Category Archives: MINWR

First, check the web page!

I missed out last week on a trip with Kevin K. and Kevin M. to the Circle B Bar Reserve due to some dental work (ouch!).  So I was eager to photograph something this week.  My schedule was finally clear on Friday, and when I woke up early, I decided to go walk around Orlando Wetlands Park – one of my favorite spots in this area.

Whoops.  I suspected something was wrong when I got out of the car and heard engines running.   I walked out toward Lake Searcy in the dark and when I saw construction gear and  no water in the corner cell, I turned around.   Fortunately I’d gotten up way too early, so I still had time to change my “plans” and almost make sunrise over on the coast.

Early morning on the river shore 2Early morning on the river shore 2. Rotary Riverfront Park, Titusville. That’s the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance.

After that, I headed to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  There are a lot of winter migrants here now.  The birds must’ve known beforehand about this week’s Polar Vortex.  In addition to our year round species, I saw American Avocets, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, and fast warblers I couldn’t ID.  I also stopped and talked to some folks on Black Point Wildlife Drive who were trying to find a Cinnamon Teal that’s been seen there.  I heard later they found it again on Saturday.

Hooded MergansersHooded Mergansers. Two males taking turns displaying for the females in the area

Pair of porkersPair of porkers.  Part of larger family just inside BPWD.

Spoonbill and reflectionSpoonbill and reflection.  This bird was so still, I had time to zoom in and make a three frame panorama.  That really helps with details!

Weathered Red CedarWeathered Red Cedar.  I was glad to see that my infrared camera still works after so much neglect!

So my photo adventure started out badly, but turned out well.  Those engines I heard were pumps.  I checked the OWP web page when I got home – they’re “demucking” Cell 14.  And there’s also construction going on in Cell 16.  I’ll go back in a while when the ruckus dies down.  Don’t be like me – check the web page before you go.  Even if you’ve been there many times!

Orlando Wetlands photos here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296

More Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Shutdown?

Kevin M. asked if I wanted to go photographing on Saturday and we decided to go over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I hadn’t been in a while and I wanted to see how it’s doing during the Government shutdown.  We also invited Kevin K. to go along.

Sunrise by the causewaySunrise by the causeway

We stopped at the Titusville Marina for a few sunrise snaps.  A cold front was passing through and it was still overcast and a little dreary.  But there was a small break in the clouds right at daybreak.

As far as the shutdown goes, this is what the MINWR website says:

“Where public access to refuge lands does not require the presence of a federal employee or contractor, activities on refuge lands will be allowed to continue on the same terms as before the appropriations lapse.”

So facilities at MINWR are closed and locked, but the trails we tried were open (Gator Creek road and Black Point).  We didn’t see any rangers, but the wildlife is still showing up.

Note:  Jim Boland reports that Cape Canaveral National Seashore (Playalinda) and Biolab Road are closed.

Some of what we saw:  a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, a Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfishers, a Reddish Egret, Coots, Common Gallinules, Northern Shovelers, Blue-Wing Teals, Hooded Mergansers, Pie Billed Grebes, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great and Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis, and Alligators.

Tricolored HeronTricolored Heron

The birds were fairly abundant, but I struggled to get good images.  The light was  dim under the clouds and the birds were a little too far away.  We even came up on a feeding frenzy.  But it was in a small pond behind some thick mangroves that were just about impossible to photograph through.  Here’s my best shot of that – this Ibis was diving back in to get another snack:

Launching IbisLaunching Ibis

The sun broke through one other time before we left:

Sunbeams in the swampSunbeams in the swamp

All in all, a pretty nice photo expedition.  So don’t use the government shutdown as an excuse. – you can still go out and enjoy our natural resources.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island Postcard

Hello faithful readers!  This is the next entry in the blog category called “Postcards” where  I occasionally post photos of Central Florida scenes – similar to a postcard.

I’m using the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license for these instead of “All rights reserved”, so you’re welcome to download these at full resolution for your personal use.   Please visit this page to see details and restrictions that apply:  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.

It’s easy to find these using the “Places / Categories” pulldown menu over on the right side of the blog and selecting “Postcards”.  If you’re viewing the site on a phone, you might not see that menu – if so, just type “postcards” into the search box.

I made this image at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  There was a slight drizzle where I was standing, and rain drops ruined several of my frames. This one must have been right after I cleaned the lens.  For more info, please see this post:  https://edrosack.com/2015/10/17/photographing-florida-weather/

Weather over the Water
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

To download, just click the image to go to the source and then right-click to download it.  I hope you like it!

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

 

Cocoa and Merritt Island – 20 Oct 2018

I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last weekend with Kevin K. and Kevin M.  On the way, we stopped by the Cocoa Beach Pier for sunrise.

Anticipation Anticipation – two surfers waiting for waves at dawn

This year, Florida red tide’s been found in many spots along both the gulf and Atlantic coasts.   Normally, it’s a Gulf coast phenomenon and I don’t remember a year when it spread so far up our east coast.  We’d heard reports of red tide and fish kills reaching Brevard County and Cocoa, so we were concerned about conditions at the pier.  But when we were there the red tide wasn’t noticeable.

Neath the pierNeath the pier

Next, we grabbed some breakfast and then headed up to MINWR for a quick pass through Black Point Wildlife Drive.  Conditions in the refuge have been pretty quiet this summer and we wanted to see how the bird population is doing.  There still aren’t a lot of birds around, but the variety is improving.  We saw the usual wading birds, Redish Egrets, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Blue Wing Teals, Osprey, Belted Kingfishers, a Sora, and a Merlin.

Merlin in flightMerlin in flight

While I was getting out of the car so I could get (it turns out) a not so good image of the Sora, a water snake swam right in front of it.  I didn’t even get to see the snake, much less photograph it by the bird.  Luckily, Kevin K. did – you can view his photo here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/34024553@N08/45404193252/in/dateposted/

Jim Boland is also seeing quite a bit of bird activity in MINWR.  He’s photographed a Peregrine Falcon, Merlins, Ospreys, Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, and even Snail Kites along Playalinda Beach Road in recent weeks.

The cooler weather that’s finally arrived in Central Florida makes being outside and photographing more pleasant.  And it should bring even more bird species to our area to enjoy.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Sunrise movement

The best colors at dawn are often before sunrise – sometimes well before.  But a couple of minutes after sunrise last Wednesday, I was getting ready to move on when I noticed how colorful the horizon had become. So I decided to make one more photo. I was lucky I had my 24 – 200mm equivalent lens on and I zoomed all the way in. As the image flashed in my viewfinder, I saw a large bird close to the sun. When I recognized how many there were – all flying north (right to left), I made several more exposures.

Morning birdsMorning Movement

By the way, this would have been a great time to switch to video, but I’m never able to think of that when I should.

Anyway, I ended up with 7 frames spread over 9 seconds. I brought them all into layers in  Photoshop, aligned them, used curves to manually adjust each one so the exposures are the same and then blended birds from each frame into one composite image. I guess that’s cheating – but I think it’s a better representation of what I saw than any single frame I made.

I like images that reveal more the longer / closer you look at them. and this one does.  Please click on it to see it larger.

Here are a few more photos from that morning.  All were made at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

OspreyOsprey

Itchy birdItchy bird

YellowlegsYellowlegs

Birds usually don’t sleep in.  I’ve often seen them take off right at sunrise and head out to start their day.  It’s fun to watch.  Next time I’m going to try to remember to make a video!

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Reconnaissance

Kevin M. invited me to go out photographing with him last weekend, but I begged off since Lynn and I had just returned from Pennsylvania and I was tired.  Instead we went out on Friday to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Kevin K. was in town and he tagged along too.  It’s been over six months since the three of us have been on a photo excursion together.  Much too long!

We met way too early and car-pooled over, stopping at Titusville Marina Park for sunrise.  Riding together is great for catching up with friends!

Dawn on the Indian RiverDawn on the Indian River

Dawn was subdued until the sun actually rose, when the color finally popped.   Photoshop and the Topaz Clarity plug-in might’ve helped nature out a little too.

We saw several other photographers (and non-photographers) also out too early.

Early startEarly start on a calm, lovely morning

In general, summer isn’t the best time of year to bird in Central Florida – but there are exceptions to every rule-of-thumb.  For instance, Kathy B. found a Clapper Rail on Black Point at the end of June, and D. Cunningham enjoyed seeing the Swallow Tail Kites that visit us before heading to South America for the winter.

We didn’t spot any unusual birds on Friday, but we did enjoy photographing a few of the common ones.  This “Swamp Chicken” was posing with its reflection in good light;

Swamp ChickenCommon Gallinule

And so was this Tri-colored Heron:

Tri-color HeronTri-colored Heron

… and this Green Heron too (although it wasn’t kind enough to include a reflection):

Green HeronGreen Heron

We’ve been having torrential rains nearly every afternoon. and the water is very high around Black Point.   The St. Johns river is also high – the area around where it crosses SR 46 is flooded although it doesn’t come all the way up to the road.  I hope we don’t get a hurricane any time soon – adding even more water could be dangerous.

And the rain has created a great environment for mosquitos – expect to get bit unless you wear some repellent.

One more  (small, kind of sad) story.  We saw two pigs at Black Point.  The second was along the canal near the exit.  I snapped a few photos of it and when I got home and looked at them the poor thing was obviously deformed.  I don’t want to post my images, but if you’re curious, look at Kevin K’s photo.   It doesn’t look like a recent injury – this little pig is a tough survivor.  I wonder if it’s a birth defect or from an encounter with an alligator or other predator?

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Trouble in post-process land

I found this scene while driving down Biolab Road along the Indian River in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago.  The composition with three posts and a full complement of Cormorants caught my attention.  I really liked the graphical layout. But…

Three CormorantsThree Cormorants

I was shooting into the sun and the light was incredibly bright and harsh.  I struggled with the image and processed it two or three times without coming up with anything that I was happy with.

Then I vaguely recalled this photo that I made 10 years ago.

FishingFishing

I dug it out of my Lightroom archives and remembered how much I liked the image. It’s from about the same location and in very similar conditions. I used it to guide my post processing decisions and the result is the the image at the top.

I guess the moral of this story is that you can find inspiration from many places – even from your younger self.  Which seems like a very good thing.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Another Central Florida Morning

I decided to wander over towards Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge early last Friday.  My shutter finger was itching and I had to get a camera out and scratch it.  I was running a little late and wouldn’t have made it to the coast for sunrise, so I stopped at C S Lee Park on the St. Johns River on my way.  Nature provided quite a show.

Another Central Florida MorningAnother Central Florida Morning

I don’t know what this effect is called –  when the sun just kisses the cloud bottoms and leaves  higher clouds darker and less colorful.  I don’t see it often enough.  Maybe that’s because it only lasts for such a short time.  According to my EXIF data, I made this image in the middle of a 2-3 minute window and the colorful streaks were much less prominent just before and after.  Whenever I do see this, I’m happy to make a photo!

The Jolly Gator Fish Camp Bar & Grill is next to the park, right across a shallow water filled area from where I made the sunrise photo.  I liked the reflection and symmetry and made this image before I moved on.  I’ve never actually been inside this place.  Maybe I’ll talk Lynn into going there for lunch with me.

Jolly Gator Fish Camp & GrillJolly Gator Fish Camp & Grill

MINWR has a web page you can check for road closures.  Currently, it won’t do you much good –  info on Gator Creek, Biolab, and Black Point is all out of date.  Last Friday, Gator Creek and Biolab Roads were open.  They’ve been re-surfaced and are in good shape.  And Black Point Wildlife Drive was closed due to the amount of rain we’ve had recently.  I hope they keep the road closures page more current.  I sent them a note.

I didn’t have much luck with birds or wildlife on this trip.  So I’ll leave you with two more scenic photos.

Lone Pine and Clouds at DawnLone Pine and Clouds at Dawn (color version)

This tree is along the left side of the road leading into the Bairs Cove boat ramp.  The combination of early morning light, a lone pine tree, and the clouds in the background stopped me in my tracks.  I made this image and the last one out my car window.  Fortunately there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  With these two photos, you can see how the infra-red sensor renders light compared to an unmodified camera.

Lone Pine and Clouds at DawnLone Pine and Clouds at Dawn (IR, B&W version)

I’ve collected other photos from the St. Johns River in this album on Flickr and from Merritt Island in this one.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive – May 8, 2018

Kevin K. and I went over to Black Point Wildlife Drive last Tuesday.  The water levels were low and although we saw quite a few birds, many of them were far from the road and hard to photograph.  Here are some images from the trip that I like.

Hunter's DanceHunter’s Dance – A Reddish Egret stalks fish in the marsh

These Egrets have a distinctive dance they use to scare up fish.  It seems to work for them!

Morning minnow mealMorning minnow meal

Green Herons use a different technique.  This one was wading carefully through the mangrove roots on the side of a canal looking for a snack.

Stalking in the MangrovesStalking in the Mangroves

And finally, here’s a photo of a Great Egret taking off from a tree beside the trail.

Great Egret LaunchGreat Egret Launch

This one was a little slow – normally birds are gone by the time I get my camera ready!

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  My Black Point photos are collected in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157622920465437.  And you can read more blog posts about Black Point at this link:  https://edrosack.com/tag/bpwd/.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Feathered Feeding Frenzy Photo Fun

Once in a while, conditions are just right.  Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed.  When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you –  count your blessings!

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18).  I  lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these.  I’ve written about them before  (see this post from December of 2012).  Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:

  • The birds all compete for food.  Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
  • Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers.  Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
  • They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond.  Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
  • When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images.  After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
  • As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
  • You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc.  And conditions change rapidly.  Set up your camera in advance and be nimble.  I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed.  It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high.  You’ll need  1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
  • A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments.  I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
  • Your  “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to.  But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like.  Practice when you can and you’ll get better.

Landing IbisLanding Ibis – I like the composition / background on this one.  But my shutter was too slow to freeze the wings and I didn’t get the exposure compensation right either.  I’m still practicing!

It’s not all about birds in flight.  Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.

On the banks of the pondOn the banks of the pond.  I like compositions with multiple species in the frame.

That was a wonderful morning.  I’m glad I was able to see all the action.  Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:

Dawn at the dock on the Indian RiverDawn at the dock on the Indian River.  Olympus Hi-Res mode.

Florida cloudsFlorida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  Monochrome infrared.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved