Tag Archives: birds

Dancing Hawk

Lynn and I were away, visiting our first grandchild – what a wonderful experience that is!!!

Anyway, this blog is about nature photography and I haven’t been able to do much of that recently.  So when we got home, I was eager to go back out and ended up at Orlando Wetlands Park last Thursday.  I made several photos I like.  This one is my favorite from the trip:

Dancing HawkRed-shouldered Hawk

At first, the bird was sitting on top of a dead tree facing into the sun – very harsh light:

Back-lit bird (unprocessed jpg file)

I have many better images of these hawks on my computer. I’m not even sure what made me raise my camera.  Maybe my subconscious was getting ahead of me.

Luckily I did and when the hawk decided to turn around I was ready.  I made a continuous series as it used its wings to balance and I really like the one at the top. The wings are nicely spread and one foot is raised as if it’s dancing.

I’m glad I was shooting in RAW mode – it allowed me to compensate for the harsh light in post processing.  For reference, here is an unprocessed jpg version:

Dancing Hawk (unprocessed jpg)

Processing included using DxO Photo Lab for basic exposure tuning and noise reduction and then tweaking tones, colors, and cropping in Lightroom.

A little luck, a few seconds, and some post-processing can make a huge difference, don’t you think?  It helps to practice and know what’s possible in a situation like this.  Try it  – you might be surprised at the end result.  And maybe your subconscious will start helping you too!

This is a very good time of year to visit Orlando Wetlands.  I saw lots of Spoonbills, a couple of hawks, herons, egrets, ducks, Osprey, Belted Kingfishers, Ibis, a deer, etc.  And it’s cool and pleasant – great for a lovely walk.  You can look at more images from there in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Some Recent Photos

I haven’t been on a photo expedition recently, so this week I’ll cheat a bit and show some images that haven’t been on the blog before.

Orlando WetlandsOrlando Wetlands Park, October 2017. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama converted to B&W.  I don’t convert sunrise photos to B&W very often, but the light in this one is pretty.

Space View ParkSpace View Park, February 2018. An alternate view to the one posted back then.  Looking east at dawn. You can see the hurricane damage to the dock that hasn’t been repaired. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama.

Red-winged BlackbirdRed-winged Blackbird, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017.  Common around here, but those epaulettes are attractive!

A gull and the ocean, 1A gull and the ocean, Cocoa Beach, January 2018. This is also an alternate view to the one posted back then.  I bracketed exposure due to extreme contrast and to get some detail on the bird.  Blended in Photoshop

Please click on any of these to see a larger version on Flickr.  And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  I will too!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Feathered Feeding Frenzy Photo Fun

Once in a while, conditions are just right.  Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed.  When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you –  count your blessings!

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18).  I  lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these.  I’ve written about them before  (see this post from December of 2012).  Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:

  • The birds all compete for food.  Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
  • Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers.  Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
  • They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond.  Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
  • When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images.  After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
  • As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
  • You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc.  And conditions change rapidly.  Set up your camera in advance and be nimble.  I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed.  It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high.  You’ll need  1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
  • A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments.  I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
  • Your  “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to.  But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like.  Practice when you can and you’ll get better.

Landing IbisLanding Ibis – I like the composition / background on this one.  But my shutter was too slow to freeze the wings and I didn’t get the exposure compensation right either.  I’m still practicing!

It’s not all about birds in flight.  Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.

On the banks of the pondOn the banks of the pond.  I like compositions with multiple species in the frame.

That was a wonderful morning.  I’m glad I was able to see all the action.  Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:

Dawn at the dock on the Indian RiverDawn at the dock on the Indian River.  Olympus Hi-Res mode.

Florida cloudsFlorida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  Monochrome infrared.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Rotary Park and Viera Wetlands

Greetings from Central Florida – the place of plentiful photo ops!  I think this morning I’ll just post a few photos and comments.  Hopefully you’ll find something of interest.

Cochina dawnCoquina dawn

I found a new sunrise spot: Rotary Park At Suntree. It’s on the way to Viera Wetlands in Rockledge, Florida next to the Indian River.  I like the look of coquina (very “Florida-ish”) and I wanted to see how the rocks would look at dawn.  The shore line is positioned a bit awkwardly, but I think I’ll go back!  An interesting point:  Flickr will display a map of photos around a location.  It can be a good tool for research before you go somewhere.  But when I looked a Rotary Park, the coquina rocks didn’t show up in other folks photos.  Hmm – maybe I’m alone in my admiration of coquina.

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) WarblerYellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warblers are common in Central Florida in the winter. I happened to search for them on the web yesterday and discovered that they’ll probably be split into four different species.  The variety we see on the East Coast of the US are Myrtle Warblers.  I guess I should pay more attention to bird taxonomy.

 Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe

Taxonomy is hard though. Even though I’d seen this bird before, I couldn’t remember what it was. I use iBird on my phone and the search function sometimes isn’t very helpful. It didn’t list Phoebe as a possibility even though I entered location, size, etc.  Fortunately, I have a friend that can help (thanks Kevin M!!!)

"Stay off my berry bush!"“Stay off my berry bush!”

Sometimes you take the photo anyway.  Grackles are very common around here and I don’t often bother to photograph them.  But this one was in good light and was squawking at me as I went by.  I enjoyed imagining what he was saying!

Last time we went to Viera Wetlands we saw a Sandhill Crane couple that looked like they were building a nest.  I checked that area again yesterday and didn’t see any sign of them.  Since I didn’t see a nest there, I’m not sure now what they were doing – courtship behavior?

That’s all for this week.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Marvelous Morning

We organized a photo expedition to Viera Wetlands yesterday.  I went with Kevin K., Kevin M., and Tom M.  We tried a new sunrise location, Alan Shepard Park, right on the beach in Cocoa where SR 520 ends.  Even though we got blocked by a train stuck on the tracks and a closed parking lot, we made it in time for the show.  I was also worried that there wouldn’t be much color, but Mother Nature rewarded our efforts.

On the beachOn the beach

There were a lot of shore birds on the beach with us. I have several more images to process with them in the foreground.

Our next stop was the wetlands, and this trip demonstrated the advantages of having extra eyeballs to help search for things.  We went right by this Bittern until Tom saw it and got us to stop. They’re pretty reliable in the winter at Viera, but they’re hard to see sometimes.  Their standard behavior is to freeze in the grass / reeds and try to blend in.  They don’t spook very easy, so you can get fairly close without bothering them.

American Bittern in the grassAmerican Bittern in the grass

A little further on, Kevin M. called out a Snipe he spotted.  It was on the opposite side of the car, so I got out quietly and snuck around.  It took me a bit to see it even though it was only a few feet away.  This one was pretty calm and let us photograph for several minutes.  They’re small and usually skittish.  And they fly erratically, so they’re usually hard to photograph.  Again, though they seem to like to stop by Viera in the winter.

Wilson's Snipe in the grassWilson’s Snipe in the grass

Belted Kingfishers are also common around Florida in the winter.  If you’ve ever seen one of these, you know how hard it can be to photograph them.  You’ll see them perched on a branch and as soon as you try to get closer or even point your lens toward them, they take off and move further away.  This one was more tolerant than usual and I was able to get set for it to leave.  But I was over conservative with my zoom  and left too much  room in the frame.  I did catch it, and even though it’s a little small, it’s one of my best flight shots of one.  But I’ll have to keep trying.

Belted Kingfisher in flightBelted Kingfisher in flight

We spotted Red-winged Blackbirds, Black Crowned Night Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Green Herons, Egrets, a hawk, Grebes, Morehens, a juvenile Purple Galinule, and Ring Necked Ducks.  And Kevin M. also called out a Ruddy Duck – which was a life bird for me but in very poor light, so I won’t post it here.  Kevin K. was the first to spot a herd of deer (well four of them at least) – which I don’t see very often there.  Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, Sand Hill Cranes, and Cormorants are all nesting now too.

So it was a marvelous morning.  Great weather, scenery, bird watching, photography, and friends.  Much better than sleeping in!

Please click on the images above to see a larger version on Flickr.  And you can see many more of my photos from Viera Wetlands in this Flickr album.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island & Blog Status

First an announcement:  If you’re here because you didn’t get an email from the blog this week, please see the very last bullet at the bottom of this post.

And for those interested, you can read much more about other blog tech details / status  / news following the Merritt Island photo update.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Late Thursday, Kevin K. asked if I wanted to go photographing Friday morning.  I did and we decided to meet early and visit Merritt Island.   We arrived way before sunrise, so we stopped first at the Titusville Municipal Marina for a quick photo in the dark.

Pre-dawn at the marina - TitusvillePre-dawn at the marina – Titusville.  Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama

Next we went by the fishing pier on the North west side of the causeway.  From there you can  shoot through the bridge toward sunrise.  I liked the viewpoint, but I wish the sunrise color had been better.

Dawn through the bridgeDawn through the bridge. Olympus high res mode, two frame panorama

After this we headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive.  There were a lot of birds there and we ended up going around twice.  I was worried that it would be dull and overcast, but we actually had some very pretty light for most of the morning.

Roseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallowsRoseate Spoonbil feeding in the shallows

Hooded Merganser (female)Hooded Merganser (female)

We also saw (among others):  American Robins, Great snowy and Reddish Egrets, Great Blue and Tri-Colored Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, Norther Shoveler and Pintail ducks, Belted Kingfishers, gulls, terns, Osprey, Vultures, and more.  We were hoping to spot some White Pelicans, but didn’t we couldn’t find any on this trip.

Enough of the pleasant content.  Now on to the agonizing stuff.

Blog status  / news

It’s been a very tough week at Central Florida Photo Ops HQ.  Our head of tech support (me) along with Google search, and two different hosting provider customer support lines struggled mightily to get the blog transferred and back up and running again.

There’s good and bad news.  Good news:  The blog is mostly back up.  And the head of tech support probably won’t get fired since there’s no one to replace him.  Bad news:  He’s not getting a raise anytime soon.

I started looking for a new hosting provider over the Christmas break since my agreement with GoDaddy is almost up .  My blog’s been responding a little slow and GoDaddy’s renewal fees  and their SSL (https) offerings were expensive.  And even though Bob Parsons is no longer CEO, there’s the whole GoDaddy Elephant thing.

I did some online research and discovered that inMotion hosting is highly rated and has some inexpensive plans.  Since this is a non-commercial, personal blog, I don’t feel I need a high end hosting plan and decided to go with them.

It was very easy to open an account and purchase their WPS500S plan.  The rest of the process wasn’t as easy.  Here are some of the issues I ran into:

  • Since I purchased a WordPress specific hosting plan, I thought InMotion would automatically install WordPress for me.  They didn’t.  I could have installed it myself through their cPanel interface, but I wasn’t familiar enough with their software and what to expect.  A call to their tech support took care of this right away.
  • Next, I requested that InMotion transfer my content from GoDaddy.  I gave them my login credentials, but for some reason they couldn’t access the old account.  I ended up doing this myself by FTPing into GoDaddy and copying my content files first to my computer (for backup) and then uploading them to InMotion.
  • Next I initiated the domain transfer to move edrosack.com from GoDaddy servers to inMotion servers.  This was probably a timing mistake (see the bullet below about follower migration).  The domain transfer happened relatively quickly and I could see the new edrosack.com on the web.
  • Next I turned on inMotion’s included SSL capability.  This was easy and I now have an https connection.  My blog readers don’t do any business through my site and don’t sign in, so this probably isn’t strictly necessary for them.  But Google factors this into search rankings so it’s good to have.
  • I then went about configuring WordPress to make it match the old installation.  I had lots of problems with the Jetpack plugin.  It turns out that InMotion enables the Mod Security firewall by default and the WPS500 hosting plan doesn’t allow customizing  this.  Jetpack relies on access to the site xmlrpc file to work and Mod Security blocks this by default.  I was able to resolve this with another call to InMotion tech support.
  • Since I was now worried about security on the new site, I spent some time installing firewall / security plugins and testing / configuring them.  In the process, I managed to lock myself out of edrosack.com at least once.  Fortunately, I could still get to the site file system so I could nuke the security software and then reinstall / reconfigure it.  Whew!  It would have been embarrassing to have to call inMotion on my second day with them to get that fixed.
  • Most of my content transferred ok, but I couldn’t get the NexGen gallery plugin  to display my Portfolio without re-setting it and starting over.  In the end, I decided to use the gallery provisions included with Jetpack and re-did my portfolio pages.  I needed to update them anyway and now they reflect some of my more recent work.  Please check them out if you get a chance!
  • And late on Saturday as I was finally getting things fixed, my cable internet here at home went down for the first time in months!  This stuff is just too hard!
  • The final problem (that I know of) and one that I haven’t resolved yet is that since I couldn’t connect WordPress.com to both my old and new providers at the same time, I was  unable to use Jetpack’s  subscriber migration tool. So for now, I’m waiting on Jetpack to respond to a support request.  Once I hear from them, I’ll know how to proceed.  If they can’t re-instate my subscribers, I’ll have to send out an email and request that folks re-subscribe.  Stay tuned on this and I’ll let you know what happens.

Well, that’s much longer than a normal blog post, so I’ll sign off now.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!  And if you’re having issues with your server, don’t call me!

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A day in Nassau

Lynn and I took a short cruise on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam starting last weekend. One highlight was a full day spent in Nassau.

This is an image heavy post, so I apologize if you’re on a slow connection. I’ll let the photos and captions tell the story.

Nassau sunriseSunrise arrival:  Docking at 8am made for a nice view as we pulled in.

Nassau morning super moonThe Dec. 4th super moon was still around the next morning.

Lynn booked us on the Bites of Nassau Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour. (please click on their link for details).

Christ Curch Anglican Cathedral interiorWe met the tour a short distance from the ship, outside Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.  It’s a lovely place – I liked the light and reflections in the polished floor.

Bahamian Cookin'Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant & Bar –  It was our second visit to this 3 generation, family owned business.  This time we had conch fritters and a delicious light lunch.

Towne Hotel: Max the Macaw likes to drinkOur guide Captain Ron, at the Talking Stick Bar in the Towne Hotel: Max the Macaw likes to steal straws and sample your drink!

Street muralStreet art – there’s a lot of color in Nassau

News standNews stand

Graycliff Dinning RoomGraycliff Hotel Dinning Room.  According to Captain Ron, all the famous folks visiting Nassau stay here.  Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) was there the week before we were.

Graycliff CigarsGraycliff Cigar Factory – they roll their own and also sell Cuban cigars (for $75 and up – each!)

Nassau street colorStreet colors

Looking up from the Drawbridge Patisserie courtyardLooking up from the Drawbridge Patisserie & Gelateria courtyard

Government HouseGovernment House

Nassau sunsetSunset view

Nassau at nightNight departure – this is a high res image made from the deck after dark.  Ships tied up at the dock can be a remarkably stable platform for long exposures.

Although I don’t have any more images to show you (thank goodness, right?),  we also  visited the Athena Cafe & Bar and the Tortuga Gift Shop & Rum Cake Bakery.

You might not consider Nassau a “Central Florida Photo Op”, but I do.  It’s one of many places that are very accessible via cruise ports in our area.  We left from Fort Lauderdale, but Tampa, Port Canaveral, Miami and other places offer cruises to many destinations.  If you haven’t tried one, check it out.

We’ve been to Nassau several times and wouldn’t normally think of it as our favorite port.  But this time we had a wonderful visit and got to see (and taste) a lot of new things.  Highly recommended!  I’ve embedded links to most of the places above.  Please click on them  for more info.  And you can see more Bahamas images in this folder on Flickr.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Indian Springs State Park, Georgia

Indian Springs is about six hours by car from Central Florida.  It’s east of I-75 between Macon and Atlanta and well worth the drive.  Lynn discovered they have cabins and suggested that we go up for a few days to see if any leaves are changing.  They definitely are!

ColorColor

I think peak color will be in a week or so. We get very little fall color in Florida – so it was a treat to see.

The cabins are nice – some of the best we’ve stayed in.  They must have been refurbished not long ago.  They have two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, a screened porch, and are fully furnished.  And the location  on a gorgeous lake was wonderful. This was the view just a few steps from the back porch:

Good morningGood morning (three Frame vertical panorama)

There were other things to see in the park too.  This creek runs along the road by the entrance.

Big Sandy CreekBig Sandy Creek  (using the new iPhone “Live Long Exposure” mode)

And we spotted this cemetery from the 1800s along the road to the cabins.

At rest in the woodAt rest in the wood (Infrared)

We saw a few deer and although I didn’t put much effort in, several kinds of birds.  We had some fun watching (and listening) to Canada Geese on the lake.  I managed to make this video one morning around sunrise.  The flock took off just as the sun started to hit the lake.

There are several other places to see in the area.  High Falls State Park is just to the east and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge is to the west.  We’ve explored several state parks in Florida, but after this experience, we’re going to expand our target zone!  And Indian Springs is definitely on our “go back” list.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive is open again!

Yay! Jim Boland’s newsletter let us know that they’ve reopened Black Point so when Tom M. asked if I wanted to go out photographing I suggested we head to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We met early Friday morning and drove over on State Road 50.

St. Johns River at dawnSt. Johns River at dawn

Our first stop was at the boat ramp on the St. Johns River. It’s a pretty place at dawn and the view was different this time since the water is several feet higher than I’ve ever seen it. Lots of rain here recently.

Once at the refuge, we headed straight to Black Point. The water there is a little higher than I’ve ever seen it too. The road surface was in great shape – I didn’t see any damage remaining from the hurricane.

Spiders and webs were very common. This one had set up in some great early morning light.

Banana SpiderBanana Spider – A little early for Halloween!

Some of our winter migrants are starting to show up and our regular birds were around, but not in great numbers. Belted Kingfishers teased us, and there were a few Savannah Sparrows foraging near the road.

Savannah SparrowSavannah Sparrow

We didn’t see too many ducks. I’m not sure if they just haven’t come down yet, or if they’re somewhere else.

We thought we spotted another Kingfisher over the canal on the right by the paved section near the exit. It was about the right size and seemed to fly like a Kingfisher. But then it landed in a tree and started acting like a Woodpecker – perched on the side of the main trunk and hopping around. I was pretty far away but took several photos anyway. When I got home and looked closely I didn’t recognize the bird. Kevin M. helped me ID it as a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (another new life bird for me!). Unfortunately, the photos aren’t very good so I haven’t posted them. Maybe next time I can catch it closer in better light. It seems like I’m always saying that!

One more thing: We met a woman at the rest area on the drive who’d just seen a Bobcat. She was patiently waiting to see if she could get a better photo. We left before we found out if she was successful. I’ve seen a Bobcat out there before, but it was further along, not near the Rest Area. If you go, keep your eyes open!

I have many more Black Point photos in this folder on Flickr. I’m glad it didn’t suffer too much damage from Hurricane Irma and it’s open again.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Orlando Wetlands Park – 14 Oct 17

Kevin M. and I met at Orlando Wetlands Park Yesterday before sunrise.  It was gloomy and raining, but not for long.  I liked the way the low sunlight lit up this scene as the clouds were clearing.

Marsh Morning IIMarsh Morning II – This is a two frame, Olympus Hi Res, panorama using the technique described in this post:  http://edrosack.com/2011/01/21/two-image-pano-hdr-focus-stacking/

We had a hard time deciding where to go – storm damage and other circumstances are limiting our choices.  Many places that we like in Central Florida are closed (Viera Wetlands, Lake Apopka, Mead Gardens, many parts of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Jetty Park, etc.).  We ended up deciding between Circle B Bar in Lakeland and Orlando Wetlands (both are open).  I hadn’t been to either for a while and Orlando Wetlands is closer, so…

With the sun up and the clouds gone, we walked for a while before it got too hot.  This colorful bird caught my eye.  I didn’t realize it was a new life bird until I got home.

Common YellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat – A life bird!

There were lots of these flowers blooming.  I see them all the time although I’d never looked them up.  They’re native to Florida and the Americas.

Pickerelweed flowersPickerelweed flowers

Some other things we saw:  a Raccoon, a Peregrine Falcon, Red Shoulder Hawks, Black Belllied Whistling Ducks, a Juvenile Blue Heron and other wading birds, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Painted Bunting, Red Eyed and White Eyed Vireos, House and Carolina wrens, Palm Warblers, and a Chicken (the Ranger said its name is Chuck).

It was very nice to visit a place with no sign of the recent hurricanes.  Lots of other folks thought so too and were out there enjoying the day.  It’s a large place – I’ve ridden around it on my bike, but it’s too far for me to walk the whole thing.  They have a guided tram ride at 9am (confirm on their website) and it’s worth trying if you’re there at the right time and want to see more of the place with expert commentary.  Remember too that the park is open year round now – it no longer closes during the winter.  You can see some other Orlando Wetlands Park photos in this Flickr Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296, and you can read other posts mentioning the park at this link.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved