Reddish Egrets aren’t as common in Florida as some of our other wading birds. I seem to see them fairly reliably over on Black Point Wildlife Drive in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. They’re handsome birds and they also have some interesting behaviors. They dance along in shallow water and wave / flap their wings while they’re fishing. I made a video this morning as I watched one catch minnows in the canal along the drive.
Reddish Egret fishing for minnows (~40 seconds)
Perhaps you noticed the splash at the beginning and the brief shadow on the right after the egret catches the minnow. I was trying to figure out what those were and stayed a little longer. Here’s a “big reveal” still shot that I managed to get.
Redish Egret and large fish
That fish is about as large as the bird. It seemed to follow the egret around – maybe it was trying to steal the minnows that the bird scared up? Anyway, it was a very interesting time with the Egret – and the fish!
I never really know what I’ll see when I head out and look around. That’s one big reason it’s so much fun.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! Or a video!
Next we drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive where there were lots of birds, some wild hogs, some alligators, and lots of photographers! Two different ponds had concentrations of fish attracting swarms of birds (mostly Snowy Egrets). They were flying low over the water and snatching their meals “to – go”. This one seemed full – it stood watching the action.
The Great Horned Owl nest was empty this time. We scanned the surrounding trees trying to spot the owls (like Jim Boland did on his visit) but we weren’t able to find them.
At least three Painted Buntings were hanging around near the feeder at the visitor’s center. The light’s usually difficult there for me, but this time I managed to get a good photo of this colorful bird. It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild. Now’s the best time – they migrate through here in the winter.
In the bushes – Painted Bunting
MINWR is a wonderful place and there’s almost always something there worth seeing. Check it out for yourself!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
My friend Tom M. wanted to go out photographing last week. And I was ready – I hadn’t clicked the shutter since last year! When he mentioned that he wasn’t very familiar with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I jumped at the chance to show him around.
Our first stop was along the causeway to watch the gulls and Black Skimmers that often gather there.
Black Skimmer – Along the causeway headed into the Refuge
Then we drove through Gator Creek Road and Black Point Wildlife Drive.
Roseate Spoonbill (BPWD)- This bird was foraging near the shore and ignored me as I crouched down and framed my shot. When it heard the shutter clicking, it stopped and stared right at me for a few seconds and then continued feeding.
River Otter (BPWD) – I stopped the car when I spotted two Otters in the water next to the road. They swam by and kept going as we got out to try to make a photo. We followed for a bit – but they were going quicker than our fast walk. One of them surprised me when it crossed the road and of course I was too slow to get a good photo of that. This is the best image I managed.
We also stopped by the Bairs Cove Boat ramp at Haulover Canal to visit the manatees there and then drove by the Great Horned Owl nest (near 402 and SR 3). Our last stop was the visitor center to see if the painted buntings were around ( no, but they had been).
Whether you’re familiar with the area or not, this would be a very good half day route to see the highlights at MINWR. And this is a wonderful time to go – there’s a lot of birds and other wildlife around, and the weather’s great. Maybe I’ll see you over there!
As usual, I arrived early for a sunrise photo. I’ve photographed from this spot on Gator Creek Road several times, but I’ve never noticed flowers blooming there before. I think they make a nice foreground accent.
Another day begins
After the sun was up, I drove around both Black Point Wildlife Drive and Gator Creek Road. There were a tremendous number of birds around – the winter visitors are here in force!
You can get an idea of which species to expect at MINWR (and when) over at this page on ebird. Here are the ones I recognized on my visit: Northern Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Pie-billed Grebe, Wood Stork, Double Crested Cormorant, Anhinga, White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Tri-colored Heron, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Coot, Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Willet, Ring-billed Gull, Laughing Gull, Black Skimmer, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Loggerhead Shrike, and Savannah Sparrow. I’m sure a more experienced birder would have recognized even more. I also saw an Alligator or two and a River Otter.
And my online blogging friend Jim Boland also spotted a Red-headed Duck there recently.
This bird was posing on a mound of seaweed next to the causeway. I was able to crouch down and make some eye level photos with a nice out of focus background.
And this Willet was hunting in the surf, also along the causeway. The sun was coming over my shoulder and the small waves rolling in made the blue sky reflections contrast nicely with the sandy bottom showing through the water.
And here’s a bonus sunrise photo – made with my long lens. I like the group of birds flying in front of the sun in the distance.
Merritt Island Morning – The sun rises next to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
What a nice visit to one of our Central Florida Photo Op treasures! If you haven’t been over there recently, now is a great time of year to check it out. You can see other photographs from MINWR in this set on Flickr, and from BPWD in this set.
You may have noticed that I like Black and White photography. It’s how I started out, way back when (with Tri-X film, developed in a make-shift darkroom). So I’ve done it for a while, but I’m mostly self-taught. I’ve studied many books and looked at a lot of online info, but I felt it would be good to take a course and expose myself to techniques and ideas I haven’t discovered on my own – to see how others are doing it.
I signed up for “Modern Monochrome” at the Crealde School of Art in Winter Park, Florida. The course promises to cover “the aesthetic qualities of black-and-white photography, seeing in black and white, RGB conversion methods, tonal relationships, luminosity versus luminance, and demonstrations in Photoshop and Lightroom.”
I was a little worried at the first session. There were a couple of people who didn’t appear to meet the prerequisites and it seemed like we’d struggle trying to bring them up to speed. But they ended up dropping out and the remaining students all easily kept up with the agenda.
Next week is our last class and we owe the instructor ten B&W images. I thought you might be interested in seeing some of the ones I’m going to turn in.
Wild Orchids – at Fort Christmas
High Key Grebe – along Black Point Wildlife Drive
Gloomy dawn – Blue Cypress Lake
Misty Marsh – Orlando Wetlands Park
The instructor’s going to critique our work and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.
This course has definitely lived up to my expectations. I learned several techniques in Photoshop – some that I’d heard about and never tried, and others that were completely new to me. I also enjoyed discussing printing techniques and I intend to apply these more in the future. I haven’t been printing my photographs as much recently as I should. The course was also a great incentive to think about and practice photography and especially B&W processing.
We’re finally getting cooler weather here in Central Florida. In addition to making it even more pleasant outside, the fall and winter months bring some changes to our area photo opportunities.
Orlando Wetlands Park is one of my favorite places. But if you haven’t been there this year, you’ve missed your chance. It closes on November 15 and doesn’t re-open until January 31st.
Downy Woodpecker at Orlando Wetlands – not a great photo, but it’s my first one of this bird. ISO 800, 1/800 sec, f/8, 600 mm
And Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) is also a favorite. When I went over last week, Black Point Wildlife Drive was closed. The web page says “until mid November”, so it should hopefully be back open soon. Fortunately there are many places to photograph in MINWR – even with BPWD closed, it’s still worth a visit.
Black and White Osprey on Gator Creek Road in MINWR. ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, f/8, 500 mm
Brown Pelican in Flight along Haulover Canal in MINWR. ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, f/8, 600 mm
Next, along Gator Creek Road we found a group of preening Roseate Spoonbills. I liked the contrast between their pink and the blue sky reflected in the water.
Later at the Visitor Center, we found a great many butterflies. They seem to like these Buttonbrush plants.
And Green Herons were common too, especially at the rest area on Black Point Wildlife Drive where we saw several nests and juveniles. This one (also at the Visitors Center) drew my eye as it posed against the silver-like water while it waited to strike an unwary fish.
Green Heron in a silver pond
With the hot weather starting to arrive, there’s not as much activity at Merritt Island as there sometimes is. But there’s still a lot to see and photograph.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
I had cataract surgery last Thursday and didn’t think I’d be able to go photographing this weekend. But I could see remarkably well this morning, so I rode over to MINWR with Kevin M. and Kevin K.
It turned out to be a lovely day. There was more color in the sunrise than I expected, and after dawn we found some photogenic fog / mist.
White Pelicans in the mist on Black Point Wildlife Drive
In addition to the White Pelicans, watching a skimming Black Skimmer was another highlight. Kevin K. even managed to photograph it with a fish in its mouth. The Visitors Center bird feeder was active too. We saw Catbirds, several Painted Buntings (both male and female) and a White-throated Chipping Sparrow (a life bird for me!).
White Throated Chipping Sparrow
I enjoyed trying out my refurbished eyes today. It’s amazing what modern medicine can do!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Stars above the causeway at Parrish Park – Looking SW, before dawn.
When we’d all arrived, we carpooled over to East Gator Creek Road for sunrise. Since it was so clear before dawn, I didn’t think it would be very good. But once again, Mother Nature surprised me, and a set of clouds moved in to add interest and color to the sky.
After daybreak, we drove on around East Gator Creek Road and then Black Point Wildlife Drive looking for birds. We didn’t have to look too hard – they’re out force!
We saw many species and huge numbers of some of them. White Pelicans were especially plentiful, both foraging in the water and soaring above us. There were other huge formations of ducks flying over, but they were too high for me to ID. One smaller flock flew very low right down the road. I didn’t see them coming and the noise when they passed startled me.
We also saw Ring billed Gulls, a Bonaparte’s Gull, a some Forster’s Terns, Least Terns, a Black Skimmer, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Blue winged Teals, Lesser Scaups, Red Breasted Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Pied billed Greebes, Greater Yellowlegs, Sandpipers, Killdeer, Roseate Spoonbills, a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, Loggerhead Shrikes, Savanah Sparrows, Red winged Blackbirds, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Wood Storks, Reddish Egrets, a White Morph Redish Egret, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and maybe a few others.
Cooperative Loggerhead Shrike
Highlights also included a very cooperative Shrike that sat still while we all made way too many photos of it, a bald eagle that flew right overhead, and two life birds for me (the Bonaparte’s Gull and Greater Yellowlegs). It’s definitely birding season at MINWR!
As a side note: I got an email from a Flickr contact that’s going to be in the area for a couple of days. They wanted some hints on how to see everything while they’re here, especially Gatorland, Viera Wetlands, and Merritt Island. I did pass along some hints. But then I had to tell them that’s a lot to see in 2 days! The good news is that you’re almost certain to see some good things in those places. The bad news is that you can’t possibly see everything in that short a time – it’s just too large an area and the weather / wildlife might not cooperate. The key is to relax, enjoy being there and be ready with your camera for whatever comes your way. I hope I’m not misleading people into thinking that they can photograph all the things they see here on the blog on their first time out. It takes persistence and even some luck.
Since they’re from a while back, I thought I’d update you on a couple of things.
Ebbing tide – The outgoing current cuts a temporary channel through the beach (Little Talbot Island State Park). IR, B&W.
I’d been using an Olympus E-PL1 camera, modified for IR by http://www.lifepixel.com/ and I’ve been pleased with the output. But it uses a first generation 12 MP, micro 4/3 sensor and requires care to minimize noise. I also have an Olympus E-PL5 with a 16MP current generation sensor. It has much better noise characteristics and additional resolution, so I decided to have it modified to upgrade my infrared capabilities.
I was very happy with the service from LifePixel, but this time, I chose Precision Camera to do the mod. They also did a fine job, were very prompt and even a few dollars cheaper.
One change I made was to select a 665 nm filter instead of 720 nm. What this does is pass a bit more of the visual spectrum along with the IR light. This gives you more flexibility in post processing. You can still process for the IR B&W look, but with the extra visible spectrum light, false color post processing is easier.
At rest – Driftwood on the beach (Little Talbot Island State Park). IR, false color.
When I process RAW files from the E-PL1, I can easily adjust white balance in Lightroom. With the 665 nm filter on the E-PL5, I couldn’t get to a neutral white balance until I created a custom camera calibration profile for it using Adobe’s DNG Profile Editor. You can read more about this here.
The Road Under the Red Cedar Tree (Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge). IR, B&W.
I made the photos in this post with the newer camera. There’s less noise, the 665nm filter is more flexible in post, and the extra pixels are nice to have. I like how it’s working so far!