one to carry on the species, the other one as security. Once they are out of the shell, the stronger one kills the weak in what is known as Obligate Siblicide. Only one chick is raised and the female stays in the nest with him/her until he’s almost ready to fledge. The father brings food for both, mostly iguanas or chicks they pick up from tree tops. The female is in charge of the feeding.

Photographing them is a challenge because of the extreme range on tones in their feathers, from very dark grey to white. The best time to catch them is really early or late in the day, with softer light that evens the contrast, but unfortunately that is not when they are the most active. Although they have very sharp vision, they like the sun higher in the horizon to hunt and the warmth in the air to ride the thermals.

My approach to capturing the images was exposing to the right as much as possible, even if it meant a few blinkies in the LCD and using the recovery slider or multiplying the highlights if necessary, in order to avoid the corresponding noise when the darks are blocked.

Most of the images are made in steep angle, but this is the heights where they operate and passing the opportunity to wait for a lower angle that may never materialize, is not an option.

Fabiola Forns BPN Publisher
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