Tag Archives: Cormorant

Lake Apopka, 9/3/2021

I had a wonderful trip up to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive a week ago. It was a Saturday with a lot of people around, but it was gorgeous and there were more than enough things to see for everyone.

Most folks took Welland Rd. away from the pump house, so I chose to leave there on the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. I’m glad I did – I didn’t see anyone else on that part of the drive. LAWD’s a special place and even more so when you’re out there by yourself.

Along the north shore Along the north shore

I think this spot near the shore looks good in black and white. I like the trees, clouds, reflections, and Cormorants roosting in the branches. Here’s a closer look at one of the birds:

Cormorant Cormorant

Bald Eagles are always awesome. This one seemed to enjoy the view as much as I did.

Bald Eagle Bald Eagle

A little further along, a hawk flew by screaming at me for daring to point my camera in its direction.

Red-shouldered Hawk Red-shouldered Hawk

When I first got there, a large alligator was floating close to the main road and seemed to be staring right at me. Watching it made me feel less like a photographer and more like a gator snack. I’ve never actually seen them show any aggression toward humans, and I was a good distance from it. But I was glad to be in the car.

Predator Predator

Great Blue Herons are supreme predators too. I’ve spotted several recently with huge fish. This one was in nice morning light.

Morning Catch Morning Catch

It was a fine outing. I came home with memories, photos, and a good dose of Central Florida’s beautiful nature elixer. You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr. And I have many more of my Lake Apopka images in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157656060310175

Header image: The View from Lust Road, near the entrance to LAWLD. Full version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51424824946/in/dateposted-public/

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Out of practice

It doesn’t take very long to forget about some things. Good habits lapse and bad ones take over quickly.

I hadn’t been out photographing in about three weeks and was anxious to go last week. So I got up early Wednesday morning and headed over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – one of my favorite spots. Although I managed to come back with some photos I like, all did not go well. Turns out I was out of practice and there were several issues that made me miss shots. So today, I have a few reminders of things not to do. Maybe my mistakes will help someone else.

Morning glow Morning glow – from Gator Creek Road

  • I didn’t check the MINWR website before I went. If I had, I would have seen: “The Black Point Wildlife drive will be closed for two weeks for annual maintenance beginning 8/19/21.” Luckily, there are plenty of spots to explore in the refuge, so this wasn’t a critical error. But somewhere else, it could have been. Check the website!
Silhouettes Silhouettes

  • I hadn’t reset my camera / lens. My long zoom has a focus limiter switch. You can choose the full range of focus (2.4m – infinity) or limit it to one of two ranges. I usually keep it set to the 10m – infinity selection which speeds up focus response for birds in flight. I’d used it at home though for a close up (2.4m – 10m) and put it back in the case without reseting it. Then when I pulled it out at MINWR to photograph a distant bird, it wouldn’t focus. Fortunately (unfortunately?) I’ve made this mistake before, and it didn’t take long to correct. But it was confusing and I did miss a shot. Reset your camera and lens to defaults when you put them away.
Bird Buddies Bird Buddies

  • A lot of the time, I have my camera in my lap so it’s ready to use on short notice. But at one point while driving down Biolab Road, I’d put it in the open case on the seat next to me. Of course, a huge gator picked that time to stroll across the road in front of me. I probably wouldn’t have made the shot even if I’d been ready, but I would’ve had a better chance if the camera had been closer. Keep your camera ready at all times.
  • I’m really upset at myself about this last one. At some point during the trip I’d set my aperture to a small f-stop to increase my depth of field. And I forgot to change it back to wide open (the default – see above!!!). This slowed my shutter speeds and ruined a few photos due to motion blur that I wish I’d gotten. I usually don’t check my photos all the time, but the instant feedback you can get with digital cameras is wonderful – if you use it. Inspect what you’ve captured every once in a while so you can catch problems.
Morning meal Morning meal. A 1/125s shutter speed was fine for a still subject.

Header image: Looking west from Biolab Road, Infrared, B&W. Full version here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/51424824946/in/dateposted-public/

These mistakes are embarrassing – I hope I don’t repeat them the next time I’m out. And I hope they help you too!

“That is what you should not do. So let that be a lesson to you.”

Berenstain Bears: THE BIKE LESSON

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, avoid some mistakes and make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

What is that?

As I was starting home from Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge yesterday morning, I decided to make one last stop along the causeway. Looking around, I noticed something in the distance rolling around in the water. I couldn’t tell what it was and I wasn’t carrying the long lens, so I walked over to the car to get it. I thought it’d be gone by the time I got back but it wasn’t. This is the first image I made:

What it that?

I still couldn’t see it really well in the view finder. I thought it might be a manatee’s head or maybe even part of a dolphin. Then I saw this:

Cormorant vs. fishCormorant vs. fish

So now I knew what it was! The bird struggled for several minutes trying to swallow that huge fish. It would hold it under water for a while (changing its grip?) before bringing it back up in the air. It eventually got it arranged just right and managed to get it all down. This was the fish’s final view of things – Circle of Life.

Eye to eye: Cormorant vs. fishEye to eye

The weather on this trip was somewhat unusual. I almost always go over there in the mornings. One reason why is that it hardly ever rains early in the day. Most of our rain comes down in afternoon thunderstorms. But this time there was a big downpour as I drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive and even a rainbow!

Wetland rainbowWetland rainbow

Overall, birds are still a bit scarce out there. I did see some of our usual ones including Pie Billed Grebes, a Red-shouldered Hawk, Ospreys, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, Mourning Doves, Common Gallinules, American Coots, a few gulls and terns, Anhingas, and (of course) Cormorants. And Jim Boland reports that there are two Bald Eagles hanging out near stop 11 on BPWD although I wasn’t looking for them and didn’t spot them. I also saw a few fast, un-identified tiny birds (UTBs?), a Belted Kingfisher, and some Blue-winged Teals – so maybe more winter visitors will arrive soon.

I’ll leave you with one more photo from the trip. I stitched this together from 21 frames  made with my IR modified camera. I’m not sure who / what left that vehicle track there – maybe rangers doing some maintenance? Seems like a great place to get stuck. Anyway I think this gives you an idea of the landscape in the area.

Black Point vistaBlack Point vista: Monochrome, IR, stitched panorama

You can view many more of my Merritt Island National Wildlife photos in this album on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723. And you can scroll for a long time through posts on this blog about MINWR and Black Point Wildlife Drive at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/merritt-island-national-wildlife-refuge/

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you all are staying safe, and taking care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you don’t recognize something, keep watching – you might get a photo out of it!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Viera Wetlands – 1/15/20

The last time I visited Viera Wetlands was in March of 2019, so I’ve been wanting to go back.  Each time I checked the road conditions hotline, it said they’re closed to vehicles.  But the message hasn’t been updated since mid-November and I suspected (hoped?) it wasn’t accurate.  This week I decided to go down anyway.

I started the morning with a pretty sunrise at the River Lakes Conservation Area Boat Ramp where the St. Johns crosses SR 520.

A very calm morningA very calm morning

Then I headed down to Viera.  The hotline is correct – the wetlands roads are closed to vehicles and there’s some repair work going on.  I haven’t found any info posted about when they expect to allow cars again.   Anyway, I took off on foot with my camera and had a nice walk around the east half of the park closest to the parking area.  Here are some of the things I saw.

"Who are you lookin' at?" (3)“Who are you lookin’ at?” (3). These early morning deer were very alert and very suspicious of me and my long lens.  I saw about a dozen of them and there were probably more. I liked the light on this group and how they were all staring right at me.

Redwing Blackbird launchRedwing Blackbird launch.  I managed to catch it just as it as it took off.

Cormorant in flightCormorant in flight – There were a great many there that morning.

Sunning AnhingaSunning Anhinga.  There were a large number of anhingas too, and this lady was enjoying the early morning light.

Palm WarblerPalm Warbler

I heard lots of Sandhill Cranes but only saw them in the distance and there was one Spoonbill that was too far away for a photo, I didn’t see anything rare or exotic on my walk, but there were plenty of smaller birds, water birds, vultures and alligators.  And I enjoyed my time out in nature and got some steps too!

You can look through my blog posts about Viera Wetlands  (44 and counting!) at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/viera-wetlands/.  And I’ve collected over 300 photos from there in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157623223995224.  Also please click on the photos in these blog posts to view them in higher resolution on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos -even if the road’s closed!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Trouble in post-process land

I found this scene while driving down Biolab Road along the Indian River in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago.  The composition with three posts and a full complement of Cormorants caught my attention.  I really liked the graphical layout. But…

Three CormorantsThree Cormorants

I was shooting into the sun and the light was incredibly bright and harsh.  I struggled with the image and processed it two or three times without coming up with anything that I was happy with.

Then I vaguely recalled this photo that I made 10 years ago.

FishingFishing

I dug it out of my Lightroom archives and remembered how much I liked the image. It’s from about the same location and in very similar conditions. I used it to guide my post processing decisions and the result is the the image at the top.

I guess the moral of this story is that you can find inspiration from many places – even from your younger self.  Which seems like a very good thing.

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

©2018, 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 (sorry, no longer available) 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 (sorry, no longer available) yet, go do that too.  Then – 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 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.

Viera Wetlands Visit

Lynn and I drove over to Viera Wetlands yesterday morning in her Prius. This was our first photo outing with the vehicle and it is outstanding for this purpose. There’s plenty of room. It’s very fuel-efficient when driving in the slow speed mode you use through an area like the wetlands. And, it’s quiet. Cars normally serve as a very good blind for bird photography, but when your vehicle is this quiet, you can get even closer to the subjects without scaring them.

This first image was one of the scenes that we saw. We’d been there for a while and were just turning a corner out in the middle of the wetlands when we both commented about the light on the left side of the car. The sun through the clouds was changing rapidly and I wasn’t set up for landscapes. I ended up asking Lynn to back up and then scrambling to switch to my wide-angle lens. I made the photo using this two image composite technique I described here. I think it came out pretty well for a hand-held, scramble photo.

Swamp grass, flowers, water, and sky
Swamp grass, flowers, water, and sky

There is lot less activity at the wetlands than there was a month or two ago, but we still saw a good variety of birds. I’ve included a couple below and you can see more in my Viera Wetlands set on Flickr.

Anhinga dryiing wings
Anhinga drying wings: The bird was only a few feet from the car. I had to stitch together a two image panorama, in Photoshop.

Female Blue Wing Teal
Female Blue Wing Teal: This bird let us approach very closely.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

A very nice Viera morning

Although it was very tempting to sleep in this morning, I was up early and made it over to Viera Wetlands in time to witness another one of nature’s shows.  The clouds cooperated and did their part, the sun and calm water pitched in, a couple of coots made just the right ripples, and all I had to do was snap the shutter.

Sunrise at Viera Wetlands

Sunrise at Viera Wetlands

Once the sun was up, we parked the cars and walked for a while, thinking that the slow deliberate approach would yield better photos than the quick drive method.  It didn’t – we failed to find much of interest on foot.  The light wasn’t very good either – due to the clouds that made the sunrise so nice.  We ended up getting back in the cars and using them to find things of interest.  And after a while, the clouds cleared and we had better light for bird photography.

Last week we saw several Snipes, but couldn’t get good photos since they took off and flew fast and erratic as soon as we got close.  This week our luck was better (or this bird was a bit tired).  He stayed still for us to make his portrait.

Wilson's (Common) Snipe

Wilson’s (Common) Snipe

We saw the usual Heron and Egret suspects, along with Anhingas, Hawks, Black Crowned Night Herons, American Bitterns, Savannah Sparrows, Northern Shovelers, and Sandhill Cranes.  I was able to photograph two new (for me) species – Ring Neck Ducks, and Lesser Scaups.

We also took a turn ’round the click ponds and there was a great deal of activity there.  This Cormorant surprised me when he came up with his breakfast.

Cormorant with fish

Cormorant with fish

We had a great time.  Clicking on these photos will open them on Flickr, where you can view larger versions.  You can also visit my Viera Wetlands set on Flickr to see other photos I’ve made there.

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.