Tag Archives: Black Crowned Night Heron

Two birds, a selfie, and the blog

I met Tom M., and Lee A. at Gatorland again last Thursday.  During breeding season I like to go at least once a month to keep up with the activity there.  It’s a very nice experience over time to  see different species nesting, eggs hatching, and young birds growing and fledging.  It was our coldest morning of the season so far, with temperatures a few degrees below freezing.  I know all of you that are suffering in colder climates are thinking that’s not cold – but down here we think it’s pretty chilly.

Anyway, the Great Egrets are wearing their fancy plumes and colors and looking for mates. One of the advantages of the photographer’s early entry program at Gatorland is that the light can be very nice in the morning.  It certainly was on this bird and it was displaying a bit too. I waited for the right moment, and made this image.

Displaying Egret Displaying Egret

A while ago, one of my friends on Flickr asked me about this photo of a Black-crowned Night Heron. Here’s the question and my answer:

Vicki:  “I was wondering about the heron you posted. It has only one leg. Was it missing a leg or is it the way they hold them? I spotted one near me last week and when I got the photos on the computer, I discovered it was only using one leg…even after it moved around in the tree. So I was wondering if you know if it is a normal pose for them to do that.”

Ed:  “I can’t be 100% sure since I didn’t see this heron’s other leg, but it is a typical pose to tuck one leg up against their body.”

In this new image, also of a Black Crowned Night Heron, you can see the other leg, since it’s not quite hidden in the feathers.

Black-crowned Night-Heron Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Juvenile

This last photo is my latest selfie.  For several years I’ve been looking for situations like this where the geometry is right to see my reflection in the Alligator’s eye and get close enough to photograph it.  This one is a tight crop, but I think it’s my best so far!

Gator eye selfie (crop) Gator eye selfie – Not photoshop – that’s the actual reflection in its eye of me standing on the boardwalk.

 And now about the blog.  I’ve been a bit aggravated for some time with the performance of my hosting service – the load times seemed slow and  I’ve also had intermittent, unexplained  outages  So finally last week I decide to move to a managed WordPress hosting service.  It seems to be working very well so far.  This is my first post on the new system and I hope that everything works well – including the email subscription function.  I’m only telling you this in case you notice any issues.  If so, please let me know so I can work on them.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Viera Wetlands update, 5/18/13

I went over to the coast yesterday with Kevin M.Kevin K.Lutfi E.

Sunrise sure is happening really early again!  We started out on the 520 Causeway near Port Canaveral – Kevin M. wanted to make a sunrise photo with a lit up cruise ship in the scene.  Here’s how my version turned out:

Disney cruise ship at dawn

Disney cruise ship at dawn – Port Canaveral, Florida

We also moved around looking for other compositions and I think each of us also made an image of this:

Beneath the Bridge
Beneath the Bridge – 520 Causeway looking east

After sunrise we moved down A1A to explore Lori Wilson Park and the boardwalk there.  It’s very nice and located right on the beach.  Migratory birds have been reported there, but we didn’t find any on Saturday.

Our last stop was Viera Wetlands.  We wanted to check on it because we hadn’t been by since February.  We saw a few of the common wading birds, some juvenile Anhingas, Ospreys, Coots, Glossy Ibis (that we hoped were White Faced Ibis – but weren’t), lots of Grackles, and a few other species.  We also took a turn around the Click Ponds where we found a relatively uncommon Black Crowned Night Heron.  Kevin M. managed a good photo when it came out of the reeds for a few seconds.

Black Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron (Photo by Kevin McKinney, used with permission)

This wasn’t our most productive or exciting trip ever, but we did have a good time.  The activity was slow – I think we’re starting to get into the summer birding slow down here in Central Florida.  We may need to look for a few different photo ops for the next few months.

You can read other Central Florida Photo Ops blog posts about Viera Wetlands from this link.  And I’ve collected other photos from there in this set on Flickr.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland – 1 Feb. 2013

The annual photographer pass program at Gatorland in Kissimmee, Florida started again on Friday, and Keith H. and I were the first ones there.  We saw Great Egrets, a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Black-crowned Night-Herron, Wood Storks, Anhingas, Boat-tailed Grackles, and a few other species.

Female Boat-tailed Grackle
Female Boat-tailed Grackle – a common bird in uncommon light

Great Egret in breeding colors
Great Egret and reflection – all dressed up in formal wear for the start of breeding season

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron – a nice bonus, since I don’t see these very often

And of course you can also see Alligators in the park. They’re starting to breed too – we heard quite a few bellows.

Very still gator and tree reflection
Very still gator and tree reflection

With the photographer pass you can get into the park at 7:30am Thursday – Sunday and stay until dusk on Saturday.  This lets you photograph the nesting birds with nicer light and no tourists.  It greatly improves your chances of getting good photos of the birds and their breeding behavior in the rookery.  These are wild birds that choose to nest in the area because of the protection offered by alligators from other predators such as snakes and raccoons.  They’re acclimated to people so you can get quite close to many of them.  The Great Egrets are already courting and building nests – they seem to be the earliest breeders.  The Wood Storks are getting started too.  Later in the year you’ll also see Snowy and Cattle Egrets, cormorants, and if you’re lucky maybe some other species breeding.

Gatorland is a great place to visit at this time of year.  If you’re in town for a short while, you can also buy a one day photo pass to get in early.  Check it out!  Click on the photos above to go to Flickr where you can see larger versions. You can also see more photos from Gatorland in this set on Flickr.  And you can read my previous posts about Gatorland at this link.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Comparing Gatorland to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

Intro



Tri Color Heron_DSC9601_7_nx2
Tri-color heron at Gatorland

A few weeks ago, I promised to compare the St. Augustine Alligator Farm to Gatorland from the point of view of a nature / wildlife photography enthusiast. And in this post, I’ll do it.

This entry is only a top-level summary of what you can expect at each place.  For more information, please look at earlier posts I’ve done, which you can find via the blog table of contents or by using the search box at the top of the page.

Roosting Black Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron roosting at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

Summary table

Both of these parks have rookeries where wild birds come to roost.  This concentration of avian visitors is very handy for the bird photographer. Why would you pick one over the other to visit? The St. Augustine Alligator Farm caters to photographers and tries to make it easy to capture images of the birds, while Gatorland has canceled their photo pass program.  In my opinion, this is a huge difference and a major advantage for the Alligator Farm. This table lists other factors that I think would be important when comparing these parks.  I’ve listed each along with a comment to explain and a + or – rating to show which place I think comes out ahead on that factor.

Factor: Gatorland Alligator Farm
Birds
variety: Herons, egrets, spoonbills, wood storks, anhinga, limpkins, vultures, others+ Herons, egrets, spoonbills, wood storks,  vultures, others+
number of birds: Many+ Many+
Distance: Birds can be quite close and are used to humans, with some nesting within feet of the boardwalk.  Some species are high in the trees.+ Birds can be quite close and are used to humans, with some nesting within feet of the boardwalk.  Some species are high in the trees.+
behavior: Natural and varied.  Courting, brooding, nesting, hatching, fledging, etc.+ Natural and varied.  Courting, brooding, nesting, hatching, fledging, etc.+
Other wildlife: Large variety, with most of the animals easily accessible to photographers.+ Large variety, with most of the animals easily accessible to photographers.+
Information available: Lots of info available on the Website, and especially the blog (no longer being updated). There is a Flickr group where you can see the types of photos possible.+ Lots of info available on the  Website, There is a Flickr group, where you can see the types of photos possible. A Yahoo group used to post rookery updates, but has now been replaced by an Alligator Farm Blog.
Exhibits and shows: Several, good for the kids.+ Some, good for the kids.
Price: $20 – 100 (adults).  Some discounts available. $20 – 70 (adults)
Photo pass available: Yes: re-instated in 2012.  February through July, 7:30am to dusk. $99.99. Yes, $70 – with early entry at 8:00am+
Proximity ~40 minutes from Winter Springs.  Closer to Orlando.+ ~1 hour, 50 minutes from Winter Springs.  Farther from Orlando.-
Other photo ops in the area: Gatorland is a little isolated from other photo opportunities in the area. Historic St. Augustine has a huge number of photo opportunities.+
Other attractions in the area: Many attractions and parks in the Orlando area within a short drive.+ A few smaller attractions are close by.-

Conclusions

Which one should you go to? For nature and wildlife photography, I would say you probably can’t go wrong with either place.  Having an early entry program is very important to photographers so in my opinion, the overall edge goes to the Alligator Farm until Gatorland restores their program.  The staff at both parks is friendly,  and in the past  Gatorland has seemed even more so, but I’m concerned about the turnover at this park (apparently, Mike has left).

If you’re going for more than just photography, then  Gatorland is also probably a little more well-rounded, with more to do.  On the other hand, the Alligator farm makes for a nice day trip from Orlando when you combine it with a stop in the historical district or the fort.

You can capture stunning images at both places, so pick the one that is most convenient for you.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Return to Blackpoint

The last time we were at Blackpoint Wildlife drive was back in May (http://edrosack.com/2009/05/16/birds-scarce-at-black-point-wildlife-drive-water-levels-down/) when water levels were down and there were very few birds anywhere around.

Yesterday, we made a return trip to see what the place is like after three months of almost daily rain in the Central Florida area.

We arrived right at sunrise, which was very pretty.
Sunrise reflections

Water levels are much improved: areas that were dry in May are once again filled.  However, we were disappointed by how few birds there were in the area.  My theory on this (which I didn’t come up with until the drive home) is that the severe drought in the area happened during nesting season and forced birds to build nests in other locations.  The nesting season lasts for several months and is just now ending, so it was premature for us to expect to see many birds back at Blackpoint until chicks have fledged.

I did manage to get nice photos of a green heron:
Green Heron in tree

And a Black-crowned night-heron:
Black-crowned Night-Heron

There were also some unusual flowers (1/14/2010 update – I think this is a “Spotted Bee Balm”):
Flower

And some very large (about 2 – 3 inches), horror show type spiders.  How would you like to walk through this web in the dark?
Wolf spider?

So, even without a large bird population it was still a nice trip with plenty to interest the Photography Interest Group.  And… there’s always Cracker Barrel on the way home!