We also have a lot of Cypress trees in Florida. They’re deciduous conifers – the leaves turn reddish brown or orange in the fall and drop by winter time. New growth in the spring is a vibrant green.
When we left on our walk, I’d seen a large bird take off from a tree. It happened too fast for a photo and I couldn’t really make out what it was. But I remembered to look for it again when we returned.
Watching the Neighborhood
That’s when I spotted this pretty Red-shouldered Hawk watching intently from the gutter on a house by the corner. Our squirrels and rabbits need to be careful!
Park closing info: I don’t want to post anything about which parks and areas are open or closed in Central Florida. The situation has been changing every day. But many places have shut down – do your research first if you decide to head out.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay safe out there and take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you can, make some photos!
I sincerely hope that all of you are staying safe and well.
This is my next entry in the occasional blog category called “Postcards” where I upload a photo of Central Florida scenes – similar to ones you’d see on a postcard.
It’s easy to find them all. Just use the “Places / Categories” pulldown menu over on the right side of the blog and select “Postcards”. If you’re viewing the site on a phone, you may not see that menu – in that case, just type “postcards” into the search box.
Cattle Egret in breeding colors
I made this image in June of 2015 at Gatorland in Orlando Florida. Gatorland is a theme park and wildlife preserve in south Orlando. The main attractions there are of course the alligators, but wild birds also use it as a breeding area in the spring. The birds are used to people and you can get some fantastic photos of nesting birds and breeding behaviors. I’d been thinking about buying an annual pass this year, but the pandemic has delayed that – Gatorland is closed for now. I’ll get one when we get back to normal.
Note: Items in my blog that are marked with a Creative Commons license are available in high resolution for you to download for your personal use. Please visit this page to see details and restrictions that apply: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.
With all the bad news about the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economy / stock market, blogging about photography doesn’t seem too important, does it? But maybe photography can distract you from those headlines for a bit, like it distracted me last Wednesday morning.
Gator Creek Mirror
I made a solo trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and spent a few hours enjoying nature. I started on Gator Creek Road before dawn, and then went round Black Point Wildlife Drive. When it was about time to head home, I decided to make one more pass through Gator Creek Road before I left. I’m very glad I did.
As I went past where Catfish Creek Trail branches off, I heard a loud group of birds squawking in the distance. I decided to back up and go and see what was making such a big racket. I found hundreds of (mostly) Laughing Gulls along with a few terns and skimmers in the water – all making noise. They were a little too far away for good photos, but on the other side of the road I spotted several circling Ospreys.
Osprey catch sequence 1
They were looking for fish in Catfish Creek. I stayed for 15 minutes or so watching and photographing. They dove and missed a few times and then I saw this one plummeting toward the water.
Osprey catch sequence 2
The splash was huge and things were happening very fast. It wasn’t until it gained some altitude that I could clearly see it had a fish.
I’ve seen Ospreys fishing before, but these are the best photos I’ve been able to get of an actual catch. It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild. My experience is that you have to be lucky to photograph it when it happens. Thank goodness those gulls were calling or I’d have driven right by!
You can click on these photos to see higher resolution versions on Flickr. You can also visit these related Flick albums:
On a side note: I’ve been enjoying our bug free weather here but I noticed when I got home from this trip that I had several mosquito bites. Time to break out the bug spray – I think our Central Florida spring may already be just about over.
I hope that all of you make it through our current troubles unscathed. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, stay safe – and make some socially distanced photos!
Anyone can snap a photo. As photographers, we choose subjects and then compose frames around them so a viewer’s eyes are drawn to what we want them to see. One thing to think about when we’re out with our cameras is how to isolate the subjects in our images.
Scan the scene when shooting – look for distracting elements and get rid of them. How? Sometimes you can’t, but here are some suggestions.
Viewpoint: Shift a few feet one way or another to hide things. There’s a much less attractive mailbox just out of the frame below on the left.
A Mailbox on Joe Overstreet Road
Magnification: We never have enough zoom, do we? Use what you do have to get close and separate subjects from clutter. You can also crop later on the computer, but you’ll risk losing some image quality / resolution.
A good morning for a song – singing Eastern Meadowlark. Joe Overstreet Road
Light: Sometimes the light is just right to make your subject stand out from the background – take advantage of it! This can be modified a bit in post processing too.
Shy bird – A Roseate Spoonbill in the light. Black Point Wildlife Drive
Depth of Field (DOF): In addition to getting as close as you can and using a long focal length, shooting with a wide open aperture creates a shallower DOF and blurs the background behind your subject. You may need to shift your position a bit to insure that the entire subject (e.g. both the insect and the bird) are in the plane of focus.
Butcher Bird – Loggerhead Shrikes often kill prey by impaling them on a thorn or barbed wire. Joe Overstreet Road
Color: Catching your subject against a contrasting color can help it stand out. These American White Pelicans with their yellow beaks were very nice to pose for me in the blue water.
American White Pelicans. Black Point Wildlife Drive
So that’s a few ideas. If you think about this when you’re out, your photos will improve. Do you have any other suggestions? Feel free to add them in the comments.
And speaking of isolation, Lynn and I are both generally in good health (thankfully!). But the CDC says we’re at higher risk from the COVID-19 virus due to our ages. We’re going to follow their recommendations and stay up to date on developments.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go out, stay safe – and make some photos!
Kevin M. asked me on Friday if I wanted to go photographing Saturday. I’d just been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge that morning, but Lynn and I didn’t have anything planned so it sounded like a good idea to me! I told him to pick a spot and he wanted to go down to Osceola County / Joe Overstreet Road.
We’d already had a very nice trip – trying to find Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, checking the Bald Eagle nest and finding the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers again on Joe Overstreet – among other things. As we got close to the lake, we started to notice a lot of Tree Swallows.
Tree Swallow Trio
These birds are winter migrants in our area and breed as far north as Alaska. We’re used to seeing them here but as we got closer to the lake, we’d never seen them like this.
Tree Swallow Swarm
There were thousands – maybe tens of thousands (?) of the birds in the fields and areas close to the lake. They were madly flying around chasing something. Eventually we got close enough to notice the hoards of blind mosquitoes they were after. Here’s one of those that got inside the car.
These aren’t really mosquitoes and they don’t bite, although they were thick enough to be bothersome (for us, not the Swallows). Actually, I don’t think they’re blind either! We stopped by the store at the landing and I asked the young lady running it about all the birds. She told us that when the chizzywinks show up, it’s not uncommon for large groups of birds to go after them. I’ll say! I’d never heard them called that and had to ask her to repeat it so I could make a note and look up the word.
If you’ve ever seen or tried to photograph Tree Swallows, you know how energetic / erratic their flight is. Going after the flies was definitely a high energy task and we also saw them congregating on some nearby wires to rest between servings of their chizzywinks happy meals.
Resting Tree Swallows
Photographing Tree Swallows is usually hard because it’s difficult to keep them in the frame. Photographing this spectacle was hard too, but it wasn’t because we couldn’t keep them in the frame – they were literally wherever we pointed our cameras. It was just that it was so chaotic that I was never sure what I was capturing. and I was worried about depth of field and motion blur. There was plenty of light, so I ended up stopping down and making sure my ISO was high enough to get a fast shutter speed. This frame is my favorite:
Chizzywinks and swallows
Something like this is why I really like photography. It gets me up and out of the house and every once in a while, I see something amazing that I’ve never seen before. And if I can figure out how to photograph it, I can share it with people too. Fun!
Also, I occasionally learn a new word!
My video skills are not the best and this is a bit jumpy with a lot of wind noise, but here’s a ~20 second recording of this:
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go out and explore nature. You may see something amazing – and make some interesting photos!