Tag Archives: Great Blue Heron

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 Swallowtai

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 (http://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.

Viera Wetlands – February 19, 2013

Most people just call the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands near Viera, Florida “Viera Wetlands”, although I’m sure they mean no disrespect to Mr. Grissom.  I hadn’t been there in a while, and since it’s one of my favorite places I took a trip down to check on things last week – it didn’t disappoint.

On the way, I stopped by Kelly Park in Merritt Island for sunrise.  I’m not sure if this Great Blue Heron was really getting ready to fish, or just enjoying the beautiful, pre-sunrise light, but I was glad it waded into my photo.

The early birds get the fish
The early birds get the fish – Looking east over the Banana River from Kelly Park in Cocoa, just before dawn.

At Viera Wetlands, I got to watch this otter’s antics as it enjoyed a dirt bath in the road:

River Otter dust bath
River Otter dust bath – I watched it rolling around in the dirt on the road for a while. When it had enough, it stood up, shook itself off, and moved back into the water.

I also watched this scene and although I felt badly for the frog, I guess I should feel good for the bird:

This doesn't end well for the frog.
Hooded Merganser catches frog at Viera Wetlands – This doesn’t end well for the frog.

I don’t see Green Herons as often as some of the other herons and egrets, so it was nice to watch a number of them in the reeds along the sides of the berms.  This pose is typical of one of their hunting techniques.  They’ll perch frozen on the water’s edge and wait for prey to come within striking distance.  Green Herons are reportedly one of the smartest birds.  I haven’t seen the behavior, but they’re said to drop small bits of food or insects onto the water to attract fish.

Concentration
Concentration – A Green Heron stalks its prey.

Viera is a great place to see Great Blue Herons courting, nesting, and raising young and there are several pairs active now.  I saw one nest with very small chicks already hatched.  I also saw many of the regulars there including alligators, Great Egrets, Tri-color Herons, Scaups, Coots, Red-winged Blackbirds, and others.  On the way out I also took a turn around the Click ponds, but didn’t notice anything I hadn’t already found in the main areas.  A great trip and well worth the time!

Click on the photos to go to Flickr, where you can see larger versions (the otter photo especially where you can see all the dirt it’s flung around) .  You can also see more photos from Viera Wetlands in this set on Flickr.  And I have many older posts about Viera Wetlands  – you can look through them from this link.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island – February 9, 2013

I went over to Merritt Island this morning with Kevin K. and Kevin M.  It was crisp and clear, so there weren’t many clouds to enhance the sunrise, but we enjoyed watching it and making some photos anyway.  This one is from the Titusville Municipal Marina located just north of the Causeway.

Many morning masts at the Municipal Marina
Many morning masts at the Municipal Marina

After dawn, we drove through East Gator Creek Road but there wasn’t much to see, so then we headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive.  There were a lot of people there and a few unusual birds including a couple of Wilson’s (common) snipes, Lesser Scaups, and a Sora.  We also saw a Reddish Egret or two, lots of Coots, Pintails, Norther Shovelers, Osprey, White Pelicans, Hooded Mergansers, Roseate Spoonbills feeding in the distance, some Great Egrets (in breeding colors) and snowy egrets feeding at small pool on back side of the drive and a few other assorted ducks, shorebirds, and gulls.  One of the highlights was coming up on a pod of photographers going all paparazzi on this scene:

Great Blue Heron with breakfast
Great Blue Heron with Banded Water Snake – Fresh snake was on the menu this morning for breakfast (thanks to Karlie Carmen for helping with the snake ID).

Near the end of BPWD we saw a wild hog off in the reeds, but it ambled out of view before I could get my camera up.  I really need to practice my quick draw technique.

Kevin M. talked us into stopping by the Visitors Center and it’s good he did.  On the way there we sighted a Florida Scrub Jay, a Kestrel, a Red-tailed Hawk – and there were Brown-headed Cowbirds, male and female Painted Buntings, Cardinals, and other birds behind the  center.  It really did turn into an interesting morning.

Click on these two photos to go to Flickr, where you can see larger versions.  You can also see more photos from MINWR in this set on Flickr, and Black Point in this set.  And I have many older posts about MINWR  – you can look through them from this link.

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island – June 29th 2012

Waiting to launch...
Waiting to launch – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket sits on the pad at Launch Complex 37B before dawn at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

I got up very early on Friday morning and arrived on Merritt Island in time for the Delta IV Heavy rocket launch scheduled for 6:15am. I figured it might be very picturesque, since sunrise was scheduled for 6:30. Unfortunately, the sunrise happened on time, but the launch didn’t.

If you’re not a Florida resident, you may not be aware of how hard it is to actually see a launch unless you live very close to or are staying at the Cape. I live about an hour away, and going over is an investment of time and effort. The problem is that launches very rarely happen when they’re first scheduled. At least when I try to see them. There always seems to be a technical problem, hold, or reschedule. Maybe I’m a jinx?

Anyway, this one finally did go at about 9:15 – although it wasn’t as photogenic as I hoped.

Delta IV Heavy Launch
Delta IV Heavy Launch – From Peacocks Pocket Road in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This is not the kind of bird I normally photograph at Merritt Island.

The delay gave me an excuse to drive around the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge while I waited. It’s the time of year when there’s not much happening there. But I did see some of the usual birds including Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Red-winged Blackbirds, Turkey and Black Vultures, Killdeer, and others. I also saw a group of Black Skimmers, a Loggerhead Shrike, a few Terns and gulls, and some smaller shorebirds.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – I know, I know: these birds are common around here, but they’re pretty and it’s hard to resist making a photo when they pose in good light.

I also (of course!) took advantage of the opportunity to make a few landscaped photos.

Sunrise crossing - from the Bennet Causeway in Cocoa Beach, Florida
Sunrise crossing – from the Bennett Causeway in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The rising sun’s reflection and a boat wake created the cross pattern in the water near the cruise ship dock.

I had a good time. You will too, as long as you keep your expectations in check and work the other photo-ops if the launch is late.

Please see this blog post for info about Kennedy Space Center. For several other articles about Merritt Island, see this link.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2012, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved