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

Black & White and Green

Our weather last week was nasty for a few days as tropical storm Eta came through Central Florida.  Luckily we were spared severe wind damage or flooding, but it did throw a soggy monkey wrench into my plans to go out and make a some photos. Since I don’t have any new images, I’ll just show you two I like that haven’t been in the blog before. 

The first is from a quiet, calm pre-sunrise morning.  It was so empty and still that it verged on spooky as I looked around while I waited on several long exposures to finish. It’s a single frame at 24mm, f/5.6, for 20s at ISO 100 and converted to B&W in Lightroom.

There was no one near, that morning by the pier.There was no one near, that morning by the pier

In this second one, I like the intense concentration of the Green Heron scouting for food as it stalks along the dead branches out over a canal. It’s at 280mm, f/10, for 1/1000s at ISO 1000.

Branching outBranching out

That’s it for this week.  It’s nice to have a large archive of unused images, but I’ll try to get something new for you next time.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. The rise in Covid cases is getting very scary again. Please, please – stay safe and take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Veterans Day 2020

Veterans Day is still a few days away, but since I only publish once a week, I’m going to jump the gun.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is approaching again and here in the US, we’ll observe Veterans Day. We should keep it in mind all year as a reminder of the debt we owe to every Veteran for protecting us and our freedom with their courage, sacrifice, and service.

View from Veterans Memorial ParkView from Veterans Memorial Park, Titusville, Florida

I’d like to share a few quotes that are more eloquent than anything I might come up with.

Alexander S. Vindman:

“America has thrived because citizens have been willing to contribute their voices and shed their blood to challenge injustice”

Barack Obama, November 11, 2010:

“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.” 

Arthur Ashe:

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

Ronald Reagan, November 1983:

“Veterans know better than anyone else the price of freedom, for they’ve suffered the scars of war. We can offer them no better tribute than to protect what they have won for us.”

Winston Churchill, 20 August 1940:

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Sunrise over the docksSunrise over the docks – Veterans Memorial Park, Titusville, Florida

The photos in this post were made at Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville.  I used to enjoy stopping by there for a sunrise photo on the way to MINWR. It was damaged in Hurricane Irma in September 2017 and the piers and seawall have been fenced off since then. I’ve stopped every once in a while to check on it, but hadn’t made any photos there. Until recently.

The fence is as ugly as ever, but I managed to poke my lens through and over the top of it for a couple of compositions. I thought they’d make good additions to a post about Veterans.  

I searched online for news about this park, but didn’t see anything that was recent.  Until it’s repaired, we’ll have to wait to get back out on those docks – and keep working around that fence.

You can view other Veterans Day posts I’ve written at this link:  https://edrosack.com/tag/veterans/

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Please stay safe and take care of each other. Honor our veterans.  Oh, and if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Don’t miss a good one

I like the view at this place on the back portion of Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve photographed it several times, but this image is my favorite from that spot so far.

Pond, grass, treeline, and cloudsPond, grass, tree-line, and clouds

The small pools of water aren’t always there next to the road, but on that day this one was reflecting some of our gorgeous Florida clouds and adding interest in the foreground. The grassy wetland, tree line, and distant clouds complete the image for me. I used my IR modified Olympus E-M5 II in high resolution mode and made two frames that I stitched together into a vertical 1×1 panorama.

You’ve seen this next image before.  It’s the last one in this post, and it’s from about 20 feet away and two minutes later on the same day.

Black Point vistaBlack Point vista

When I was going through photos after that trip, I liked ‘Black Point vista‘ so much that I didn’t even process the other one. Now, I still like it, but I’m very glad I came back and re-looked at ‘Pond, grass, tree-line, and clouds‘.  I feel it’s a stronger image.  What do you think?

Things change so it’s worth re-visiting places. While you’re there, it’s worth moving yourself and your camera around and trying several compositions.  And when you get home, it’s worth taking a second look at all your images so you don’t miss a good one!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please stay safe out there and take care of each other. And if you’re in the USA and haven’t yet voted, please do so.  Then you can make some photos.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

 

Old Photos and New Software

Probably the best wildlife photo outing I ever had was a little over 11 years ago on a dark and dreary day in Juneau, Alaska.

I was using a Nikon D-90 camera and my telephoto lens at the time was the 70-300mm  f/4.0 – 5.6 lens.  To get the shutter speeds I needed, I had to set my ISO between 800 and 1000. The D-90 sensor was good for the time, but at those ISOs, overcast skies,  fast action and small apertures made for challenging exposures. While I like the photos I came back with, I’ve always wished the image quality was a bit better.

Fast forward to this week when DxO Photo Lab Version 4 was announced. It advertises a new RAW conversion approach that uses machine learning to combine demosaicing and denoising into one step. They say:

“The resulting photo quality is nothing short of spectacular, especially for photos taken in low light conditions that require brightening certain areas, photos with small pixels, and photos taken with early-generation cameras.”

That sounds like just what I needed for those old photos, so I decided to reprocess a couple of them. In addition to DxO Photo Lab, I also have new versions of Lightroom (with very nice texture, clarity, and dehaze controls) as well as Topaz Sharpen AI.

Would the new software improve these photos?  Let’s see. Here are the results in image compare frames so you can see the differences (newer versions on the right). You’ve seen the first one in the blog before.

Breaching Humpback 1

I think the reprocessed version has better detail / focus, less noise, and improved contrast / colors.

The next one hasn’t been in the blog before. I’ve always  liked the action / viewpoint / composition and “flight aspect” of the whale, but the noise, color and focus were disappointing.

Breaching Humpback 2

After reprocessing, I think the image quality is more than acceptable.

My workflow for these was:

  • Raw conversion using DxO Optics Pro 4 with “Deep Prime” noise reduction and export back to Lightroom in RAW / DNG format
  • Adjustments in Lightroom: exposure, highlights, shadows, texture, dehaze
  • Sharpening with Topaz Sharpen AI

If you’re interested in more detail about the steps I went through, just ask in a comment and I’ll be more than happy to answer your questions.

Here are some related links to explore:

I’m very glad that I’ve been shooting in and saving RAW format images.  It takes up more storage space and requires  more post processing work than using jpg files.  But having RAW files for my favorite photos lets me take advantage of new technology and algorithms as they become available.

Keeping up with all these new capabilities requires time, effort, and money.  But there’s no doubt in my mind that the software we have today is vastly superior to what was available 11 years ago. What do you think?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please stay safe out there and take care of each other. And if you can, make or reprocess some RAW photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Difference in Scale

The master copy of the image below is made from multiple frames that I stitched together into a panorama. It ended up being ~196 megapixels.  I used a 70mm lens, so the equivalent focal length is about 35mm.  Looking at it another way, the tree line along the horizon is probably a couple of miles in length.

A calm, cloudy mornA calm, cloudy morn

Especially at this time of year, if you can zoom in to almost any image like this you’ll see dragonflies moving around or perched on leaves.  Look closely at this crop from near the center of the first image and you can just make out two of them resting on reeds.

The next photo is a single frame I made a few minutes earlier with another camera / lens at  ~1400mm eq. focal length.

Four-Spotted Pennant (?)Four-Spotted Pennant (?)

So in terms of lens magnification, it’s about a 40x zoom.  In terms of distance shown, it’s a few inches vs. a couple of miles or ~20,000 times smaller.  Either way, quite a change in scale and two unique ways to show the environment and inhabitants.

By the way, the header image at the top of the post is this same one rendered in B&W.  It’s a little more abstract, but I  like that version too.  If  you’d like to see the un-cropped frame, I posted it on flickr at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/50499722736/in/photostream/.

Exploring an environment at a variety of scales can reveal interesting scenes and details.  Especially if a dragonfly tilts its wings just right in the light.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Please stay safe and take care of each other. And if you can, make some photos – at different scales.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

What is that?

As I was starting home from Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge yesterday morning, I decided to make one last stop along the causeway. Looking around, I noticed something in the distance rolling around in the water. I couldn’t tell what it was and I wasn’t carrying the long lens, so I walked over to the car to get it. I thought it’d be gone by the time I got back but it wasn’t. This is the first image I made:

What it that?

I still couldn’t see it really well in the view finder. I thought it might be a manatee’s head or maybe even part of a dolphin. Then I saw this:

Cormorant vs. fishCormorant vs. fish

So now I knew what it was! The bird struggled for several minutes trying to swallow that huge fish. It would hold it under water for a while (changing its grip?) before bringing it back up in the air. It eventually got it arranged just right and managed to get it all down. This was the fish’s final view of things – Circle of Life.

Eye to eye: Cormorant vs. fishEye to eye

The weather on this trip was somewhat unusual. I almost always go over there in the mornings. One reason why is that it hardly ever rains early in the day. Most of our rain comes down in afternoon thunderstorms. But this time there was a big downpour as I drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive and even a rainbow!

Wetland rainbowWetland rainbow

Overall, birds are still a bit scarce out there. I did see some of our usual ones including Pie Billed Grebes, a Red-shouldered Hawk, Ospreys, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, Mourning Doves, Common Gallinules, American Coots, a few gulls and terns, Anhingas, and (of course) Cormorants. And Jim Boland reports that there are two Bald Eagles hanging out near stop 11 on BPWD although I wasn’t looking for them and didn’t spot them. I also saw a few fast, un-identified tiny birds (UTBs?), a Belted Kingfisher, and some Blue-winged Teals – so maybe more winter visitors will arrive soon.

I’ll leave you with one more photo from the trip. I stitched this together from 21 frames  made with my IR modified camera. I’m not sure who / what left that vehicle track there – maybe rangers doing some maintenance? Seems like a great place to get stuck. Anyway I think this gives you an idea of the landscape in the area.

Black Point vistaBlack Point vista: Monochrome, IR, stitched panorama

You can view many more of my Merritt Island National Wildlife photos in this album on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723. And you can scroll for a long time through posts on this blog about MINWR and Black Point Wildlife Drive at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/merritt-island-national-wildlife-refuge/

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you all are staying safe, and taking care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you don’t recognize something, keep watching – you might get a photo out of it!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved