Lynn and I returned from visiting MK, Mike, Sara, and Cal last Sunday. It was easy to spot exuberant signs of Spring on our route. Today I thought I’d share some photos of pretty blossoms we saw along the way.
Up in Wisconsin, apple trees are blooming:
Apple Blossom Time
And the bees are busy:
I think this is a variety of pear tree. They’re busy blooming too:
Pear tree blossoms
At a rest stop in Kentucky, these Poppies were showing up on schedule just before Memorial Day:
In Tennessee, MK’s cactus garden is flowering and looks pretty as a picture in the early morning light:
And Black-Eyed Susans in Georgia didn’t want to be left out:
Most of these photos were made with iPhones and I’m very happy with how they turned out. Isn’t it handy to have such a good camera in your pocket? If you want to try a quiz, see if you can spot which ones weren’t made with phones.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. Enjoy Spring, and if you can, make some photos!
I’ve visited and written about Orlando Wetlands several times this year. Now I’d like to follow-up and show you some of the things that haven’t been in the blog yet. Sorry for including so many more photos than usual – I need to catch up!
A group of Vultures resting in a tree or on the ground is called a ‘committee’.I’ve seen single Vultures pose with their wings spread before, but this was the first time I’ve seen so many, all doing the same thing, on top of identical palm trunks. It really caught my eye! It was almost like the ‘committee’ was taking a vote! If you search for “horaltic pose” you’ll find some info about this. They often do it in the early morning to warm up.
An unusual committee of vultures
Wildflowers and butterflies (and dragonflies too) have been plentiful.
Blue Iris Bloom
White Peacock Butterfly
You may spot a snake catching some rays among the Lilly pads.
But the snakes have to be careful or a Great Blue Heron might spot them too.
I’m not sure what the plants around this frog are, but they add some nice color and texture to the photo. I’m also not sure how these frogs survive in a lake with such a large population of Alligators.
Turtles are plentiful too.
Mossy back turtle. Florida Cooter(?)
This Caracara was strolling along the path leading to the boardwalk. I followed at a distance until it turned and I could get an image of it in profile.
Out for a stroll
Red-winged Blackbirds are courting and staking out their territories.
Singing Red-winged Blackbird
I heard this Pileated Woodpecker knocking from at least a quarter mile away. It kept on as I walked and the sound led me right to it.
I didn’t hear this next one knocking, but its red highlights stood out and made it easy to find on this palm tree.
Posing ducks are hard to resist.
Black Bellied Whistling Ducks on the railing
And here’s one more Spoonbill photo. Fledglings were practicing their flying skills and learning how to get around and feed themselves. Landing on a railing is tricky!
Young Spoonbills, exploring the world
Migrant birds were also passing through Orlando Wetlands this spring. I found a Painted Bunting, a Cape May Warbler, and a European Starling – although my photos of them aren’t very good. And there’s a story over at https://birdersjourney.com/2023/04/30/life-bird-what-a-delight/ about spotting a Blue Grosbeak! So it’s been a glorious place to wander around with a camera this year. I think I’ll keep checking on it every once in a while.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!
I met my friend Lutfi at Orlando Wetlands Park last Saturday morning. I was a bit worried at first since I didn’t see as many birds around as on my last visit in early March. The Whistling Ducks seemed to be hiding and there were fewer Spoonbills in the trees and flying around. I also couldn’t find the nest that’d been near the boardwalk.
Then I did start to see some things. There was a Sand Hill Crane Family foraging in some shallow water near the south Lake Searcy shore.
Sand Hill Crane colt and parent foraging
A Common Gallinule family foraging close by the boardwalk.
Common Gallinule chick and parent foraging
There was also a lot of noise coming from the Cypress stand to the east of the boardwalk – baby birds squawking and begging to be fed. I’m glad I had a long lens and teleconverter since they were quite far away.
Two Anhinga chicks in nest
Wood Stork chick and parent in nest
This Spoonbill fledgling was by itself when I first saw it. Perhaps it’s from the nest that I couldn’t find? A parent soon arrived in the tree and fed it. It won’t be long before it’s taking care of itself.
A lot of change out there in just over a month. Nature in action nurturing a new generation of birds. What a thriving rookery and what a fantastic Central Florida Photo Op!
I haven’t posted in a while, so it’s about time. And I have been making some photos lately. Here are a few that I like – all made since my last post.
Another quiet morning on the St. Johns river.
(February 17; Boat ramp on HW 50 at the St. Johns River; three frame panorama; merged in Photoshop.)
Warm light on a wading Willet.
(February 17, Gator Creek Road in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, single frame, cropped.)
A wary Raccoon.
(February 23; Orlando Wetlands Park, single frame, cropped.)
(February 24, Central Winds Park in Winter Springs; Focus Bracket in Camera, merged in Photoshop.)
Through the trees.
(March 4; Orlando Wetlands Park; single frame; cropped.)
(March 4, Orlando Wetlands Park, single frame, Adobe enhanced resolution, cropped.)
(Eastern Meadowlark; March 7; Joe Overstreet Road; single Frame; cropped.)
A river runs through it.
(March 10; Leroy Wright recreational area along SR 520 at the St. Johns river , Cocoa Fl; Sony Pixel Shift Multi Shoot (16 frames), merged in Sony Imaging Edge; Converted to B&W in Lightroom.)
I made all of these (and more!) while trying out and setting up my new camera.
In late October of last year, Sony announced the latest version of their high resolution model line: the A7R V. There’s a lot of info available on the web about it. I read a great deal of that over 3+ months before finally deciding to upgrade my faithful A7R III (which was announced way back in October of 2017). I packed up quite a bit of my existing camera gear and traded it in for the new one. If you’re interested, you can read a lot of the same info I researched on-line, so I’m not going to repeat any of that here. I’ll just summarize some things and give you my first impressions to go along with the images above.
6 years is a long time in the camera design universe. These are changes that I really like:
The native sensor resolution is slightly higher – nice for landscapes and very helpful for wildlife photos. The pixel shift multi shot capability now seems to work very well (it didn’t on the A7R III and I never used it). For static subjects where you want huge resolution files, I think it’s a better implementation than even the Olympus EM 1 MII version that I used a lot when I had that camera.
Focus capabilities are immensely improved. The human eye auto focus on the A7R III convinced me to buy that years ago. The A7R V AI auto focus is much better and will be wonderful for many subjects, not just people.
Image Stabilization on the A7R III was not a standout feature. On the A7R V it is.
The A7R V has a huge image buffer. You can shoot continuously at the highest frame rate for up to 1000 frames (using CF Express cards). Even using SD UHS-II cards (slower than CF Express) it will still shoot over 100 frames before the buffer fills.
Many RAW Image formats are now supported. You can choose compressed / uncompressed as well as medium or low resolution RAW files if you don’t need the full resolution.
Video is much improved (although I should study this and use it more often!).
The Electronic Viewfinder and the back LCD are both improved with higher resolution and frame rates. The LCD also tilts and swivels – very useful.
Other things have changed, but they’re minor (for me). In summary I like everything Sony did with this camera and I hope to use it for a long time to come. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them in the comments.
By the way, nesting activity at Orlando Wetlands is still in full swing. It’s a good opportunity to observe several species creating new life.
Click on any of these photos to see higher resolution versions on Flickr.
I stopped by again yesterday – there are still a large number of Spoonies – and they’re actively nesting!
And it looks like it won’t be long before there are even more!
I only spotted one nest this time, but I’m sure there are more. Over the next couple of months there’ll be lots of nest building / repair, egg hatching, baby birds, fledglings, and young spoonbills to observe. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see nature in action with these beautiful birds. I plan to check in on them.
I hadn’t been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in a while and decided to head over last Monday. On the way in I stopped by the pier on the west side of the A. Max Brewer Memorial Bridge. When photographing a sunrise (or anything else!) I try to stay aware of things in other directions. Looking north just before sunrise, this sail boat caught my eye. I like the subject, colors and reflections:
A pretty place to anchor
Winter is such a wonderful time to visit MINWR. The variety of “snow birds” you could spot is amazing. Here are a few I found.
I haven’t seen a Snipe in a long time – the sun’s glare hid it pretty well, but the long beak gave it away:
These enormous waterbirds hang around all over Central Florida in the winter, but it’s still nice to see them. Every one I spotted was either far away or horribly back lit.
High Key White Pelican
Northern Shovelers show up each winter:
Her and Him
Northern Pintails show up too, although I don’t run across them as often:
>Him and Her
And Willets and Lesser Yellowlegs are fairly common, although it’s unusual to see a choreographed pair and their reflections:
Definitely worth a visit – I’m glad I went! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, visit a wildlife refuge!
The city of Orlando is adding a boardwalk, equestrian trail, and visitor center at Orlando Wetlands Park (OWP). The new 2200 foot board walk across Lake Searcy opened recently, and the Visitor Center looks like it’s almost finished. I’ve wanted to get back out there and see the changes and when Mahesh suggested a trip, I readily agreed. I met him and Lutfi there last Friday. The boardwalk provides some lovely new perspectives and viewpoints of the wetlands. Here’s a nice one, looking east past a cypress dome.
Green Herons are fun to photograph. I like the geometric patterns in their feathers.
Wood Storks are fun to spot too, especially in good light.
A couple of Storks
That eBird bar chart shows that Spoonbills are observed there all year, and I see many photos online of juveniles from OWP. I haven’t seen any nests yet, but Jim Boland has spotted some – they seem to have established a thriving colony! We saw twenty to thirty of these charismatic, rose-colored birds on Friday morning and if you’d like to see them in the wild, this is a great place to go look.
Backlit Spoonbilll in flight
I first saw (and heard) Whistling Ducks at Orlando Wetlands and they’re a reliable find there.
Seven Whistlers and a Blue-wing(?)
We saw plenty of Alligators although I didn’t make any photos of them. And mammals are around too. We saw tracks (Racoons?) and I’ve seen Otters, a Bobcat, and Deer in the past.
I spent a few moments before sunrise last Thursday morning at Scobie Park (just south of Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville), watching the pre-dawn clouds reflecting in the calm Indian River water. Oh, and I had a camera with me too – I made 6 frames to stitch together into this image:
The day begins
After that I wandered over to Black Point Wildlife Drive and one of the first things I saw was this:
These “feeding frenzies” don’t happen all the time, but when they do they can be great photo fun.
At first glance, they look like a photographer’s dream – all those birds in a confined area – taking off, landing, chasing minnows and each other, just waiting for you to snap the shutter.
It turns out it’s not so easy. They’re crowded together against a cluttered background. They move quickly, change directions unexpectedly, and in general make it hard to pick a subject and compose deliberately – especially if you’re looking through your viewfinder with a long lens on your camera. I often keep the camera away from my eyes so I can see what’s going on. Then I can sometimes anticipate the action and make a photo when they all decide to move at once:
I also like to study the scene for a while and try different vantage points and lenses. I chose a spot where the wind was at my back and most of the birds were taking off and landing toward me. It helps to keep looking around so you can spot them as they’re coming in. I noticed this spoonbill a long way out. Since I knew where it was headed I could track it as it approached and make several frames when it landed. This side lit one is my favorite:
There were lots of Roseate Spoonbills around. The header image at the top of the post on the web is another one I like from the trip. That pair was wading in a less busy part of the drive.
I also had some good luck with this female Belted Kingfisher. She ignored me and kept gazing out over the water as I crept closer. I stayed in the car, moved slowly and tried to be as quiet as possible so I wouldn’t bother her. Most of the time, they leave as soon as you point a camera at them, but she wasn’t concerned at all. This is one of the closest photos I’ve made of one (the EXIF data says I was about 19 meters away). She’s very pretty and quite regal, I think.
An Unusually Calm Kingfisher
It was a short visit, but a wonderful one. This is an excellent time of year to visit the refuge, get out in the midst of nature, and enjoy some of the things you can see there.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope all of you are doing well and that you have a joyful holiday season with your family and friends. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make a few photos!
Jim Boland sent out his latest email newsletter last Thursday and it made me want to visit the refuge again. The last time I’d been was a while ago and before Hurricane Ian. I charged up my batteries and left early on Friday morning to explore.
There are still some road closures over there (see this link for the latest official status: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/merritt-island), but the good news is that Black Point Wildlife Drive and West Gator Creek Road – spots I usually visit – are open.
I arrived well before sunrise and stopped by the Titusville Municipal marina. The weather forecast had me expecting very few clouds and I had a longer lens mounted to try and frame some details on the boats. When I saw this low cloud drifting in, I didn’t think I’d have time to swap lenses, so I pulled out my phone. Current phone cameras are just amazing! (Click on this one to see a higher res version on Flickr.)
A cloud drifts by above the marina before dawn. iPhone wide camera, handheld, 24mm eq., f/1.8, 1/5 sec, ISO 8000. RAW capture, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom.
I saw the same things that Jim reported including Spoonbills, a Reddish Egret, Blue-winged Teal, and Black-crowned Night-herons. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out this Redish Egret is the exact same bird he saw. It was especially entertaining: busy showing off its fishing prowess and ignoring photographers interested in making photos.
I enjoyed seeing all the Goldenrod in bloom. This one was in nice light:
Goldenrod in golden light.
And I couldn’t resist making a photo of this people watching gator. The header image is a crop from the center of the photo.
Craggy face critter.
Our other common birds were out and about. I spotted a few warblers too, although the only one I was able to ID was a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It was a great trip – thanks for motivating me Jim!
I hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!
Hurricane Ian was a slow moving, high wind storm when it came ashore last Wednesday. The news and photos from the Fort Meyers area are horrific. By the time it passed through Winter Springs Wednesday and Thursday it had weakened, but we still had ~40 MPH sustained winds and gusts much stronger than that.
There are tree limbs and some whole trees down in our neighborhood, and we have what looks like minor damage to one place on our roof. We lost power, water, and internet on Thursday but power and internet came back after a little over 24 hours. Water pressure is back too, but we’re under a boil water notice due to water main breaks.
Winter Springs recorded more than 15 inched of rain and there’s widespread flooding in the Orlando area. Fortunately, our home is up on a slight ridge, so the flooding is not too close. We do have a couple of the major roads through our neighborhood blocked due to flood damage. The city has said some areas will need to be rebuilt so it may take a while to reopen them.
Flooding along Winter Springs Blvd.
Lynn and I have ben very lucky. I hope all of you are doing well. And if you’ve been impacted by this storm I hope your recovery efforts are well underway. Stay positive, be kind, and take care of yourselves and each other.