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10/21/12
Egrets under pink skies
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 11:48 am

We are still in the grip of summer-like weather, with heat, humidity and rain almost every day. We normally would be entering the mild dry season when we can leave the windows open all day and night. Near freezing low temperatures in northern Illinois will be a shock for us when we return there in a few days.

Atmospheric conditions have created photographic challenges but also opportunities. Although rain shortened several of our treks into the wetlands near our home, we have also enjoyed some fabulous pink sunrises.

This photo was taken about 10 minutes before sunrise, four days ago, looking south down the unpaved road that leads into our birding patch.

Sunrise HDR 20121016

Almost every summer, tropical winds carry dust particles 5,800 miles across the ocean from northern Africa. The dust is able to cross that distance because it travels in the Saharan Air Layers, on top of a lower cooler layer of atmosphere, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Hurricanes follow the same path from the African coast, but the dust can produce some beautiful pink sunrises in south Florida. This, along with high humidity, may well have been the cause of the pink color of the sun’s rays.

Here is a screenshot that shows the density of dust in the Saharan Air Layer on October 20. Fairly high dust levels are present near the tip of the Florida peninsula, just visible in the upper left hand corner of the image.

Saharan Air Layer20121020 0900UTC

See the latest satellite images of the Saharan Air Layer at this link.

A Great Egret balanced on the very top of an Australian Pine, and the high pink clouds provided a pleasing background.

Great Egret before sunrise Corel 20121016

The egret took flight.

Great Egret in flight Corel 20121016

The skies quickly turned from pink to black as thunder rolled. Wisely, Mary Lou had departed well before me. Here is the road ahead as I hurried back home, just beating the rain.

Thunderbumpers HDR 20121018

The next morning I photographed what I erroneously called a “false sunrise” on the western horizon over the Everglades, at 7:22 AM, EDT. This view is directly opposite the spot where the sun was scheduled to appear above the horizon in about 2 minutes. The sky overhead was clear and already quite blue, but the scattered high clouds were pinkish. There were thunderstorms over the Atlantic coast, so it was quite dark to the east. The rays of the sun had filtered over the tops of the thunderheads and painted long parallel pink streaks. Perspective gives them the appearance of diverging from the west, but they actually are converging from the east towards the vanishing point.  Perhaps the best term for this would be a “mirrored sunrise.” (* See end note)

Harbour Lake False Sunrise 20121020

Interestingly, another Great Egret posed in a different tree, about three minutes before sunrise. The pink in the sky was not as intense as on the previous morning. The photo is soft because I had to crank the ISO up to 6400 to get a 1/2400 second exposure without using my flash.

Great Egret 20121020

A Northern Waterthrush suddenly appeared in the semi-darkness, and the flash was necessary for a decent exposure.

Northern Waterthrush 20121020

The radar has shown quite heavy migration this week. I think they were mostly catbirds, as the trees were full of them. Lighting had improved a bit when I took this photo of a Gray Catbird a few minutes later, without flash (ISO 6400, exposure 1/320).

Gray Catbird 20121020

Brown Thrashers are passing through on their way south. A few breed in south Florida.

Brown Thrasher 20121018

Here are some other images from the past week, under somewhat better lighting conditions. First, a male Painted Bunting, locally common during the winter, …

Painted Bunting male 20121012

…and a female bunting dressed in green.

Painted Bunting female 20121020

I often see Indigo Buntings in the company of Painted Buntings. This is a female– note her streaked breast.

Indigo Bunting female 20121021

The male Indigo Bunting shows some blue on its flight feathers and wing coverts, and is not heavily streaked.

Indigo Bunting 20121009

Northern Cardinals are in fine feather, having just completed the post-breeding molt.

Northern Cardinal 20121012

Noisy and inquisitive Blue Jays also show fresh plumage. Resident jays are now joined by migrants.

Blue Jay 2-20121016

Northern Mockingbirds are singing and defending their territories.

Northern Mockingbird 20121014

A migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbird comes in for a landing…

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 20121014

…and settles down.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2-20121014

This is a migratory first year male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak first year male 20121018

* I searched the Internet for any other descriptions of this phenomenon, which looks like a mirrored sunrise on the opposite horizon, but did not find much information. I learned that my terminology is not correct. Technically, a “false sunrise” or dawn sundog is…  an atmospheric optical phenomenon associated with the reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals making up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds in the very particular case when the sun is still below the horizon. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_sunrise

Here is a similar photo of a mirrored sunrise over Katy, Texas in FLICKR: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettmorrison/8095394320/in/pool-texan/

I did find a You Tube featuring another mirrored sunrise here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr7gASBeQBE

19 Responses to “Egrets under pink skies”

  1. Hilke Breder Says:
    Great post, Ken! Awesome landscape and avian shots and interesting info on the dust storms from Africa.
  2. Lauren Says:
    All I can say is OMG beautiful photo’s . I am so jealous about the hummer and Painted Bunting’s. I hope mine remember to come back. I had several buntings from Nov to May. As always great pics.
  3. Laurence Butler Says:
    Nice Ken! Great photos
  4. phil uk Says:
    Ken, I’m intruiged by your landscape pictures - the change from from “pink to black” - a great shot, but also the “false sunrise” which I’ve never heard of. Is that a phenomenon of your part of the world? As usual your fine bird pictures just bring back memories, except that is Painted Bunting which I never caught up with - yet.
  5. Adam Jones Says:
    So many beautiful birds. Hard to chose a favourite, but I do like the Great Egrets.
  6. TexWisGirl Says:
    always such a great bunch of bird photos, but this time the skies were competing for the beauty, too! nicely done, ken!
  7. Indrani Says:
    Amazing captures. The first few shots look like paintings.
  8. Hootin' Anni's Says:
    They’re all stunning, but I would have to give a gold star on the one of the Blue Jay!!! I just love that composition!!! Hootin’ Anni @ Hootin’ Anni’s - Egret taking to flight and I’d Rather B Birdin - Cooper’s Hawk
  9. Pia, Sweden Says:
    I can’t find words, it’s so fantastic photos you’ve taken! I especially like the white egrets! Great job! Greetings Pia
  10. Mick Says:
    Wonderful sunrise colors and the mirrored sunrise is a very interesting phenomenon.
  11. Boom & Gary Says:
    Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.
  12. Eileen Says:
    Great post, Ken! I love the sky shots. Gorgeous captures of your colorful skies. The egrets photos are beautiful too. Thanks for sharing, happy birding!
  13. Stewart M Says:
    Great set of pictures - the skies would have been splendid on their own - but the egret and the pink clouds is great. Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW Stewart M - Australia
  14. Kerri Says:
    WOW WOW WOW! Great variety ….. and Egrets are AWESOME! as are all the others :)
  15. Pat Says:
    Lovely birds, every one. Beautiful sky shots.
  16. Wally Says:
    Ken, just found your website. Terrific images! I look forward to reviewing prior posts and enjoying new ones. Interesting information!
  17. Mary Howell Cromer Says:
    Oh my goodness did you do a splendid job on these captures,,,the songbirds are grand, the little hummer is precious and then add in those glorious skies and Egrets…wonderful!!!
  18. Grønn fryd hos Monique Says:
    Really some wonderful photos you show in here! I aspescially like the ones on top, with sky, clouds and egrets.
  19. Ken Says:
    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I learned a bit about the African dust, thanks to Google and my “pink mirrored sunrise” query.

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