Tag Archives: Alligator

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive – Jan. 7 2023

My good friend Kevin M. was in town a week ago and wanted to visit LAWLD. We also invited Lutfi and the three of us met and drove up together.

It’s about the same distance for me as Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and has a wide variety of birds to see (especially at this time of year). It’s one of my favorite places but I struggle to make landscape photos there. I think this is mostly because I like the light before sunrise and the gate doesn’t open until 7am. Anyway, I did make this one shortly after we arrived. It’s two RAW iPhone frames, stitched together and processed in Lightroom / Photoshop. I like the color contrast of the winter Cypress trees against the blue sky and water.

Winter CypressWinter Cypress

Small birds were plentiful near the entrance. Here are a couple I was able to make reasonable photos of:

On the rocksSwamp Sparrow on the rocks

Blue-gray GnatcatcherBlue-gray Gnatcatcher – more orange / blue contrast

And here are two more that we spotted near the Pump House:

Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe

Palm WarblerPalm Warbler

The marshy area across from the Pump House parking is a very good spot to watch birds nesting. Last year, we saw Anhingas, Cormorants, and Great Blue Herons nesting in April. It must be early for all but the herons – I spent several minutes Saturday enjoying this couple’s home renovations:

Great Blue Herons nestingGreat Blue Herons nesting – incoming branch

Raising offspring is hard for most every species. Seeing these birds cooperate to bring new life into the world is spellbinding and makes for a great photo op. I think my favorite photo of the trip is this gentle, back-lit handoff:

Great Blue Herons nestingGreat Blue Herons nesting – handoff

There’s almost always other action on LAWLD too. The Anhingas are adept anglers and with a little luck you can freeze action like this:

Anhinga AnglerAnhinga Angler

LAWLD is the only place I’ve ever seen Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, so I was happy to spot them this time too.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck TrioFulvous Whistling-Duck Trio

We also saw: Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, a Painted Bunting, a Common Yellow-throat, Black-crowned Night Herons, Northern Harriers, a Red-shoulder Hawk, Tree Swallows, and many of our more common birds.

The header image title is “A very wild smile”. It’s a 3 frame panorama and looks impressively close. But I made it with my long lens from across a canal. You can see a larger version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/52612944732/in/dateposted-public/

Winter’s such a fabulous time to visit! If you’ve been thinking about it go! It’s open to cars between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays. You can find much more info at this link: https://www.sjrwmd.com/lands/recreation/lake-apopka/. And you can view many more of my Lake Apopka photos at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157656060310175. Finally, this eBird page lists bird species that’ve been observed there.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope all of you are doing well and that you have a wonderful 2023! Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make a few photos!

©2023, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island NWR – 11/4/22

Jim Boland sent out his latest email newsletter last Thursday and it made me want to visit the refuge again. The last time I’d been was a while ago and before Hurricane Ian. I charged up my batteries and left early on Friday morning to explore.

There are still some road closures over there (see this link for the latest official status: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/merritt-island), but the good news is that Black Point Wildlife Drive and West Gator Creek Road – spots I usually visit – are open.

I arrived well before sunrise and stopped by the Titusville Municipal marina. The weather forecast had me expecting very few clouds and I had a longer lens mounted to try and frame some details on the boats. When I saw this low cloud drifting in, I didn’t think I’d have time to swap lenses, so I pulled out my phone. Current phone cameras are just amazing! (Click on this one to see a higher res version on Flickr.)

A cloud drifts by above the marina before dawnA cloud drifts by above the marina before dawn. iPhone wide camera, handheld, 24mm eq., f/1.8, 1/5 sec, ISO 8000. RAW capture, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom.

I saw the same things that Jim reported including Spoonbills, a Reddish Egret, Blue-winged Teal, and Black-crowned Night-herons. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out this Redish Egret is the exact same bird he saw. It was especially entertaining: busy showing off its fishing prowess and ignoring photographers interested in making photos.

Hunting EgretHunting Egret.

I enjoyed seeing all the Goldenrod in bloom. This one was in nice light:

Goldenrod in golden lightGoldenrod in golden light.

And I couldn’t resist making a photo of this people watching gator. The header image is a crop from the center of the photo.

Craggy face critterCraggy face critter.

Our other common birds were out and about. I spotted a few warblers too, although the only one I was able to ID was a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It was a great trip – thanks for motivating me Jim!

I hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Gatorland

We were able to visit Gatorland for a few hours over the holiday break. The last time I was there was in May of 2017 to photograph birds during breeding season. It’s not breeding season now, but there were a few wild birds around that posed for me.

Great EgretGreat Egret

This next egret had a unique ‘ride’:

Uber Gator‘Uber’ Gator: It’s a good thing the Egret didn’t seem to be in a hurry – It looked like the gator ‘driver’ was asleep.

I think all the alligators are well fed but I imagine it’s still risky for birds to be so close. Standing on the gator probably protects it from other ones. It’d be easy for the gator to swish it’s tail and get rid of the bird, but maybe not worth the energy. Apparently it’s a habit. One of my Flickr friends says she sees this pair all the time.

Gators are the main attraction there and photo ops are everywhere. Here’s a huge friendly one enjoying the sunshine (thanks for pointing this out Sara!):

At restAt rest

And here’s a small cuddly one watching me:

Baby AlligatorBaby gator

The light in the flamingo pond was lovely when we wandered by. I liked this view of the feathers on the back of a close one.

Flamingo feathersFlamingo feathers

And the vivid colors on this Iguana were impressive, even through glass.

Through the glassThrough the glass

In some areas, Gatorland was a little more crowded than I’d prefer, but it was all outdoors and I enjoyed my first visit after such a long time. Definitely enjoyable!

Header image: Brave Wood Stork. See a larger version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51810388530/in/dateposted-public/.

You can browse posts I’ve written about Gatorland at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/gatorland/.

And you can view an album of my photos from there on Flickr at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157623039154783

I hope you’re having a great start to the new year. Please be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And have a safe and prosperous 2022. And if you can, make some photos!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Apopka, 9/3/2021

I had a wonderful trip up to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive a week ago. It was a Saturday with a lot of people around, but it was gorgeous and there were more than enough things to see for everyone.

Most folks took Welland Rd. away from the pump house, so I chose to leave there on the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. I’m glad I did – I didn’t see anyone else on that part of the drive. LAWD’s a special place and even more so when you’re out there by yourself.

Along the north shore Along the north shore

I think this spot near the shore looks good in black and white. I like the trees, clouds, reflections, and Cormorants roosting in the branches. Here’s a closer look at one of the birds:

Cormorant Cormorant

Bald Eagles are always awesome. This one seemed to enjoy the view as much as I did.

Bald Eagle Bald Eagle

A little further along, a hawk flew by screaming at me for daring to point my camera in its direction.

Red-shouldered Hawk Red-shouldered Hawk

When I first got there, a large alligator was floating close to the main road and seemed to be staring right at me. Watching it made me feel less like a photographer and more like a gator snack. I’ve never actually seen them show any aggression toward humans, and I was a good distance from it. But I was glad to be in the car.

Predator Predator

Great Blue Herons are supreme predators too. I’ve spotted several recently with huge fish. This one was in nice morning light.

Morning Catch Morning Catch

It was a fine outing. I came home with memories, photos, and a good dose of Central Florida’s beautiful nature elixer. You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr. And I have many more of my Lake Apopka images in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157656060310175

Header image: The View from Lust Road, near the entrance to LAWLD. Full version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51424824946/in/dateposted-public/

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

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A few more Lake Apopka photos

I brought many images back from our drive around Lake Apopka – too many for a single blog post. So here are some others that I like.

Launch! Launch! (Green Heron)

Gazing Gator Gazing Gator

Perching Dragon Perching Dragon (Orange Meadowhawk)

Blackbird on a bulrush Blackbird on a bulrush (Red-winged Blackbird)

Bird on a branch Bird on a branch (Green Heron)

Header image: Looking east over the marsh near the Lake Apopka pump house.


Updates:

  • Tropical Storm Elsa passed by to our west, but I haven’t heard of any significant problems from it in our area. I hope the rest of you were as lucky as we were.
  • Our “Who are you lookin’ at” print arrived last week and it looks as good as I expected it would. I have another image in mind for a print – I hope I’ll get another coupon soon!

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

©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

Black Point Wildlife Drive – 7/16/20

Here are a few photos from a short trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week.  I spent most of my time on Black Point Wildlife Drive.  This first one is a six frame, handheld, infrared,  black & white panorama looking along the road near the entrance just after dawn.

What's around the bend?What’s around the bend?

I heard these Common Nighthawks before I spotted them. Several were calling and flying  near the road about half way around the drive. They’re very fast flyers, erratic and hard to track.  They spend summers in Florida but this is the first time I’ve been able to photograph them – although I’ve heard them and seen them briefly before (over at Lake Louisa).

A nice surpriseA nice surprise

Gators are frequent down here and I don’t often stop to photograph them anymore.  I thought it was worth a snap this time since it was posing nicely and looking at me like I’d make a tasty meal.

Ominous Ominous

Speaking of tasty meals, just up the road from the Alligator, I spotted two of these rabbits foraging in the grass.  I stayed in my car and this one was very cooperative.  But they should really be cautious around that gator!

Enjoying a snackEnjoying a snack – A Marsh Rabbit chowing down on some greens

I had this Osprey perfectly framed – before it took off.  Turns out I was a little too close, which doesn’t happen very often in wildlife photography (at least for me).  Even though I clipped the wings, I still like the image, so I’m including it.

Launch!Launch!

This time of year is very hot and things to see and photograph can be a little sparse.  It’s probably not a popular time to visit BPWD.  I only saw two other people on the drive while I was there.  But I’m glad I I decided to go over.  Even if I hadn’t see anything, a little time out there in nature is a welcome distraction from ‘doomscrolling’ the pandemic.

A few updates – if you go, make sure to check on things before you leave:

  • They’re collecting fees again on BPWD.  
  • Traffic was single lane and slow around some construction on the A. Max Brewer Memorial Parkway leading into the refuge.
  • Haulover Bridge on Kennedy Parkway was closed.

Black Point is a marvelous place.  I’ve had many wonderful visits there since I first discovered it (~2007).  It’s just the thing to cure a case of Slow Photography. You can read some other posts about it at this link: https://edrosack.com/?s=bpwd.  And you can look at other photos from there in this Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157622920465437

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

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