Tag Archives: landscape

Day Trip to Whittier, Alaska

Editors note:  Today we have another wonderful post from our roving correspondent MaryKate.  Her report includes beautifully surreal landscape images as well as excellent wildlife watching tips and photographs. It’s well worth clicking the link at the end to view the rest of her photos.  Enjoy!

In late September, I had the pleasure of visiting Monette and Jesse in Anchorage, AK for Emergency Birthday Six (our annual tradition of a last-minute birthday adventure). It was the second-to-last weekend of the tourist season, so we were excited to find a company still doing day cruises: Phillips Cruises & Tours 26 Glacier Cruise out of Whittier, Alaska.

To get from Anchorage to Whittier (population 214 people), we drove along the Seward Highway, one of my absolute favorite views ever.  We saw two Beluga Whales fishing along the shore at Beluga Point – and reported them to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project!  I’ve looked for the Belugas every time I drive along this beautiful road, and this was my first time finally seeing them (unfortunately the only picture I have is the memory in my mind).  From Beluga Point, give yourself plenty of time to get through the 2.5 mile Whittier Tunnel – the longest highway tunnel in North America!

Seward Highway

View from Seward Highway

The 26 Glacier Cruise, as promised, delivered many stunning glacier views.  Due to weather, we took an alternate route that the on-board Park Ranger told us he had only done several times in his career and got up close to some amazing glaciers.

Glacier Cruise

View from Glacier Cruise

While the first few hours of the cruise was mostly scenic views, we began to see much more wildlife towards the end of the cruise including Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and this Seal floating by on an iceberg.

Seal on an Iceberg

Along for the Ride

But my breath was taken away in the last 30 minutes, when we were on our way back to shore, and the captain spotted a pair of Orca Whales!  It’s always magical seeing these friends in the wild.

Orca Whales

Male and Female Orca Whale Couple

I can’t wait to go visit Monette and Jesse again – in addition to being great friends, they live in an absolutely beautiful state, and I always enjoy exploring Alaska with them!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  More photos can be found in the album here. Now – go be amazed by wildlife and make some photos!

©2017, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive is open again!

Yay! Jim Boland’s newsletter let us know that they’ve reopened Black Point so when Tom M. asked if I wanted to go out photographing I suggested we head to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We met early Friday morning and drove over on State Road 50.

St. Johns River at dawnSt. Johns River at dawn

Our first stop was at the boat ramp on the St. Johns River. It’s a pretty place at dawn and the view was different this time since the water is several feet higher than I’ve ever seen it. Lots of rain here recently.

Once at the refuge, we headed straight to Black Point. The water there is a little higher than I’ve ever seen it too. The road surface was in great shape – I didn’t see any damage remaining from the hurricane.

Spiders and webs were very common. This one had set up in some great early morning light.

Banana SpiderBanana Spider – A little early for Halloween!

Some of our winter migrants are starting to show up and our regular birds were around, but not in great numbers. Belted Kingfishers teased us, and there were a few Savannah Sparrows foraging near the road.

Savannah SparrowSavannah Sparrow

We didn’t see too many ducks. I’m not sure if they just haven’t come down yet, or if they’re somewhere else.

We thought we spotted another Kingfisher over the canal on the right by the paved section near the exit. It was about the right size and seemed to fly like a Kingfisher. But then it landed in a tree and started acting like a Woodpecker – perched on the side of the main trunk and hopping around. I was pretty far away but took several photos anyway. When I got home and looked closely I didn’t recognize the bird. Kevin M. helped me ID it as a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (another new life bird for me!). Unfortunately, the photos aren’t very good so I haven’t posted them. Maybe next time I can catch it closer in better light. It seems like I’m always saying that!

One more thing: We met a woman at the rest area on the drive who’d just seen a Bobcat. She was patiently waiting to see if she could get a better photo. We left before we found out if she was successful. I’ve seen a Bobcat out there before, but it was further along, not near the Rest Area. If you go, keep your eyes open!

I have many more Black Point photos in this folder on Flickr. I’m glad it didn’t suffer too much damage from Hurricane Irma and it’s open again.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Orlando Wetlands Park – 14 Oct 17

Kevin M. and I met at Orlando Wetlands Park Yesterday before sunrise.  It was gloomy and raining, but not for long.  I liked the way the low sunlight lit up this scene as the clouds were clearing.

Marsh Morning IIMarsh Morning II – This is a two frame, Olympus Hi Res, panorama using the technique described in this post:  http://edrosack.com/2011/01/21/two-image-pano-hdr-focus-stacking/

We had a hard time deciding where to go – storm damage and other circumstances are limiting our choices.  Many places that we like in Central Florida are closed (Viera Wetlands, Lake Apopka, Mead Gardens, many parts of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Jetty Park, etc.).  We ended up deciding between Circle B Bar in Lakeland and Orlando Wetlands (both are open).  I hadn’t been to either for a while and Orlando Wetlands is closer, so…

With the sun up and the clouds gone, we walked for a while before it got too hot.  This colorful bird caught my eye.  I didn’t realize it was a new life bird until I got home.

Common YellowthroatCommon Yellowthroat – A life bird!

There were lots of these flowers blooming.  I see them all the time although I’d never looked them up.  They’re native to Florida and the Americas.

Pickerelweed flowersPickerelweed flowers

Some other things we saw:  a Raccoon, a Peregrine Falcon, Red Shoulder Hawks, Black Belllied Whistling Ducks, a Juvenile Blue Heron and other wading birds, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Painted Bunting, Red Eyed and White Eyed Vireos, House and Carolina wrens, Palm Warblers, and a Chicken (the Ranger said its name is Chuck).

It was very nice to visit a place with no sign of the recent hurricanes.  Lots of other folks thought so too and were out there enjoying the day.  It’s a large place – I’ve ridden around it on my bike, but it’s too far for me to walk the whole thing.  They have a guided tram ride at 9am (confirm on their website) and it’s worth trying if you’re there at the right time and want to see more of the place with expert commentary.  Remember too that the park is open year round now – it no longer closes during the winter.  You can see some other Orlando Wetlands Park photos in this Flickr Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296, and you can read other posts mentioning the park at this link.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

One and Two and One, Two, Three

Here are a few photos from a scouting trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday.  I wanted to see how it was doing in the wake of Hurricane Irma and my shutter finger was itchy.  Some things didn’t fare too well:

Wreck at Markers 1 and 2Wreck at Markers 1 and 2 – on the northwest side of the Max Brewer Causeway 

I drove over on SR 46 from Winter Springs and the road was clear the entire way.  Although the water’s very high in some locations (especially near the St. Johns River), it doesn’t reach the road.

I made these next three images standing in the same spot near the Bairs Cove boat ramp on Haulover Canal.  It’s amazing how reliable a place this is to see wildlife.  I almost always find at least these three species when I go there and I was glad to see them still around after the storm.

One PelicanOne Pelican

Two ManateesTwo Manatees

Three DolphinsThree Dolphins

They’ve finished the Haulover Canal Bridge repairs so it’s open now.  I need to go back there and kayak again.  It is going to cool off soon I hope!

There were a few shore birds along the causeway.  I couldn’t check out the wildlife in two of my favorite areas (Black Point and Gator Creek) since they’re closed due to hurricane damage.  I don’t know when they’ll reopen – you can find out the current status at this webpage:  https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147578811

For everyone that ended up on this page after searching for math answers or song intros, I’m sorry about the title.  I know it’s bad for Search Engine Optimization, but I couldn’t resist.  I only wish I’d found a group of four somethings to photograph too.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Florida and the Keys – an Update

A few more photos from our trip late last month along with some post hurricane(s) status in the area…

Watching the sun set in Key WestWatching the sun set in Key West.  Sunset is a big attraction down there.  This view is from the Hyatt Centric, where we stayed.  They opened again on 22 September but say that “some amenities are temporarily limited or unavailable”.  We’ve heard the marina where I made this photo is “gone”.Injured LogerheadInjured Loggerhead – Staff members treat an injured Loggerhead Sea Turtle at the Turtle Hospital on Marathon.  Their website (www.turtlehospital.org) says the facility and staff made it through Hurricane Irma OK, but there’s extensive damage all over Marathon.Key West: Fort Zachary Taylor Fortress InteriorKey West: Fort Zachary Taylor Fortress Interior.  Their website says they’re closed until further notice with no info on how much damage they suffered.

Key West Street Scenes: Sloppy Joe's BarKey West Street Scenes: Sloppy Joe’s Bar first opened the day Prohibition ended.  Ernest Hemingway was a favorite patron.  Their website says they’re open for business.

One of the people who run the snorkel boat trips at Bahia Honda has a YouTube channel: “Livin’ the Keys Life” and he’s posting info about Bahia Honda and Marathon.  The damage there looks pretty bad.  I imagine it will be a while before it re-opens.

As far as locations around Central Florida, please check them before you go too.  For example Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is reporting lots of road closures  due to hurricane damage (https://www.fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=2147578811) while Orlando Wetlands Park says they’re open for public use (http://www.cityoforlando.net/wetlands/). And Lynn and I drove over the Lake Jessup bridge again today and the sunflower fields are still flooding.  We saw a few blooms on high ground close to the road, but we’ll have to wait until next year on these.

You can check on other parks at the Florida State Park storm information web page:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/content/storm-information.

And there’s info on National Parks in our area on this site:  https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/2017/09/no-details-fate-national-parks-caribbean.

Tourism is a huge part of the economy in Florida and especially in the Keys.  One way you can help them recover is by visiting.  Just make sure they’re ready before you go, and they’ll be very glad to see you.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Hurricane Irma may pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park

This morning, we’re waiting to see what Hurricane Irma is going to do and it looks like it might pass directly over Bahia Honda State Park as a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm.  It’s hard to imagine the damage that could result.

Lynn and I returned from the Florida Keys a week ago.   We spent a couple of days in Key West and then were lucky enough to stay in one of the 6 cabins at Bahia Honda State Park for 3 more days.  They’re built on stilts but even so are only about 10 -15 feet above the ocean.  And we felt them swaying at times while we were there – even in good weather.

The cabins are on the right side of the overseas highway as you head down to the keys.  They’re furnished with everything you need for a great Florida vacation.  And the location on a beautiful lagoon is wonderful.  These next three photos were all made on the patio, just a few steps from the cabin door:

Loggerhead TurtleLoggerhead Sea Turtle – The ranger told us that turtles, dolphin, and tarpon like the lagoon because it’s so quiet and protected.  We’d see one or more of Loggerheads from the cabin porch almost every time we stepped out to look.  We also saw Tarpon rolling on the surface a few times and maybe a dolphin or two.

Sunset FishingSunset Fishing – You can fish in the lagoon by the cabins, but other water activity isn’t allowed.  We often saw campers fishing there.

The view from the cabinAnother view from the cabin porch. The skies at Bahia Honda are some of the darkest in Florida. Lynn and I got up at about 1:30am on our first night. The moon had set and we had a stunning view of this part of the Milky Way, right from the patio. And the bugs weren’t biting too much!

The Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary is about 8 miles southwest of Bahia Honda and snorkeling trips leave for the reef twice a day.  It was a relaxing swim – the water temperature was in the high 80’s, which can cause storms to strengthen.

Sergeant majors and othersLooe Key Sergeant majors and others –  The visibility wasn’t very good the day were were there, but the number of fish we saw was still impressive.

There are also 72 campsites in the Park.  Many of them are in awesome locations too.

Between the bridgesBetween the bridges – This is at sunset, between the old abandoned bridge on the left and the new one on the right.  You can see some of the lovely Bahia Honda campsites on the left side of the frame.

Lynn and I thought of this visit to Bahia Honda as a “scouting trip”.   Based on what we saw, we definitely want to go back.

To everyone in Irma’s path and to everyone impacted by Harvey:  We’re thinking of you.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – stay safe in the storm!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Apopka Restoration Area

If you take a look at my blog archives, you’d see only a few mentions of Lake Apopka and the wildlife drive that goes through the restoration area out there.  If you look for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge posts, you’d find almost 70!  Judging solely by these numbers, you might assume that MINWR is a better place to visit.  At least some of the time, you’d be wrong!

I met my friend Robert Wilson one morning a couple of weeks ago at the entrance to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  I hadn’t seen him (or Lake Apopka!) in a while.

Country RoadCountry Road – Near the Lust Road entrance to the drive

There’s been lots of activity there this summer.  Robert and others described feeding frenzies in the ponds by the pump house. Alligators and birds have gorged on fish, creating some great photo opportunities.

And people have seen many interesting birds too including Swallowtail and Mississippi kites, Brown Thrashers, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, an Ash-throated Flycatcher, Purple Martins, and others.

_EM128449_DxO.jpgSwallow-tailed Kite

Red Shouldered Hawk with Field MouseRed Shouldered Hawk with Field Mouse (in right claw). It had just caught the mouse on the road and carried it to this tree.

You can get a good idea of the birds at a place using eBbird.  Here’s their chart of bird observations by species and month for Lake Apopka.  And here is the same thing for MINWR.

On our trip, we also saw several kinds of dragon flies:

Holloween Pennant DragonflyHalloween Pennant Dragonfly

And many water lilies blooming, some of them in very pretty light:

Water LilyWater Lily

MINWR can be quiet through the hot part of the year and the times I checked on it this summer, I saw few birds / wildlife. Conditions were poor with little rainfall for long periods followed by some huge fires along Black Point Wildlife Drive.

On the other hand, Lake Apopka’s been a wonderful place to visit this summer.  It’s a shame I didn’t go over there more often.  Not too long ago, the lake was polluted with farm runoff.  Restoration efforts and the opening of the wildlife drive about two years ago have made it a premier nature and wildlife destination in Central Florida.

It’s about the same distance from me as MINWR.  I’m going to make a point of visiting more often.  If you haven’t been recently – go.

You can see more Lake Apopka images in this folder on Flickr.  And MINWR photos in this folder.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved