Orlando Wetlands Park – 14 Oct 17

Kevin M. and I met at Orlando Wetlands Park Yesterday before sunrise.  It was gloomy and raining, but not for long.  I liked the way the low sunlight lit up this scene as the clouds were clearing.

Marsh Morning IIMarsh Morning II – This is a two frame, Olympus Hi Res, panorama using the technique described in this post:  http://edrosack.com/2011/01/21/two-image-pano-hdr-focus-stacking/

We had a hard time deciding where to go – storm damage and other circumstances are limiting our choices.  Many places that we like in Central Florida are closed (Viera Wetlands, Lake Apopka, Mead Gardens, many parts of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Jetty Park, etc.).  We ended up deciding between Circle B Bar in Lakeland and Orlando Wetlands (both are open).  I hadn’t been to either for a while and Orlando Wetlands is closer, so…

With the sun up and the clouds gone, we walked for a while before it got too hot.  This colorful bird caught my eye.  I didn’t realize it was a new life bird until I got home.

Common YellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat – A life bird!

There were lots of these flowers blooming.  I see them all the time although I’d never looked them up.  They’re native to Florida and the Americas.

Pickerelweed flowersPickerelweed flowers

Some other things we saw:  a Raccoon, a Peregrine Falcon, Red Shoulder Hawks, Black Belllied Whistling Ducks, a Juvenile Blue Heron and other wading birds, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Painted Bunting, Red Eyed and White Eyed Vireos, House and Carolina wrens, Palm Warblers, and a Chicken (the Ranger said its name is Chuck).

It was very nice to visit a place with no sign of the recent hurricanes.  Lots of other folks thought so too and were out there enjoying the day.  It’s a large place – I’ve ridden around it on my bike, but it’s too far for me to walk the whole thing.  They have a guided tram ride at 9am (confirm on their website) and it’s worth trying if you’re there at the right time and want to see more of the place with expert commentary.  Remember too that the park is open year round now – it no longer closes during the winter.  You can see some other Orlando Wetlands Park photos in this Flickr Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296, and you can read other posts mentioning the park at this link.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

One and Two and One, Two, Three

Here are a few photos from a scouting trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday.  I wanted to see how it was doing in the wake of Hurricane Irma and my shutter finger was itchy.  Some things didn’t fare too well:

Wreck at Markers 1 and 2Wreck at Markers 1 and 2 – on the northwest side of the Max Brewer Causeway 

I drove over on SR 46 from Winter Springs and the road was clear the entire way.  Although the water’s very high in some locations (especially near the St. Johns River), it doesn’t reach the road.

I made these next three images standing in the same spot near the Bairs Cove boat ramp on Haulover Canal.  It’s amazing how reliable a place this is to see wildlife.  I almost always find at least these three species when I go there and I was glad to see them still around after the storm.

One PelicanOne Pelican

Two ManateesTwo Manatees

Three DolphinsThree Dolphins

They’ve finished the Haulover Canal Bridge repairs so it’s open now.  I need to go back there and kayak again.  It is going to cool off soon I hope!

There were a few shore birds along the causeway.  I couldn’t check out the wildlife in two of my favorite areas (Blackpoint and Gator Creek) since they’re closed due to hurricane damage.  I don’t know when they’ll reopen – you can find out the current status at this webpage:  https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147578811

For everyone that ended up on this page after searching for math answers or song intros, I’m sorry about the title.  I know it’s bad for Search Engine Optimization, but I couldn’t resist.  I only wish I’d found a group of four somethings to photograph too.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Photography’s not important. Yes it is!

Sorry about the glitch last Thursday – I didn’t mean for this post to go out then.  Hitting the wrong button in WordPress is embarrassing, but at least my email subscribers got to see an example of how my posts usually begin – as just a few words jotted down to expand on later.  Here’s the rest of it.

BloomingBlooming

In the grand scheme of life, photography  isn’t required.  We managed for most of our history without photos.  And even today, with cameras in every cell phone, many people never make a photo.  So is photography important?

Barred Owl PairBarred Owl Pair

The world is awash in geo-political problems.  World leaders with nuclear weapons call each other names and threaten annihilation.  Scientists say global warming is going to drown our coast lines.  Storms and earthquakes cause massive destruction and loss of life.  Watching the evening news is overwhelming and sometimes even depressing.  In this world, how important is an activity like photography?

Bald EagleBald Eagle

Images and video play an increasing role in documenting problems and news in our society.  Ubiquitous cell phone cameras give us a look into life as it happens, views that were less likely to be seen in the past.  Is that a good thing?  In general I think so, even though what we now see all the time is often uncomfortable.

Barn OwlBarn Owl

Photography is also a tool. It lets us explore and comprehend things we can’t view with our own eyes.  Just look at the incredible images that the Cassini probe has sent back from Saturn.  This is extremely important data leading to a better understanding of our universe.  Vital?  Maybe not, but it is important.

What about photos like the ones in this post?  Are they important?  Maybe not to you, but to me they are.  When I’m out photographing I can forget all about many worrisome things and concentrate on an activity I enjoy.  If I’m lucky I become completely absorbed in the process – “in the zone”.  Worries drop away – at least for a time.  And sharing the results may not be crucial, but I do think it’s worthwhile.  Allowing others to see what I can and they can’t is an activity worth doing.  The photos don’t have to worthy of the Louvre. But’s it’s nice to get one every once in a while that goes up on my wall.

These photos were all made at the Audubon Birds of Prey Center in Maitland Florida.  They take in injured raptors, treat them, and (if they’re well enough) return them back to the wild.  They’re able to release just over 40% of their raptor patients.  Some birds (like the ones pictured here are too severely injured, so they become permanent residents that we can photograph when we visit.

The images don’t have a lot to do with the ideas in the post.  But they’re good examples.  The act of making them got me out of the house to meet a friend.  We enjoyed seeing the birds, and our donations will help the Audubon society to continue to help injured raptors.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some photos – it’s important!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Florida and the Keys – an Update

A few more photos from our trip late last month along with some post hurricane(s) status in the area…

Watching the sun set in Key WestWatching the sun set in Key West.  Sunset is a big attraction down there.  This view is from the Hyatt Centric, where we stayed.  They opened again on 22 September but say that “some amenities are temporarily limited or unavailable”.  We’ve heard the marina where I made this photo is “gone”.Injured LogerheadInjured Loggerhead – Staff members treat an injured Loggerhead Sea Turtle at the Turtle Hospital on Marathon.  Their website (www.turtlehospital.org) says the facility and staff made it through Hurricane Irma OK, but there’s extensive damage all over Marathon.Key West: Fort Zachary Taylor Fortress InteriorKey West: Fort Zachary Taylor Fortress Interior.  Their website says they’re closed until further notice with no info on how much damage they suffered.

Key West Street Scenes: Sloppy Joe's BarKey West Street Scenes: Sloppy Joe’s Bar first opened the day Prohibition ended.  Ernest Hemingway was a favorite patron.  Their website says they’re open for business.

One of the people who run the snorkel boat trips at Bahia Honda has a YouTube channel: “Livin’ the Keys Life” and he’s posting info about Bahia Honda and Marathon.  The damage there looks pretty bad.  I imagine it will be a while before it re-opens.

As far as locations around Central Florida, please check them before you go too.  For example Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is reporting lots of road closures  due to hurricane damage (https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147578811) while Orlando Wetlands Park says they’re open for public use (http://www.cityoforlando.net/wetlands/). And Lynn and I drove over the Lake Jessup bridge again today and the sunflower fields are still flooding.  We saw a few blooms on high ground close to the road, but we’ll have to wait until next year on these.

You can check on other parks at the Florida State Park storm information web page:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/content/storm-information.

And there’s info on National Parks in our area on this site:  https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2017/09/no-details-fate-national-parks-caribbean.

Tourism is a huge part of the economy in Florida and especially in the Keys.  One way you can help them recover is by visiting.  Just make sure they’re ready before you go, and they’ll be very glad to see you.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Counting our Blessings

Hurricane news has dominated this week, and it’s been hard to think much about photo ops.  Irma’s path through the Caribbean and Florida left huge swaths of devastation –  destroying lives, homes, livelihoods, and infrastructure.  The Keys are especially hard hit.  I’m sure you’ve seen reports so I won’t repeat them here.

I will let you know that our family is counting our blessings.  We have some roof damage, and we’re dealing with a few other repairs (and damage from the Equifax leaks too!) but all of our utilities are working.  There are many places close-by that are still without power.  It seems like most businesses in Central Florida are gradually re-stocking and re-opening – so unlike some, we’re able to get groceries and gas.

Bright Double Rainbow after Hurricane IrmaBright Double Rainbow after Hurricane Irma – Our daughter MK (and her cat Milo) stayed with us during the storm and when the Orange County Florida curfew ended on Monday night, we drove her back to her place. On the way home, we saw this incredibly bright double rainbow and stopped in the empty McDonald’s parking lot to make a photo with my iPhone. The skies were clearing and hopefully it’s a sign that everyone affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are on the way back to recovery.

There’s still a lot of flooding in Florida and more is forecast.  In our area, Lake Jessup is over its banks and may go higher.  I’m guessing that  the flood waters will drown the late September / early October sunflower fields along the north side of the lake this year, similar to what happened in 2008 after Tropical Storm Fay.  Even if they do bloom, getting out to them will be a soggy mess at best.  We’ll probably have to wait for next year.  Hopefully then we’ll be wondering about photo ops again instead of storms.

To everyone suffering from the effects of the recent hurricanes, our hearts go out to you.  For the rest of us that haven’t suffered as much – take time to remember how lucky we are and what’s really important.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I’ll try to get back to the normal blog articles  soon.
©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Hurricane Irma may pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park

This morning, we’re waiting to see what Hurricane Irma is going to do and it looks like it might pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park as a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm.  It’s hard to imagine the damage that could result.

Lynn and I returned from the Florida Keys a week ago.   We spent a couple of days in Key West and then were lucky enough to stay in one of the 6 cabins at Bahia Honda State Park for 3 more days.  They’re built on stilts but even so are only about 10 -15 feet above the ocean.  And we felt them swaying at times while we were there – even in good weather.

The cabins are on the right side of the overseas highway as you head down to the keys.  They’re furnished with everything you need for a great Florida vacation.  And the location on a beautiful lagoon is wonderful.  These next three photos were all made on the patio, just a few steps from the cabin door:

Loggerhead TurtleLoggerhead Sea Turtle – The ranger told us that turtles, dolphin, and tarpon like the lagoon because it’s so quiet and protected.  We’d see one or more of Loggerheads from the cabin porch almost every time we stepped out to look.  We also saw Tarpon rolling on the surface a few times and maybe a dolphin or two.

Sunset FishingSunset Fishing – You can fish in the lagoon by the cabins, but other water activity isn’t allowed.  We often saw campers fishing there.

The view from the cabinAnother view from the cabin porch. The skies at Bahia Honda are some of the darkest in Florida. Lynn and I got up at about 1:30am on our first night. The moon had set and we had a stunning view of this part of the Milky Way, right from the patio. And the bugs weren’t biting too much!

The Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary is about 8 miles southwest of Bahia Honda and snorkeling trips leave for the reef twice a day.  It was a relaxing swim – the water temperature was in the high 80’s, which can cause storms to strengthen.

Sergeant majors and othersLooe Key Sergeant majors and others –  The visibility wasn’t very good the day were were there, but the number of fish we saw was still impressive.

There are also 72 campsites in the Park.  Many of them are in awesome locations too.

Between the bridgesBetween the bridges – This is at sunset, between the old abandoned bridge on the left and the new one on the right.  You can see some of the lovely Bahia Honda campsites on the left side of the frame.

Lynn and I thought of this visit to Bahia Honda as a “scouting trip”.   Based on what we saw, we definitely want to go back.

To everyone in Irma’s path and to everyone impacted by Harvey:  We’re thinking of you.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – stay safe in the storm!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Apopka Restoration Area

If you take a look at my blog archives, you’d see only a few mentions of Lake Apopka and the wildlife drive that goes through the restoration area out there.  If you look for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge posts, you’d find almost 70!  Judging solely by these numbers, you might assume that MINWR is a better place to visit.  At least some of the time, you’d be wrong!

I met my friend Robert Wilson one morning a couple of weeks ago at the entrance to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  I hadn’t seen him (or Lake Apopka!) in a while.

Country RoadCountry Road – Near the Lust Road entrance to the drive

There’s been lots of activity there this summer.  Robert and others described feeding frenzies in the ponds by the pump house. Alligators and birds have gorged on fish, creating some great photo opportunities.

And people have seen many interesting birds too including Swallowtail and Mississippi kites, Brown Thrashers, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, an Ash-throated Flycatcher, Purple Martins, and others.

_EM128449_DxO.jpgSwallow-tailed Kite

Red Shouldered Hawk with Field MouseRed Shouldered Hawk with Field Mouse (in right claw). It had just caught the mouse on the road and carried it to this tree.

You can get a good idea of the birds at a place using eBbird.  Here’s their chart of bird observations by species and month for Lake Apopka.  And here is the same thing for MINWR.

On our trip, we also saw several kinds of dragon flies:

Holloween Pennant DragonflyHalloween Pennant Dragonfly

And many water lilies blooming, some of them in very pretty light:

Water LilyWater Lily

MINWR can be quiet through the hot part of the year and the times I checked on it this summer, I saw few birds / wildlife. Conditions were poor with little rainfall for long periods followed by some huge fires along Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.

On the other hand, Lake Apopka’s been a wonderful place to visit this summer.  It’s a shame I didn’t go over there more often.  Not too long ago, the lake was polluted with farm runoff.  Restoration efforts and the opening of the wildlife drive about two years ago have made it a premier nature and wildlife destination in Central Florida.

It’s about the same distance from me as MINWR.  I’m going to make a point of visiting more often.  If you haven’t been recently – go.

You can see more Lake Apopka images in this folder on Flickr.  And MINWR photos in this folder.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved