Photographing the White-faced Ibis

by David Lilly
June 13, 2015



White-faced Ibis by David Lilly ©


A few years ago it was very difficult to photograph the White-faced Ibis in Alberta. Their numbers were low and they were difficult to approach. Fast forward to 2015 and now it is completely different. The White-faced Ibis now returns in the spring in larger numbers to Frank Lake in Southern Alberta and the the opportunities to photograph the bird are excellent.


I don't usually like the light at the wooden blind at the north end of Frank lake because you are facing south into the light, but for the White-faced Ibis photograph in this article it was perfect light, I kept the light to my back facing north. I arrived early in the morning and mounted my Nikon 500mm lens on my tripod at the entrance to the blind and waited for the White-faced Ibis to fly by. It did not take long for the bird to make a fly pass, as a matter of fact it was a constant fly byes. A word of cation if you set up your tripod on the wooden walk-way be careful someone doesn't knock it over and into the water.



Considered a subspecies of the Glossy Ibis until the late 1960s, the white–faced ibis is currently considered a full species. White–faced ibis breed from northern California, eastern Oregon, southern Idaho and Alberta, Montana, eastern North and South Dakota, and northwest Iowa, south to Durango and Jalisco states in Mexico. As mentioned above their numbers have increased in Alberta. They have established a nesting colony at Frank Lake, in Southern Alberta.


White-faced Ibis by David Lilly ©


White–faced ibis at Frank Lake are nesting in the wet marshes with the Franklins Gull, Tern, and various species on ducks. They forge on hatching insects and nutrients from the bottom of the marsh. Nest platforms are constructed within the bulrush, using bent–over bulrush stalks and adjacent upright stalks. This type of nest construction lends itself to collapse on flooding, and nest failure, if water levels drop or rise dramatically during the incubation or early nestling periods. At Frank Lake the water levels are stable for 2015.



For most of these photographs my settings were continuous frame rate,1/2000sec shutter speed F 8 with + 1 EV auto ISO bracketed from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, with a Nikon D 7200 and a 500mm F4 Nikon lens. As per any bird photography you have to be alert to photograph the Ibis. I tried photographing on the tripod at first and then switched to hand held with about the same results. I have to mention the D 7200 produced excellent sharp images 95% of the time. My objective was to capture the colours with the right light. Some caution when photographing the Ibis, don't over expose, the fastest shutter speed given the the available light should be used, as I said before I used 1/2000sec. Patience is always needed for all bird photography.


White-faced Ibis by David Lilly ©


If you live near Frank Lake in Alberta, now is the time to get some great photographs. Get out and enjoy the photography opportunities.





David Lilly portrait


David Lilly is a professional nature photographer living and working in Calgary, AB he also teaches photo workshops. His photos have been published in PhotoLife, Calgary's Natural Parks, Alberta Nature Magazine and Fine Scale Military Modeler. Dave shoots with Nikon equipment. This is Dave's 9th article for the Canadian Nature photographer. David is also founder of the Calgary Camera Club.

David Lilly
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Phone: 403 236-8587 (Cell)

This is David Lilly's 14th article for the Canadian Nature photographer.


See David's other Bird Photography articles on the Canadian Nature photographer

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