Category Archives: Gatorland

Gatorland – May 11, 2017

I didn’t go to Gatorland last Thursday with Kevin K.  intending to make images for a Mother’s Day blog post.  It happened anyway – it’s pretty hard to avoid this time of year.

The nesting season has moved along and there are more species active now and raising their young.  This tricolored Heron is hoping her mate gets back soon with some food for the kids!

Bawling, big mouth babiesBawling, big mouth babies

Even with the chicks making all that noise, the Mom is sitting quietly, protecting them in case they’ve attracted any predators with their squawking.

In the next photo, an adult Great Egret is feeding an almost mature young one.  I watched one nest where there were three juveniles this size, all competing for food from one adult.  They were squawking and wildly grabbing for the adult’s beak.  The adults are very careful and  fortunately seem to avoid eye injuries.

Feeding timeFeeding time

Cattle Egrets are on the nest too and although I think some have already hatched, I couldn’t see them – they’re way back in the bushes.

Checking her eggsCattle Egret checking on her eggs

There are also some Dads around.  This guy was preening – trying to look good for his mate.  He impressed me!

Showy AnhingaShowy Anhinga

And the alligators were getting in on the act too.  Here’s a video of a bull gator bellowing a mating call.  I like the sound track, the standing wave ripples over his back, and the steam (mist) coming out of his nose!

Gator Bellow

All of these animal behaviors are fascinating to watch.  They’re exciting to photograph too!

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

Oh, and happy Mother’s Day!!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

It's that time of year again

Here in Central Florida, birds are starting to nest and raise the next generation.  Their colors get brighter, feathers get fancy and they show off to attract a mate (and photographers!).

Great Egret displayGreat Egret display

One place to see this is at Gatorland.  Wild birds nest above the alligator ponds there because gators keep predators such at raccoons and snakes away from the nests.  You can take advantage of the early entry program to photograph when the light is good and  get close to tolerant birds that don’t mind people on the boardwalk.

It’s early in the season now and Great Egrets are the most active.  Later in the Spring, you can see Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Cormorants, Anhingas, Wood Storks, Cattle Egrets and maybe a few others nesting too.  Here’s a Great Egret on her nest with 3 young chicks. I’d guess these three are less than a week old. And it looks like they’ve just been fed, since none are squawking for more to eat.

Moe, Larry, Curly, and MomMoe, Larry, Curly, and Mom.  This is a two frame composite with one focused on the chicks and the other on Mom.

There are other things to photograph there, too.

Happy GatorHappy Gator.  Just what a photographer wants:  a smiling model in good light!

Gatorland is one of my favorite places to photograph.  You can read through the articles I’ve written about it at this link.  I think you should go – you’ll have fun and get a some good photos.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Happy Father's Day

Yes, it’s been a horrific week here in Central Florida.  So bad that some might question celebrating a holiday so soon after these terrible events.

We should keep in mind that there is danger and evil in the world.  We should keep the victims and everyone touched by these events in our hearts and minds.  But  we should celebrate, I think    Because there is also peace and goodness in the world, and there are vastly more good people than evil ones.

So, to all Dads out there:  I hope  you have a wonderful day on Sunday and I hope you get to share it with your families.  Celebrate the good in the world and help overcome the evil.

I wonder where Dad is? Mom said he would feed us this time.I wonder where Dad is? Mom said he would feed us this time. Two young Great Egrets, waiting for their next meal at Gatorland in Orlando.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

#OrlandoStrong

#OrlandoUnited

Handsome Bird

Colorful Cattle EgretColorful Cattle Egret

You probably see these birds where you live.  They’re common in Central Florida and throughout most of the warmer parts of the world. You can read much more about them in this article on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_egret.

Most of the time Cattle Egrets are ordinary looking, even drab.  But when they dress up like this one in springtime breeding colors, I find it hard to resist photographing them.  Especially when they pose so nicely in warm morning light.

Have you seen something recently that you just had to take a photo of?

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Bird Moms

Happy Mother’s Day!!!  

We all love our Moms.  They love us too, feed us, protect us, teach us, and make sure we go out into the world ready for all its challenges.

Bird Moms do the same.  In celebration of all Mothers everywhere, here are three recent photos of bird Moms raising their young.

Great Egret Mom feeding chicksGreat Egret Mom feeding chicks – That’s a large chunk of sushi – those baby birds will be full if they eat all that!

Common Gallinule Mom and ChicksCommon Gallinule Mom and Chicks – These hatch ready to swim. Mom protectively takes them around the local pond, very careful to avoid gators lurking nearby.

Woodstork Mom and chicksWood Stork Mom and chicks

These photos were all made this year at Gatorland in Orlando, Florida.  Wild birds nest there above the Alligator breeding marsh, where the gators keep many natural predators away from the nests.  Spring is a wonderful time to see all the action.

Click on any of these photos to see them larger on Flickr.  And look at this album for many more images from Gatorland.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go tell your Mom you love her!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland Update – 8 April 2016

I had a delightful visit to Gatorland yesterday morning.  Tom M. and Jim B. were also there.  I started following Jim’s blog several years ago and we’ve been web friends for a while.  I’m happy I finally got to meet him in person!

Anhinga gathering nest materialAnhinga gathering nest material

The nesting season is going full blast now, and this gives everyone a chance to see and photograph wild birds in breeding colors doing nesting season behaviors.  Quite an opportunity!

We saw Anhingas, Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, Cormorants, Great Egrets, Common Gallinules, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, and Woodstorks all in various stages of breeding.  Little ones in the nest are quite common and some of the baby Great Egrets have grown into “teenagers” already and will be fledging shortly.

Nesting Double-crested CormorantNesting Double-crested Cormorant – Can you tell where this bird gets its name?

The early entry program at Gatorland is perfect for catching the birds in good light on the west side of the breeding pond.  They enjoy the morning light too.

I'll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry...I’ll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry… – This Wood Stork was soaking in  the morning sun

Keep an eye out for backlit birds – they can also be beautiful.

Great Glowing EgretGreat Glowing Egret

Gatorland is an exceptional place to practice your “birds-in-flight” skills.  Patient observation lets you figure out movement patterns and get ready.  I waited several minutes with my camera in “BIF” mode (high shutter speed, continuous auto focus) until this Tri-Colored took off.  I didn’t expect it to grab a little fish on the way, but I was glad it did!

Breakfast to goBreakfast to go – A Tri-colored Heron scoops up a minnow on the fly

Click on any of these photos to see them larger on Flickr.  And look at this album for many more images from Gatorland.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  If you haven’t been to Gatorland yet, go.  And if you haven’t checked out Jim’s blog yet, go do that too.  Then – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Anhinga portrait

Anhingas are large water birds common here in Florida.  You often see them pose with wings spread as they dry out after a swim.  You can read more about them in this article on Wikipedia.

For most of the year you might say they’re drab, especially around the head with plain black or brown feathers and eyes.  But with springtime love in the air, their appearance changes – especially for males.  They develop highlights in the feathers on the back of their heads, a lot of color around their eyes, and look like they wear red contact lenses.  This fellow has the full style going.

Anhinga - full length portraitAnhinga – full length portrait

Here’s a close up crop from this photo so you can better see the colors and detail (click for a larger version on Flickr).

Anhinga - head shotAnhinga – head shot

They’re very handsome and I enjoy photographing them, especially when they’re as patient and tolerant as this one was.

I made the photo at Gatorland in Orlando on March 10th during my first visit this year.  The breeding season is underway and hundreds of wild birds are participating.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to see colors and behaviors of anhinga, egret, herons  and other species up close.   And Gatorland has an early entry program for photographers so you can photograph in the early morning light while avoiding crowds of tourists later in the day.  Go see for yourself!

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland – June 4, 2015

Once again, it’s that time of year:  The Gatorland photography pass season ends soon – so if you want to get in early at 7:30am, you’ll have to hurry.  After June 17th, they’re only open during regular hours.

I like to watch the progression of wild birds nesting in the rookery and usually visit several times. Check out this very handy bird nesting season reference guide on the St. Augustine Alligator Farm web page for hints on what you can see here in Florida and when.

A juvenile Tri-colored Heron, (with a typical "hair-do")A juvenile Tri-colored Heron, (with a typical “hair-do”).  This one was waiting for Mom or Dad to return with some food.

Great Egrets start the year off, but this late, most of their eggs have hatched and the chicks have grown and fledged into nice looking juveniles.  When I was there this week with Tom M., Wood Storks, Anhingas, Snowy Egrets, and Tri-colored Herons were still raising chicks and tending to nests.

Wood StorkWood Stork – Bringing a branch back to Momma.

Several of the Wood Storks had found an abandoned Cormorant nest and were stealing branches from it.  This one made several trips!

Cattle Egrets are taking over the starring roles and are busy attracting mates, building nests, and breeding.

Cattle Egret - posing in breeding colorsCattle Egret – posing in breeding colors

This was probably my last visit to Gatorland for a while but I’m looking forward to returning next year.  It’s a wonderful place to get close access to a number of Florida bird species.  I’ve posted a great many photos from there in this set on Flickr.  You can read Central Florida Photo Ops posts about Gatorland at this link and posts about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm at this link.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

A couple of photo hints and a Gatorland update

It’s been a while since I’ve discussed any photo techniques, so I thought I’d share two hints that you might not have tried recently.  I also wanted to let you know what’s going on at Gatorland now that breeding season is in full swing.

Photo Hints:

#1 – Focus stacking:  I’ve written about this before. You can read the posts here:

Both of those were macro-photography related.  But the technique can also be used for other situations such as landscapes.

Beneath the bridge, by the rocksBeneath the bridge, by the rocks – Parish Park in Titusville, about a half hour before sunrise

I was at Parish Park in Titusville one morning, looking for a new view point and discovered this area where I could place these rocks in the scene as a foreground for the bridge and far shore.  My problem was that without a tilt-shift lens, using the Scheimpflug principle, it’s  hard to get the entire composition in focus.

I decided to make three exposures, changing the focus point in each.  In the first, I focused on the rocks in the foreground, in the second on the nearest portion of the bridge, and the last was on the far shore.  At home, I did some initial processing (the same for all three) and brought them into Photoshop on separate layers.  Then I aligned the layers and manually blended them together using masks.  I could have used Photoshop’s focus stacking capability, but doing this myself with layers gave me more control.  The resulting depth of field is just how I wanted it.  What do you think?

#2 – Fill flash:  I often carry my flash and use it to add fill light or catch lights in eyes.  It helps and doesn’t seem to bother the animals.  I’ve also used fill flash for sunrise or sunset portraits of people.  It can do a good job of balancing the exposure of your subject against a bright background.

When I saw this Tri-colored Heron posing in the bush, I made a few photos.  But then I thought about adding flash.  When I got home, the photos with the flash looked much better.  The bright, ambient sunrise was balanced with the fill flash on the nearby bird.  There’s a better detail in the bird when I used the flash.

Early birdEarly bird – Tri-colored Heron at dawn (ISO 800, f/5.0, 1/320 sec, on camera flash in auto slow sync mode, -1 stop flash exposure compensation).

If you try this, you’ll need to practice a bit before you use it in a pressure situation.  Make sure you know how to adjust exposure compensation (on both the flash and the camera), shutter speed, and aperture to get the best results.  And if your camera has it, try enabling high-speed sync.  This lets you shoot with flash at higher shutter speeds without getting any black bands on your photos (at the expense of a lower light output).

Gatorland Update:

I went by Gatorland again last week.  The Great Egrets continue to breed and their hatched chicks are growing fast.  There are Snowy Egrets and Cormorants on eggs now and I saw  Tri-colored Herons, Anhingas, and Wood Storks gathering nesting material although I didn’t spot their nest or eggs yet.  A few cattle egrets have also arrived and are courting.  And the gators are getting more active too.

Just before I left, I spotted this large turtle there – I’ve never seen one before.  It looks quite intimidating and I wouldn’t want to be too close to it in the water.

Alligator Snapping Turtle (?)Alligator Snapping Turtle

For a better idea of what you can photograph at Gatorland, you can look through my album on Flickr.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Breeding blue and hatching chicks

Thursday night, Tom M. invited me to meet him at Gatorland.  We both showed up at 7:30 Friday morning to see what’s changed from our visit on February 20th.  The answer is a lot!  Last time, it was mostly the Great Egrets starting to breed.  This time several more species are dressed up in their fancy colors and plumage and building nests.  And the Great Egret chicks are starting to hatch.  Here are some photos from the trip.

I saw this male Anhinga getting ready to take off and managed to make a frame  just as it left the tree.  You can see the breeding season blue around his eye as well as some of the crest on his head.

Anhinga close upAnhinga close up

Cormorant eyes are always pretty in the right light.  They add a striking blue mouth during nesting season.  Some of the Cormorants are already on nests.  This pair looked like they were just about to “get busy”.

Cormorant couple 2 Cormorant couple

Tri-colored Herons also add a dash of blue for breeding season.  They’re starting to show off with courting behaviors and poses to attract mates.

Tri-colored Heron displayingTri-colored Heron displaying

And here’s a couple of Great Egret siblings huddled up close to Mama in the nest.  I’m not sure you can call these young chicks without a full set of feathers beautiful, but they are cute.

Mama and two chicksMama and two chicks

Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Wood Storks and other species usually also nest in the this rookery – so we still have those to look forward to.  It’s a wonderful time to visit Gatorland, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, or your local bird rookery.  Don’t miss this chance to see nature in action!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.