Tag Archives: Anhinga

Gatorland – May 11, 2017

I didn’t go to Gatorland last Thursday with Kevin K.  intending to make images for a Mother’s Day blog post.  It happened anyway – it’s pretty hard to avoid this time of year.

The nesting season has moved along and there are more species active now and raising their young.  This tricolored Heron is hoping her mate gets back soon with some food for the kids!

Bawling, big mouth babiesBawling, big mouth babies

Even with the chicks making all that noise, the Mom is sitting quietly, protecting them in case they’ve attracted any predators with their squawking.

In the next photo, an adult Great Egret is feeding an almost mature young one.  I watched one nest where there were three juveniles this size, all competing for food from one adult.  They were squawking and wildly grabbing for the adult’s beak.  The adults are very careful and  fortunately seem to avoid eye injuries.

Feeding timeFeeding time

Cattle Egrets are on the nest too and although I think some have already hatched, I couldn’t see them – they’re way back in the bushes.

Checking her eggsCattle Egret checking on her eggs

There are also some Dads around.  This guy was preening – trying to look good for his mate.  He impressed me!

Showy AnhingaShowy Anhinga

And the alligators were getting in on the act too.  Here’s a video of a bull gator bellowing a mating call.  I like the sound track, the standing wave ripples over his back, and the steam (mist) coming out of his nose!

Gator Bellow

All of these animal behaviors are fascinating to watch.  They’re exciting to photograph too!

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

Oh, and happy Mother’s Day!!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Gatorland Update – 8 April 2016

I had a delightful visit to Gatorland yesterday morning.  Tom M. and Jim B. were also there.  I started following Jim’s blog several years ago and we’ve been web friends for a while.  I’m happy I finally got to meet him in person!

Anhinga gathering nest materialAnhinga gathering nest material

The nesting season is going full blast now, and this gives everyone a chance to see and photograph wild birds in breeding colors doing nesting season behaviors.  Quite an opportunity!

We saw Anhingas, Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, Cormorants, Great Egrets, Common Gallinules, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, and Woodstorks all in various stages of breeding.  Little ones in the nest are quite common and some of the baby Great Egrets have grown into “teenagers” already and will be fledging shortly.

Nesting Double-crested CormorantNesting Double-crested Cormorant – Can you tell where this bird gets its name?

The early entry program at Gatorland is perfect for catching the birds in good light on the west side of the breeding pond.  They enjoy the morning light too.

I'll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry...I’ll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry… – This Wood Stork was soaking in  the morning sun

Keep an eye out for backlit birds – they can also be beautiful.

Great Glowing EgretGreat Glowing Egret

Gatorland is an exceptional place to practice your “birds-in-flight” skills.  Patient observation lets you figure out movement patterns and get ready.  I waited several minutes with my camera in “BIF” mode (high shutter speed, continuous auto focus) until this Tri-Colored took off.  I didn’t expect it to grab a little fish on the way, but I was glad it did!

Breakfast to goBreakfast to go – A Tri-colored Heron scoops up a minnow on the fly

Click on any of these photos to see them larger on Flickr.  And look at this album for many more images from Gatorland.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  If you haven’t been to Gatorland yet, go.  And if you haven’t checked out Jim’s blog yet, go do that too.  Then – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Anhinga portrait

Anhingas are large water birds common here in Florida.  You often see them pose with wings spread as they dry out after a swim.  You can read more about them in this article on Wikipedia.

For most of the year you might say they’re drab, especially around the head with plain black or brown feathers and eyes.  But with springtime love in the air, their appearance changes – especially for males.  They develop highlights in the feathers on the back of their heads, a lot of color around their eyes, and look like they wear red contact lenses.  This fellow has the full style going.

Anhinga - full length portraitAnhinga – full length portrait

Here’s a close up crop from this photo so you can better see the colors and detail (click for a larger version on Flickr).

Anhinga - head shotAnhinga – head shot

They’re very handsome and I enjoy photographing them, especially when they’re as patient and tolerant as this one was.

I made the photo at Gatorland in Orlando on March 10th during my first visit this year.  The breeding season is underway and hundreds of wild birds are participating.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to see colors and behaviors of anhinga, egret, herons  and other species up close.   And Gatorland has an early entry program for photographers so you can photograph in the early morning light while avoiding crowds of tourists later in the day.  Go see for yourself!

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lake Apopka wildlife Drive

My friend Tom M. wanted to go out shooting last week and hadn’t ever been to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The drive itself is only open to cars from Friday through Sunday, so we met on Friday morning and went over.  It was raining when I got up and still cloudy on the way over, which made for interesting skies in my infrared photos.

Lake Apopka Pump HouseLake Apopka Pump House – 2 frame panorama, infrared, black and white.

We did have a bit of good light while we were there.  We saw this bird struggling to swallow a fish and stopped to watch for a few minutes.  It was on the side of a canal with the clouds reflecting in the water behind it and flowers blooming in front.  I stayed in the car so I wouldn’t bother it and shot a series of single frames while we watched.  This one was the best one of the series.

Nice catch! Nice catch! – an Anhiga tosses a fish it caught along a canal on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.

On this trip, I brought my micro four thirds cameras.  I’ve used the system for about four years and they’ve worked very well.  The dynamic range and noise performance are not as good as larger sensor cameras, but it’s “good enough”.  And the noise is not an issue for me.  DxO Optics Pro does an outstanding job processing the RAW files.  The focusing capabilities have been fast for static subjects – but I’ve never been able to do very well with continuous focus.  Well, I recently traded up to a used Olympus E-M1, which has phase detect sensors built into the image sensor and it’s been doing a great job with continuous focus. So much so that even for birds in flight it’s working “good enough” too.  Here’s an example from Friday:

Checking me outChecking me out – A hawk in flight looking at the camera

You can view other photos I’ve made with the micro four thirds system in this album on Flickr.

Lake Apopka is an awesome place, I’ll definitely go back.  I’m collecting photos from there in this folder on Flickr, and you can also read an earlier article I wrote about it here on the blog.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Breeding blue and hatching chicks

Thursday night, Tom M. invited me to meet him at Gatorland.  We both showed up at 7:30 Friday morning to see what’s changed from our visit on February 20th.  The answer is a lot!  Last time, it was mostly the Great Egrets starting to breed.  This time several more species are dressed up in their fancy colors and plumage and building nests.  And the Great Egret chicks are starting to hatch.  Here are some photos from the trip.

I saw this male Anhinga getting ready to take off and managed to make a frame  just as it left the tree.  You can see the breeding season blue around his eye as well as some of the crest on his head.

Anhinga close upAnhinga close up

Cormorant eyes are always pretty in the right light.  They add a striking blue mouth during nesting season.  Some of the Cormorants are already on nests.  This pair looked like they were just about to “get busy”.

Cormorant couple 2 Cormorant couple

Tri-colored Herons also add a dash of blue for breeding season.  They’re starting to show off with courting behaviors and poses to attract mates.

Tri-colored Heron displayingTri-colored Heron displaying

And here’s a couple of Great Egret siblings huddled up close to Mama in the nest.  I’m not sure you can call these young chicks without a full set of feathers beautiful, but they are cute.

Mama and two chicksMama and two chicks

Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Wood Storks and other species usually also nest in the this rookery – so we still have those to look forward to.  It’s a wonderful time to visit Gatorland, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, or your local bird rookery.  Don’t miss this chance to see nature in action!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland Photographer’s Pass

During bird nesting season (February – mid June in Central Florida), Gatorland‘s Photographer’s Pass program allows early entry to the park at 7:30 am Thursday – Sunday and lets you stay until dusk on Saturday.  It’s great if you want to photograph wild birds in good light outside of normal business hours when there’s not many tourists around.   You can find out a lot more detail on their website at this link.

This season started last Thursday and I met Tom M., Zvia S., and Lee A. there.  It’s early in the year so there’s not too much nesting activity yet, but there’s plenty to photograph.  We saw many Great Egrets in breeding colors and plumage, and a few have started building nests.  We also saw Anhingas, Cormorants, Black Vultures, and some Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, and Great Blue Herons.  I even sighted a Belted Kingfisher and a Black-crowned Night Heron.

The boardwalk along the breeding marsh offers close up looks at wild birds that are used to photographers and cameras.

Anhinga portrait

Anhinga portrait – These birds are very pretty in the right light

Gatorland is also a great place to practice flight photography.  The birds often fly over the boardwalk, many times along the same routes.  With a little study, you can anticipate their path and get some good shots.

Great Blue Heron in flight Great Blue Heron in flight

And of course, there are lots of alligators to photograph too.

Sunbathing gatorSunbathing gargantuan gator – I was about 15 feet away with my long lens zoomed out and had to make a 3 frame panorama to fit it all in.

We had a great time at Gatorland.  If you want to get some really good photos of typical Florida wading birds, this is a wonderful place to do it.  You can view many other Gatorland photos in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope I’ll see you at Gatorland one morning making photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Avoid the Familiarity Trap

We’re blessed in Florida with wildlife we can easily photograph. Alligators are common, and many kinds of birds too.  But how many photos do you need of a Great Blue Heron, or an Alligator basking in the sun? If you live here for a while you may get jaded with our common animals.  So much so that you don’t even bother taking a photo of one when you see it.  “Familiarity breeds contempt” and it’s a real risk in photography – one you must not fall into!

I have plenty of Anhinga photos but I was still excited to make this recent one.

Wet wings and itchy back
Wet wings and itchy back – An Anhinga dries its wings and preens its back at Viera Wetlands

 This isn’t close enough for a “record” shot of the bird.  The Anhinga’s just one element of the composition.  But I like the light, the reflections, and how the bird’s pose echoes the tree’s shape.  If I had glanced at this and only seen the bird, I’d have missed the photo-op.  To be a better photographer, you have to really observe things you glance at all the time.  Watch for good light and backgrounds.  Keep an eye out for unusual behavior, poses, or patterns.  And of course pay attention to new life birds or rare animals to help keep things interesting.  Avoid the familiarity trap.

I’ve put a few other examples in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.