Fewer Birds – Follow-up

NOTE: This post is a bit of a downer. If that’s not your thing today, feel free to look at the photos and move on. But if you’re interested in nature, wildlife, and conservation – please read.

Back in March, I wrote this post about using eBird.org to try to figure out whether there are fewer American Avocets at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge now than there used to be.

Good MorningGood Morning*

I enjoyed doing the research and learning more about how to use eBird. But my conclusion at the time was:

“Is there a way to determine the accurate numbers? Sorry – I couldn’t find one. But I’ll keep looking and let you know.”

Well I kept looking and I’ve found some things to share. A while back, MK told me about a report she heard on NPR’s Fresh Air – Dave Davies interviewing Scott Weidensaul about his new book A World On the Wing. It sounded interesting and I was excited when MK got me a copy of the book for my birthday. I’m about a third of the way through it now. I like the book and the writing, although much of the data it presents is disturbing.

Starting on page 146, Weidensaul describes finding out about a blockbuster analysis published in the September 2019 issue of Science magazine: Decline of the North American avifauna (the article is paywalled, but if you sign up for a free account you can read it). I’ll quote here from the abstract:

“Using multiple and independent monitoring networks, we report population losses across much of the North American avi- fauna over 48 years, including once-common species and from most biomes. Integration of range-wide population trajectories and size estimates indicates a net loss approaching 3 billion birds, or 29% of 1970 abundance.”

Abstract, Decline of the North American avifauna, Science, Vol. 366, No. 6461, 19 Sep 2019, pages 120 – 124

The article doesn’t speak specifically of Avocets, but does say that shorebirds “are experiencing consistent, steep population loss.” So I think that probably answers my original question.

Clouds over Gator CreekClouds over Gator Creek*

And it raises many more questions. These losses are massive and the causes are varied and complex. They range from climate change impacts along migration routes, to land development. What can we do about it? I hope we’ll figure that out and make sure all of our decisions account for future impacts. Then maybe someday our grandchildren will see at least as many Avocets as we do.

*These two photos don’t have much to do with the subject. But since this is a photo blog I try to always have some in each post. I guess you could say they do illustrate the idea though – there are no birds in them.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And support conservation efforts, so we can still make some bird photos in the future.

Orlando Museum of Art

We went by the Orlando Museum of Art last Monday to see Clyde Butcher’s “Cathedrals of Florida Exhibit”. Here are a few photos from our visit.

Clyde Butcher's Cathedrals of Florida ExhibitClyde Butcher’s Cathedrals of Florida Exhibit, in the J. Hyde Crawford and Anthony Tortora Gallery

The large black and white prints were once again wonderful. He does a masterful job making the photo and then making the very large prints.

There are other things to see there too. For instance:

Sculpture and SkylightSculpture and Skylight. Dale Chichuly blown glass artwork

Spouted Fish VesselSpouted Fish Vessel, Nasca, 200 CE – 500 CE, South Coast, Peru, Ceramic

Soundsuit, 2011.Soundsuit, 2011, Nick Cave

And I didn’t make any photos of them, but Lynn and I both found Jimm Roberts’ portraits very interesting.

The Clyde Butcher exhibit continues through August 7. It’s well worth going, especially if you’ve never seen any of his prints in person.


Mother’s Day: I hope each and every one of you Moms out there have a wonderful day and enjoy spending time with your families. The world is so much better with all of you in it!


Blogaversary: Fifteen years ago on May 4, 2007, I published my first blog post. Since then it’s become a habit! Many thanks to all of you that stop by week after week to see what’s happening. I know I get a lot of enjoyment writing it and reading your comments. I hope all of you get at least some pleasure from it too.

Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, visit a museum!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

First flight?

Robert Wilson and I watched and photographed at this nesting tree for a couple of hours on our April 18th trip to Centennial Park in Holly Hill.

Nesting tree panoNesting tree pano

It was hard to keep track of all of the activity. Whenever I looked at this nest on the right side at the top of the tree, there were always two or three of the juvenile herons there. So I’m not sure if they were taking turns or only one of them has fledged so far. Anyway, I was fortunate to catch this moment about halfway through our stay:

Look at that! Should we try?Look at that! Should we try?

It really looks like only one of three siblings has fledged and the other two seem to be watching in astonishment. Or envy. Or admiration.

Or maybe the two in the nest are just worried about a crash landing!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, hang around a nesting tree – and make some photos!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Busy Birds

Very busy birds! And in a lot of different places!

Seems like the nesting season is going full blast. I’ve been seeing them everywhere I go. Lake Apopka, Winter Park, Holly Hill, and Ormond Beach. Here are a few photos. The first two are from a Lake Apopka trip a few weeks ago :

Four or five nestsLake Apopka Nesting Tree (near the pump house). I could see four or five nests in this tree: Two Anhinga, a Cormorant and a Great Blue Heron. There’s also a Common Gallinule perched (or nesting?) in the lower left.

Great Blue Heron and chick(?)A close up of the Great Blue Heron nest in that tree. Some feathers sticking up from the bottom might be a small chick.

This next photo is from the Winter Park Osprey nest. I’ve checked on it several times this year and although it seems active, I haven’t been able to spot any eggs or chicks yet.

Winter Park OspreysWinter Park Ospreys: As of the afternoon of 4/19. I couldn’t see any sign of eggs or chicks in this nest. I’m going to try to go by again next week.

My friend Robert Wilson offered to show me one of his local spots: Centennial Park in Holly Hill. We went by last Monday and there was a lot of activity there too.

Osprey gathering nesting materialThis Centennial Park Osprey was gathering nesting material.

Nesting treeAnother nesting tree (Centennial Park). This one has five active nests: One Anhinga and four Great Blue Heron. These chicks are getting quite mature, with some already fledging.

Hungry youngsterHere’s a close up of the Anhiga nest in the tree above. Dad is feeding his very hungry youngster.

A stick for the nestThis nest in a close by tree is still under construction. The male just passed his mate a new stick to add.

And finally, Robert and I stopped by another spot up in Ormond Beach where he knew of a nesting Yellow-crowned Night Heron. It was hard to get a good photo, but it was exciting to see. These birds are a rare sight for me and to spot one in the nest was a treat!

Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronA Yellow-crowned Night Heron playing peek-a-boo from its nest in Ormond Beach.

You can click on any of these images to see higher resolution versions on Flickr.

It always amazes me what nature shows us if we go out and look. I wonder if you have some near by places like this where you could see some busy birds. We won’t know if you don’t go!

Thank you for reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, wander a bit out in nature – and make some photos while you’re there!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Mead Gardens (3-29-22)

After my Stroll in the Dark through downtown Winter Park, I stopped at the close by Mead Botanical Gardens for a second leisurely walk. It’s a 47 acre natural habitat preserve that’s popular with local birders and a relaxing place to wander. This Marsh Rabbit helped me out with an image to post on Easter:

Marsh RabbitAn Easter Bunny

And this pond always makes for a nice photo:

Pretty light on a placid pondPretty light on a placid pond

Mead Gardens is popular birding spot especially during migration. As I walked, I was trying in vain to let my nascent birding skills expose themselves. But then I heard an unfamiliar call…

When I took out my phone and tried sound ID on the Merlin Bird ID app, it said it was a Great Crested Flycatcher. I’d only seen one once before when Kevin M. pointed it out to me at Lake Apopka. The call was very distinctive and loud, so I used it to look for the bird. This one partially hidden and way up in a tree top seemed to be the one making the call:

Great Crested Flycatcher (?)

Certainly not my best photo ever, but an exciting find! And a great demo of how the awesome Merlin app amplifies even my birding knowledge. If you haven’t tried it yet, do so – it’s a free app.

You can look through my (sparse) posts about Mead Gardens at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/winter-park/mead-gardens/. And I’ve collected Mead Gardens photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157633035986416.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog! Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, wander a bit out in nature – and make some photos!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Stroll in the Dark

I wanted to check on the Osprey nest in downtown Winter Park, Florida. I decided to leave (very) early so I could also make some night time / low light photos in the area. I’ve done that before (see: /https://edrosack.com/2015/10/03/winter-park-at-night/). Here are a few of the results from this time.

Colony Theater BuildingColony Theater Building

The Colony Theater on Park Avenue in Winter Park Florida first opened in 1940. Matinees during WW II cost 39 cents. The theater closed in 1975 and was converted to retail space (see winterparkmag.com/history/). It’s still photogenic. This is a single frame (ISO 100, 26mm, f/8 @ 3.2 sec.)

Bright blooms at nightBright blooms at night

When I saw that planter in full bloom in front of an interesting building across the street, I knew I had to make a photo. But I wanted everything in focus and both the flowers and the building / lights well exposed. I made three frames: one focused and exposed for the flowers (ISO 100, 35mm, f/8 @ 20 sec.) and two more focused on the building (ISO 100, 35mm, f/8 @ 10 sec. and 4 sec). I did an HDR blend of the building exposures in Lightroom, and loaded the result along with the flower exposure into separate Photoshop layers. There, I aligned and masked the sharp flowers into the building layer. It took a few minutes, but I like the result.

Almost emptyAlmost empty

This one is a three frame exposure bracket (ISO 100, 24mm, f/8 @ 4, 10, and 20 sec.). I first called it “Empty street”, but then noticed the three ghostly figures and changed the title. The header image in this web post is an enlargement of the center.

Very early trainVery early train

I set up and made a test shot while I waited for a train to come through (ISO 100, 53mm, f/7.1 @ 25 sec.). I wanted a long exposure to show a lengthy train streak. When I looked at the image later on my computer, I didn’t like the way the train headlight changed the lighting on the trees, so I ended up using the test frame as the base image and blending in the train streak from the other frame. I’m glad I had that test shot to use!

Anyway, I like how these turned out and I thought maybe you’d be interested in a brief overview of how I made them. And by the way, Momma Osprey was on the nest but I don’t think any chicks have hatched yet. I’ll try to go back and get some photos of them.

You can review my other posts about Winter Park here: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/winter-park/. And you can view other photos from there in this album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157636838442164/with/10424895284/.

Thank you very much for stopping by my blog! Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Kevin M. and I have been going out photographing together since 2008 or 2009. But we hadn’t done so for a while. When he invited me to go with him to Lake Apopka yesterday, I eagerly agreed.

The morning didn’t start well. The weather forecast was poor and the fog on the drive up was discouraging too. But we’d agreed to go “rain or shine” and sometimes things work out.

Kevin is a much better birder than I am, and it was a treat to ride along with him, catch up, and look for birds together. Two heads (and two sets of eyes / ears) are better than one and we ended up sighting 34 species (see the list below). Here are photos of some of the things we saw:

Finding bitterns is fun. They’re usually well hidden, but this one was right out in the open and in good light too!

Least BitternLeast Bittern

I don’t see Perigrines very often. It was way off in the distance but I managed to get an image ‘for the record’.

Perigrine FalconPerigrine Falcon

I first thought this next one was a Northern Harrier. Kevin had seen one just before. But thanks to a comment from Wally and a closer look, I think I was wrong about that.

Northern HarrierRed-shouldered HawkNorthern Harrier

Kevin pointed out this Common Gallinule (Moorhen) balancing on a reed and busily feeding on the seed head. It kept at it while we made some photos and looked like it was enjoying the snack.

Snacking MoorhenSnacking Moorhen

Purple Gallinules seem to like Lake Apopka.

Purple GallinulePurple Gallinule

I’d heard about Gray-headed Swamphens and seen some images on Flickr. But I hadn’t ever encountered one myself. They’re non-native birds that first started appearing in south Florida in the 1990s and are spreading north. They’re very distinctive and this one knew how to pose.

Grey-headed SwamphenGrey-headed Swamphen

Black-crowned Night-Herons were along the trail in a few spots. They were all in shadows back in the vegetation. This was the best photo I managed to make of one.

Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron

And finally, here’s a landscape photo of the pump house. I think the clouds we’d worried about add a lot of interest.

The PumphouseThe Pumphouse

It was a great trip – catching up with a good friend and letting nature show us her wonders. The weather improved for most of the morning and it didn’t start raining until after lunch. Here are 34 species we took note of:

American Coots, Anhingas, Barn Swallows,
Belted Kingfisher, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Black-crowned Night-Herons,
Black-necked Stilts, Blue-winged Teals, Boat-tailed Grackle,
Cattle Egrets, Common Gallinules, Common Ground-Doves,
Double Crested Cormorants, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Glossy Ibis,
Gray-headed Swamphens, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets,
Least Bitterns, Limpkins, Little Blue Heron,
Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, Northern Flicker,
Northern Harrier, Ospreys, Painted Bunting,
Peregrine Falcon, Purple Gallinules, Red-shouldered Hawk,
Red-winged Blackbirds, Snowy Egrets, Swamp Sparrow,
Tricolored Heron

And we also saw a lot of Alligators, several Marsh Rabbits, and a turtle.

If you click on these photos, you can view higher resolution versions on Flickr. And I have many more images from Lake Apopka in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157656060310175/with/24168732782/

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my blog! Your visits, comments, and likes are always very welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, go out photographing – with a friend!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved



Fewer birds?

I was browsing through my photo archives last week and came across an unprocessed RAW image of an American Avocet and its reflection. I thought it had potential so I went ahead and worked on it.

American AvocetAmerican Avocet

I made this in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on March 3, 2015. It got me thinking – I know, proceed with caution, right?

The last time I was over there, I spent a few minutes talking to someone and he mentioned that there are fewer birds there now than there used to be. I hear comments like that a lot when when I’m out photographing. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d seen an Avocet but I knew it’d been a while. Maybe there are fewer of them around. When I went back into my archives in Lightroom, it turned out my most recent photo of one is from January of 2021.

I don’t see too many of them, and they’re distinctive enough that I’m sure I’d notice them if they were there. But my data is sparse and can’t really say if these birds are getting less frequent around here. So how can I tell?

I’ve mentioned eBird.org before. It’s managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and collects data on bird sightings from all over the world to “document distribution, abundance, habitat use, and trends”. Maybe if we look there we can see if there are fewer Avocets now at MINWR.

There’s a tremendous amount of data and science resources on eBird. But I couldn’t find specific information on year to year trends. So I looked at the specific page for MINWR bird observations: https://ebird.org/barchart?byr=1900&eyr=2022&bmo=1&emo=12&r=L123565. If you search for American Avocet on that page and click on the little graph symbol next to the name, it opens this page: https://ebird.org/barchart?r=L123565&bmo=1&emo=12&byr=1900&eyr=2022&spp=ameavo

Then you can select different metrics and date ranges. I chose to look at the “Totals” tab, which is the “sum total of all counts from all observations for a species within a specified date range and region”. I picked two date ranges: 2007 – 2014, and 2015 – 2022 to compare and see if I could tell if there are fewer avocets now than when I first started going over to MINWR.

American Avocets: Total observations by month at MINWR, 2007 – 2014. Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 3/26/22.
American Avocets: Total observations by month at MINWR, 2015 – 2022. Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 3/26/22

This seems to say there are about twice as many American Avocets seen at MINWR recently than there used to be. But… it isn’t normalized to account for the increased reporting by more birders as time goes on. So I don’t think these numbers are an accurate representation of the number of Avocets actually there. Is there a way to determine the accurate numbers? Sorry – I couldn’t find one. But I’ll keep looking and let you know.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always very welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some bird photos now – in case their are fewer opportunities in the future.

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Blue Skies

I complained a bit about our weather last week, and I do think we’ve been getting more than our normal share of clouds and rain. It doesn’t seem right though to grumble about a few gloomy days here in Central Florida when conditions in some other parts of the country and world are bad or worse.

Anyway, it isn’t quite “Nothing but blue skies do I see” around here, but we have had some very nice days recently. This week I’ll just show you a few photos of “Blue skies smiling at me” to prove it.

Blue Skies 1Ferns

Blue Skies 7Potted Plant

Blue Skies 6Palms

Trumpet Trees (Tabebuia) are plain most of the year. In the spring, they burst with blooms for a couple of weeks. The trees in the next two photos are already blending back into the landscape.

Blue Skies 3Pink Trumpet Tree

Blue Skies 2Yellow Trumpet Tree

Blue Skies 4Spanish Moss

Blue Skies 5Ball Moss and Ferns

Here’s one last image. It’s not “Blue birds singing a song” but I feel like this blackbird was enjoying the blue skies as much as I was.

Blue Skies 8Red-winged Blackbird

Thanks for stopping by and looking at my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always very welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, enjoy some blue skies photography.

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Mostly Shorebirds

Our weather’s been interesting – lots of rain and warmer than expected. Between that and other obligations, I’ve had a hard time practicing photography. Checking the forecast late on Thursday night, Friday looked like it would be halfway decent so I jumped at the chance to head out.

There were a few rain drops falling at first and it was overcast. But that made for some dramatic clouds when I stopped by the marina.

Impressive clouds over the marinaImpressive clouds over the marina

Later on it turned into a pretty nice day. I spent some time around Parrish Park watching all the shorebirds.

I like photos like this next one. Getting a flock of birds close by with a fast enough shutter speed and in focus isn’t easy though. This time most of the birds listened to me when I asked them to all fly by at the same distance!

A "grain" of SanderlingseeA “grain” of Sanderlings

I drove slowly along the shore and stayed in the car trying not spook the birds. I spotted several different ones and worked to isolate each one in the frame:

Semipalmated PloverSemipalmated Plover

Ruddy TurnstoneRuddy Turnstone

Dunlin Dunlin

MINWR was quieter than last time I was there. But shore birds were out over there too.

Lesser YellowlegsLesser Yellowlegs

I was sitting at this next spot when MaryKate called. The Killdeer were so loud she heard them through the phone and asked about them.

Killdeer Killdeer

Thistles are blooming on Black Point. They’re attractive photo subjects if you catch a colorful one in good light. A bee or butterfly helps too.

Busy beeBusy bee

There were other birds and wildlife around: the regular wading birds (herons and egrets), Alligators, Belted Kingfishers, Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teals, Caspian Terns, Black Skimmers, and I’m sure others that I missed. I also spotted a different looking hawk that the Merlin Bird ID app thinks is a Swainson’s Hawk (I’m not convinced).

Anyway, it was a wonderful visit and a very nice distraction from current events.

You can click on these photos to view larger versions on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always very welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, practice some photography.

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved