Tag Archives: Alligator

Shark Valley

I’ve just about finished going through the photos from my trip to South Florida.  I ended up  with many images I like – way too many for a single post.  Today, I’d like to complete what I started in the Wild Baby Gators! blog with a few more photos from the Shark Valley area of the Everglades.  Next week I’ll finish my trip report with images from other parts of Big Cypress.

In a couple of spots along the north side of Tamiami Trail a few miles east of the entrance to Shark Valley visitor center, you can cross over the canal and drive along the dirt road on top of the berm. From there you can get a good look at the “River of grass”, stretching farther than you can see.

River of grass 3River of grass – looking north

I tried to stop by Shark Valley on my first afternoon in the area.  But the parking lot was full and there was a line of cars waiting to get in, so I turned around and explored elsewhere.  At 8:30 the next morning I was first in line waiting for the park to open.  I bought a ticket for one of their two hour tram rides and was on the first one to leave.  If you go, arrive early  to make sure you can get in.  I think taking the first tram ride of the day is a good idea too.  Wildlife should be more active / visible and the light is better for photography.

Crowded airspaceCrowded airspace – Glossy Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill in flight.  This was close to a small pond where a bird feeding frenzy was in progress.

There was a lot to see on the ride and the tour guide was excellent.  He knew where to spot things and passed along a great deal of info to everyone.  The tram stops for about 20 minutes at the 65 foot observation tower.  There’s a wonderful view there too.  If you zoom into this next photo, you can see two large alligators floating in the pond.

River of grass 2River of grass 2 – The view looking ~ SE from the observation Tower in Shark Valley

The water and trees around the tower are full of wildlife.  I spotted this Yellow-crowned Night Heron there. I’m going to count this as a life bird (first sighting).  I saw one before, but it was outside the US (in Costa Rica).  I also saw what may have been a  juvenile at Viera Wetlands, but it was an iffy ID.

Yellow-crowned Night HeronYellow-crowned Night Heron

There are lots of turtles and alligators along the way.

Happy togetherHappy together – A pair of yellow-bellied sliders soaking in some sunshine

And you’ll probably see some “circle of life” scenes too.

Lunch timeLunch time – Great Blue Heron with a Florida Gar

We also spotted Cormorants, Anhingas, Great and Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, Wood Storks, Red-shouldered hawks, a Purple Gallinule, and other birds.  We didn’t see any pythons, but you can tell they’re out there because many of the smaller mammals have disappeared – eaten by these large snakes.

To summarize: Shark Valley is definitely a Central Florida Photo Ops “Must do” location and I’m going to visit again.

You can view my other Everglades National Park photos in this album on Flickr.  And I’ve started to collect photos from the Big Cypress area in this album.

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

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Wild baby gators!

I returned Friday afternoon from several days in South Florida, scouting and photographing in Big Cypress National Preserve and the northern Everglades.  I have a huge backlog of images to go through so I’m not yet ready to blog about it.  Today I’ll just post this teaser  because I know some of you are alligator fans (hi Calvin!).

I see alligators all the time here in Florida and often spot younger ones.  But I only remember seeing babies together with their mother once before, up in Paynes Prairie. Last Wednesday morning in the Shark Valley portion of the Everglades I saw several  different momma gators with their 1 – 2 year old babies close by.

Momma gator 1 with five babiesA momma gator with five babies.

These are wild animals in their natural environment in the Everglades.

Momma gator 2 with six (seven?) babiesA different mom with six (eight?) babies.

I made them from the tram ride in Shark Valley.  Highly recommended!  The guide was very knowledgable and let us know where to spot all sorts of things.  He also knew a lot about these animals:

  • Alligators are one of the few reptile species that care for their young.
  • Only the females take care of the babies – the males aren’t involved (well, except at the beginning!).
  • The female defends the nest from predators and helps the babies hatch and make it into the water.
  • She’ll continue to provide protection for a year or two.
  • The hatchlings are 6 – 8 inches long and grow 9 – 10 inches a year at first, so the ones in these photos are less than two years old.
  • After a couple of years, the juveniles will move away (or get chased away by mom) and it’s time for her to mate again and start over.
  • Alligators normally ignore humans.  But you should always keep your distance and respect the animals.  Our guide said to stay at least 15 feet away (some say 30 – 60 feet is better).  However, alligator moms can be especially aggressive defending their nests and young.  If you see one in the wild,  be very cautious.  Always back off if the animal hisses, starts paying attention to you, or moves toward you at all.  They are  faster than you are, especially over short distances.

The two photos in this post are fairly high resolution and worth looking at a little closer.   But one of my readers (thanks Lynn!) pointed out that not everyone knows how to zoom into them on Flickr. So if you want to zoom in:

  • Click on the photo in the blog, which will open the same image inside Flickr.
  • It’ll probably already be higher res, but Flickr scales it to the size of your display and window.  To see it best, maximize your browser window.
  • Then you should see a cursor with a little + sign inside a circle.  This means you can zoom in a little further.  Click once to zoom and use your mouse to move around inside the photo.
  • Some images are detailed enough to support a second level of zoom.  If so, you’ll see another + and you can click again to zoom in even further.

Take a look!

I need to finish going through my photos from the trip and I’m looking forward to writing about other things I saw.  More to come!

You can view a bunch more of my alligator photos in this folder on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157625316066537

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

©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

Merritt Island 6-9-19

It’s getting to be that time of year down here in Central Florida:  Hot, muggy, and buggy, with many of the birds hiding or gone.

None the less, Kevin K. and I went over to Merritt Island last week to see what’s going on. Our first stop was along the Indian River at the Titusville Marina.  Clouds on the horizon helped the sun add some color to the morning.

Dawn, down on the riverDawn, down on the river

On Black Point Wildlife Drive, our most interesting find was this Stilt wading through calm water and good light.  I like this close up, but I wish I’d also made a frame including the whole reflection.

Black-necked StiltBlack-necked Stilt

As we left, this healthy looking animal was calmly marching across the black top.  There were no cars coming from either direction, so we could stop and give him the right of way.  And make a photo too!

Why did the gator cross the road?Why did the gator cross the road? It didn’t say, but the grass is green on the other side!

There are still some interesting birds at MINWR.  For instance, Pat H. found a Clapper Rail on BPWD a couple weeks ago.  But it seems like most of our winter visitors have moved on.  Maybe we need to move on too and look for photo ops in other spots until it starts cooling off again.

You can click on these images to view a larger version on Flickr. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Mother’s Day 2019

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms far and wide!

To help celebrate, I thought I’d share some photos I’ve made of Florida Mothers and their babies.  These are all wild animals / birds and they’re from several places over several years, so I’ll include where and when in the captions.

Momma gator guarding nest and 3 babiesMomma gator guarding her nest and 4 (blurry) babies. Along La Chua Trail, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Gainesville, FL, December 2006

What's Momma doing?Momma Sandhill Crane and chick foraging at Viera Wetlands, March 2017

Spoonbill Mom returnsSpoonbill Mom returns, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, May 2010

Great Horned Owl parent and chickGreat Horned Owl Mom and chick in the nest, Circle B Bar, March 2018

Momma Limpkin and babyMomma Limpkin and baby, Circle B Bar Reserve, October 2013

Great Egret Mom and chicksGreat Egret Mom and chicks, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, April 2011

It’s amazing how devoted Moms are, and it’s fascinating to watch them raise their babies.

You can click on these images to see larger versions on Flickr.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go spend time with your Mom!

©2006 – 2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Gatorland – May 11, 2017

I didn’t go to Gatorland last Thursday with Kevin K.  intending to make images for a Mother’s Day blog post.  It happened anyway – it’s pretty hard to avoid this time of year.

The nesting season has moved along and there are more species active now and raising their young.  This tricolored Heron is hoping her mate gets back soon with some food for the kids!

Bawling, big mouth babiesBawling, big mouth babies

Even with the chicks making all that noise, the Mom is sitting quietly, protecting them in case they’ve attracted any predators with their squawking.

In the next photo, an adult Great Egret is feeding an almost mature young one.  I watched one nest where there were three juveniles this size, all competing for food from one adult.  They were squawking and wildly grabbing for the adult’s beak.  The adults are very careful and  fortunately seem to avoid eye injuries.

Feeding timeFeeding time

Cattle Egrets are on the nest too and although I think some have already hatched, I couldn’t see them – they’re way back in the bushes.

Checking her eggsCattle Egret checking on her eggs

There are also some Dads around.  This guy was preening – trying to look good for his mate.  He impressed me!

Showy AnhingaShowy Anhinga

And the alligators were getting in on the act too.  Here’s a video of a bull gator bellowing a mating call.  I like the sound track, the standing wave ripples over his back, and the steam (mist) coming out of his nose!

Gator Bellow

All of these animal behaviors are fascinating to watch.  They’re exciting to photograph too!

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

Oh, and happy Mother’s Day!!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

It's that time of year again

Here in Central Florida, birds are starting to nest and raise the next generation.  Their colors get brighter, feathers get fancy and they show off to attract a mate (and photographers!).

Great Egret displayGreat Egret display

One place to see this is at Gatorland.  Wild birds nest above the alligator ponds there because gators keep predators such at raccoons and snakes away from the nests.  You can take advantage of the early entry program to photograph when the light is good and  get close to tolerant birds that don’t mind people on the boardwalk.

It’s early in the season now and Great Egrets are the most active.  Later in the Spring, you can see Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Cormorants, Anhingas, Wood Storks, Cattle Egrets and maybe a few others nesting too.  Here’s a Great Egret on her nest with 3 young chicks. I’d guess these three are less than a week old. And it looks like they’ve just been fed, since none are squawking for more to eat.

Moe, Larry, Curly, and MomMoe, Larry, Curly, and Mom.  This is a two frame composite with one focused on the chicks and the other on Mom.

There are other things to photograph there, too.

Happy GatorHappy Gator.  Just what a photographer wants:  a smiling model in good light!

Gatorland is one of my favorite places to photograph.  You can read through the articles I’ve written about it at this link.  I think you should go – you’ll have fun and get a some good photos.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive – 1/6/17

I was planning to post more photos from our recent cruise this weekend.  But after visiting Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Friday with Kevin K. and Tom M.  from the Photography Interest Group, I changed my mind.  There’s a great deal of activity there and it’s well worth a blog post (and a visit!).

One of the first birds we watched was a Redish Egret fishing close to shore.  It’s great fun to see these birds dance and pounce.

Reddish Egret and MinnowReddish Egret and Minnow

I had the Olympus E-M1 Mark II with me and practiced with the “Pro Capture” mode (I brought the right lens this time).  This really helps you catch a decisive moment – it’s almost cheating.  You’d better have a large card in your camera and time to go through all the images, though.  I used low-speed and still had way too many frames.  Here’s one example:

Wood Stork and MinnowWood Stork and Minnow

There were a huge number of White Pelicans and they treated us to “air ballet shows” all morning.

Synchronized FlyingSynchronized Flying

We saw several huge fish in the canal along the drive.  Possibly the same kind as in this post from last year.

Several (3 or more?) large fish (carp?) swiming in the canal alongside the road. These were about two feet long.Several (3 or more?) large fish (carp?) swimming in the canal near the road. These were about two feet long.

And there were more gators visible than usual.  They look well fed – perhaps they’ve been after those large fish.  These monsters stay so still that you can take your time and make a stitched panorama of them. Unless they’re chasing you 🙂

Gator panoramaGator panorama

We also spotted Belted Kingfishers, a Bald Eagle, Osprey, several varieties of duck, a wild pig, and many other interesting things.

You can look at my other photos from MINWR in this album on Flickr.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. There’s a lot going on over there – go see for yourself!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island – March 30, 2016

I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week with Tom M. Here are a few of the things we saw on this trip.

St. Johns Sunrise - silver lining and sun raysSt. Johns Sunrise – silver lining and sun rays:  This is a long exposure (10 second) image I made at the boat ramp on the St. Johns where it meets HW 50.  The water is higher than I’ve seen it there before 

Pollen covered Bumble Bee on Purple ThistlePollen covered Bumble Bee on Purple Thistle:  These thistles are blooming all over Black Point Wildlife Drive.  The pollen on this bee may be an indication of why we’re having such severe allergy problems here in Central Florida.

Spoonbill in the reedsSpoonbill in the reeds:  There were many other birds around too.

Life and death in the Florida wildLife and death in the Florida wild: The bird (a female Red-breasted Merganser) was looking for fish along a small grass island in the distance. I glanced over when I heard some splashing but couldn’t see anything at first. Then I noticed this alligator with the bird. The struggle was hard to watch, but mercifully brief.

On a related subject, you may have seen news about the recent fish kills we’ve had in the Indian River Lagoon.  These are occurring just south of MINWR, nearer Melbourne, Florida.  As we were driving around the refuge, I was struck by how natural it looked and by the absence of any dead fish. I’m very thankful that the Refuge has preserved this natural area for us to enjoy.

I worry about the areas where fertilizer runoff and septic tank leakage can lead to pollution, brown tide, lack of oxygen and dead fish and animals.  I hope that we can figure out solutions so that people living near our natural resources don’t damage them.

OK, sorry for the commentary.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Two birds, a selfie, and the blog

I met Tom M., and Lee A. at Gatorland again last Thursday.  During breeding season I like to go at least once a month to keep up with the activity there.  It’s a very nice experience over time to  see different species nesting, eggs hatching, and young birds growing and fledging.  It was our coldest morning of the season so far, with temperatures a few degrees below freezing.  I know all of you that are suffering in colder climates are thinking that’s not cold – but down here we think it’s pretty chilly.

Anyway, the Great Egrets are wearing their fancy plumes and colors and looking for mates. One of the advantages of the photographer’s early entry program at Gatorland is that the light can be very nice in the morning.  It certainly was on this bird and it was displaying a bit too. I waited for the right moment, and made this image.

Displaying Egret Displaying Egret

A while ago, one of my friends on Flickr asked me about this photo of a Black-crowned Night Heron. Here’s the question and my answer:

Vicki:  “I was wondering about the heron you posted. It has only one leg. Was it missing a leg or is it the way they hold them? I spotted one near me last week and when I got the photos on the computer, I discovered it was only using one leg…even after it moved around in the tree. So I was wondering if you know if it is a normal pose for them to do that.”

Ed:  “I can’t be 100% sure since I didn’t see this heron’s other leg, but it is a typical pose to tuck one leg up against their body.”

In this new image, also of a Black Crowned Night Heron, you can see the other leg, since it’s not quite hidden in the feathers.

Black-crowned Night-Heron Juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron Juvenile

This last photo is my latest selfie.  For several years I’ve been looking for situations like this where the geometry is right to see my reflection in the Alligator’s eye and get close enough to photograph it.  This one is a tight crop, but I think it’s my best so far!

Gator eye selfie (crop) Gator eye selfie – Not photoshop – that’s the actual reflection in its eye of me standing on the boardwalk.

 And now about the blog.  I’ve been a bit aggravated for some time with the performance of my hosting service – the load times seemed slow and  I’ve also had intermittent, unexplained  outages  So finally last week I decide to move to a managed WordPress hosting service.  It seems to be working very well so far.  This is my first post on the new system and I hope that everything works well – including the email subscription function.  I’m only telling you this in case you notice any issues.  If so, please let me know so I can work on them.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.