Category Archives: Must do list

Home for the Holidays

It’s getting chilly outside, presents are starting to show up,  and we’re hearing carols on the radio.  Family and friends are arriving soon and before we know it, It’s a Wonderful Life will be on TV around the clock.  Whether you celebrate Christmas or another winter holiday, family gatherings are the greatest photo-op of the year!

Mom, me, Dad – Christmas, 1955

Gather folks up and make photos and maybe even some video.  Include everyone and  make sure you get yourself into a few.   Don’t put it off and don’t take no for an answer. Technical perfection isn’t even required.  You and people you love will cherish the photos anyway.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some family photos! And share them – someone will be very glad you did!

©2017, Ed Rosack.  All rights reserved

Indian Springs State Park, Georgia

Indian Springs is about six hours by car from Central Florida.  It’s east of I-75 between Macon and Atlanta and well worth the drive.  Lynn discovered they have cabins and suggested that we go up for a few days to see if any leaves are changing.  They definitely are!

ColorColor

I think peak color will be in a week or so. We get very little fall color in Florida – so it was a treat to see.

The cabins are nice – some of the best we’ve stayed in.  They must have been refurbished not long ago.  They have two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, a screened porch, and are fully furnished.  And the location  on a gorgeous lake was wonderful. This was the view just a few steps from the back porch:

Good morningGood morning (three Frame vertical panorama)

There were other things to see in the park too.  This creek runs along the road by the entrance.

Big Sandy CreekBig Sandy Creek  (using the new iPhone “Live Long Exposure” mode)

And we spotted this cemetery from the 1800s along the road to the cabins.

At rest in the woodAt rest in the wood (Infrared)

We saw a few deer and although I didn’t put much effort in, several kinds of birds.  We had some fun watching (and listening) to Canada Geese on the lake.  I managed to make this video one morning around sunrise.  The flock took off just as the sun started to hit the lake.

There are several other places to see in the area.  High Falls State Park is just to the east and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is to the west.  We’ve explored several state parks in Florida, but after this experience, we’re going to expand our target zone!  And Indian Springs is definitely on our “go back” list.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Hurricane Irma may pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park

This morning, we’re waiting to see what Hurricane Irma is going to do and it looks like it might pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park as a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm.  It’s hard to imagine the damage that could result.

Lynn and I returned from the Florida Keys a week ago.   We spent a couple of days in Key West and then were lucky enough to stay in one of the 6 cabins at Bahia Honda State Park for 3 more days.  They’re built on stilts but even so are only about 10 -15 feet above the ocean.  And we felt them swaying at times while we were there – even in good weather.

The cabins are on the right side of the overseas highway as you head down to the keys.  They’re furnished with everything you need for a great Florida vacation.  And the location on a beautiful lagoon is wonderful.  These next three photos were all made on the patio, just a few steps from the cabin door:

Loggerhead TurtleLoggerhead Sea Turtle – The ranger told us that turtles, dolphin, and tarpon like the lagoon because it’s so quiet and protected.  We’d see one or more of Loggerheads from the cabin porch almost every time we stepped out to look.  We also saw Tarpon rolling on the surface a few times and maybe a dolphin or two.

Sunset FishingSunset Fishing – You can fish in the lagoon by the cabins, but other water activity isn’t allowed.  We often saw campers fishing there.

The view from the cabinAnother view from the cabin porch. The skies at Bahia Honda are some of the darkest in Florida. Lynn and I got up at about 1:30am on our first night. The moon had set and we had a stunning view of this part of the Milky Way, right from the patio. And the bugs weren’t biting too much!

The Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary is about 8 miles southwest of Bahia Honda and snorkeling trips leave for the reef twice a day.  It was a relaxing swim – the water temperature was in the high 80’s, which can cause storms to strengthen.

Sergeant majors and othersLooe Key Sergeant majors and others –  The visibility wasn’t very good the day were were there, but the number of fish we saw was still impressive.

There are also 72 campsites in the Park.  Many of them are in awesome locations too.

Between the bridgesBetween the bridges – This is at sunset, between the old abandoned bridge on the left and the new one on the right.  You can see some of the lovely Bahia Honda campsites on the left side of the frame.

Lynn and I thought of this visit to Bahia Honda as a “scouting trip”.   Based on what we saw, we definitely want to go back.

To everyone in Irma’s path and to everyone impacted by Harvey:  We’re thinking of you.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – stay safe in the storm!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Casual Birding in New Mexico

The birds we saw in New Mexico varied from what we’re used to in Florida (of course).  I saw 12 life birds while we were there.  And this was really with just casual birding. I’m sure my more serious birding friends (thinking of you Kevin M.) would have found many more!

NM birds: Gambel’s QuailGambel’s Quail – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

MK wanted to visit White Sands National Monument.  I did too, but I’d heard a lot about the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge so we agreed to get up early and stop by there on the way.  I was really glad we did!

NM birds: Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Broad-tailed HummingbirdBlack-chinned Hummingbirds and Broad-tailed Hummingbird (on the left) – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

The volunteers at the Visitors Center were very helpful and pointed out where to look for the Golden Eagle.  We would have missed it without their help.  At first glance, I mistook it for a vulture!  They also apologized since there were no Sand Hill Cranes (they migrate through in the winter).  I assured them that we see plenty in Florida.  Hopefully I can go back when it’s cold.  Seeing huge flocks of cranes would be an experience!

NM birds: Golden EagleGolden Eagle – Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

MK was an excellent spotter.  We found the Caissin’s Kingbird when she stopped to look at a road side field on the way home from White Sands.  She also found the Yellow Warbler at the top of Sandia Peak – thanks MK!

NM birds: Caissin's KingbirdCaissin’s Kingbird – Carrizozo, NM

I’ve called myself a “beginning” birder for too long.  Maybe it’s time to change this to “casual” birder.  I like birding and enjoy finding / seeing new birds and figuring out what they are.  But I mostly enjoy the photography and get a bit disappointed if my images are poor.  So, from me to you, here are my…

Birding hints from a casual birder:

  • Take advantage of travel.  New locations can be an easy way to add to your life list.
  • Consider going even if it’s a slow time of year.  Bosque is well-known for its Festival of the Cranes in November.  But we found lots to see even in the middle of summer.
  • Research the local hot spots and add some to your itinerary.  Find and check local sightings or species lists so you’ll know what to look for.  I read through this wildlife list on the Bosque web site before we went (PDF).  It lists bird species by month observed and was a big help.
  • Try to look at the right times of day when birds are more active.  We saw the Yellow Warbler near dusk on Sandia peak, and had good luck at Bosque early in the morning.  I strongly doubt we’d have seen as much in mid-afternoon.
  • Stop by the Visitors Center and talk to other birders there.  The volunteers at Bosque were very helpful.
  • Don’t let birds you’re familiar with fool you.  I might have missed the Golden Eagle and the Neotropical Cormorants if I hadn’t been looking for them.  They look similar to other birds I’m familiar with in Florida.
  • A second set of eyes is very helpful.  With two of us looking, MK and I saw more than we would have by ourselves.
  • Birding friends are helpful too.  I probably could have figured out what all the life birds were on my own, but it was faster with Kevin helping.  And having a second opinion is good too.
  • Photograph everything you see and confirm later.  I wasn’t sure about the Golden Eagle until I enlarged the image on the back of my camera.
  • If you think you might be birding, bring your long lens.  I didn’t and regret that.  Thinking back on it, I should have left my ultra-wide at home and taken my longest lens instead.  You can always stitch multi-frame panoramas to get a wider field of view.  But you can’t get a longer focal length in post processing without losing quality.

I never expected to see so much – it was a great trip!  Here’s what we saw:

Life birds:  Golden Eagle, Gambel’s Quail, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-billed Hummingbird, Ring-necked Pheasant, Neotropic Cormorants, Swainson’s Hawk, Cassin’s Kingbird, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebe, House Finch, Yellow Warbler

Other birds: Blue Grosbeaks (M & F), Crows, Common Ravens, Brown-headed Cowbirds, House Sparrows, Mockingbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Road Runner, Barn, Tree, and Cliff Swallows, Wild Turkeys, Canada Geese, Blue Wing Teals, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vulture, Mourning Dove, Robin, Grackles, …

Other wildlife: Prairie Dogs, Snakes (no ID, although one roadkill might have been a Rattlesnake), Deer, Rabbit

You can see more of my New Mexico images here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157685850604925

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lobster Roll Stroll

Mary Kate had a craving for Lobster Rolls last Saturday and her favorite place to get them is at Cafe Heavenly (http://www.cafeheavenly.com) in New Smyrna Beach.   Lynn and I like the place too, so we drove over with her.

After lunch the girls wanted to window shop.  Me – not so much.  We set a time to meet, I left them to it, and set out to walk up and down Flagler Avenue.  With my camera, of course.

Harley Ladies on Flagler Ave.Harley Ladies on Flagler Avenue.

 It’s an interesting place.  There are all sorts of people, shops, places to eat and drink, and even a few hotels and B&Bs.

No VacancyNo Vacancy – Fortunately we didn’t need a place to stay.

Our weather here in Central Florida is turning summer like.  After about 45 minutes I was getting hot and thirsty.  I saw this, and agreed completely:

Polly wants a cocktailPolly wants a cocktail – I was getting pretty thirsty.

Oh yeah, about that Lobster Roll – they are delicious!

Cafe Heavenly Lobster Roll
Cafe Heavenly Lobster Roll – photo by Lynn Rosack, used with permission.

I enjoyed the food and the stroll.  You can see a few more photos from the area in this album on Flickr.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Circle B Bar Reserve – February 20, 2016

Surprisingly, it’s been 2 1/2 years since I’ve been to the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida.  Surprising because although it is a longer drive for me, it’s such a wonderful place.  Every time I go, I realize again that it’s well worth the time.

Anyway, four of us from the Photography Interest Group woke up very early (me at 4:25 am!) and headed over.  Sunrise wasn’t as colorful as some mornings are, but the calm winds made for nice reflections.

Calm morningCalm morning – Looking west before sunrise

When we had enough light, we all shifted to birding mode and explored.  The temperature was just right for walking around.  We saw many warblers in the trees and bushes –  I think most were Yellow-rumped, but I’m not so good with IDs on smaller birds.

U lookin' at me?U lookin’ at me? Yellow-rumped Warbler

And the canals were full of wading birds looking for breakfast.

Green HeronGreen Heron

In spots the surface of the water was completely covered with duckweed, but incredibly the birds still managed to grab small minnows.

Snowy Egret and minnowSnowy Egret and minnow

I saw another egret pounce and come up with a stick, but as I watched it dropped the stick and kept and swallowed the minnow that was also in its beak – amazing skills!

We also saw a good variety of other birds including some less common ones:  hawks, Osprey, a Barred Owl, Cardinals, Belted Kingfishers, Sandhill Cranes,  Caspian Terns, a Black Crowned Night Heron, an American Bittern, a Carolina Wren, a Sora, a Swamp Sparrow, American Robins, an Eastern Phoebe, and others.

On the way out we parked for a few minutes to meet some famous new arrivals.

Great Horned Owl nest and chicksGreat Horned Owl nest and chicks

It wasn’t hard to find this nest – the tree was roped off, and a volunteer was doing a good job protecting the site and keeping all the photographers in order and back away from the birds!  It was nice to see these two little ones, and it was nice that all the people were polite and respected the bird’s space.

You can find more info and photos at these links:

The Circle B Bar Reserve is an extraordinary place – one of the many blessings we count here in Florida.  If you haven’t been there, go.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Orlando Wetlands Festival 2016

Just a quick and early post this week to make sure everyone knows about the Orlando Wetlands festival this Saturday (2/20/2016).

Smoke on the waterSmoke on the water – Morning mist on Lake Searcy at Orlando Wetlands Park

It starts at 9am and since attendance has grown so much, you’ll have to park this year at Fort Christmas and ride the free shuttles out to the Wetlands.  Please click on this link to go to their webpage for all the details:

http://www.cityoforlando.net/wetlands/wetlands-festival/

You’ll have fun and learn about this outstanding outdoor resource for our area.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos – at Orlando Wetlands Park!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.