Editors note: The blog has been up and down all morning. My hosting provider (inmotionhosting.com) says they’re having “connection issues”. I couldn’t even get a chat window to open with their support team – frustrating!
It’s back on line right now so I’m going to take this opportunity to quickly post something. Just a photo I like – I hope you like it too. And I hope my blog stays on line so you can see it!
Ibis and Egret
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, cherish your friends and loved ones, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!
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 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 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! 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 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’ 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!
I’ve been wanting to go back to Viera Wetlands. When I called their hotline Friday night, it said the roads are closed to vehicles. I think this is old info, but I didn’t want to drive all the way there to check. So I went to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge instead on Saturday morning. Here are a few photos from the trip.
Hooded Mergansers were there on our last visit. This time they were close enough for a photo.
There was a large group of birds feeding on minnows in one small pond by Black Point Wildlife Drive (yes – the Drive is open again – yay!). It was very close to the road with an unobstructed view – an excellent photo op!
Snowy Egret with a minnow
Since I sold a portion of my Olympus gear early this year and bought the Sony A7R3, I’ve been using it for landscapes and portraits – I don’t have a birding lens for it but I’ve wondered how it would do. Yesterday’s close-up feeding frenzy was a perfect opportunity to try it. After I made some images with the Olympus, I pulled out the Sony with the 24 -105mm lens mounted and made several more photos. I really liked how well it worked – especially the autofocus. Here’s a sample.
Little Blue Heron in flight
On the way out, I saw this winter visitor walking toward a notch in the sand along the river. I crouched down low and waited for it to frame itself. I’m pretty sure it’s a Sanderling, although I’d welcome other opinions.
“The Sanderling is one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds. Though they nest only in the High Arctic, in fall and winter you can find them on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches throughout the world. The Ruddy Turnstone and the Whimbrel are the only other shorebirds that rival its worldwide distribution.” – Cornell Lab, All About Birds
Sanderling through the sand
I visit MINWR a lot. But it never disappoints me. What a treasure!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Sunday with Kevin M. If you’ve been waiting for our winter visitor bird friends to show up – they’re here!
We first stopped by the Titusville marina for a few blue hour / sunrise photos. In the original color version of this one, the orange reflections in the water from the streetlights along the shore didn’t mix well with the blue water and sky in the distance. A B&W conversion eliminated that problem and I like the result.
Marina at dawn
Kingfishers were abundant and even a bit cooperative. This one rested on a dead tree for me.
Other winter birds we saw: American Avocets, Blue-winged Teals, Northern Flickers, Northern Shovelers, a Northern Harrier, Tree Swallows, Common Yellowthroats, and Palm Warblers. The ducks weren’t plentiful yet, but I’m sure more are on the way!
Our year round birds competed for attention by posing in very nice light.
Reddish Egret in warm morning light
Egret and reflection
Heron in flight
And we also managed to find a Florida Scrub Jay along the entrance road to Canaveral National Seashore for Kevin’s list this year. So once again a wonderful visit to MINWR. You should go!
Next we drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive where there were lots of birds, some wild hogs, some alligators, and lots of photographers! Two different ponds had concentrations of fish attracting swarms of birds (mostly Snowy Egrets). They were flying low over the water and snatching their meals “to – go”. This one seemed full – it stood watching the action.
The Great Horned Owl nest was empty this time. We scanned the surrounding trees trying to spot the owls (like Jim Boland did on his visit) but we weren’t able to find them.
At least three Painted Buntings were hanging around near the feeder at the visitor’s center. The light’s usually difficult there for me, but this time I managed to get a good photo of this colorful bird. It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild. Now’s the best time – they migrate through here in the winter.
In the bushes – Painted Bunting
MINWR is a wonderful place and there’s almost always something there worth seeing. Check it out for yourself!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
This is a truly great time of year to visit the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve gone over for the last two weekends. As I mentioned in my previous post, I took Lynn, Mary, and Monette there last Sunday – we had a great time and spotted lots of birds. I told Kevin M. about it and he insisted we go back yesterday with Kevin K.
Why is it so good over there now? I’m glad you asked! The number and types of birds in and around Black Point Wildlife Drive are probably the greatest I’ve ever seen. There are both regular species and winter visitors. Ducks are there in huge numbers, both in the water and flying overhead in vast formations close enough that the sound of their beating wings is quite loud. The larger wading and shorebirds are also there in force. On both days, there were feeding frenzies going on in ponds along BPWD. The water is full of minnows and the birds are feasting on them.
Black Point Wildlife Drive Feeding Frenzy Video
By the way, this situation is an ideal set up to practice your BIF (birds in flight) photography. Here’s a photo I made at this same pond, showing an egret with one of the minnows.
Snowy Egret with minnow
And here’s a close-up of the minnows in the water. No wonder the birds are going crazy!
The reason for the festive gathering (photo by Kevin McKinney)
On these two days, we saw close to 40 different types of wildlife. And I’m sure there were others I either didn’t see, didn’t recognize or forgot. Here’s a partial list:
Alligator, Cows, Deer, Manatee
Ducks: American Wigeon, Blue Wing Teals, Hooded Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler
Egrets: Cattle, Great, Reddish, and Snowy
Herons: Great Blue, Green, Little blue, and Tri-color
Ibis: Glossy, and White
Pie billed grebe
Red Bellied woodpecker
Ring billed Gull
Yellow Rumped Warbler
Cruising White Pelican – a winter migrant to our area
So two wonderful visits, although we did have some disappointments. We looked for Florida Scrub Jays and didn’t see them in the normal spot. And the sunrise photos on both days were a challenge. Here’s what it looked like yesterday:
I visited the Rookery in St. Augustine for the first time this year with two other members of the Photography Interest Group. Things are really hopping!!!
Cattle Egret pair in breeding colors: These go from plain white to very colorful during breeding season. This pair was hiding back in the bushes and it was difficult to get a clean image, but they eventually moved a bit right before I made this photo.
We saw Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Woodstorks, Spoonbills, Little Blue Herons, Tri-Color Herons, and of course – alligators. Some are just starting to build nests and breed. Others (the Great Egrets) already have good size chicks in the nest.
Great Egret and chicks
There are very few places that you can get this close to tolerant, wild birds. It’s wonderful for both experienced and beginner bird photographers. If you haven’t been by yet, now is the time.
A few of us from the Photography Interest Group drove over to Black Point Wildlife Drive yesterday morning. We had one new member with us and for the first half of the loop we were all a bit worried about the lack of good photo opportunities — although I had made one sunrise photo that I like.
We didn’t see many birds at first and the water level was down a bit. I’m not sure why since I think we’ve had a good amount of rain lately. Perhaps it was due to tides.
We were more than half way around the loop when we came up on two pools on the left hand side with a lot of bird activity. It turns out there were large numbers of small minnows in the pools and a variety of herons, ibis and egrets were flying back and forth between the pools feeding on the fish. Situations like this provide a wonderful opportunity for photographers. Just as in the nest building scenario I wrote about a few weeks ago, the birds act in a somewhat predictable, repeatable way. You can study them and place yourself in good light and to show the birds’ activity in their environment. I was looking for something a little different and spotted this break in the reeds with the sun coming over my shoulder. I only had to wait a little while for an obliging Snowy Egret to pose between the reeds for me. Now, if it had only raised its crest!
Snowy Egret Posing
Remember when you’re making photos of very white birds like this to check your histogram. Make sure your exposure isn’t blowing out the white highlights so that you preserve detail in the feathers. If you do have pixels up against the right side of the histogram, use a little negative exposure compensation to move them back toward the left.