The drought of 2012 is setting up what looks to be a rather dull autumn at DeSoto and other areas around here. Although color is evident in the trees in eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa, the drought has made it more about brown than the typical autumn yellow, orange, and red. This year’s drought is kind of ironic after the historic floods that wreaked havoc on this area only one year ago.
Although the fall color is disappointing, this time of year even without color is exciting as it marks the beginning of the migration of millions of water fowl through the area. This was evident at the flood ravaged DeSoto NWR on Saturday. I made an impromptu stop there after a particularly unproductive (photographically speaking) drive through the Loess Hills of western Iowa. I was planning to shoot images of the area’s iconic rolling hills and the fall harvest. Nothing much inspired me so as I headed home along highway 30 I stopped at DeSoto NWR just to see how it looked now, about one year after the big flood.
I visited earlier this year and found it to be mostly barren of vegetation and wildlife. Many of the trees that were underwater last year are now dead. The visitor center is still closed and recovery efforts are on-going. However, the big news is that the lake was full of activity. There were lots of great egrets, great blue herons, cormorants, ducks, and LOTS of white pelicans. A large flock of pelicans was cruising the lake – I would estimate about 500 or so.
Unfortunately, since this was an unplanned visit, I did not have my wildlife kit with me. I reminded myself that it’s “OK” to shoot context images of wildlife as they go about their business in their natural habitat. So I fired off a few shots of the pelicans doing what pelicans do with the 5D Mark II and EF 400mm f/5.6. It was late and the sun was about to set, making for dramatic high dynamic range which can be difficult with white birds but rewarding when you nail the exposure.
The pelicans were a nice autumn treat despite the area’s dull color. I’m not giving up on fall color though; next week I travel to Utah and Southwest Colorado. I’m told they had their first snow last week and the color there is ahead of schedule. Hopefully, the aspen show will still be going by the time I get there.
Stay tuned and, in the mean time, check out autumn at DeSoto before the pelicans move on . . .