Category Archives: Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island – 4/3/19

When I  visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I’m never sure what I’ll see.  But almost every time there’s something new and interesting.

I hadn’t been to Gator Creek Rd. for sunrise in a while.  This spot is at one of the curves where there’s a break in the mangroves so you can get down to water level.  There weren’t many clouds.  I used a low camera position for this photo  to emphasize the foreground and made a 4 image panorama to get a wider field of view.

Gator Creek MorningGator Creek Morning.

Next, I drove up to the Bairs Cove Boat ramp.  Manatees seem to like the area – I think I’ve seen them there every time I’ve been.  Sure enough, I spotted several and debated whether to park and make a photo.  I’ve made so many photos of their noses that more of that kind of shot isn’t very exciting .  But since I was there, I got out of the car.  I  counted over a dozen as I walked quietly down to the dock.  It wasn’t until I was right at the water that I saw three of them next to the wall.  I’d only brought my long lens with me from the car, so after making several “Manatee Head Shots”, I pulled out my phone to get a photo of the group (https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/40566342263/in/dateposted/).  When I left they were still there – calmly resting and taking occasional breaths.

Manatee head shotManatee head shot

I was heading back toward Black Point Wildlife Drive along Shiloh Rd. when I caught a glimpse of some water through a break in the trees.  I stopped and walked over to make this infrared image in a spot I’d never noticed before.

By the Indian RiverBy the Indian River

Things were fairly busy on Black Point – lots of birds and people too.  I stayed at one small feeding frenzy for a while making images of the birds hunting for fish.  This heron had just launched from the left.

Tricolored Heron in flightTricolored Heron in flight

I stopped next to another photographer who’d found this Killdeer close to the road in very nice light.  I was careful not to disturb her bird as I quietly got out of my car to get this image.

Killdeer Killdeer

I spotted our usual Herons and Egrets, Brown and White Pelicans, a few ducks (mostly Blue Wing Teals, Northern Shovelers, Coots, etc.), Ibis, Willets, Sandpipers, Cormorants, Anhingas, Roseate Spoonbills, Belted Kingfishers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Turkey Vultures, Mocking Birds, Ground Doves, Black-necked Stilts, a few Killdeer, and one new life bird for me:  a Whimbrel.

Another pleasant and interesting morning at MINWR!

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Mother Nature’s rewards

I headed out toward Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with KM and KK last Friday.

We stopped by the boat ramp at the St. Johns River on US 50 for sunrise.  There weren’t many clouds, so my hopes for color weren’t too high.  But there was a nice pop as the sun came over the horizon and I zoomed in to capture this moment:

St. Johns SunriseSt. Johns Sunrise – a peaceful pasture

I had my infrared modified camera in the car.   When I saw these fishermen leaving, I pulled it out and hurried over to make an image.  Despite rushing, I like the way it turned out.  The clarity that IR brings to this image is nice, and the wake and boat reflection are pretty too. I’m glad I had the camera all setup to go before I grabbed it!

Early departureEarly departure – Monochrome, infrared

KM is an ace at spotting birds and he called out this Merganser.  When I got home, I thought at first it might be a Common Merganser – which I’ve never seen before.  But it turns out their range doesn’t include Florida.  So this was a Red-breasted – which I have seen, although infrequently.

Red-breasted MerganseRed-breasted Merganser

There are a large number of Northern Shovelers around Black Point Wildlife drive.  Of course they were mostly far away and when they were close, they seemed to always face in the wrong direction.  But patience paid off when this male eventually swam slowly in front of us in good light and dragged his very handsome reflection with him.

Male Northern ShovelerMale Northern Shoveler

Thistle plants are also all over on Black Point – this one came with a Bee on it.  I made a four image panorama to record the whole subject with higher magnification and resolution.  Sometimes I run into issues stitching these together.  But this one turned out well:

Thistle and beeThistle and Bee

KK called out this Snipe in the mangroves along the canal and we of course stopped to photograph it.  The light was poor, with the sun behind it.  When I first looked at my photo on the computer, it was very washed out.  I added some dehaze in Lightroom and was pleased with the result.

Wilsons SnipeWilson’s Snipe

Smaller birds were flitting around near the rest stop on Black Point.  I usually find these hard to photograph.  The light is bad way back in the reeds and they move quickly.  It’s tough to focus on them through all the obstructions.  I was shooting toward the sun for this image too and it didn’t look good at first on my computer.  Thankfully it’s in focus and  there’s a lot of latitude for processing with a RAW format file.  I used local adjustments with the radial filter in Lightroom to boost the exposure and visible detail on the bird.

Common YellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat

When we left on this trip, I had no idea what we’d see and photograph.  There are no guarantees.  I’ve learned though, that Mother Nature usually rewards us when we pay attention to her – in this case with a nice sunrise and several birds that I rarely see.  And a little post processing rewarded me with improved photos.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

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