Category Archives: INSIDE FLORIDA

MINWR – 2/5/21

Well. Kevin M. wanted to meet and photograph the SpaceX launch scheduled for 5:15 am last Friday morning. Talk about zero dark thirty!

Anyway, I was all packed and prepared Thursday night when the launch was postponed. Since I was ready to go, I decided to head over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge anyway on Friday morning (just not so early!). I’m glad I did. I got to see a lot more things flying than just a space ship. By the way, if you like to look at photos of SpaceX launches, their Flickr stream is awesome.

With our recent cool, clear weather, I expected few clouds and a so-so sunrise. But this scene with the sun rising below the clouds and centered behind the Vehicle Assemble Building at Kennedy Space Center was pretty.

VAB SunriseVAB Sunrise

Gator Creek Road at MINWR has been closed for a while so I was glad to see it finally open again. They’ve been busy maintaining the dirt road surface and trimming vegetation along the sides. You can see a little better now – and you don’t have to dodge potholes! There was a lot of bird action.

A large squabble of gullsA large squabble of gulls (Mostly Laughing and Ring-billed)

Birding is interesting in many ways. For instance, you can always call a group of birds a “flock”. But I think the group names for different bird species are fun. If you’ve ever listened to a big “squabble” like this, you’ll probably agree it’s an appropriate name for gulls. You can also call a gull group a “flotilla”, “gallery”, “screech”, or “scavenging”.

I’m not sure what attracted these huge gatherings to Gator Creek. but they sure seemed to like it there.

A tightly stacked scoop of Skimmers A tightly stacked scoop of Skimmers

“Scoop” is a wonderful name for a group of Skimmers too. The classic photo for Skimmers is of a single one feeding just above a calm surface with its lower mandible in the water (like this one). I didn’t see any of that behavior on Friday, but I really liked this alternate flight shot. It’s hard to understand how they fly that close without hitting each other. Groups of Skimmers are also known as a “conspiracy” or “embezzlement”.

On Black Point Wildlife Drive the water was very low in spots but there was still a lot to see. Here’s one more group flight shot:

A fling of DunlinsA fling of Dunlins

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that Dunlin are sort of a life bird for me. What I mean is I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them before, but I find Sandpipers challenging to ID and I’d never consciously done so with Dunlin. I also saw / ID’d some Western Sandpipers on Friday for the first time. Flocks of Dunlin are also called a “flight” or “trip”.

And here’s one last bird photo. This group was a lot smaller than the others. They were spread out and flying around so fast the only time I could grab a collective image was when they settled for just a moment.

A small worm of American RobbinsA small worm of American Robbins

It looks as though there’s only the one name for a group of Robins. I suppose you could always be boring and call them a “flock”.

If these names interest you, here’s a good summary article on the subject: https://www.thespruce.com/flock-names-of-groups-of-birds-386827

So that was a great visit to my favorite wildlife refuge! In addition to the birds above, I also saw a Bottle Nose Dolphin, Alligators, a Bald Eagle, Roseate Spoonbills, Forster’s Terns, a Eurasian Collared Dove, Brown Pelicans, Turkey Vultures, Ospreys, Ibis, American Avocets, Great Blue and Tricolor Herons, Redish Egrets, Great and Snowy Egrets, and some others that I’m forgetting or (once again) didn’t ID.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved


GO BUCS!!!

Wildlife Panoramas

Sometimes you want to get closer / zoom in with your lens to show as much detail as possible but if you do, you can’t fit everything in your frame. When I’m in that situation I try to expand the frame by making a stitched panorama. It’s a common approach for landscape images – but it can also work for wildlife and I don’t see that mentioned very often elsewhere. Here’s a recent example I assembled from two photos:

Pretty in Pink 2
Pretty in Pink

And here’s one more made from three photos:

A Partial Pod of PelicansA Partial Pod of Pelicans. (Click to see larger on Flickr. Click again to zoom in)

I’ve written about this before, so I won’t repeat myself. If you’re interested in my approach, see these two posts:

And there’s much more info on the web waiting for your DuckDuckGo or Google search.

There is an added complication to watch out for when stitching wildlife panoramas: the animals may move between frames. For that reason, I shoot as quickly as possible. I try stitching the frames together automatically and look for any anomalies along seams. If I find some, then I assemble the panorama manually in photoshop and mask out the issues.

I enjoy making these and have many more collected in this folder on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157637736002816. Take a look to see some possibilities.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – stitch some panoramas!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

That Darn Dodging Duck

You may remember my post from late last year (https://edrosack.com/2020/12/13/three-spoonbills/) where I mentioned a Cinnamon Teal that’s been wintering on Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I didn’t find the bird on that trip and it avoided me on three more tries, although reports kept coming that others had seen it. Finally on my fifth try last Tuesday I actually saw it with my own eyes!

Odd duck
Cinnamon Teal

This is my first sighting and photo of one so it’s another addition to my (relatively short) birding life list.

Another update for today: It’s been a long while since I’ve visited Bio Lab Road. Damage from Hurricane Dorian closed it for a while, but that’s all been repaired now and the road is in very good shape. Howard T. told me they’d driven it a few weeks ago so I decided to check it out too.

A cloudy day on the Indian River
A cloudy day on the Indian River

There are some nice views across the Indian River through breaks in the vegetation. I think this one looking out across that sand bar is very “Florida”.

Bio Lab road is a good place to see large gators. I’m not sure if this is the same one Howard saw, but it’s huge. I was glad it was across the canal!

A big one
A big one

And here’s one last image from the day, also on Bio Lab Road. I don’t often see these little falcons and this one stayed still for a moment so I could make a photo:

American Kestrel
American Kestrel

It was cloudy last Tuesday. Some might think the light was bad and I agree it was dim. But diffuse, even light can be a plus. Direct sunlight can be harsh and create deep shadows and blown highlights. I had to raise my ISO to get decent shutter speeds for some of these shots, but the camera sensor handled it well. So if you’re out photographing on a cloudy day, use your ISO setting!

Thanks, Howard for reminding me to re-visit Bio Lab Road! And thanks to that darn dodging duck for providing such a large dose of motivation to get out, enjoy nature, and keep looking!

Thanks to all of you too for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

(Blue) Spring Into the New Year!

Editors note: Here’s a post from our visiting correspondent MaryKate – this time from right here in Central Florida.  Enjoy!

Manatee Couple at Blue Spring State Park
Manatee Couple at Blue Spring State Park

I recently met a friend at Blue Spring State Park, the “Winter Home of Manatees,” for a nature walk and manatee viewing. With many offshoots and observation decks, the wide wooden boardwalk makes for a safe place to enjoy nature and view wildlife during COVID – – – IF you get there early.

Boardwalk at Blue Spring State Park
Boardwalk at Blue Spring State Park

The manatee viewing was amazing, even with “just” ~150 manatees on the day that we went. The weather was cooler the week before, and manatee counts were ~ 400! Regardless, we saw plenty of manatees, fish, birds, beautiful scenery, and even this upsidedown-atee!

Upside-down-atee
Upsidedown-atee

The park opens at 8 am, and I arrived around 7:55 am, but I was stuck in a line of cars waiting to get in. I’d suggest arriving by 7:40 or 7:45 am to skip the traffic. You can purchase a park vehicle admission pass in advance here, but you can only purchase same day. I recommend buying in the morning right before you head over.

Blue Spring State Park
St. Johns River at Blue Spring State Park Entrance

It was relatively empty at the beginning of our morning, and all park visitors were wearing masks and keeping socially distanced. However, by about 9:30 am, it started to get crowded, and many of the late arrivers weren’t as well behaved.

Blue Spring State Park
Coming Up for Air

Florida Manatees are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. While this status was officially downgraded in 2017 from endangered, the population is still at risk: in 2020, over 600 Florida Manatees died, with 114 of those deaths being caused by humans (i.e. boat strikes). Want to help? Consider donating to Save The Manatee Club, a nonprofit founded by Jimmy Buffet and Bob Graham, and the world’s leading manatee conservation organization.

Blue Spring State Park
Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.

You can read a couple of previous posts on Mantees and Blue Spring State Park here: https://edrosack.com/2014/01/24/blue-spring-state-park/ and here: https://edrosack.com/2017/01/28/manatees/.

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

©2020, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Jesup’s South Shore

I doubt many landscape photographers have the south shore of Lake Jesup in Seminole County on their must do list. But local parks are a great resource and we should take advantage of them. At the very least, you can practice your landscape photo skills and maybe spot some wildlife too. I went for a very short drive last week and made three stops. Here are some photos from the trip.

By the shore
By the shore I

This first one is in Central Winds park in Winter Springs, down past the playground and basketball court where there’s a short nature trail leading to the the lake and this view. I used a 16mm focal length (with a variable ND filter to lengthen the exposure and smooth the water) and made two frames (using this technique) to capture both the tree / sky in the distance (ISO 100, f/11, 1/4 second ) and the foreground (ISO 100, f/11, 1 second). Then I blended them by hand in Photoshop using layers.

By the shore - II
By the shore II.

Stop two is a little west, on the pier that you’ll get to when you turn in at the dog park and drive past it down to the lake. Two frames again with the same general approach as the first image. Sky at ISO 100, f/11, 1/6 second; Foreground at ISO 100, f/11, 1/2 second.

By the shore - III
By the shore III

And stop three is east of the other two at Overlook Park in Oviedo. Also using the same general approach (although no ND filter for this one). Sky at ISO 100, f/11, 1/200 second; Foreground at ISO 100, f/11, 1/80 second.

Finally, this Oak tree caught my eye and I made one last photo on the walk back to my car:

Hanging moss
Hanging Moss

I used my phone – 13mm equivalent focal length, ISO 25, f/2.4 at 1/240 sec.

Here’s a map image showing all three locations (yellow markers) to give you a better idea of where they are:

Three Stops

Note: If you clicked on any of the photos, you’ve noticed I’m trying a new way to embed Flickr photos. Starting with this post, a click on a photo will still take you to that image on Flickr, but now it will open in “Lightbox” mode and fill your browser widow. You can still click once (or twice) to enlarge it, and you can hit the escape key to return to the non-lightbox view. Then use your browser’s back button to return to the blog.

By the way, the tree in the center of the first photo has been on the blog twice before, here https://edrosack.com/2010/11/21/local-park-landscapes/ and here https://edrosack.com/2010/05/16/under-the-weather/. I think I like this latest version the best.

And you can review all my posts about Lake Jesup at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/lake-jesup/.

Happy New Year! We’re all looking forward to better times in 2021! Lynn and I are waiting to get vaccinated so we can visit family and friends again and life can return toward normal. I hope that doesn’t take too long.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – visit your local park and make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island NWR – December 2020

‘Twas the night after Christmas*

‘Twas the night after Christmas and I sat at my desk,
trying to decide which photos were best.

To the refuge I’d been three times in December.
I was writing a blog post to help me remember.

All of these pictures I selected with care.
In hopes that they’d make you feel like you’re there.


This light on the Fish Camp made me pause for a bit.
When the pandemic’s over, we’ll stop in and sit.

Early morning at the Fish Camp Bar & GrillEarly morning at the Fish Camp Bar & Grill. On SR 46 at the St. Johns River.

Going into the refuge the river’s reflection,
painted this scene approaching perfection.

Clouds on the Indial RiverClouds on the Indian River. Just south of Veterans Memorial Park.

Kingfishers on Black Point are loud and brash.
But I managed to catch one, heading off in a flash.

Belted Kingfisher 3Male Belted Kingfisher in flight

A Common Yellowthroat posed in the brush.
Then he flew away in a very big rush.

Common YellowthroatMale Common Yellowthroat

Storks in formation soared by above,
A wonderful subject to make photos of.

Formation flight: Three Wood StorksThree Wood Storks in flight

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?
A pretty pink spoonbill, preening quite near.

Preening SpoonbillPreening Roseate Spoonbill

Other birds to the refuge, they also came.
It’s wonderful to see them and call them by name.

Now Ospreys, Shovelers, Pelicans and all,

Norther ShovelerNorthern Shoveler drake

White PelicanWhite Pelican

Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls,

Reddish EgretReddish Egret

Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron

Now woodpeckers, cardinals, eagles, owls and more,
So many birds along the shore!

I know I saw a bug in there...Red-bellied Woodpecker. “I know I saw a bug in there…”

Male Cardinal in the MangrovesMale Cardinal in the Mangroves

Nesting Great Horned OwlNesting Great Horned Owl

Large birds, small birds, short birds and tall,
stay for a while, don’t dash away all!

Ibises and SpoonbillsIbises and Spoonbills

Ibises and EgretsIbises and Egrets

And I exclaimed as I turned out the light:
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL,
AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”

Calm HarborCalm Harbor – Titusville Marina


Note:  I ended up visiting Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge three times this month and I had so many unused images from these trips that I decided to re-do a post from December 2019 with updated words to fit the new photos. MINWR is a truly wonderful place – especially at this time of year. I’m very grateful that I live close by!

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope this holiday season brings each and every one of you and your loved ones peace and joy. I know the pandemic has been extra challenging and not being with family is especially hard at Christmas time. Stay safe and take care of each other so we can all enjoy the better times that are on the way for 2021!

This is my last post of 2020, but I’ll be back next Sunday with another one. Until then, have a happy and safe New Year!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

Three Spoonbills

I made these photos last week while watching several cooperative and close Roseate Spoonbills posing in nice morning light.

Pretty in pinkPretty in pink

I’d left my car in the large parking area on the south west corner of Black Point Wildlife Drive (stop 4) and was walking south along the trail toward the observation decks.

Morning stretchMorning stretch

The Spoonbills were in a small opening on the right hand side of the trail almost all the way to the second deck. They were in among a group of birds that included Wood Storks and Ibis. When I first saw them, they were in the shade cast from the mangroves along the path. On my return walk, the sun was high enough to light up that area.

Red, white, and blueRed, white, and blue

The birds were busy and ignored me as they went about their morning business. With such pretty light coming over my shoulder, all I had to do is wait for an isolated moment, frame them, and click the shutter. Sometimes things come together.

And sometimes they don’t.

I was out there that morning scouting for a Cinnamon Teal that both Jim Boland and Kevin McKinney have found and photographed recently. You can see Kevin’s very nice image on Flickr here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/44542650@N08/50688544146/in/dateposted/

Cinnamon Teal’s are a rarity in Central Florida and would be a life bird for me. Apparently this one’s been a winter visitor at that spot for the last few years. I couldn’t find it but I spoke with someone that’d seen it that morning. It likes to hang out on the east side of the trail, in among many other ducks. A morning photo into the sun might be a challenge so I think I’ll try again one afternoon.

There are lots of birds along Black Point Wildlife Drive right now. If you’ve been waiting to visit there, go ahead and go – it’s a good time. Even if you don’t spot the Cinnamon Teal, there are other things to see and photograph.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos – even if you don’t spot what you’re searching for.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Cautionary Cygnet Saga

Since we’ve been following the Lake Cherokee and Lake Davis Cygnets here on the blog this year, I thought you’d be interested in another update. I apologize in advance for the somewhat disturbing photo below.

Back in late October, a neighbor saw one of the 6-month-old Mute Swan cygnets with what looked like blood all over its body.

Injured cygnet (Photo by Nicole Halstead, used with permission)

Worried about the bird, several people that live near the lake started calling Florida Fish & Wildlife and other rescue groups to get the swan some help. Many rescue organizations limit help to native species only, and since Mute Swans are considered invasive in Florida it was tough to find anyone that could assist.

A Lake Eola Park Ranger agreed to come over and It turned out the bird was severely wounded with a fishing hook caught deep in its neck. It was also bleeding from its mouth. The ranger tried to remove the hook, but it was in too deep.

Winter Park Veterinary Hospital regularly provides free veterinary assistance to injured wildlife and veterinary services to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. They agreed to treat the cygnet and the ranger got permission for one of the neighbors to transport the injured swan.

Dr. Catherine Hellenga, DMV, and her team examined the swan.  It turned out that most of the blood was due to injuries to its mouth and tongue from trying unsuccessfully to get the hook out of its own neck.  The vet was able to remove the hook, and they also took X-rays and checked for possible lead poisoning from weights on the line – all of which came back negative.

They kept the swan for two days, providing fluids, treatment and excellent care until it was ready to be released.  Again with approval from park rangers, the neighbor transported the cygnet back to Lake Cherokee where the Lake Eola Park Ranger team helped release it and reunite it with family and friends.

Ranger releasing the cygnet

Recovering Lake Cherokee Cygnet

Cygnet release and flight to join siblings (Portions of this video by MK Rosack, used with permission) 

Unfortunately that isn’t the end of the story.

We all hoped it would be accepted back into its family and could stay for a bit longer on Lake Cherokee. The park ranger told us they’ve returned swans to Lake Eola after longer than two days and they’ve been accepted. But when this one was released, the cob acted very aggressively toward  it and drove the cygnet away.  

Parents usually drive young swans away at around 5+ months old. This cygnet and its siblings had already fledged and were probably old and large enough to survive on their own1. But after it was rejected, it started acting strangely and wandering out in the street – endangering itself and drivers in the area.  A police officer saw this and called animal control. They came and took the cygnet to a sanctuary in Christmas, Florida.

Our cygnet has adjusted well to its new home and has another swan for company as well as other feathered friends. It should do fine there.

This is a good reminder though, that we all need to be careful about what we do outside while enjoying nature.  Our actions can impact the environment and wildlife, sometimes in a bad way.  Pick up after yourself and never leave things like fishing line and hooks behind where they can injure animals or even other people.

Many thanks to Winter Park Veterinary Hospital, the Lake Eola Park Rangers, and Lake Cherokee neighbors for saving this baby swan!

And thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other and watch out for wildlife too. And if you can – make some photos.

©2020, Nicole Halstead, MK Rosack, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

1. Here’s an article about cygnet development and when they naturally leave their families: https://www.swanlife.com/months-four-to-six

 

Spellbinding Stare and Tremendous Talons

Ospreys are common here in Central Florida and actually throughout most of the world. Even though I spot them all the time, I still think they’re fascinating photo subjects.

This bird was already on its perch when I saw it. It looks like it just made a dive and hadn’t finished preening yet.

What're you lookin' at?What’re you lookin’ at?

They’re remarkably well adapted to finding and taking fish out of the water. Their keen eyesight helps them spot prey from on high before plunging in to grab them with opposable talons.

“I think he’ll be to Rome
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature.”

Shakespeare in Act 4 Scene 5 of Coriolanus

According to Wikipedia, Shakespeare was referring to “a medieval belief that fish were so mesmerised by the osprey that they turned belly-up in surrender”.

Looking at those eyes, it’s no wonder people thought the birds could hypnotize their prey into surrendering. This looks like a piercing stare, but it was really just a passing glance in my direction from about 100 feet away. Luckily, I wasn’t fully under its spell and still managed to make a photo!

And check out the muscles and long curved claws on its feet! It’s hard to imagine even a slippery fish escaping from a grip like this.

A common and totally awesome bird – sovereignty of nature indeed!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A good day in the wild

I made a trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday. As you probably know, it’s a favorite of mine. I just hope all of you aren’t too tired of me writing about it.

Refuge:
1. Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship

a. A place providing protection or shelter

2 b. An undeveloped area for the preservation of animals and plants.
Retrieved November 22 2020 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/refuges
I think MINWR lives up to these definitions and I’m grateful that it’s close by and has stayed open. Even as the pandemic here in the USA continues to worsen, a visit there seems very safe to me. Lots of fresh air, with just a few socially distanced people. And interesting landscapes and wildlife to see and photograph – and divert me from the 24/7 news cycle.

Anyway, our weather has been a bit strange here in Central Florida. We’ve had lots of rain showers and strong winds too, so I wasn’t sure what the conditions would be like. My weather app said there’d be some clouds (good for sunrise photos!) so I got up at zero dark thirty and headed over to the St. Johns River boat ramp on HW 50.

A windy morning on the St. Johns RiverA windy morning on the St. Johns River

The air here is still on most mornings. But in this photo you can see nearby grass blowing and the water motion smoothed out from my 3s shutter speed. As I was photographing, an owl swooped in and landed about ten feet away. It only stayed for a few seconds as it looked me over. It was very dark, I was a bit startled, and I didn’t have the right lens on – so I didn’t even try to make a photo. But it was a very cool moment.

When I got to MINWR I made a pass around Black Point Wildlife Drive. Maybe it was too early, but I didn’t see much. Then I went over to drive through Gator Creek Road and it was roped off – I’m not sure why. This page says Catfish Creek and Peacocks Pocket are closed due to hurricane damage, but doesn’t mention Gator Creek Road. Maybe it was because of a rocket launch – we’ve had quite a few recently.

The wildlife photography part of my trip wasn’t going very well. Before I headed home, I decided to go through Black Point one more time and I’m very glad I did. The second pass was much better!

_A6605130_DxO.jpgBelted Kingfisher

There are more winter birds showing up now than last time I was there. Kingfisher’s are notoriously flighty, but for some reason this one sat still for me – of course I wish it’d been closer!

Northern Flickers are always a treat. I wasn’t sure that’s what this was until I got home. It was severely back lit and I couldn’t see any detail until I looked at it on the computer (with the shadows slider cranked up).

Northern FlickerNorthern Flicker

There were several of this next one flying around over the marsh. I was pretty sure they were Northern Harriers – the white rump is distinctive. I don’t see these very often and I enjoyed reading about them when I looked them up again. They hunt with both hearing and sight and have evolved stiff feathers around their ears to help direct the sound. They also have soft feathers elsewhere to reduce their flight noise – leading to their nickname “Gray Ghost”. You can read more at this link: https://www.audubon.org/news/northern-harrier.

Gray Ghost (Northern Harrier)Gray Ghost (Northern Harrier)

Here’s one last photo. Reddish Egrets are one of my favorite birds and I usually spot one or two along Black Point. I’m including it because this is the first time I’ve seen one perched up on a branch – they must do this all the time, right? This photo is worth a click to view on Flickr. You should be able to zoom in there with additional clicks to see a lot of up close detail. This post is getting too long or I’d tell you how I made this 40 MP image with my 24 MP camera. Maybe next time.

Pretty BirdPretty Bird

I saw a pair of Bald Eagles, Yellow-rumped Warblers (also winter visitors), a few (far away) Roseate Soonbills, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Anhingas, Double-Crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Black and Turkey Vultures, many Ospreys, gulls and terns, and others too, although I’m sure I missed many. I also saw what might have been a vole scurry across the road.  Lucky for it one of those Harriers wasn’t close by.

A good trip. I guess I’m glad Gator Creek Road was closed and I had to make a second pass on Black Point!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. If you have a National Wildlife Refuge near you, consider exploring it – in a safe, socially distanced way. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved