Category Archives: Merritt Island NWR

Sunrise Reflections and Fishing Ospreys

With all the bad news about the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economy / stock market, blogging about photography doesn’t seem too important, does it?  But maybe photography can distract you from those headlines for a bit, like it distracted me last Wednesday morning.

Gator Creek MirrorGator Creek Mirror

I made a solo trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and spent a few hours enjoying nature. I started on Gator Creek Road before dawn, and then went round Black Point Wildlife Drive.  When it was about time to head home, I decided to make one more pass through Gator Creek Road before I left.  I’m very glad I did.

As I went past where Catfish Creek Trail branches off, I heard a loud group of birds squawking in the distance.  I decided to back up and go and see what was making such a big racket.  I found hundreds of (mostly) Laughing Gulls along with a few terns and skimmers in the water – all making noise.  They were a little too far away for good photos, but on the other side of the road I spotted several circling Ospreys.

Osprey catch sequence 1Osprey catch sequence 1

They were looking for fish in Catfish Creek.  I stayed for 15 minutes or so watching and photographing.  They dove and missed a few times and then I saw this one plummeting  toward the water.

Osprey catch sequence 2Osprey catch sequence 2

The splash was huge and things were happening very fast.  It wasn’t until it gained some altitude that I could clearly see it had a fish.

Osprey catch sequence 3Osprey catch sequence 3

That looks like a Spotted-seatrout to me (https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/saltwater/drums/spotted-seatrout/). Those are great eating.  We used to fish for them in Mosquito Lagoon when we lived in Port Orange

I’ve seen Ospreys fishing before, but these are the best photos I’ve been able to get of an actual catch.  It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild.  My experience is that you have to be lucky to photograph it when it happens.  Thank goodness those gulls were calling or I’d have driven right by!

You can click on these photos to see higher resolution versions on Flickr.  You can also visit these related Flick albums:

On a side note:  I’ve been enjoying our bug free weather here but I noticed when I got home from this trip that I had several mosquito bites.  Time to break out the bug spray – I think our Central Florida spring may already be just about over.

I hope that all of you make it through our current troubles unscathed.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, stay safe – and make some socially distanced photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Isolation

Anyone can snap a photo.  As photographers, we choose subjects and then compose frames around them so a viewer’s eyes are drawn to what we want them to see.  One thing to think about when we’re out with our cameras is how to isolate the subjects in our images.

Scan the scene when shooting – look for distracting elements and get rid of them.  How?  Sometimes you can’t, but here are some suggestions.

Viewpoint:  Shift a few feet one way or another to hide things.  There’s a much less attractive mailbox just out of the frame below on the left.

A Mailbox on Joe Overstreet RoadA Mailbox on Joe Overstreet Road

Magnification:  We never have enough zoom, do we?  Use what you do have to get close and separate subjects from clutter.  You can also crop later on the computer, but you’ll risk losing some image quality / resolution.

A good morning for a songA good morning for a song – singing Eastern Meadowlark. Joe Overstreet Road

Light:  Sometimes the light is just right to make your subject stand out from the background – take advantage of it!  This can be modified a bit in post processing too.

Shy birdShy bird – A Roseate Spoonbill in the light. Black Point Wildlife Drive

Depth of Field (DOF):  In addition to getting as close as you can and using a long focal length, shooting with a wide open aperture creates a shallower DOF and blurs the background behind your subject.  You may need to shift your position a bit to insure that the entire subject (e.g. both the insect and the bird) are in the plane of focus.

Butcher BirdButcher Bird – Loggerhead Shrikes often kill prey by impaling them on a thorn or barbed wire.  Joe Overstreet Road

Color:  Catching your subject against a contrasting color can help it stand out.  These American White Pelicans with their yellow beaks were very nice to pose for me in the blue water.

American White PelicansAmerican White Pelicans. Black Point Wildlife Drive

So that’s a few ideas. If you think about this when you’re out, your photos will improve. Do you have any other suggestions?  Feel free to add them in the comments.

And speaking of isolation, Lynn and I are both generally in good health (thankfully!).  But the CDC says we’re at higher risk from the COVID-19 virus due to our ages.  We’re going to follow their recommendations and stay up to date on developments.

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

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Leave no trace

“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!”  — Si’ahl (Seattle), leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes

Beginning with my very first adventures out in nature, I’ve always been taught to leave no trace.  And so I was startled and then a little sad when I saw these along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge about a week ago.

Rock stacksRock stacks

I’ve seen rock stacks (or rock cairns) before, just not in MINWR.  I guess I also noticed that stacking rocks (and posting photos of them on social media) has become a thing.  People shouldn’t do this anywhere, and when they start doing it in one of my favorite places, it’s time to speak up.

I looked through my image archives for another photo from near the same spot and found this one from back in 2013 that I never processed or posted before. It’s looking in a different direction, and it shows rocks where they should be.  It’s worth a click to view a larger version.

Gator Creek panoGator Creek pano

There are of course, legitimate reasons for building rock cairns and different National Parks have different rules. See this NPS page: https://www.nps.gov/articles/rockcairns.htm.  However, it’s always wrong to tamper, add to, or build unauthorized cairns in national parks.

I couldn’t find anywhere on-line that specifically says rock stacking is prohibited at MINWR.  Even if it’s not against the rules – it’s still ethically, morally, and environmentally wrong.  And it’s rude and selfish.  Don’t do it.

Always follow the Leave No Trace guidelines when you’re out enjoying nature. Always.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  — Aldo Leopold, American ecologist and environmentalist

Sorry for the rant today.  The longer I thought about this, the more it bothered me.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos, but don’t stack any rocks!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR – 12/26/19

Twas the morning after Christmas*

Twas the morning after Christmas, as I left the house – I tried to be quiet and not wake my spouse.

I drove to the refuge through the long winter’s night. To get there and catch the first morning light.

On the pier by the causeway, it was all blue and gold. Lovely start to the day with colors so bold.

Dawn by the causeway and the pierDawn by the causeway and the pier

To Black Point next – a wonderful place.  Drive slow or you’ll miss things with too fast a pace.

Dawn on Black Point Wildlife DriveDawn on Black Point Wildlife Drive

Kingfishers dodged my camera with ease, not stopping for long even when I said please!

Male Belted KingfisherMale Belted Kingfisher

A lady Merganser was flapping her wings. Shaking off water and other things.

Female Hooded Merganser wing flapFemale Hooded Merganser wing flap

An unblinking gator watched me draw nigh. I almost saw myself in his eye.

Eye of the gatorEye of the gator

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

SpoonbillRoseate 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,

Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler

White Pelican PodWhite Pelican Pod

Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls.

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

Great Blue Heron portraitGreat Blue Heron portrait

Now Terns, teals, willets, eagles and more, so many birds along the shore.

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

As I left the refuge and it left my sight, I thought “HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”

Merritt Island morningMerritt Island morning

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope each and every one of you are having a wonderful holiday season.  Cherish your time with friends and family and don’t forget to make some photos with them!

And have a very Happy New year too!!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

Look in the mirror

Generally (and especially in Florida) clouds are good for landscape photos.  And when  water is part of your composition (like it often is here), wind can add interesting motion effects to longer exposures. If you can’t use those two elements in your images, can you still make landscapes?  Of course, but you may need to use mirrors!

Mangrove Mirror 1Mangrove Mirror 1.  Infrared, Olympus HiRes mode.

Our winter weather fronts bring cooler temperatures and often very clear skies to Central Florida.  And winds can be especially calm in the early morning.  When I run into situations like this, I don’t put my camera away.  Instead I watch for mangrove trees and other reflections.

Mangrove Mirror 2Mangrove Mirror 2.  Infrared, Olympus HiRes mode.

Compositions that minimize the sky and maximize the patterns their branches and roots make in the glassy water appeal to me.

Mangrove Mirror 3Mangrove Mirror 3

How do you approach landscape photography at daybreak, when the wind is dead calm and the clouds are few and far away?

You can view many more of my Florida Landscape images in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157646280743144.  And please click on the photos in these blog posts to view them in higher resolution on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos, and don’t forget to look in the mirror!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A few bird photos

I’ve been wanting to go back to Viera Wetlands.  When I called their hotline Friday night, it said the roads are closed to vehicles.  I think this is old info, but I didn’t want to drive all the way there to check.  So I went to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge instead on Saturday morning.  Here are a few photos from the trip.

Hooded Mergansers were there on our last visit.  This time they were close enough for a photo.

Hoodie Hoodie

There was a large group of birds feeding on minnows in one small pond by Black Point Wildlife Drive (yes – the Drive is open again – yay!).  It was very close to the road with an unobstructed view – an excellent photo op!

Snowy Egret and minnowSnowy Egret with a minnow

Since I sold a portion of my Olympus gear early this year and bought the Sony A7R3,  I’ve been using it for landscapes and portraits – I don’t have a birding lens for it but I’ve wondered how it would do.  Yesterday’s  close-up feeding frenzy was a perfect opportunity to try it.  After I made some images with the Olympus, I pulled out the Sony with the 24 -105mm lens mounted and made several more photos.  I really liked how well it worked – especially the autofocus.  Here’s a sample.

Little Blue Heron in flightLittle Blue Heron in flight

On the way out, I saw this winter visitor walking toward a notch in the sand along the river.  I crouched down low and waited for it to frame itself.  I’m pretty sure it’s a Sanderling, although I’d welcome other opinions.

“The Sanderling is one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds. Though they nest only in the High Arctic, in fall and winter you can find them on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world. The Ruddy Turnstone and the Whimbrel are the only other shorebirds that rival its worldwide distribution.” – Cornell Lab, All About Birds

Sanderling through the sandSanderling through the sand

I visit MINWR a lot.  But it never disappoints me.  What a treasure!

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive Status

When I wrote last Sunday’s blog post, I wasn’t aware that Black Point Wildlife Drive would be closed  from Monday, Nov. 18 through Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.  Also – BioLab remains closed until damage from hurricane Dorian is repaired.

A little stormyA little stormy

If you’re planning a trip to MINWR, please check their website before you go for any other updates: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island/

Many thanks to Wally Jones for pointing this out, and I’m very sorry for any confusion!

Ed

MINWR – 11/10/19

I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Sunday with Kevin M.  If you’ve been waiting for our winter visitor bird friends to show up – they’re here!

We first stopped by the Titusville marina for a few blue hour / sunrise photos.  In the original color version of this one, the orange reflections in the water from the streetlights along the shore didn’t mix well with the blue water and sky in the distance.  A B&W conversion eliminated that problem and I like the result.

Marina at dawnMarina at dawn

Kingfishers were abundant and even a bit cooperative.  This one rested on a dead tree for me.

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

And another even waited until I had my camera all ready and focused on it before it took off!  You can view a short video time lapse of that at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/49052297597/in/dateposted/

Other winter birds we saw:  American Avocets, Blue-winged Teals, Northern Flickers, Northern Shovelers, a Northern Harrier, Tree Swallows, Common Yellowthroats, and Palm Warblers.  The ducks weren’t plentiful yet, but I’m sure more are on the way!

Our year round birds competed for attention by posing in very nice light.

Reddish EgretReddish Egret in warm morning light

Egret and reflectionEgret and reflection

Great Blue HeronHeron in flight

And we also managed to find a Florida Scrub Jay along the entrance road to Canaveral National Seashore for Kevin’s list this year.  So once again a wonderful visit to MINWR.  You should go!

I’ve put many more of my images from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723.  And please click on the photos in these blog posts to view them in higher resolution on Flickr.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black and White Backlog

I make a lot of photographs – you may not have been able to tell  ;-).  And I have many that I like that never get into the blog.  So this week I’m going to post a handful of B&W images from around Central Florida that I think are worth seeing.  I hope you like them too.  Not many words this morning.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Lake Apopka PumphousePump house, Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

St. Augustine Cathedral InteriorCathedral Interior, St. Augustine

Cypress standCypress stand, Orlando Wetlands

Quiet morningQuiet morning, Merritt Island NWR

Along Bobcat TrailSunrise Along Bobcat Trail, Orlando Wetlands

Tranquil mornTranquil morn, Orlando Wetlands

As always, click to view larger on Flickr, and you can see many more of my monochrome photos in this folder.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Daybreak, Bobcat, Boar, and More

In the USA, the second full week of October each year is National Wildlife Refuge Week.  I visited my local refuge last Thursday to help celebrate.

Moonlit marsh 1Moonlit marsh

I decided to go straight to Black Point Wildlife Drive to photograph sunrise.  The gate was still closed when I arrived, so I set up by the sign at the entrance and made the image above. The wind was blowing and I like the surreal appearance of the clouds, moonlight,  and stars visible in the full res version.

This was the view a little later from the parking area at the southwest corner of the drive:

Golden Golden

And here’s a monochrome infrared photo along the western side of Black Point.  I like the low sun angle and clouds.

Out early on a straight roadOut early on a straight road

You might be able to tell from these three photos that I was the first and only one on Black Point Wildlife Drive that morning – which led to the next situation.  I stopped at the rest area and got out to scout around.  There’s a small observation deck there at the start of Cruickshank trail and as I was just coming off the path to go up the short boardwalk, I heard a noise and then saw a very healthy looking Bobcat jump over the rail and disappear into the vegetation.  Even though I had my camera in my hands, set up and ready – I was way too slow to get a photo.

I’ve come across Bobcats several times in the wild.  Usually when they see me, they fade away quickly and it’s hard to get a photo.  This time was unusual – I wasn’t trying to be super quiet, I can only guess it was catnapping and didn’t notice me at first, or it was hoping I wouldn’t come its way so it could stay comfortable.

I’m sorry I didn’t get the photo for you on Thursday and I know you’re disappointed.  So here’s a previously un-published one from March 2017 from very near the same area.  It’s typical of the brief and poor look I normally get of Bobcats:

Bobcat Bobcat

Feral pigs in MINWR aren’t as shy as Bobcats.  They typically go about their business when I see them.  This one stared me down and when it was sure I was going to stay put, continued across the road – hackles raised.  It too quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.

Young wild boarYoung wild boar

One more picture to close this out – from the boat launch area at Parrish Park:

#53#53 – A banded Ruddy Turnstone

I had an exciting day at Merritt Island.  Although the winter birds aren’t back in force yet, The Ruddy Turnstones and skittish Belted Kingfishers I saw are migrants – a good sign.

I have many more images from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723.  And you can click on almost all of the photos on my blog to view them in much higher resolution on Flickr.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved