Tag Archives: BPWD

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

Merritt Island – 4/3/19

When I  visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I’m never sure what I’ll see.  But almost every time there’s something new and interesting.

I hadn’t been to Gator Creek Rd. for sunrise in a while.  This spot is at one of the curves where there’s a break in the mangroves so you can get down to water level.  There weren’t many clouds.  I used a low camera position for this photo  to emphasize the foreground and made a 4 image panorama to get a wider field of view.

Gator Creek MorningGator Creek Morning.

Next, I drove up to the Bairs Cove Boat ramp.  Manatees seem to like the area – I think I’ve seen them there every time I’ve been.  Sure enough, I spotted several and debated whether to park and make a photo.  I’ve made so many photos of their noses that more of that kind of shot isn’t very exciting .  But since I was there, I got out of the car.  I  counted over a dozen as I walked quietly down to the dock.  It wasn’t until I was right at the water that I saw three of them next to the wall.  I’d only brought my long lens with me from the car, so after making several “Manatee Head Shots”, I pulled out my phone to get a photo of the group (https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/40566342263/in/dateposted/).  When I left they were still there – calmly resting and taking occasional breaths.

Manatee head shotManatee head shot

I was heading back toward Black Point Wildlife Drive along Shiloh Rd. when I caught a glimpse of some water through a break in the trees.  I stopped and walked over to make this infrared image in a spot I’d never noticed before.

By the Indian RiverBy the Indian River

Things were fairly busy on Black Point – lots of birds and people too.  I stayed at one small feeding frenzy for a while making images of the birds hunting for fish.  This heron had just launched from the left.

Tricolored Heron in flightTricolored Heron in flight

I stopped next to another photographer who’d found this Killdeer close to the road in very nice light.  I was careful not to disturb her bird as I quietly got out of my car to get this image.

Killdeer Killdeer

I spotted our usual Herons and Egrets, Brown and White Pelicans, a few ducks (mostly Blue Wing Teals, Northern Shovelers, Coots, etc.), Ibis, Willets, Sandpipers, Cormorants, Anhingas, Roseate Spoonbills, Belted Kingfishers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Turkey Vultures, Mocking Birds, Ground Doves, Black-necked Stilts, a few Killdeer, and one new life bird for me:  a Whimbrel.

Another pleasant and interesting morning at MINWR!

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Mother Nature’s rewards

I headed out toward Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with KM and KK last Friday.

We stopped by the boat ramp at the St. Johns River on US 50 for sunrise.  There weren’t many clouds, so my hopes for color weren’t too high.  But there was a nice pop as the sun came over the horizon and I zoomed in to capture this moment:

St. Johns SunriseSt. Johns Sunrise – a peaceful pasture

I had my infrared modified camera in the car.   When I saw these fishermen leaving, I pulled it out and hurried over to make an image.  Despite rushing, I like the way it turned out.  The clarity that IR brings to this image is nice, and the wake and boat reflection are pretty too. I’m glad I had the camera all setup to go before I grabbed it!

Early departureEarly departure – Monochrome, infrared

KM is an ace at spotting birds and he called out this Merganser.  When I got home, I thought at first it might be a Common Merganser – which I’ve never seen before.  But it turns out their range doesn’t include Florida.  So this was a Red-breasted – which I have seen, although infrequently.

Red-breasted MerganseRed-breasted Merganser

There are a large number of Northern Shovelers around Black Point Wildlife drive.  Of course they were mostly far away and when they were close, they seemed to always face in the wrong direction.  But patience paid off when this male eventually swam slowly in front of us in good light and dragged his very handsome reflection with him.

Male Northern ShovelerMale Northern Shoveler

Thistle plants are also all over on Black Point – this one came with a Bee on it.  I made a four image panorama to record the whole subject with higher magnification and resolution.  Sometimes I run into issues stitching these together.  But this one turned out well:

Thistle and beeThistle and Bee

KK called out this Snipe in the mangroves along the canal and we of course stopped to photograph it.  The light was poor, with the sun behind it.  When I first looked at my photo on the computer, it was very washed out.  I added some dehaze in Lightroom and was pleased with the result.

Wilsons SnipeWilson’s Snipe

Smaller birds were flitting around near the rest stop on Black Point.  I usually find these hard to photograph.  The light is bad way back in the reeds and they move quickly.  It’s tough to focus on them through all the obstructions.  I was shooting toward the sun for this image too and it didn’t look good at first on my computer.  Thankfully it’s in focus and  there’s a lot of latitude for processing with a RAW format file.  I used local adjustments with the radial filter in Lightroom to boost the exposure and visible detail on the bird.

Common YellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat

When we left on this trip, I had no idea what we’d see and photograph.  There are no guarantees.  I’ve learned though, that Mother Nature usually rewards us when we pay attention to her – in this case with a nice sunrise and several birds that I rarely see.  And a little post processing rewarded me with improved photos.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

First, check the web page!

I missed out last week on a trip with Kevin K. and Kevin M. to the Circle B Bar Reserve due to some dental work (ouch!).  So I was eager to photograph something this week.  My schedule was finally clear on Friday, and when I woke up early, I decided to go walk around Orlando Wetlands Park – one of my favorite spots in this area.

Whoops.  I suspected something was wrong when I got out of the car and heard engines running.   I walked out toward Lake Searcy in the dark and when I saw construction gear and  no water in the corner cell, I turned around.   Fortunately I’d gotten up way too early, so I still had time to change my “plans” and almost make sunrise over on the coast.

Early morning on the river shore 2Early morning on the river shore 2. Rotary Riverfront Park, Titusville. That’s the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance.

After that, I headed to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  There are a lot of winter migrants here now.  The birds must’ve known beforehand about this week’s Polar Vortex.  In addition to our year round species, I saw American Avocets, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, and fast warblers I couldn’t ID.  I also stopped and talked to some folks on Black Point Wildlife Drive who were trying to find a Cinnamon Teal that’s been seen there.  I heard later they found it again on Saturday.

Hooded MergansersHooded Mergansers. Two males taking turns displaying for the females in the area

Pair of porkersPair of porkers.  Part of larger family just inside BPWD.

Spoonbill and reflectionSpoonbill and reflection.  This bird was so still, I had time to zoom in and make a three frame panorama.  That really helps with details!

Weathered Red CedarWeathered Red Cedar.  I was glad to see that my infrared camera still works after so much neglect!

So my photo adventure started out badly, but turned out well.  Those engines I heard were pumps.  I checked the OWP web page when I got home – they’re “demucking” Cell 14.  And there’s also construction going on in Cell 16.  I’ll go back in a while when the ruckus dies down.  Don’t be like me – check the web page before you go.  Even if you’ve been there many times!

Orlando Wetlands photos here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296

More Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Shutdown?

Kevin M. asked if I wanted to go photographing on Saturday and we decided to go over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I hadn’t been in a while and I wanted to see how it’s doing during the Government shutdown.  We also invited Kevin K. to go along.

Sunrise by the causewaySunrise by the causeway

We stopped at the Titusville Marina for a few sunrise snaps.  A cold front was passing through and it was still overcast and a little dreary.  But there was a small break in the clouds right at daybreak.

As far as the shutdown goes, this is what the MINWR website says:

“Where public access to refuge lands does not require the presence of a federal employee or contractor, activities on refuge lands will be allowed to continue on the same terms as before the appropriations lapse.”

So facilities at MINWR are closed and locked, but the trails we tried were open (Gator Creek road and Black Point).  We didn’t see any rangers, but the wildlife is still showing up.

Note:  Jim Boland reports that Cape Canaveral National Seashore (Playalinda) and Biolab Road are closed.

Some of what we saw:  a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, a Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfishers, a Reddish Egret, Coots, Common Gallinules, Northern Shovelers, Blue-Wing Teals, Hooded Mergansers, Pie Billed Grebes, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great and Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis, and Alligators.

Tricolored HeronTricolored Heron

The birds were fairly abundant, but I struggled to get good images.  The light was  dim under the clouds and the birds were a little too far away.  We even came up on a feeding frenzy.  But it was in a small pond behind some thick mangroves that were just about impossible to photograph through.  Here’s my best shot of that – this Ibis was diving back in to get another snack:

Launching IbisLaunching Ibis

The sun broke through one other time before we left:

Sunbeams in the swampSunbeams in the swamp

All in all, a pretty nice photo expedition.  So don’t use the government shutdown as an excuse. – you can still go out and enjoy our natural resources.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Sunrise movement

The best colors at dawn are often before sunrise – sometimes well before.  But a couple of minutes after sunrise last Wednesday, I was getting ready to move on when I noticed how colorful the horizon had become. So I decided to make one more photo. I was lucky I had my 24 – 200mm equivalent lens on and I zoomed all the way in. As the image flashed in my viewfinder, I saw a large bird close to the sun. When I recognized how many there were – all flying north (right to left), I made several more exposures.

Morning birdsMorning Movement

By the way, this would have been a great time to switch to video, but I’m never able to think of that when I should.

Anyway, I ended up with 7 frames spread over 9 seconds. I brought them all into layers in  Photoshop, aligned them, used curves to manually adjust each one so the exposures are the same and then blended birds from each frame into one composite image. I guess that’s cheating – but I think it’s a better representation of what I saw than any single frame I made.

I like images that reveal more the longer / closer you look at them. and this one does.  Please click on it to see it larger.

Here are a few more photos from that morning.  All were made at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

OspreyOsprey

Itchy birdItchy bird

YellowlegsYellowlegs

Birds usually don’t sleep in.  I’ve often seen them take off right at sunrise and head out to start their day.  It’s fun to watch.  Next time I’m going to try to remember to make a video!

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Reconnaissance

Kevin M. invited me to go out photographing with him last weekend, but I begged off since Lynn and I had just returned from Pennsylvania and I was tired.  Instead we went out on Friday to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Kevin K. was in town and he tagged along too.  It’s been over six months since the three of us have been on a photo excursion together.  Much too long!

We met way too early and car-pooled over, stopping at Titusville Marina Park for sunrise.  Riding together is great for catching up with friends!

Dawn on the Indian RiverDawn on the Indian River

Dawn was subdued until the sun actually rose, when the color finally popped.   Photoshop and the Topaz Clarity plug-in might’ve helped nature out a little too.

We saw several other photographers (and non-photographers) also out too early.

Early startEarly start on a calm, lovely morning

In general, summer isn’t the best time of year to bird in Central Florida – but there are exceptions to every rule-of-thumb.  For instance, Kathy B. found a Clapper Rail on Black Point at the end of June, and D. Cunningham enjoyed seeing the Swallow Tail Kites that visit us before heading to South America for the winter.

We didn’t spot any unusual birds on Friday, but we did enjoy photographing a few of the common ones.  This “Swamp Chicken” was posing with its reflection in good light;

Swamp ChickenCommon Gallinule

And so was this Tri-colored Heron:

Tri-color HeronTri-colored Heron

… and this Green Heron too (although it wasn’t kind enough to include a reflection):

Green HeronGreen Heron

We’ve been having torrential rains nearly every afternoon. and the water is very high around Black Point.   The St. Johns river is also high – the area around where it crosses SR 46 is flooded although it doesn’t come all the way up to the road.  I hope we don’t get a hurricane any time soon – adding even more water could be dangerous.

And the rain has created a great environment for mosquitos – expect to get bit unless you wear some repellent.

One more  (small, kind of sad) story.  We saw two pigs at Black Point.  The second was along the canal near the exit.  I snapped a few photos of it and when I got home and looked at them the poor thing was obviously deformed.  I don’t want to post my images, but if you’re curious, look at Kevin K’s photo.   It doesn’t look like a recent injury – this little pig is a tough survivor.  I wonder if it’s a birth defect or from an encounter with an alligator or other predator?

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive – May 8, 2018

Kevin K. and I went over to Black Point Wildlife Drive last Tuesday.  The water levels were low and although we saw quite a few birds, many of them were far from the road and hard to photograph.  Here are some images from the trip that I like.

Hunter's DanceHunter’s Dance – A Reddish Egret stalks fish in the marsh

These Egrets have a distinctive dance they use to scare up fish.  It seems to work for them!

Morning minnow mealMorning minnow meal

Green Herons use a different technique.  This one was wading carefully through the mangrove roots on the side of a canal looking for a snack.

Stalking in the MangrovesStalking in the Mangroves

And finally, here’s a photo of a Great Egret taking off from a tree beside the trail.

Great Egret LaunchGreat Egret Launch

This one was a little slow – normally birds are gone by the time I get my camera ready!

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  My Black Point photos are collected in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157622920465437.  And you can read more blog posts about Black Point at this link:  https://edrosack.com/tag/bpwd/.

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

©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

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