Monthly Archives: March 2011

Florida Scrub-jay – Finally!

You might remember this post from the end of January where I described a visit to Scrub Ridge Trail in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to try to observe the Florida Scrub-jay.  We didn’t see any of them on that trip.  Two weeks ago, several members of the Photography Interest Group returned and were able to locate one, but I couldn’t go.

This species is Florida’s only endemic bird and the only one that resides permanently in scrub habitat.  Development has reduced the amount of scrub land still available.  As a result, the Scrub-jay is listed as a threatened species.   Despite conservation efforts, it’s still in decline, with perhaps less than 3000 breeding pairs left in the wild.

Each breeding pair needs 20 to 40 acres to forage and Scrub-jays have developed some interesting adaptive behaviors due to their restricted habitat.  A pair mates for life, and they maintain small family groups that help defend territory and raise young.  The younger members of the brood can postpone breeding for several years to help feed babies, keep nests clean, and watch for predators.  They’re omnivores and forage on the ground and in mid to low-level vegetation for food.

Anyway, I returned to Scrub Ridge Trail last Saturday.  Kevin M. told me that the Scrub-jay they saw was to the left of the parking area.  This fits in with another fact about them:  They prefer relatively clear scrub and will leave an area after it’s grown up too much.  The official Scrub Ridge Trail is to the right of the parking area and is quite a bit more over-grown than the area on the left.  I wonder if the Scrub-jays used to live to the right  when the trail was originally set out and have moved on since.  I did see 5 or 6 Scrub-jays in the less overgrown area to the left, both on the ground and higher up.  This one was in a tree, keeping watch on me.  Maybe one of the non-breeding members of the family?

The elusive Florida Scrub Jay
The elusive Florida Scrub Jay

I also visited Blackpoint Wildlife Drive where there were some very pretty Spoonbills, and on the way back, I stopped on the causeway just before getting on the new bridge.  There was a group of Black Skimmers on a small sand bar just off shore and I had fun getting a few photos of them in flight – the first time I’ve photographed this species too.

A pair of Black Skimmers in flight
A pair of Black Skimmers in flight

I really enjoyed the trip.

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

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Domain move complete

Hello everyone.

The move from to is in effect and I’ve installed a “301 re-direct” from the old domain to the new.  This will automatically forward you to the new domain if you accidentally use the old one.  There is a potential problem with the re-direct due to the continued poor performance of my old hosting provider, so it is much better to go ahead and use the new domain name.

Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds to use:  By the way, I plan to manage the whole site now using WordPress, so you might notice differences depending on which pages you’re used to visiting.

Thanks for your patience and understanding during this move and update.


Washington DC

I’ve written about photography on business trips before (for instance here). If you’re willing to put up with the hassle of carrying your photo equipment (or you can travel “photo light”), and if you have an opportunity to leave early or stay late, then you may be able to enjoy some of the photo ops at your destination.

The pre-dawn Potomac River, Georgetown,  and Washington DC from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virgina

The pre-dawn Potomac River, Georgetown, and Washington DC from the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Rosslyn, Virgina: Getting up at 5:30am and leaving my warm, cozy room to walk down to the river with my tripod and camera in the cold and dark wasn’t easy. Timing the 4 – 8 second exposures between vibrations from passing cars was also a bit difficult. But I like the result.

I had a business trip to Washington DC this week and needed to be there first thing on Monday.  Instead of flying in Sunday night, I made arrangements to get out on the first flight Sunday morning (whew, that was an early alarm!).  This gave me few hours in DC to act like a tourist.  The weather was cloudy with some rain, but that actually turned out to be an advantage for some of the things I photographed and I did manage to make some images that I like in two or three different places while I was there.  Washington is a target rich environment for photo ops – where to start?

At the first place, birds sang as I walked paths through the area.  Looking up and searching for them, I could see trees beginning to bud out with leaves and flowers, signaling the start of Spring and triggering many thoughts about nature.  As I continued, my eyes were drawn back to earth where the sight of graves triggered thoughts about sacrifice by many brave people.  I also thought about predictions of the decline of the USA, and it occurred to me that these don’t take into account the power of our belief system.  Our economy is large, and we are creative — but our true strength is that so many believe in our rights and freedoms and are willing to defend them with their lives.

Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetary

Tomb of the unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery: I’d never been to Arlington before last Sunday. As a US Navy Veteran and a patriot, I have to admit it made a huge impression on me.

Arlington National Cemetery is located on a hill across the Potomac from Washington DC.  It’s the former home of Robert E. Lee and was taken over by the Union when the Lee family failed to pay taxes.  Arlington house (his former manor) is surrounded by grave sites of union soldiers so that if he ever tried to return, he’d have to cross that line of soldiers to enter his home.  [4/16 update:  Here is a good article about Arlington house:]There’s a good view of downtown DC and the country’s power base from up there.  I hope that Congress glances up at Arlington occasionally before it makes decisions that may result in more grave sites.  Arlington is only a few minutes from downtown Washington, and close to Reagan airport.  There’s plenty of info on their web site for visitors.

After Arlington, I drove into downtown DC. Since it was Sunday and raining, there weren’t many people around and I was able to park about two blocks from the Lincoln Memorial and walk over for a few photos. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction going on right now – the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument was drained, and this limited the compositions available.

The Lincoln Memorial and me

The Lincoln Memorial and me: Last Sunday in Washington DC was cloudy with a bit of rain, so there weren’t too many people out and about in the city. I circled around to the south west side and set up my tripod for this shot. I think it’s pretty rare that you get a chance to capture an image of the Lincoln Memorial without people in the photo.

The view of the Lincoln Memorial above is a multi-shot panorama / HDR using 27 individual photos.  The full resolution result is about 45 Mega-pixels in size.  The power of the software we have available today always amazes me.

Take advantage of your travel opportunities.  Turn them into photo ops.  You might like the result.

If you click on the photos above you can see larger versions on Flickr.  You can also see these photos and a few others from this trip in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by, now go make some photos!

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

A few more updates

Sorry for not posting last weekend.  Much to do and little time to do it.  Here’s an update on three recent Central Florida Photo Op topics.

Ravine Gardens:  We made another trip up there and I’ve refreshed the main Ravine Gardens post with a few small revisions and two additional photos following our visit yesterday.  Bottom line:  A nice place for spring flowers.

Dogwood blossom in front of azaleas

Dogwood blossom in front of azaleas at Ravine Gardens

Viera Wetlands:  Kevin M. and I went by last Saturday.  Highlights of the trip were the White Pelicans in the click ponds (migrants in Florida) as well as getting images of 3 new (for me) birds.  By the way, the Tree Swallows are very difficult to photograph.  They never seem to perch and their flight patterns are very erratic.  But they are good practice for flight shots!

Least Bittern in the reeds

Least Bittern in the reeds

Tree Swallow?

Tree Swallow

European Starling

European Starling

Sigma 150 – 500 OS:  I did use this lens at Viera last weekend.  It worked well, but started to  “chatter”  one time.  Then it stopped and worked fine after that.  Not sure what to make of it, other than to keep an eye on it over time.

Thanks for stopping by!

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.