Tag Archives: Osprey

Pretty Pelicans and Playful Porpoise

MK has been trying to get us to go on the Dolphin Discovery Tour Eco boat ride out of New Smyrna Beach.  We finally made time and Lynn and I went with her last Sunday.  Howard and Nancy T. joined us for a wonderful two-hour  tour and a nice dinner afterward.

Brown Pelican in Breeding ColorsBrown Pelican in Breeding Colors

Brown Pelicans were very numerous.  They look pretty now in their breeding colors.  There’s a small island they use for a rookery and roost near the tour start and you get good views of them.

Pelican landing at RookeryLanding at the Pelican Rookery

This tour is offered once a day at 1:30pm.  We arrived about 1pm at the Marine Discovery Center, picked up our tickets and headed over to the dock.

The 40 passenger boat is covered so you can stay out of the sun if you want. We had nice weather although it was a bit windy and a little chilly too.  We were glad to have the sun and our jackets (I know, Florida people, right?).  There’s ample room on board, especially since it was only about half full.  The bench seats are comfortable and we had a lot of room to move around for the best views.

I was expecting to see porpoise (dolphin) – they’re quite common in the Indian River.  This is a typical view:

Four Dolphins, four vultures, a gull, a buoy, and two wrecks

But we were in for quite a treat.  On the way back to the dock, this group of four or five put on an exciting show for us right next to the boat.  I wasn’t expecting to see them breech like this up close.

Four Close Dolphins

Of course, I wasn’t well prepared and it was over very quickly.  I ended up just watching them and trying to shoot blindly without bringing the camera up to aim.  This isn’t a really great photo, but I’m lucky I got it.

Our guide pointed out a wide variety of other wildlife:  Ospreys, Great Blue, Little Blue, and Green herons;  Great Egrets, Cormorants, Anhingas, Black Vultures, gulls, terns, and more.

Osprey with fishOsprey with fish

The mid afternoon light was harsh – not the best for landscape photos.  But an infrared camera can tame contrast, so I used mine for an image or two.  Here’s one from the trip – I like the look of the weathered tree along the shore.

Weathered woodWeathered wood – A gnarly old tree along the Indian River

The Marine Discovery Center offers several boat, kayak. and walking tours.  They also have an indoor exploration area with exhibits, aquariums, and more.  Plan to go next time you’re in New Smyrna Beach.  Call before you visit, since they sometimes cancel due to weather.  I hope the dolphins will be as playful for you as they were for us!

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Blue Cypress Ospreys

May 12, 2017 update:  We’re far behind on rainfall here in Central Florida, so the water level in many lakes is very low.  It’s a good idea to call Middleton’s Fish camp (800-258-5002) and check on conditions at Blue Cypress Lake and whether rental boats / tours are available before you go down.

Here are a few more photos from our trip to Blue Cypress Lake.   Last week I only posted IR images, so this time I’ll use all color photos.

Joe Middleton's restJoe Middleton’s rest

It’s peaceful there.  Whenever our boat was still, the calling Ospreys and Whistling Ducks seemed very loud.  Occasionally we could also hear quiet voices from other boats carried across the water.

Many of the Osprey nests are in smaller trees out in the water.  The boats can maneuver for a good vantage point and standing up in the pontoon boats puts you almost at eye level with the wild birds – providing a wonderful view of their behaviors.

Breakfast timeBreakfast time – These chicks were very tiny.  The third one (low in front) shows how well they blend in.

Don told us that the younger chicks were probably from migratory birds, since they start nesting a bit later than the year round residents.  In this next photo,  two year round juvenile birds look almost ready to fledge.

Mama and two juvenile OspreyMama and two juvenile Osprey.

The Ospreys don’t have any trouble catching fish.  But getting a photo of one with a fresh whole catch is a challenge.  They almost always stop right away and consume the heads.

Osprey with fishOsprey with fish.

And then deliver the rest back to the nest for their mate and chicks.

Special deliverySpecial delivery

I have more photos from Blue Cypress Lake in this album on Flickr. And Kevin K. has posted his from last Friday in this folder.

I hope I’ve given you some sense of what a wonderful place this is.  You owe it to yourself to go and experience it.

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

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Beautiful Blue Cypress

May 12, 2017 update: We’re far behind on rainfall here in Central Florida, so the water level in many lakes is very low. It’s a good idea to call Middleton’s Fish camp (800-258-5002) and check on conditions at Blue Cypress Lake and whether rental boats / tours are available before you go down.

Lone cypress at dawnLone cypress at dawn  (IR, B&W, panorama).

The trees at Blue Cypress Lake are simply gorgeous.  Their shapes remind me of  Bonsai, although I think instead Bonsai should remind me of these trees.  The ones here are all completely natural, formed by nature into elegant sculptures.  I love the way my infrared camera renders them.  The bright needles and clouds against the darker sky and water is very appealing.

Lynn and I spent last Thursday night near Vero Beach and met Kevin K. at Middleton’s Fish Camp just before sunrise on Friday.  Middleton’s is the only camp and the only development at all on Blue cypress Lake.  The rest of the lake and shore is completely pristine and undisturbed – very rare in our state.  It’s also quiet.  And peaceful.  And just stunning.

Photographing Blue Cypress LakePhotographing Blue Cypress Lake  (IR, B&W).

I wrote about Blue Cypress Lake back in June of 2012, and that’s worth a read if you’re interested.  All of the info there is still current.

This place really is Florida unspoiled, and a photographic “target rich environment”.  We went on one of their pontoon boat tours at first light and Don (our guide) was knowledgable and skilled at navigating in and among the trees near the shore.   He mentioned that this lake and the surrounding swamp form the headwaters of the St. Johns River, which flows north to the ocean in Jacksonville – something I didn’t know.

Lone cypress and OspreyLone cypress and Osprey  (IR, B&W, panorama).

Blue Cypress Lake is also home to a large colony of Osprey.  There are 200+ breeding pairs with  eggs, hatchlings, and some almost fledged juveniles in nests in the Cypress trees.  The birds fish in the surrounding swamp and carry their catch  back for the young.  Many of these Osprey are migratory and leave for South America after raising their young – something else I didn’t realize.

Jeanne Middleton told me that prime nesting time starts around 10 April so we hit it just about right.  I made a lot of photos of the Osprey last Friday too.  I’ll finish processing them and post them soon.

I have more photos from Blue Cypress Lake in this album on Flickr. And Kevin K. has posted his from last Friday in this folder.

I should go down there and write about this place more often.  It deserves to be seen, photographed, and saved for the future.  Have you been?  If not, what are you waiting for?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – get some of your friends, head down to Blue Cypress Lake, and make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Early Friday at MINWR

I don’t have much to say this morning, so the photos will have to do most of the talking.  I started  yesterday along the Indian River at Space View Park.

Watching the morning sunWatching the morning sun.  This is a two frame, blended exposure.  I made the bottom half  exposed for the water with a Neutral Density filter to slow my shutter speed to 20 seconds at ISO 100 and f/11.  I made the top part with the filter off, exposed for the sunrise at ISO 100, f/11, 1/100 second.  I was very happy to see the Osprey fly through the frame with a fish as I clicked the shutter.  I blended them together in Photoshop with a layer mask.

I planned to drive around on Gator Creek Road next, but it was closed – so I headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Juvenile Little Blue Heron
Juvenile Little Blue Heron.  There were several around, so they must be nesting nearby.  I’ve seen Green Herons breeding there, but not Little Blue Herons.

A Mottled Duck
A Mottled Duck.  I don’t spot these too often.  When I looked it up, I learned (or maybe re-learned) some things.  Mottled Ducks are related to both Black Ducks and Mallards, and are the only duck adapted to breeding in southern marshes.  The Florida population is a subspecies and the male has lost its distinctive plumage so that the both sexes are colored alike.

You can click on these photos to see larger versions, and I have many more MINWR images in this album on Flickr.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Lake Toho

Kevin McKinney wanted to go by Shingle Creek for a sunrise photo and I’ve wanted to do that too.  We went last Saturday – and found out that park doesn’t open until 8am.  A little late for sunrise.  🙁

Fortunately we got there early enough for our backup plan to work and we ended up in Kissimmee along the Lake Tohopekaliga shoreline.  They have a park there too – and it was open.  🙂

Lake Toho light at dawnLake Toho light at dawn

There’s a little lighthouse at the end of the jetty and the protected water makes for some nice reflections.

We saw a few birds hunting the shoreline close by that turned out to be Snail Kites.  I’ve only ever seen these before at Viera Wetlands and didn’t get a very good photo.  This one perched nicely for a minute or so before flying off.

Snail KiteSnail Kite

And this Osprey flew by with its morning meal.  I like sushi too, so I went ahead and make a photo of it.

Osprey in flight with fishAnother Osprey with a “take-out” breakfast

A pleasant morning after all and I’m glad the backup plan worked.


Reminder – it’s that time of year again:  The Lake Jesup flowers are getting ready to bloom.  I got an email last week from my on-line friend Jeff Stammer.  He’s already been out to Marlbed Flats to check on the flowers.  He says that while it isn’t as wet as last year, it is quite grown up with tall plants and there aren’t as many cow or horse paths as there have been in the past.  So the hiking may be tougher than usual.  I skipped going last year and regretted it.  I’m going to try hard to get out there this year.  When we drove by Friday evening we could already see some yellow color.  I think they’ll start to really peak in a week or two.

Maybe I’ll see you there!


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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.


 

Lake Apopka Two-fer

Kevin K., Kevin M., and I went round the Wildlife Drive on the Lake Apopka North Shore yesterday.  This 11 mile long section of dirt roads opened to the public earlier this year and provides access to a large part of the restoration area near the lake.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive EntranceLake Apopka Wildlife Drive Entrance.

This was mostly a scouting trip as Kevin K. and I had never been, and since it’s the middle of the summer we didn’t expect to see a lot of wildlife.  But similar to Viera Wetlands, there was lot going on.  We saw many of the usual Florida birds and even some unusual ones like Least Bitterns.  About half way through, we stopped behind another car observing a tree full of birds that turned out to be swallows.

My experience with swallows is that they’re very erratic flyers and seldom sit still – which makes them hard to photograph or even identify.  But these were happily perched in the tree and later on power lines.  This allowed us to get some good photos and recognize several species.  Two (Bank Swallow and Barn Swallow) were lifers for me.  I even got both of them in the same frame – how cool is that?!!

Bank Swallow and Barn SwallowBank Swallow and Barn Swallow

There was a reported sighting of a Northern Rough-winged Swallow at this same place shortly before we got there, but we didn’t see it.  We did see a Purple Martin, which was also cool, although not a life bird.

Lake Apopka was polluted for many years but it seems like the restoration efforts are paying off.  This osprey for example, looks like it’s living large.

Osprey with catfishOsprey and catfish

The wildlife drive doesn’t open until sunrise, so we got there too late for a morning landscape, but we did stop by Lake Monroe in Sanford on the way.  Here’s one image I made there.

Marina at dawnMarina at dawn

Judging by this trip, I’ll be returning often, especially after it cools off and migration starts.  For more info on this place, visit Scott Simmons’ post on his blog.  You can see Kevin Ms photos in this album on Flickr, and Kevin K’s in this album.  I only have a couple in my album so far, but I’ll be adding more.

Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area:  another great Central Florida Photo Op!  Go!  See!  Enjoy!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island and Viera Wetlands

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Viera Wetlands are two of my favorite places to photograph and I had time to visit both last week.  They’re each wonderful and seem similar, yet they can be very different.  When I was at MINWR, it was very quiet with few birds or other wildlife around.  July isn’t the best time for birds in Central Florida, so I wasn’t expecting much.

Blackpoint dawnBlack Point dawn – I’ve seen this area along Black Point Wildlife Drive in MINWR full of birds. Not last week.

On the other hand, Viera Wetlands was full of activity.  Right away, we saw a couple of Osprey fishing:

Osprey with catchOsprey with catch at Viera – always fun to see and a thrill to get a good, in focus photo

And as we walked around we saw Sand Hill Cranes, a Caracara, Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Swamp Chickens (Common Gallinules), a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Least Bitterns, Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, and Green Herons.

Green HeronGreen Heron at Viera – posing nicely in very good light

My friend Kevin M. was with me, and he saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  We also spotted a family of four otters crossing the road, and multiple Alligators.

Why did we see so much more at Viera than Merritt Island?  Was it the weather (don’t think it was much different)?  Time of day (we were there a bit later)?  Water type (fresh vs. brackish)?  Vegetation?  Kevin’s luck?

I really don’t know.  I’m just grateful I went to both places and got to see so much.  The moral of the story:  If one of your local photo spots is quiet, try a different one.  You never know what you’ll see.

I have more photos from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge collected in this set on Flickr.  And more from Viera Wetlands in this set.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Seasonal Reminders

We’re finally getting cooler weather here in Central Florida.  In addition to making it even more pleasant outside, the fall and winter months bring some changes to our area photo opportunities.

Orlando Wetlands Park is one of my favorite places.  But if you haven’t been there this year, you’ve missed your chance. It closes on November 15 and doesn’t re-open until January 31st.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker at Orlando Wetlands – not a great photo, but it’s my first one of this bird.  ISO 800, 1/800 sec, f/8, 600 mm

And Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) is also a favorite.  When I went over last week, Blackpoint Wildlife Drive was closed.  The web page says “until mid November”, so it should hopefully be back open soon.  Fortunately there are many places to photograph in MINWR – even with BPWD closed, it’s still worth a visit.

Black and White Osprey

Black and White Osprey on Gator Creek Road in MINWR.  ISO 400, 1/1600 sec, f/8, 500 mm

Brown Pelican in Flight
Brown Pelican in Flight along Haulover Canal in MINWR.  ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, f/8, 600 mm

Our avian winter visitors are starting to arrive too.  ebird.org has a wonderful website where you can explore birding hotspots all over the world to see what species to expect by month.  Here’s the listings for MINWR.  The number of species ramps way up starting in November.

It’s prime time for getting out into nature and seeing what’s there!  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Merritt Island – March 26, 2013

I saw an interesting article in the New Your Times this week confirming what I feel:  Spending time out in nature can improve your mind.  It’s called “Easing Brain Fatigue With a Walk in the Park” and references a study published this month in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.  (I hope you can read the NYT article – I’m not sure how their pay wall works.)  The study measured volunteer’s brain waves as they walked along a path through three parts of a city.  Then they looked at the recorded patterns for signs of frustration, agitation, attention / engagement, and calmness.  The portion of the path through a park engaged the people’s attention while at the same time increasing their calmness.  The urban portions of the walk increased their frustration.  The moral of the story (at least for me):  Spend more time with nature, and wildlife.

I increased my engagement with nature and my calmness this week by visiting the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

I stopped first at Kars Park.  I hadn’t been there before and wanted to scout it as a sunrise spot.  I also hoped I could see / photograph the cruise ships at Port Canaveral from there.  They should make a good subject when they’re lit up in the dark.  I arrived before dawn and found a pier, but didn’t really like the results and moved on.  I’ll have to try again some time.

On the way to MINWR I noticed clouds developing on the horizon.  They were pretty enough to make me pull over for this photo:

Pretty clouds
Pretty clouds – My sunrise photos didn’t come out so well, but the light was interesting a little later in the morning.

Turning in to Gator Creek Road, I spotted an Osprey in a dead tree.  I crept up slowly, stayed in my car, and tried not to disturb it.  It gave me a few hard looks but kept eating and was still there when I left.

No sushi for you – An Osprey with breakfast along Gator creek Road. It watched me as I drove slowly by and didn’t seem to want to share.

A little further on, I ran into this pair, also enjoying breakfast:

No sushi for you! 2
No sushi for you! (2) – A pair of eagles. They didn’t look like they wanted to share their meal either. I enjoyed watching them for a while and when they finished eating they flew away together – so I’m pretty sure they’re a couple.  I’d like to go back to the area to see if I can get a better photo.

After Gator Creek, I took a turn around Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.  It was pretty quiet but I did see a few of the regular birds (Great Blue and Tri-colored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, Black Skimmers, Gulls, Mottled Ducks, Terns, Scaups, etc.).

My last stop was the Bairs Cove boat ramp.  I wanted to check out a new kayak launch area just across Haulover Canal from there.  On the way in to Bairs Cove I noticed an isolated tree on the left and made a quick photo.  As I drove around the boat ramp parking area I kept thinking about the scene.  Something was very appealing and I didn’t want to get home without a good image of it, so on the way out I stopped again and made this more careful photo.  It’s two IR, HDR images arranged so I could stitch a vertical panorama to get this square format result.

A tree along the road to Bairs Cove
A tree along the road to Bairs Cove

As usual, my visit to MINWR was very enjoyable – and engaging, and calming.  Click on the photos above to 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!  And by the way, Happy Easter!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.