Tag Archives: Great Blue Heron

Shark Valley

I’ve just about finished going through the photos from my trip to South Florida.  I ended up  with many images I like – way too many for a single post.  Today, I’d like to complete what I started in the Wild Baby Gators! blog with a few more photos from the Shark Valley area of the Everglades.  Next week I’ll finish my trip report with images from other parts of Big Cypress.

In a couple of spots along the north side of Tamiami Trail a few miles east of the entrance to Shark Valley visitor center, you can cross over the canal and drive along the dirt road on top of the berm. From there you can get a good look at the “River of grass”, stretching farther than you can see.

River of grass 3River of grass – looking north

I tried to stop by Shark Valley on my first afternoon in the area.  But the parking lot was full and there was a line of cars waiting to get in, so I turned around and explored elsewhere.  At 8:30 the next morning I was first in line waiting for the park to open.  I bought a ticket for one of their two hour tram rides and was on the first one to leave.  If you go, arrive early  to make sure you can get in.  I think taking the first tram ride of the day is a good idea too.  Wildlife should be more active / visible and the light is better for photography.

Crowded airspaceCrowded airspace – Glossy Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill in flight.  This was close to a small pond where a bird feeding frenzy was in progress.

There was a lot to see on the ride and the tour guide was excellent.  He knew where to spot things and passed along a great deal of info to everyone.  The tram stops for about 20 minutes at the 65 foot observation tower.  There’s a wonderful view there too.  If you zoom into this next photo, you can see two large alligators floating in the pond.

River of grass 2River of grass 2 – The view looking ~ SE from the observation Tower in Shark Valley

The water and trees around the tower are full of wildlife.  I spotted this Yellow-crowned Night Heron there. I’m going to count this as a life bird (first sighting).  I saw one before, but it was outside the US (in Costa Rica).  I also saw what may have been a  juvenile at Viera Wetlands, but it was an iffy ID.

Yellow-crowned Night HeronYellow-crowned Night Heron

There are lots of turtles and alligators along the way.

Happy togetherHappy together – A pair of yellow-bellied sliders soaking in some sunshine

And you’ll probably see some “circle of life” scenes too.

Lunch timeLunch time – Great Blue Heron with a Florida Gar

We also spotted Cormorants, Anhingas, Great and Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, White Ibis, Wood Storks, Red-shouldered hawks, a Purple Gallinule, and other birds.  We didn’t see any pythons, but you can tell they’re out there because many of the smaller mammals have disappeared – eaten by these large snakes.

To summarize: Shark Valley is definitely a Central Florida Photo Ops “Must do” location and I’m going to visit again.

You can view my other Everglades National Park photos in this album on Flickr.  And I’ve started to collect photos from the Big Cypress area in this album.

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

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR – 12/26/19

Twas the morning after Christmas*

Twas the morning after Christmas, as I left the house – I tried to be quiet and not wake my spouse.

I drove to the refuge through the long winter’s night. To get there and catch the first morning light.

On the pier by the causeway, it was all blue and gold. Lovely start to the day with colors so bold.

Dawn by the causeway and the pierDawn by the causeway and the pier

To Black Point next – a wonderful place.  Drive slow or you’ll miss things with too fast a pace.

Dawn on Black Point Wildlife DriveDawn on Black Point Wildlife Drive

Kingfishers dodged my camera with ease, not stopping for long even when I said please!

Male Belted KingfisherMale Belted Kingfisher

A lady Merganser was flapping her wings. Shaking off water and other things.

Female Hooded Merganser wing flapFemale Hooded Merganser wing flap

An unblinking gator watched me draw nigh. I almost saw myself in his eye.

Eye of the gatorEye of the gator

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?  A pretty pink spoonbill wading quite near.

SpoonbillRoseate Spoonbill

Other birds to the refuge, they also came.  It’s wonderful to see them and call them by name.

Now Ospreys, Shovelers, Pelicans and all,

Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler

White Pelican PodWhite Pelican Pod

Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls.

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

Great Blue Heron portraitGreat Blue Heron portrait

Now Terns, teals, willets, eagles and more, so many birds along the shore.

Large birds, small birds, short birds and tall – stay for a while, don’t fly away all!

As I left the refuge and it left my sight, I thought “HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”

Merritt Island morningMerritt Island morning

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope each and every one of you are having a wonderful holiday season.  Cherish your time with friends and family and don’t forget to make some photos with them!

And have a very Happy New year too!!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

MINWR – 11/10/19

I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Sunday with Kevin M.  If you’ve been waiting for our winter visitor bird friends to show up – they’re here!

We first stopped by the Titusville marina for a few blue hour / sunrise photos.  In the original color version of this one, the orange reflections in the water from the streetlights along the shore didn’t mix well with the blue water and sky in the distance.  A B&W conversion eliminated that problem and I like the result.

Marina at dawnMarina at dawn

Kingfishers were abundant and even a bit cooperative.  This one rested on a dead tree for me.

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

And another even waited until I had my camera all ready and focused on it before it took off!  You can view a short video time lapse of that at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/49052297597/in/dateposted/

Other winter birds we saw:  American Avocets, Blue-winged Teals, Northern Flickers, Northern Shovelers, a Northern Harrier, Tree Swallows, Common Yellowthroats, and Palm Warblers.  The ducks weren’t plentiful yet, but I’m sure more are on the way!

Our year round birds competed for attention by posing in very nice light.

Reddish EgretReddish Egret in warm morning light

Egret and reflectionEgret and reflection

Great Blue HeronHeron in flight

And we also managed to find a Florida Scrub Jay along the entrance road to Canaveral National Seashore for Kevin’s list this year.  So once again a wonderful visit to MINWR.  You should go!

I’ve put many more of my images from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723.  And 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!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Tosahatchee and Viera

While I was sitting around watching the morning news yesterday, I decided I wanted to go check on the Sandhill Crane nests at Viera Wetlands and see whether any chicks have hatched.

It was long after sunrise when I left, but I went in search of landscape photos on the way at Tosahatchee Wildlife Management Area.

Tosahatchee wetlandsTosahatchee wetlands – we’ve had a bit of rain recently

Wild Iris plants are blooming along the roadside there and I stopped to photograph one.  As I was framing my image, a Swallowtail Butterfly swooped in and paused for about a second.  I was startled, but had time for a single shutter press before it moved on.  Thank you, Mother Nature for completing my composition!

Wild Iris and SwallowtailWild Iris (Blue Flag, Iris Virginia) and Palamedes Swallowtail

There were a lot of folks at Viera when I arrived around noon. I found one of the Sandhill Crane nests from last week’s post.  I didn’t see any chicks, but all looked well.  Both adults were there and standing at first so I could see one of the eggs.

I also went by the Great Blue Heron nest from last week’s post.  There was one adult at that nest. Looking very closely at the images on my computer at home, I can make out a newly hatched chick.

Great Blue Heron and chick, Viera Wetlands (click for a larger view)

Spring has sprung. At least in Central Florida.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Love is in the air…

At least it is at Viera Wetlands – a wonderful place to witness bird courtship and nesting behaviors.

This Great Blue Heron was lazy.  He was raiding an abandoned nest close to his and scavenging sticks to bring back to his mate.  A situation like this can be a great setup for photographers.  Watch for a cycle or two and you’ll get a good idea of what’s going to happen next.  It’ll allow you to anticipate and get good action / flight shots.

Nesting Great blue HeronsNesting Great blue Herons

I was back at Viera Wetlands to check on the Sandhill Crane nest that I told you about a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately, that nest has disappeared.  The water in that spot is much higher and the birds abandoned it when it flooded.

Sandhill Cranes seem to be a very successful species, but I wonder about their nesting habits.  Building in low-lying, marshy areas seems risky.  How often do they lose eggs or chicks to flooding or predators like alligators, raccoons, etc?

We did spot two other Crane nests, although we almost drove right by the one below.  We heard a bird calling as it flew by and stopped to watch it land.  That was when we noticed its mate and nest.  A few moments later the mate rose, revealing two eggs it had been tending. It stepped away and after a quick inspection to make sure all was well, the other one carefully took its place.  I hope this nest and the second one we saw will survive.

Nesting Sandhill CranesNesting Sandhill Cranes

I didn’t think our sunrise stop along the St. Johns river was that good, but I enjoyed making this photo of fishermen leaving the boat ramp before dawn.

Let's get an early start...Let’s get an early start

The light was dim.  I made a second exposure at a higher ISO to keep the shutter speed fast and the boat sharp.  Then I merged the two frames in Photoshop.

You can click on the photos in this post to see larger versions.  And you can read my previous posts about Viera Wetlands at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/viera-wetlands/, and view many more photos from Viera Wetlands in this album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157623223995224

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Apopka Postcard

Hello faithful readers!  This is my first post in a new category I’ve created on the blog that I’m calling “Postcards”.  I’m going to occasionally post photos here that are typical Central Florida scenes – like a postcard.

You’re welcome to download them at full resolution for your personal use.  I’m going to use the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license for these instead of “All rights reserved”.  Please visit this page to see details and restrictions that apply:  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.

In the future, they should be easy to find using the “Places / Categories” pulldown menu over on the right side of the blog and selecting “Postcards”.  If you’re viewing the site on a phone, you might not see that menu – if so, just type “postcards” into the search box.

Anyway, the first photo in the new series is this one:

Bird on a bush – Great Blue Heron at Lake Apopka

To download, just click on the image to go to the source and then right-click to download it.  I hope you like it!

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

 

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

Bird shots

When I go on a photo expedition I come home with many more images than I process, and I post even less.  So every once in a while I go through the photos in my Lightroom catalog and look for ones that I passed over, to see if my current self thinks they’re good enough to show or include in a blog post.

Caught in a sunbeamCaught in a sunbeam, Gatorland, May 2017

Anyway, I was doing this last week and ended up with the group of images in this post.  They made me  realize once again how wonderful Central Florida is for bird watching and bird photography.

Handsome Anhinga

Handsome Anhinga, Gatorland, May 2016

We have an enormous variety of avian wildlife here (iBird says 366 species in the state of Florida, Wikipedia says 524!).

SpoonbillSpoonbill, Black Point Wildlife Drive, January 2018

At some locations the larger birds are tolerant of people – especially if you stay in your car and / or take care not to stress them.  And nesting season provides opportunities that aren’t common elsewhere.

Hungry HeronsHungry Herons, Viera Wetlands, March 2018

I’ve added info to the captions on when and where I made these images so you can get an idea of what you’ll see.  The best time of year is probably January through May, but you can find  opportunities year round –  if you’re lucky and do your research.

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher, Viera Wetlands, March 2018

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

It's still that time of year!

And now it’s official – the vernal equinox was last Monday.  Kevin M., Tom M. and I headed for Viera Wetlands early on Friday morning to see how spring is going there.

I wrote about the bird nesting at Gatorland a couple of weeks ago (https://edrosack.com/2017/03/12/its-that-time-of-year-again/).  It turns out that there’s a lot of activity at Viera too.

We saw Sand Hill Crane families:

What's Momma doing?What’s Momma doing? Sand Hill Crane and chick foraging at Viera Wetlands.  The chick’s concentration is fascinating.

And Great Blew Heron families (Pun intended – Windy day?  Blew?  Blue? ):

Breezy Blue and babyBreezy Blue and baby – Mom guards the nest and chicks

And caught a brief glimpse of a family of River Otters before they disappeared into the reeds:

A family of River OttersRiver Otter family – 3 or 4 of them ran across the road and into the water

I have one more photo to show you.  Since I started using the Olympus E-M1 II camera, I’ve been on a quest to apply its ‘pro-capture’ mode to photograph a Red-winged Blackbird in flight.  Their shoulders are pretty and you can’t see them very well when they’re perched. This is my best attempt so far. I like it, but I’m going to keep trying.  I’d like to catch one in a little better light and it’d be nice to have the bird facing more toward the camera.  While we’re wishing, a catch light in the eyes would be wonderful too!

Red-winged Blackbird in flightRed-winged Blackbird in flight – 

We also looked for a different sunrise spot and stopped by a pasture on the way to Viera.  Unfortunately, nature didn’t cooperate – I ended with a few uninspiring photos.  You can look at one (if you must) on Flickr at this link.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Gatorland Photographer's Pass

During bird nesting season (February – mid June in Central Florida), Gatorland’s Photographer’s Pass program allows early entry to the park at 7:30 am Thursday – Sunday and lets you stay until dusk on Saturday.  It’s great if you want to photograph wild birds in good light outside of normal business hours when there’s not many tourists around.   You can find out a lot more detail on their website at this link.

This season started last Thursday and I met Tom M., Zvia S., and Lee A. there.  It’s early in the year so there’s not too much nesting activity yet, but there’s plenty to photograph.  We saw many Great Egrets in breeding colors and plumage, and a few have started building nests.  We also saw Anhingas, Cormorants, Black Vultures, and some Snowy Egrets, Wood Storks, and Great Blue Herons.  I even sighted a Belted Kingfisher and a Black-crowned Night Heron.

The boardwalk along the breeding marsh offers close up looks at wild birds that are used to photographers and cameras.

Anhinga portrait

Anhinga portrait – These birds are very pretty in the right light

Gatorland is also a great place to practice flight photography.  The birds often fly over the boardwalk, many times along the same routes.  With a little study, you can anticipate their path and get some good shots.

Great Blue Heron in flight Great Blue Heron in flight

And of course, there are lots of alligators to photograph too.

Sunbathing gatorSunbathing gargantuan gator – I was about 15 feet away with my long lens zoomed out and had to make a 3 frame panorama to fit it all in.

We had a great time at Gatorland.  If you want to get some really good photos of typical Florida wading birds, this is a wonderful place to do it.  You can view many other Gatorland photos in this set on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope I’ll see you at Gatorland one morning making photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.