Tag Archives: Anhinga

Bird shots

When I go on a photo expedition I come home with many more images than I process, and I post even less.  So every once in a while I go through the photos in my Lightroom catalog and look for ones that I passed over, to see if my current self thinks they’re good enough to show or include in a blog post.

Caught in a sunbeamCaught in a sunbeam, Gatorland, May 2017

Anyway, I was doing this last week and ended up with the group of images in this post.  They made me  realize once again how wonderful Central Florida is for bird watching and bird photography.

Handsome Anhinga

Handsome Anhinga, Gatorland, May 2016

We have an enormous variety of avian wildlife here (iBird says 366 species in the state of Florida, Wikipedia says 524!).

SpoonbillSpoonbill, Black Point Wildlife Drive, January 2018

At some locations the larger birds are tolerant of people – especially if you stay in your car and / or take care not to stress them.  And nesting season provides opportunities that aren’t common elsewhere.

Hungry HeronsHungry Herons, Viera Wetlands, March 2018

I’ve added info to the captions on when and where I made these images so you can get an idea of what you’ll see.  The best time of year is probably January through May, but you can find  opportunities year round –  if you’re lucky and do your research.

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher, Viera Wetlands, March 2018

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

©2018, 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

Gatorland Update – 8 April 2016

I had a delightful visit to Gatorland yesterday morning.  Tom M. and Jim B. were also there.  I started following Jim’s blog several years ago and we’ve been web friends for a while.  I’m happy I finally got to meet him in person!

Anhinga gathering nest materialAnhinga gathering nest material

The nesting season is going full blast now, and this gives everyone a chance to see and photograph wild birds in breeding colors doing nesting season behaviors.  Quite an opportunity!

We saw Anhingas, Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, Cormorants, Great Egrets, Common Gallinules, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, and Woodstorks all in various stages of breeding.  Little ones in the nest are quite common and some of the baby Great Egrets have grown into “teenagers” already and will be fledging shortly.

Nesting Double-crested CormorantNesting Double-crested Cormorant – Can you tell where this bird gets its name?

The early entry program at Gatorland is perfect for catching the birds in good light on the west side of the breeding pond.  They enjoy the morning light too.

I'll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry...I’ll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry… – This Wood Stork was soaking in  the morning sun

Keep an eye out for backlit birds – they can also be beautiful.

Great Glowing EgretGreat Glowing Egret

Gatorland is an exceptional place to practice your “birds-in-flight” skills.  Patient observation lets you figure out movement patterns and get ready.  I waited several minutes with my camera in “BIF” mode (high shutter speed, continuous auto focus) until this Tri-Colored took off.  I didn’t expect it to grab a little fish on the way, but I was glad it did!

Breakfast to goBreakfast to go – A Tri-colored Heron scoops up a minnow on the fly

Click on any of these photos to see them larger on Flickr.  And look at this album for many more images from Gatorland.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  If you haven’t been to Gatorland yet, go.  And if you haven’t checked out Jim’s blog yet, go do that too.  Then – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Anhinga portrait

Anhingas are large water birds common here in Florida.  You often see them pose with wings spread as they dry out after a swim.  You can read more about them in this article on Wikipedia.

For most of the year you might say they’re drab, especially around the head with plain black or brown feathers and eyes.  But with springtime love in the air, their appearance changes – especially for males.  They develop highlights in the feathers on the back of their heads, a lot of color around their eyes, and look like they wear red contact lenses.  This fellow has the full style going.

Anhinga - full length portraitAnhinga – full length portrait

Here’s a close up crop from this photo so you can better see the colors and detail (click for a larger version on Flickr).

Anhinga - head shotAnhinga – head shot

They’re very handsome and I enjoy photographing them, especially when they’re as patient and tolerant as this one was.

I made the photo at Gatorland in Orlando on March 10th during my first visit this year.  The breeding season is underway and hundreds of wild birds are participating.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to see colors and behaviors of anhinga, egret, herons  and other species up close.   And Gatorland has an early entry program for photographers so you can photograph in the early morning light while avoiding crowds of tourists later in the day.  Go see for yourself!

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lake Apopka wildlife Drive

My friend Tom M. wanted to go out shooting last week and hadn’t ever been to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The drive itself is only open to cars from Friday through Sunday, so we met on Friday morning and went over.  It was raining when I got up and still cloudy on the way over, which made for interesting skies in my infrared photos.

Lake Apopka Pump HouseLake Apopka Pump House – 2 frame panorama, infrared, black and white.

We did have a bit of good light while we were there.  We saw this bird struggling to swallow a fish and stopped to watch for a few minutes.  It was on the side of a canal with the clouds reflecting in the water behind it and flowers blooming in front.  I stayed in the car so I wouldn’t bother it and shot a series of single frames while we watched.  This one was the best one of the series.

Nice catch! Nice catch! – an Anhiga tosses a fish it caught along a canal on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.

On this trip, I brought my micro four thirds cameras.  I’ve used the system for about four years and they’ve worked very well.  The dynamic range and noise performance are not as good as larger sensor cameras, but it’s “good enough”.  And the noise is not an issue for me.  DxO Optics Pro does an outstanding job processing the RAW files.  The focusing capabilities have been fast for static subjects – but I’ve never been able to do very well with continuous focus.  Well, I recently traded up to a used Olympus E-M1, which has phase detect sensors built into the image sensor and it’s been doing a great job with continuous focus. So much so that even for birds in flight it’s working “good enough” too.  Here’s an example from Friday:

Checking me outChecking me out – A hawk in flight looking at the camera

You can view other photos I’ve made with the micro four thirds system in this album on Flickr.

Lake Apopka is an awesome place, I’ll definitely go back.  I’m collecting photos from there in this folder on Flickr, and you can also read an earlier article I wrote about it here on the blog.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Breeding blue and hatching chicks

Thursday night, Tom M. invited me to meet him at Gatorland.  We both showed up at 7:30 Friday morning to see what’s changed from our visit on February 20th.  The answer is a lot!  Last time, it was mostly the Great Egrets starting to breed.  This time several more species are dressed up in their fancy colors and plumage and building nests.  And the Great Egret chicks are starting to hatch.  Here are some photos from the trip.

I saw this male Anhinga getting ready to take off and managed to make a frame  just as it left the tree.  You can see the breeding season blue around his eye as well as some of the crest on his head.

Anhinga close upAnhinga close up

Cormorant eyes are always pretty in the right light.  They add a striking blue mouth during nesting season.  Some of the Cormorants are already on nests.  This pair looked like they were just about to “get busy”.

Cormorant couple 2 Cormorant couple

Tri-colored Herons also add a dash of blue for breeding season.  They’re starting to show off with courting behaviors and poses to attract mates.

Tri-colored Heron displayingTri-colored Heron displaying

And here’s a couple of Great Egret siblings huddled up close to Mama in the nest.  I’m not sure you can call these young chicks without a full set of feathers beautiful, but they are cute.

Mama and two chicksMama and two chicks

Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Wood Storks and other species usually also nest in the this rookery – so we still have those to look forward to.  It’s a wonderful time to visit Gatorland, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, or your local bird rookery.  Don’t miss this chance to see nature in action!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland Photographer's Pass

During bird nesting season (February – mid June in Central Florida), Gatorland‘s Photographer’s Pass program allows early entry to the park at 7:30 am Thursday – Sunday and lets you stay until dusk on Saturday.  It’s great if you want to photograph wild birds in good light outside of normal business hours when there’s not many tourists around.   You can find out a lot more detail on their website at this link.

This season started last Thursday and I met Tom M., Zvia S., and Lee A. there.  It’s early in the year so there’s not too much nesting activity yet, but there’s plenty to photograph.  We saw many Great Egrets in breeding colors and plumage, and a few have started building nests.  We also saw Anhingas, Cormorants, Black Vultures, and some Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, and Great Blue Herons.  I even sighted a Belted Kingfisher and a Black-crowned Night Heron.

The boardwalk along the breeding marsh offers close up looks at wild birds that are used to photographers and cameras.

Anhinga portrait

Anhinga portrait – These birds are very pretty in the right light

Gatorland is also a great place to practice flight photography.  The birds often fly over the boardwalk, many times along the same routes.  With a little study, you can anticipate their path and get some good shots.

Great Blue Heron in flight Great Blue Heron in flight

And of course, there are lots of alligators to photograph too.

Sunbathing gatorSunbathing gargantuan gator – I was about 15 feet away with my long lens zoomed out and had to make a 3 frame panorama to fit it all in.

We had a great time at Gatorland.  If you want to get some really good photos of typical Florida wading birds, this is a wonderful place to do it.  You can view many other Gatorland photos in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope I’ll see you at Gatorland one morning making photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Avoid the Familiarity Trap

We’re blessed in Florida with wildlife we can easily photograph. Alligators are common, and many kinds of birds too.  But how many photos do you need of a Great Blue Heron, or an Alligator basking in the sun? If you live here for a while you may get jaded with our common animals.  So much so that you don’t even bother taking a photo of one when you see it.  “Familiarity breeds contempt” and it’s a real risk in photography – one you must not fall into!

I have plenty of Anhinga photos but I was still excited to make this recent one.

Wet wings and itchy back
Wet wings and itchy back – An Anhinga dries its wings and preens its back at Viera Wetlands

 This isn’t close enough for a “record” shot of the bird.  The Anhinga’s just one element of the composition.  But I like the light, the reflections, and how the bird’s pose echoes the tree’s shape.  If I had glanced at this and only seen the bird, I’d have missed the photo-op.  To be a better photographer, you have to really observe things you glance at all the time.  Watch for good light and backgrounds.  Keep an eye out for unusual behavior, poses, or patterns.  And of course pay attention to new life birds or rare animals to help keep things interesting.  Avoid the familiarity trap.

I’ve put a few other examples in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland update, 5/11/13

Keith H. and I took advantage of our annual photo passes and stopped by Gatorland yesterday morning. If you’ve planned to see the wild bird rookery there, don’t wait too long. There’s a lot going on now and it won’t last forever.

Cattle Egrets and Cormorants are still incubating eggs and should start hatching soon.  Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Anhingas, and Woodstorks have hatched and you can get great photos of parenting activity including feeding, nest maintenance, displays, and flight to / from nests.  All of the birds are in peak  breeding colors.

Tri-colored Heron in flight
Tri-colored Heron in flight

Gatorland is a great place to practice flight photography.  Observe the bird behavior for a while, pick a likely place with a good background (hopefully in the shade) and wait.  Opportunities will occur!

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret

Most of the Cattle Egrets were back in the bushes, in bad light and obscured by twigs.  Be observant and patient you’ll find one out in the open and maybe even in front of a dark background.

Here’s a couple more photos from yesterday:

Anhinga in flight
Anhinga in flight – they’re very different (and attractive) in breeding season. 

Double Crested Cormorant
Double Crested Cormorant – very pretty eyes if you can catch them in the right light

We also saw several other birds types including a Swallow-tailed Kite.

If you go during the week, take advantage of the early entry option.  We got there at 7:30 and there were only a few other photographers there.  As we were leaving about 10:15, there was a huge line waiting to get in.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer to photograph in the early morning light and when it’s peaceful.

Another reason to visit Gatorland is to see the new Panther Springs exhibit.  These animals are very impressive – I didn’t realize how large they are.  These two are a brother and sister pair that were raised in captivity and so can’t be released back to the wild.  The Florida Panther population is estimated at only 100 – 160 in south-west Florida.  Well worth seeing.

Hello kitty

Hello kitty!

You can read other Central Florida Photo Ops blog posts about Gatorland from this link.  And this set on Flickr has many other photos I’ve made there

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

The Photography Interest Group Visits Viera

Our local photography club organized an expedition to Viera Wetlands yesterday.  It was one of our larger outings, with 8 people from the group there, including one new member.  We arrived just after sunrise and spent a little over 2 hours exploring the main site, and also took a quick tour of the click ponds.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron: These birds aren’t nesting yet, but they do seem to be reserving their spots.

Wow – what a day for avian variety and nature lovers!  The weather was quite nice too – sunny with temperatures in the 50s.  There isn’t much nesting going on yet, but we did see an amazing number of both year-round and winter visitor species.    Several of these birds are difficult to spot and / or photograph well and it helps to make multiple circuits of the wetlands. It also really helps to have multiple sets of eyes watching for and pointing out interesting things.  About the only thing we struck out on was  the River Otters, but we did hear others talking about them – so they were around somewhere.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher: There were several of these at Viera Wetlands yesterday. They generally stayed out in the middle of the cells and so were hard to photograph.

Here’s a list of birds we spotted:  American Bittern, Anhinga, Belted Kingfisher, Blue Wing Teal, Coot, Double Crested Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Wing Teal, Little Blue Heron, Little Egret, Hooded Merganser, Common Moorhen, Northern Harrier, Northern Shoveler, Red Shouldered Hawk, Gulls, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Wilson’s (or Common?) Snipe, White Ibis, Wood Stork,  and others that I probably forgot or that we still have to identify.

Anhinga

Anhinga

If you haven’t been to Viera Wetlands recently, you really ought to check it out.

You can click on these photos to go to Flickr where you can look at larger versions.  You can see more of my photos from Viera Wetlands in this set on Flickr.  You can also visit our photography club’s group photo pool on Flickr here.

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.