Tag Archives: landscape

MINWR – 11 May 2020

Like most of you, it’s been two months since I’ve been any distance from home.  I’ve kept making photos on walks in our neighborhood, in our yard, or along the way on necessary trips around town. But I’ve been itching to go out on a photo specific excursion and now our stay at home orders have been relaxed here in Florida.  So last Monday I drove over on a solo trip to check out Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of my favorite nature locations.

I made two circuits around Black Point Wildlife Drive.  I looked for sunrise spots and landscapes on the first pass. I might’ve seen a more colorful dawn than this one, but not recently.  And the calm winds made for a lovely reflection.

Tranquil bayTranquil bay – Along Black Point Wildlife Drive, about 15 minutes before sunrise.

On the second pass I scouted for wildlife / birds.  I didn’t see a tremendous number, but there were enough to make it interesting.

A little spottyA little spotty: Spotted Sandpiper and reflection.  I was happy to find this one since I seldom see them.

There was a feeding frenzy in one of the canals along Black Point.  Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons and Ibis were feeding on plentiful minnows.  The location was really nice  since it was next to a path where I could walk out to get a better angle on the action. Often when I find these, they’re far away or hidden behind mangroves and hard to photograph.

Got one!Got one!  A Snowy Egret catches a minnow.

If you click on any of these photos, you’ll be able to see a larger image on  Flickr.  You can then click again to enlarge it even more.  Look at the Snowy Egret’s beak to see the minnow it caught in that splash.

Green Heron fly byGreen Heron fly by

Speaking of Green Herons, there were three cars pulled over when I went around the corner at the rest stop on BPWD.  People were out and gathered by the canal photographing something I couldn’t see back in the mangroves.  In “olden” times, you could find a lot of interesting things by stopping next to other photographers.  You still can I suppose, but  now days I’m a little pandemic paranoid and getting too close to people can make me nervous. I passed up this stop and kept going – I learned later that they were looking at Green Heron nests.  I have to say though that MINWR seems about as safe as you can get.  It’s not hard to maintain social distancing by staying in your car and choosing  where to get out.

The next image is from a little later on Gator Creek Road.  At the time, I just liked the scene / composition with two birds on one rock.  I didn’t realize what I had until I got home and looked at it on the computer.

Sharin' StoneSharin’ Stone – Hopefully, I identified these correctly: A Semipalmated Plover on the left and a Semipalmated Sandpiper on the right. If so, it’s my first photo of both species. Two life birds in one image!

Which reminds me that I’ve wanted to mention an app.  It’s called Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Labs and it’s very good at identifying birds using photos.  It seems to be very accurate and complete.  And it’s free!  It called out the species in this photo for me (but I did ask my friend Kevin M’s. opinion too).

I saw other things on this trip too.  Alligators (of course), an opposum, Black Neck Stilts, Roseate Spoonbills and more.  One thing I didn’t see: the rock stacks on Gator Creek Road are gone – yay!

MINWR was a very good choice for my first post lockdown photo trip.  I was tired when I got back, but I felt rejuvenated.  I’m very lucky that I can find many of my favorite photo subjects so close to home.  And last Monday at least, they weren’t collecting fees on BPWD.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog.  Hang in there, stay safe, and take care of each other.  And if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A few phone photos

The first post on this blog went up on  May 4th, 2007. Who would’ve thought it’d still be going 13 years, 672 posts, and 2000+ photos later?

It seems like I should have something profound to say in an anniversary post, but I’m not feeling any deep, heartfelt photography thoughts today to share. Instead, I’ll just remind you: We all carry our cell phones around.  Make sure you take yours out and use its probably very good camera whenever something attracts your eye.

Here are a few sights I thought were interesting over the last several months when the only camera I had with me was my phone.

Light on leaves on a limbLight on leaves on a limb – From a neighborhood walk on May 2nd.

New palm frondsNew palm fronds – From a neighborhood walk on April 29th.

Red BottlebrushRed Bottlebrush – From a neighborhood walk on March 14th.

Fire in the skyFire in the sky – Just before dinner at Cracker Barrel on February 7th.

Lynn and I are doing OK here.  We’ve been sticking close to home and social distancing for what seems like forever.  Florida has started to lift our pandemic lockdown a bit and I’m thinking about venturing out for a some careful exploration / exercise with my camera next week at one of the parks around Orlando that are beginning to open up again. It’d be nice to get out for a bit.

Changing the subject: I hope all Moms out there are having a wonderful Mothers Day!  – Thank you for all you do – you make the world a much better place!

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.”

Anonymous

I miss you Mom.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog.  Hang in there, stay safe, and take care of each other.  And if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Sunrise Reflections and Fishing Ospreys

With all the bad news about the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economy / stock market, blogging about photography doesn’t seem too important, does it?  But maybe photography can distract you from those headlines for a bit, like it distracted me last Wednesday morning.

Gator Creek MirrorGator Creek Mirror

I made a solo trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and spent a few hours enjoying nature. I started on Gator Creek Road before dawn, and then went round Black Point Wildlife Drive.  When it was about time to head home, I decided to make one more pass through Gator Creek Road before I left.  I’m very glad I did.

As I went past where Catfish Creek Trail branches off, I heard a loud group of birds squawking in the distance.  I decided to back up and go and see what was making such a big racket.  I found hundreds of (mostly) Laughing Gulls along with a few terns and skimmers in the water – all making noise.  They were a little too far away for good photos, but on the other side of the road I spotted several circling Ospreys.

Osprey catch sequence 1Osprey catch sequence 1

They were looking for fish in Catfish Creek.  I stayed for 15 minutes or so watching and photographing.  They dove and missed a few times and then I saw this one plummeting  toward the water.

Osprey catch sequence 2Osprey catch sequence 2

The splash was huge and things were happening very fast.  It wasn’t until it gained some altitude that I could clearly see it had a fish.

Osprey catch sequence 3Osprey catch sequence 3

That looks like a Spotted-seatrout to me (https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/saltwater/drums/spotted-seatrout/). Those are great eating.  We used to fish for them in Mosquito Lagoon when we lived in Port Orange

I’ve seen Ospreys fishing before, but these are the best photos I’ve been able to get of an actual catch.  It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild.  My experience is that you have to be lucky to photograph it when it happens.  Thank goodness those gulls were calling or I’d have driven right by!

You can click on these photos to see higher resolution versions on Flickr.  You can also visit these related Flick albums:

On a side note:  I’ve been enjoying our bug free weather here but I noticed when I got home from this trip that I had several mosquito bites.  Time to break out the bug spray – I think our Central Florida spring may already be just about over.

I hope that all of you make it through our current troubles unscathed.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, stay safe – and make some socially distanced photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Leave no trace

“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!”  — Si’ahl (Seattle), leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes

Beginning with my very first adventures out in nature, I’ve always been taught to leave no trace.  And so I was startled and then a little sad when I saw these along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge about a week ago.

Rock stacksRock stacks

I’ve seen rock stacks (or rock cairns) before, just not in MINWR.  I guess I also noticed that stacking rocks (and posting photos of them on social media) has become a thing.  People shouldn’t do this anywhere, and when they start doing it in one of my favorite places, it’s time to speak up.

I looked through my image archives for another photo from near the same spot and found this one from back in 2013 that I never processed or posted before. It’s looking in a different direction, and it shows rocks where they should be.  It’s worth a click to view a larger version.

Gator Creek panoGator Creek pano

There are of course, legitimate reasons for building rock cairns and different National Parks have different rules. See this NPS page: https://www.nps.gov/articles/rockcairns.htm.  However, it’s always wrong to tamper, add to, or build unauthorized cairns in national parks.

I couldn’t find anywhere on-line that specifically says rock stacking is prohibited at MINWR.  Even if it’s not against the rules – it’s still ethically, morally, and environmentally wrong.  And it’s rude and selfish.  Don’t do it.

Always follow the Leave No Trace guidelines when you’re out enjoying nature. Always.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  — Aldo Leopold, American ecologist and environmentalist

Sorry for the rant today.  The longer I thought about this, the more it bothered me.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos, but don’t stack any rocks!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve is a 729,000 acre swamp in South Florida adjacent to Everglades National Park.  It was originally going to be part of that, but instead was established as a national preserve in 1974.

I’ve wanted to visit for years and finally went down a couple of weeks ago.  I stayed at the bungalow Clyde Butcher rents behind his Big Cypress Gallery along Tamiami Trail. This is a “first impressions” blog post, not a guide. I don’t know the area well enough to give you a comprehensive review.

Butcher's Pond 1, colorButcher’s Pond.  Next to Clyde Butcher’s gallery on Tamiami Trail

The bungalow was very nice and provided a good base for exploration.  I do wish there was cell service or that they provided an internet connection – although I guess you could argue that being cut off is part of the swamp experience!

Big Cypress is huge and there are a lot of places to check out.  And even more places if you include Everglades National Park.  For me, the southern portion of the Everglades was just too far away from where I stayed so I concentrated on nearby spots including Kirby Storter Park, Fakahatchee Strand, Loop Road, Shark Valley, and a few others.  There was a lot I didn’t get to – I need to go back!

Pre-dawn stars and cloudsPre-dawn stars and clouds, Kirby Storter Roadside Park

Kirby Storter was only a few minutes away and I hoped to take advantage of dark skies and catch site of the Milky Way from there.  I did manage to glimpse it but clouds rolled in towards dawn and I had to make do with a starry pre-dawn photo instead.  I can tell you that I felt very alone out there in the middle of the swamp at 5am.  It was dark (no moon) and hard to see very far – kinda spooky. But I also felt pretty safe because every time I moved a bit, the crickets went silent.  I figured they’d warn me if anything large got close!

Cypress swampCypress swamp, Kirby Storter Roadside Park

There’s a lovely, short hike along a boardwalk that leads back into the swamp next to some flowing water and ends at a large gator hole.

Fakahatchee Strand - Red-shouldered Hawk PairRed-shouldered Hawk Pair. Fakahatchee Strand State Park

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park was close too.  It’s the largest state park in Florida and Janes Memorial Scenic Drive is an eleven mile dirt road leading from the visitor center back into the swamp.  There’s only about six miles open right now due to damage from Hurricane Irma.  You can drive this yourself like I did, or take a guided tram ride.

I was busy trying to make landscape photos when a lady hawk (the one on the left) started calling in the tree next to me.  I thought she was yelling at me for being too close, but it turned out she was calling for her mate.  He flew in and they had a “conjugal visit” while I rushed back to the car to get my longer lens.  I missed the action, but did get a nice family photo of the pair afterward.

Fakahatchee Strand 4, colorFakahatchee Strand 4, color

There are a great many views of this lovely swamp along the scenic drive.  It took me a long time to go out six miles and back because I stopped so often to photograph.

Loop Road 1, IR B&WLoop Road Cypress and Sawgrass

Loop Road is another scenic area.  Both ends connect to Tamiami Trail and I explored those, but didn’t travel the whole twenty six mile route.  Next time!

On my visit, I mainly focused on landscape images although I did see and photograph some wildlife – mainly in Shark Valley.  There were alligators, turtles, and a lot of birds –  most were the same ones we see up here in Central Florida although I did sight a yellow crowned night Heron which isn’t very common in my usual spots.  There were also a lot of small birds / warblers that I should have spent some time photographing / identifying.

This was a good time of year to visit.  It’s considered the “dry season” and in additon to the comfortable temperatures, I got zero bug bites even though I didn’t use any bug spray the whole time.

You could spend a lifetime exploring there. I stayed for three nights and was very tired when I got home but only touched the surface.  Things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for: Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, Corkscrew Swamp, a swamp buggy tour,  a swamp walk, an airboat ride, the Indian reservations and many others.  Things to look forward to!

Cyprress and air plants, IR B&WCypress and air plants, IR B&W

Location scouting is a huge part of good landscape photography.  Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of scouting in advance.  You know that an area is special when you can come back from your first visit with photos you really like.  Big Cypress is extra special – a Central Florida Photo Ops Must Do!

We should all be grateful that we’ve preserved places like Big Cypress and the Everglades and that we’re working to restore them to their natural state.

Two other blog posts about this trip:

A previous post about the Everglades:

Related Flick Albums:

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

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

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

Road trip!

Over the holidays, Mike asked if I wanted to ride with him (and Avon) on his drive from Wisconsin to Florida and back.  Of course I said yes!  It was a good opportunity to spend some time together and I haven’t been on a road trip like this in a long while.

This post includes some photos from along the way and a few comments about the trip.  It’s a little off topic from Central Florida Photo Ops’s stated purpose.  I hope you don’t mind.

It’s quite a drive! It took us three days, although you can make it in two if you push hard enough.

Three Amigos. Here we are mid drive on the way back up – it was chilly at times!  Avon is a good traveler.  The only times he got even a little bothered was when Mike left him with me for a few minutes and was out of sight, or if the hotel we were in had other dogs that night.

Indianapolis: Vietnamese take out Food on the trip was varied and tasty.  This Vietnamese  place was across from our hotel in Indianapolis.  Good food, quick!

We were usually on the road early and some of the sunrises were pretty.  This one is leaving Indianapolis, south bound.

This semi up ahead of us was moving around 70 mph – backwards!

When you get near Chattanooga, there are many “See Rock City” signs. No, we didn’t go by and see it.

Heading south out of Atlanta, the clouds were pretty thick

The last time I drove I-75 through South Georgia, I remember seeing a giant peanut on the side of the road. We couldn’t find it this time – even though the map said it was still there!

There are a lot of “World Famous Ruby Falls” signs too. This one may need a little maintenance.

We went north on a slightly different route and it was a little more scenic, especially through the mountains.

Another Mountain View

Passing wind: According to Wikipedia, the Meadow Lakes wind farm along I-65 in Indiana has 414 turbines and produces 801 megawatts of power.

We lucked out on the weather.  There were clouds and some rain on the way down, but it wasn’t too cold.  On our way north there was a snow storm coming, but it didn’t hit until we were almost to Mike’s house.  The next morning, the park near his place was a very un-Florida looking landscape!

A path through the snowy woodsA path through the snowy woods

After I got back home, I was struck by the contrast between winter in Wisconsin and Florida.  Our weather is very different!

Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, Osceola County

Family time during the holidays is wonderful.  Our home seems so very quiet and empty  after everyone leaves.  But it’s also wonderful to look forward to the next visit!

Thanks for the invite, Mike – I really enjoyed the ride!

And thanks to everyone for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos – on a road trip!

©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

Joe Overstreet – Part 2

I thought I’d post a few more photos from last Saturday’s trip to Osceola County.  I hope you enjoy them.

Florida cow countryFlorida cow country:  Joe Overstreet Road goes right through several cattle pastures.  I imagine they look the same as they did a hundred years ago.

Snail Kite launchSnail Kite launch.  We usually see one at the landing and it may be the same bird each time.

Killdeer in flightKilldeer in flight.  I normally find these on the ground.  This is the first time I’ve managed a flight photo of one.

Bird on a wire 4Bird on a wire 4 – American Kestrel.  I rarely catch sight of these and was excited to spot several on this trip.

Sandhill Cranes on final approachSandhill Cranes on final approach. There were more Sandhill Cranes (~50+) in the pastures along Joe Overstreet that morning than I’ve ever seen in one place before.  I’m guessing the extras were winter migrants in from Wisconsin.  Several of the cranes were banded.

Sissor-tailed FlycatcherScissor-tailed Flycatcher. Not a great photo, but this is a life bird (first sighting) for me – so I’ll include it.  There were two and they stayed quite far away from us.

Osceola County / Joe Overstreet Road is a wonderful place!  In addition to the eagles and these birds, we also spotted Purple Gallinules, Ospreys, Eastern Meadowlarks, Loggerhead Shrikes, Palm Warblers, Eastern Phoebes, Savanah Sparrows, our normal wading birds and others.  We looked for Bobwhites and Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area), but didn’t find any.

You can view more of my photos from there in this album on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157670869688025

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