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 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.
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.
Cattle 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!
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!
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!
You probably see these birds where you live. They’re common in Central Florida and throughout most of the warmer parts of the world. You can read much more about them in this article on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattle_egret.
Most of the time Cattle Egrets are ordinary looking, even drab. But when they dress up like this one in springtime breeding colors, I find it hard to resist photographing them. Especially when they pose so nicely in warm morning light.
Have you seen something recently that you just had to take a photo of?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Once again, it’s that time of year: The Gatorland photography pass season ends soon – so if you want to get in early at 7:30am, you’ll have to hurry. After June 17th, they’re only open during regular hours.
A juvenile Tri-colored Heron, (with a typical “hair-do”). This one was waiting for Mom or Dad to return with some food.
Great Egrets start the year off, but this late, most of their eggs have hatched and the chicks have grown and fledged into nice looking juveniles. When I was there this week with Tom M., Wood Storks, Anhingas, Snowy Egrets, and Tri-colored Herons were still raising chicks and tending to nests.
Wood Stork – Bringing a branch back to Momma.
Several of the Wood Storks had found an abandoned Cormorant nest and were stealing branches from it. This one made several trips!
Cattle Egrets are taking over the starring roles and are busy attracting mates, building nests, and breeding.
Cattle Egret – posing in breeding colors
This was probably my last visit to Gatorland for a while but I’m looking forward to returning next year. It’s a wonderful place to get close access to a number of Florida bird species. I’ve posted a great many photos from there in this set on Flickr. You can read Central Florida Photo Ops posts about Gatorland at this link and posts about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm at this link.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
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
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!
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 – they’re very different (and attractive) in breeding season.
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.
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!
Lynn and I visited the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Bird Rookery this morning. Breeding season is in full swing and there are nests, eggs, and chicks of all varieties. Check the Native Swamp & Rookery blog for their latest status.
Here are three photos I made there this morning:
Little Blue Heron watching people
You can see many more photos that I’ve made in St. Augustine in this set on Flickr. By the way, I took a “new” camera and made some photos with it for a future blog post. It should be interesting if they turn out.
I visited the Rookery in St. Augustine for the first time this year with two other members of the Photography Interest Group. Things are really hopping!!!
Cattle Egret pair in breeding colors: These go from plain white to very colorful during breeding season. This pair was hiding back in the bushes and it was difficult to get a clean image, but they eventually moved a bit right before I made this photo.
We saw Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Woodstorks, Spoonbills, Little Blue Herons, Tri-Color Herons, and of course – alligators. Some are just starting to build nests and breed. Others (the Great Egrets) already have good size chicks in the nest.
Great Egret and chicks
There are very few places that you can get this close to tolerant, wild birds. It’s wonderful for both experienced and beginner bird photographers. If you haven’t been by yet, now is the time.
Lynn and I paid another visit to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm this morning to check on things at the Rookery. Things are hopping!
After a somewhat slow start (cold weather?), the Rookery has had a very active and varied nesting season. If you haven’t visited yet, you need to get over there before you completely miss your chance until next year. You can still see many species in the nest with chicks, although there are also many juveniles that have grown very large and are even flying around.
According to Gen Anderson – who is the Bird & Mammal Curator at the Alligator Farm (via the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list – no longer available), there have been over 250 nests with more than 700 chicks counted in the rookery. That’s a tremendous number of birds in a relatively small area! The following species are resident:
Mama Woodstork preens one of her chicks
Cattle Egret nest with chicks
Tri-Colored Heron nest with chicks
Mother Spoonbill with eggs
Great egrets, Snowy egrets, Little Blue Herons, and Green Herons are also in residence.
There are four Spoonbill nests in the rookery and since I’ve never seen Spoonbill nests or chicks, these have been very exciting for me. This is the first year that they’ve nested at the Alligator Farm and the farthest north they’ve been recorded nesting. Two of the nests are well hidden at the back of the property, but the other two are easily viewed. All four contain chicks although it is difficult to see them, since they’re still so small. The chicks in the easily viewed nests will only be there for about another 5 weeks before they fledge.
Four of us from the Photography Interest Group rolled out before dawn this morning to visit “The crown jewel of bird watching in Lake County”, Emeralda Marsh. It’s a little over an hour drive on mostly rural roads from our normal meeting place in Oviedo through Central Florida to Tavares. “Donuts” found this place on the web and it sounds really good. He called ahead to ask about it and learned that the driving route through the marsh is only open from February through May – but we still decided to go ahead and explore it. While up there, we also drove to and walked around Sawgrass Island Preserve.
It’s difficult to judge any place based on just one visit. Even at the best known and consistent locations we occasionally have a hard time getting photos of wildlife. Sometimes you just have to be patient and really work for your photos. Today was one of those times – especially since we were in an area we weren’t familiar with. [4/16/11 update: Here is a new post on Emeralda Marsh based on our return visit]
It’s disappointing that the Emeralda Marsh Interpretive Drive isn’t open all year. I’m certain that would’ve made our trip much more successful. As it was, we had to park and hike looking for scenic places and wildlife and we weren’t able to cover as much ground. The end result was that for wildlife, today was somewhat of a bust. We talked about returning next February when the driving route is open.
Over several hikes, we saw quite a lot of Florida scrub land and very few birds or other wildlife. But photographers are resourceful and we did see many things worth taking photos of. My photos seemed to develop a theme of “Things in people’s yards”, also known as TIPY. I’ve created of a set of thirteen of these photos on Flickr (set, slideshow), and I’ve posted a few below. If you go to the set on Flickr, you can see things like llamas, dogs, additional old farm equipment and a flower. See the captions for details.
Old plow and horse. It doesn’t look too much like a plow horse to me.
Old Blue Truck – We came across several old trucks this morning and this was the last one we found. Since it was blue, it completed my full spectrum RGB set. You can see the Red and Green trucks on my Flickr Feed.
Cattle Egret and Horse
Dragonfly in flight – I was waiting in the car for the rest of the group and noticed some dragonflies that were moving past the window. I decided to try to capture one in flight.
At the end of the trip, we found a close by Cracker Barrel restaurant and stopped to eat. Today, we had fun. We had breakfast. We made some photos worth posting. And we confirmed that even though you don’t always get what you want, if you try sometimes you find – you get what you need*.
I’m going to depart from my usual practice of one subject per post and include three different ones in today’s entry.
Photos and information on a visit to Gatorland, yesterday.
An update on this blog after three years of publication
A political comment
Feel free to read the portion you’re interested in, or indulge me and look at all three.
1. Gatorland May Day Update
If you haven’t yet visited Gatorland this year, now is still a great time. Yesterday morning, I decided to drive down there to see how the rookery is progressing through nesting season. We’ve had a cold winter in Florida and as a result, the birds are about a month behind the normal schedule. The last time I visited (in March), it was mostly the great egrets building nests, courting, and sitting on eggs. Yesterday the Great Egrets were still very active (many with large chicks), but there are also Cattle Egrets, Tri-Colored Herons, Anhingas, and Cormorants all very actively fulfilling the purpose of life.
By the way, have you looked lately at the Gatorland blog that Mike Godwin writes ? He’s posted a report on the current nesting activity (sorry – no longer available), with a lot of detail and photos. There’s also an active Gatorland Flickr group and looking at the photos posted there on any given day can give you a real good idea of what’s going on.
Here’s some of what I saw yesterday:
Pair of Great Egret chicks in nest: You can get an idea of how far along the Great Egrets are by the size of this cute pair.
Cattle Egret: This one was hiding in the brush, but still posing. The Cattle Egrets seem to be just getting started with a lot of nest-building going on.
Mother Cormorant with just hatched chicks: Not a great photo, but you can see the chicks beside the very protective mother. Their eyes were not yet open and there was another un-hatched egg in the nest, so they had to be only hours old.
Common Moorhen Chick: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a moorhen chick before, but I have to admit I haven’t been paying that much attention to this species. They’re very common in the area.
Wood Storks and chicks on nests: Mike Godwin is a great host at Gatorland. He made sure we knew where these nests were so we could photograph them. There were two right next to each other and they were very crowded and active.
You can click on any of the photos above to view them on Flickr. You can also take a look at my Gatorland set on Flickr for some other photos from yesterday (the last nine in the set) as well as from previous visits.
2. Happy Birthday, Blog!
My first post was on the 4th of May, 2007, so it will be three years old on Tuesday. Not a long time in absolute terms, but more than a lifetime for some in “internet years”.
The blog has morphed a bit since then. Originally it was just a place to share my photos, photo experiences, and talk about photo related ideas. I still do that, but I’ve added a theme around all of this: I try to find interesting places around here to make photographs and then post blog entries including links to information about the places as well as some hints on what’s there and how to photograph it. My hope is that this will be interesting to photo enthusiasts visiting the area as well as people who live here. I know I’ve looked for similar blogs when I travel.
With this one, there are a total of 89 posts so far which is an average of about two per month, although lately I’ve been doing pretty well keeping up with my goal of one post each week. Of these, 45 are tagged “CFL Photo ops”, about photo opportunities in the area.
As near as I can tell from my server logs (and disregarding spam and robots), I seem to modestly successful – at least some people are reading what I write. If I’m interpreting the CyStats log correctly, I have over 100 RSS subscribers, and about 10 – 30 visitors on average each day. They are from multiple countries, which is really nice. The most visitors I’ve had in a single day was close to 200 early this year after Jim Goldstein posted his “best photos of 2009” entry on his blog. Thanks, Jim! The most viewed page is the main page, with the My Favorite Photos of 2009 post coming in second.
The most used browser, by a slim margin is Internet Explorer (~51%), followed by Mozilla, Firefox, Safari, etc. Many people still use IE version 6.0. If that’s you – update! Modern browsers are much more capable and secure.
Recent, frequent external search terms include things like: “focus bracketing”, “gatorland photographers”, “central florida photos”, “orlando bird photography”, “alligator farm orlando”, “orlando photo ops”, “photographing birds in central flordia”, “good area to photograph fl”, “central florida places to photo”, “wildflower photography in florida”, “photographing birds in central florida”, “photographing wildlife in central florida”, and “ed rosack”. I’m pleased that people are finding my blog with those search terms.
Of course, I’m my most loyal reader. I’ve enjoy writing it, but I also really enjoy going back and reading it and looking at the photos. I guess it really is a blog in the sense of a personal journal.
And what’s up with all the weird spam comments? Do they really think I’ll let those through? Would anybody? Why do they keep sending them?
I don’t really have any plans to change the blog going forward. However, I’d really like to figure out how to encourage more genuine comment and interaction. And, I’m always open to your ideas and suggestions. Especially for places around here to visit!
3. Warning – Politics Ahead
Caution – I apologize, but this paragraph is political. It does relate to photography and nature in general. Read at your own risk.
As I wrote down the words in topic one above about witnessing nature in all its glory, I couldn’t help but think a great deal about the gulf coast shoreline and what is beginning to happen there to countless birds, their chicks, and other wildlife from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The impact on people who are continuing to recover from hurricane Katrina will be an additional nightmare still to come. And the news this morning reports that it will eventually reach the east coast of Florida too as the Gulf Stream current spreads the spill.
The scope of this disaster is unprecedented – and it was a remote possibility. We can’t jump to conclusions yet, but complacency and the bottom line during the design of this oil drilling rig sure do seem to be causing great damage. I wonder how many of the decisions that were made in the design were probably financial in nature and not based on the worst case outcome, which by the way is occurring? The platform was either not designed or not built to preclude or handle it.
I also wonder if there are engineering memos or PowerPoint slides somewhere warning of this type of consequence if the design went forward as planned? I wonder how many fail safes in the well shut off valve didn’t fail safe and instead just failed due to shoddy workmanship or poor design? I wonder how the engineers that designed, built, and tested the equipment on that well feel today? I wonder how their management can sleep at night? I wonder how long British Petroleum will take to bring the well leak under control? And I wonder how they will ever undo the damage they’ve done.
So far there are no answers, only questions. And thousands of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico every hour of every day.