Tag Archives: Great Egret

Back to nature

It seems like ages since I’ve been out amongst our natural Florida wonders.  So I was eager to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week for a look ’round.  I stopped first by the Indian River before dawn.  The geometry of the pier, bridge and sun rays teamed up to form nice leading lines toward the pending sunrise.

A peaceful morning on the pier by the bridgeA peaceful morning on the pier by the bridge – Veterans Memorial Fishing Pier by the Max Brewer Causeway in Titusville, Florida

East Gator Creek road was closed, so I drove up to Haulover Canal and the Mantee Observation Point – of course there were no manatees visible there!  Then I circled back to Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Standing birdStanding bird – Tri-colored Heron on a bush. It was so still that I had time to zoom in and make a three frame vertical panorama.

We’ve had lots of rain lately and there was plenty of water at Black Point.  I saw fish schooling in several spots, although for some reason the birds weren’t interested. I think the highlight of the trip for me was watching two Reddish Egrets dancing over the water.

Running birdRunning bird – a prancing Reddish Egret seems to walk on water

There were just a couple other people on the drive and I only saw them briefly.  It’s a special privilege to have a place like this mostly to yourself – even at this time of the year when it’s so hot and the wildlife is a bit sparse.

Flying birdFlying bird – a Great Egret glides above the water

What a delightful morning!  I have many more MINWR photos here.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go enjoy nature – it’s good for you!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Howell Creek

Howell Branch creek starts at Lake Maitland and flows into Lake Waumpi.  From there it’s called Howell Creek as it goes through Lake Howell and then wanders east and north  to empty into Lake Jessup. It passes within a half mile of our home in Winter Springs.

I’ve driven by this spot below in Maitland many times, but didn’t realize it’s on the same waterway:

Howell Creek No. 2Howell Creek – Where it crosses Lake Howell Road.  A small dam there creates a lovely little waterfall / rapid.  I’ve driven by it for years and finally made a photo.

I never stopped before because there’s no obvious parking nearby.  But Lynn volunteered to drive me over, drop me off (and come back and pick me up too!).  So off we went…

My plan was to make a few images from down near the water with a wide angle lens, maybe up close to the dam.  But several  “No Trespassing” signs scuttled that. I stayed up on the bridge by the road and made my images from there.  I’m glad I brought my 24 – 200 mm (eq.) lens too – the reach came in handy!

Several people walked by while I was there and mentioned how pretty the view is.  They talked about wading birds and the otter family they see there.  I didn’t see any otters, but a Great Egret eventually wandered into my frame.  I was lucky it stayed still while I made a long  exposure to blur the water.  When Lynn saw the photo, she thought it needed a dark colored bird – I should’ve waited for an anhinga!

Wind caused some blurring in the leaves and Spanish moss.  I was also worried the vibration caused by trucks on the road behind me would shake my tripod and blur things.  I made several frames just in case and this one came out pretty well.

Research indicates there was a water powered mill located just up stream from this dam in the mid 1800s.  And I found an old article in the Orlando Sentinel, saying that the first dam in this spot was built around 1900. One story says residents blew up the dam during a hurricane and replaced it later.  Apparently, a more durable one was built in  the 1950s and was replaced by the current dam in 1979 when Orange County widened Howell Branch Road.

It doesn’t seem like I’ve used other photos of Howell Creek in the blog before, so I’ll end this post with two older images from closer to our home in Winter Springs.

Howell CreekHowell Creek infra red (October 2013)

Howell CreekHowell Creek bed and reflections (October 2013)

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – stop somewhere you’ve been passing by and make some photos!

©2013 and 2019, 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

Black Point Wildlife Drive – May 8, 2018

Kevin K. and I went over to Black Point Wildlife Drive last Tuesday.  The water levels were low and although we saw quite a few birds, many of them were far from the road and hard to photograph.  Here are some images from the trip that I like.

Hunter's DanceHunter’s Dance – A Reddish Egret stalks fish in the marsh

These Egrets have a distinctive dance they use to scare up fish.  It seems to work for them!

Morning minnow mealMorning minnow meal

Green Herons use a different technique.  This one was wading carefully through the mangrove roots on the side of a canal looking for a snack.

Stalking in the MangrovesStalking in the Mangroves

And finally, here’s a photo of a Great Egret taking off from a tree beside the trail.

Great Egret LaunchGreat Egret Launch

This one was a little slow – normally birds are gone by the time I get my camera ready!

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  My Black Point photos are collected in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157622920465437.  And you can read more blog posts about Black Point at this link:  https://edrosack.com/tag/bpwd/.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Feathered Feeding Frenzy Photo Fun

Once in a while, conditions are just right.  Low water levels force fish into small pools and birds flock to the spot to feed.  When you can get close to a scene like this early in the morning, with soft golden light from the rising sun behind you –  count your blessings!

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

This happened to me at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge a week ago (2/9/18).  I  lucked into seeing a bird feeding frenzy along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It’s always a treat to watch and photograph these.  I’ve written about them before  (see this post from December of 2012).  Here are some observations. / hints that may help you in a similar situation:

  • The birds all compete for food.  Watch for interactions and squabbles – they can lead to great poses and action shots.
  • Since the birds are very focused on the fish they’re more tolerant of close photographers.  Be quiet and move slowly so you don’t stress them.
  • They’ll be constantly coming and going and moving in the pond.  Watch for good compositions as they shift around.
  • When they fly in, you can often track them as they get closer and land in the pools for some great images.  After a while you’ll be able to anticipate their paths.
  • As the birds land, they’ll be low and close to you – great for eye level BIF photos (BIF = Birds in Flight)!
  • You’ll need to balance zoom level, composition, background, exposure, focus, etc.  And conditions change rapidly.  Set up your camera in advance and be nimble.  I have a BIF preset programmed so I can quickly shift to it when needed.  It shoots at 10 frames / second with continuous focus, large focus area, and higher ISO settings to keep my shutter speed high.  You’ll need  1/1000 sec. exposures (or shorter!) to freeze wing motion.
  • A white bird against a dark background vs. a dark bird against the sky will require exposure compensation adjustments.  I have EC mapped to the rear wheel control so I can easily vary it when needed.
  • Your  “keeper” percentage may be lower than you’re used to.  But there are so many photo opportunities at a feeding frenzy that you’ll likely come home with images you like.  Practice when you can and you’ll get better.

Landing IbisLanding Ibis – I like the composition / background on this one.  But my shutter was too slow to freeze the wings and I didn’t get the exposure compensation right either.  I’m still practicing!

It’s not all about birds in flight.  Interesting groups or poses on the shore or perched on nearby branches are also photogenic.

On the banks of the pondOn the banks of the pond.  I like compositions with multiple species in the frame.

That was a wonderful morning.  I’m glad I was able to see all the action.  Oh, and before the bird activity, I also made a couple of landscape photos:

Dawn at the dock on the Indian RiverDawn at the dock on the Indian River.  Olympus Hi-Res mode.

Florida cloudsFlorida clouds along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  Monochrome infrared.

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Gatorland – May 11, 2017

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 babiesBawling, 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.

Feeding timeFeeding time

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.

Checking her eggsCattle 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!

Showy AnhingaShowy Anhinga

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!

Gator Bellow

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!

Oh, and happy Mother’s Day!!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

It's that time of year again

Here in Central Florida, birds are starting to nest and raise the next generation.  Their colors get brighter, feathers get fancy and they show off to attract a mate (and photographers!).

Great Egret displayGreat Egret display

One place to see this is at Gatorland.  Wild birds nest above the alligator ponds there because gators keep predators such at raccoons and snakes away from the nests.  You can take advantage of the early entry program to photograph when the light is good and  get close to tolerant birds that don’t mind people on the boardwalk.

It’s early in the season now and Great Egrets are the most active.  Later in the Spring, you can see Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Cormorants, Anhingas, Wood Storks, Cattle Egrets and maybe a few others nesting too.  Here’s a Great Egret on her nest with 3 young chicks. I’d guess these three are less than a week old. And it looks like they’ve just been fed, since none are squawking for more to eat.

Moe, Larry, Curly, and MomMoe, Larry, Curly, and Mom.  This is a two frame composite with one focused on the chicks and the other on Mom.

There are other things to photograph there, too.

Happy GatorHappy Gator.  Just what a photographer wants:  a smiling model in good light!

Gatorland is one of my favorite places to photograph.  You can read through the articles I’ve written about it at this link.  I think you should go – you’ll have fun and get a some good photos.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Happy Father's Day

Yes, it’s been a horrific week here in Central Florida.  So bad that some might question celebrating a holiday so soon after these terrible events.

We should keep in mind that there is danger and evil in the world.  We should keep the victims and everyone touched by these events in our hearts and minds.  But  we should celebrate, I think    Because there is also peace and goodness in the world, and there are vastly more good people than evil ones.

So, to all Dads out there:  I hope  you have a wonderful day on Sunday and I hope you get to share it with your families.  Celebrate the good in the world and help overcome the evil.

I wonder where Dad is? Mom said he would feed us this time.I wonder where Dad is? Mom said he would feed us this time. Two young Great Egrets, waiting for their next meal at Gatorland in Orlando.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

#OrlandoStrong

#OrlandoUnited

Bird Moms

Happy Mother’s Day!!!  

We all love our Moms.  They love us too, feed us, protect us, teach us, and make sure we go out into the world ready for all its challenges.

Bird Moms do the same.  In celebration of all Mothers everywhere, here are three recent photos of bird Moms raising their young.

Great Egret Mom feeding chicksGreat Egret Mom feeding chicks – That’s a large chunk of sushi – those baby birds will be full if they eat all that!

Common Gallinule Mom and ChicksCommon Gallinule Mom and Chicks – These hatch ready to swim. Mom protectively takes them around the local pond, very careful to avoid gators lurking nearby.

Woodstork Mom and chicksWood Stork Mom and chicks

These photos were all made this year at Gatorland in Orlando, Florida.  Wild birds nest there above the Alligator breeding marsh, where the gators keep many natural predators away from the nests.  Spring is a wonderful time to see all the action.

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. Now – go tell your Mom you love her!

©2016, 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.