Tag Archives: Spoonbill

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

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

Orlando Wetlands 10-25-19

There’s a lot going on at this city run park out in Christmas, Florida.  I needed steps last Friday, so I got up early and took a walk. Hours are “Sunrise to Sunset”, but generally the gate is open about a half hour before sunrise.  Plenty of time to catch some good light.

Marsh, moon, and sun raysMarsh, moon, and sun rays

The quantity and variety of wildlife is remarkable.  I’ve seen occasional deer, bobcat, raccoons, and otters in the past – and alligators and our common wading birds are plentiful.  Winter migrants are also arriving.

Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe (winter visitor)

Savannah SparrowSavannah Sparrow (winter visitor)

Other migrants I came across included Belted Kingfishers, Black-necked Stilts, and Palm Warblers.

Spoonbills have been numerous there in recent years, but I only saw one this time.  Maybe more will show as we get closer to springtime.

Spoonbill Spoonbill

There were other unusual things too:

Pie Billed Grebe and crayfishPie Billed Grebe and crayfish

I noticed this Grebe surface with what I thought was a fish. But when I got a better look I could tell it was a large crayfish.  It had a precarious hold at first.  As I watched for about a minute, it adjusted its grip and eventually swallowed the whole thing. The crayfish looked bigger than the bird’s head!

Other birds I spotted:  Black Bellied Whistling ducks, Mottled Ducks, Coots, Common Gallinules, Red-shouldered Hawks, Sand Hill Cranes, Limpkins, Wood Storks, juvenile and adult Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets, Common Yellowthroats, Red-winged Blackbirds, Glossy and White Ibis, Anhingas, Black Vultures, and I’m sure others I missed.

There are on-going or planned projects that’ll make this park even better.  They’re currently “demucking” cell 13 (far corner from the entrance).  And they’ve prepared a site for a new visitor center at the first corner as you hike north from the entrance.  I’m also looking forward to new vantage points a future boardwalk over lake Searcy should provide.

If you take a look at all the posts I’ve written about it, you’ll probably be able to tell that Orlando Wetlands is one of my favorite places . If you haven’t been, go.  It’s a Central Florida Photo Ops “must do”!  You can see more of my photos from there in this album on Flickr.   And this Flickr group will show you other folks photos.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Mother’s Day 2019

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms far and wide!

To help celebrate, I thought I’d share some photos I’ve made of Florida Mothers and their babies.  These are all wild animals / birds and they’re from several places over several years, so I’ll include where and when in the captions.

Momma gator guarding nest and 3 babiesMomma gator guarding her nest and 4 (blurry) babies. Along La Chua Trail, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Gainesville, FL, December 2006

What's Momma doing?Momma Sandhill Crane and chick foraging at Viera Wetlands, March 2017

Spoonbill Mom returnsSpoonbill Mom returns, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, May 2010

Great Horned Owl parent and chickGreat Horned Owl Mom and chick in the nest, Circle B Bar, March 2018

Momma Limpkin and babyMomma Limpkin and baby, Circle B Bar Reserve, October 2013

Great Egret Mom and chicksGreat Egret Mom and chicks, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, April 2011

It’s amazing how devoted Moms are, and it’s fascinating to watch them raise their babies.

You can click on these images to see larger versions on Flickr.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go spend time with your Mom!

©2006 – 2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

First, check the web page!

I missed out last week on a trip with Kevin K. and Kevin M. to the Circle B Bar Reserve due to some dental work (ouch!).  So I was eager to photograph something this week.  My schedule was finally clear on Friday, and when I woke up early, I decided to go walk around Orlando Wetlands Park – one of my favorite spots in this area.

Whoops.  I suspected something was wrong when I got out of the car and heard engines running.   I walked out toward Lake Searcy in the dark and when I saw construction gear and  no water in the corner cell, I turned around.   Fortunately I’d gotten up way too early, so I still had time to change my “plans” and almost make sunrise over on the coast.

Early morning on the river shore 2Early morning on the river shore 2. Rotary Riverfront Park, Titusville. That’s the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance.

After that, I headed to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  There are a lot of winter migrants here now.  The birds must’ve known beforehand about this week’s Polar Vortex.  In addition to our year round species, I saw American Avocets, Lesser Scaups, Northern Shovelers, Hooded Mergansers, and fast warblers I couldn’t ID.  I also stopped and talked to some folks on Black Point Wildlife Drive who were trying to find a Cinnamon Teal that’s been seen there.  I heard later they found it again on Saturday.

Hooded MergansersHooded Mergansers. Two males taking turns displaying for the females in the area

Pair of porkersPair of porkers.  Part of larger family just inside BPWD.

Spoonbill and reflectionSpoonbill and reflection.  This bird was so still, I had time to zoom in and make a three frame panorama.  That really helps with details!

Weathered Red CedarWeathered Red Cedar.  I was glad to see that my infrared camera still works after so much neglect!

So my photo adventure started out badly, but turned out well.  Those engines I heard were pumps.  I checked the OWP web page when I got home – they’re “demucking” Cell 14.  And there’s also construction going on in Cell 16.  I’ll go back in a while when the ruckus dies down.  Don’t be like me – check the web page before you go.  Even if you’ve been there many times!

Orlando Wetlands photos here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296

More Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723

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

©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

Orlando Wetlands Park – the rest of the story

Well, Happy Easter, happy April Fools Day, and happy Chinese Space Station Crashing to Earth Day!  Instead of writing about any of that, I have some photos from an early March visit to Orlando Wetlands Park that I want to share.

I had the place to myself when I arrived that morning.  It was fun to wander around and look for compositions even though the sunrise colors weren’t that good. I made this dawn landscape looking North over Lake Searcy.  It was dead calm and the water was a perfect mirror.

Very calmVery calm

Spoonbill numbers seem to be increasing around Central Florida.  I’ve spotted them recently at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Circle B Bar Reserve, and they’ve been very plentiful at Orlando Wetlands too.  They’re a bit rare in ordinary life so I always enjoy seeing them.

Low passLow pass

This back-lit flock landing in the early light was lovely.

Landing SpoonbillsLanding Spoonbills

I don’t feature Coots in the blog very often, but I enjoyed watching this group.  They often race across the surface of the water and squabble over who gets the best spots.  These two seemed to be competing.

Front row seats at the coot raceFront row seats at the Coot race

Spring is a great time of year to get out and explore nature in Central Florida. There’s a lot going on and the variety of birds is especially good.  You can see all my posts about Orlando Wetlands at this link:  https://edrosack.com/category/orlando-wetlands/

And you can view more images from there in this album on Flickr:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157639616792296

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

Merritt Island – March 30, 2016

I went over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week with Tom M. Here are a few of the things we saw on this trip.

St. Johns Sunrise - silver lining and sun raysSt. Johns Sunrise – silver lining and sun rays:  This is a long exposure (10 second) image I made at the boat ramp on the St. Johns where it meets HW 50.  The water is higher than I’ve seen it there before 

Pollen covered Bumble Bee on Purple ThistlePollen covered Bumble Bee on Purple Thistle:  These thistles are blooming all over Black Point Wildlife Drive.  The pollen on this bee may be an indication of why we’re having such severe allergy problems here in Central Florida.

Spoonbill in the reedsSpoonbill in the reeds:  There were many other birds around too.

Life and death in the Florida wildLife and death in the Florida wild: The bird (a female Red-breasted Merganser) was looking for fish along a small grass island in the distance. I glanced over when I heard some splashing but couldn’t see anything at first. Then I noticed this alligator with the bird. The struggle was hard to watch, but mercifully brief.

On a related subject, you may have seen news about the recent fish kills we’ve had in the Indian River Lagoon.  These are occurring just south of MINWR, nearer Melbourne, Florida.  As we were driving around the refuge, I was struck by how natural it looked and by the absence of any dead fish. I’m very thankful that the Refuge has preserved this natural area for us to enjoy.

I worry about the areas where fertilizer runoff and septic tank leakage can lead to pollution, brown tide, lack of oxygen and dead fish and animals.  I hope that we can figure out solutions so that people living near our natural resources don’t damage them.

OK, sorry for the commentary.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Foggy morning start

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; …”
― John Muir

The first part of my visit to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Tuesday (2/2/16) was about as foggy as I’ve ever seen.  So much so that I was happy to follow a large truck along SR 46 on the way over – better than feeling my way through the low visibility on my own.

For some reason, I’d taken a macro lens with me and I was happy to use it on the following image:

Nature's necklaceNature’s necklace – Foggy mornings dew along Black Point Wildlife Drive.  This is a 5 frame, hand-held focus stack.

One of my on-line friends (Dorothy) asked me on Flickr how I got the reflections in the dew drops.  They were really a gift from nature.  I could see lots of dew covered webs from the car, and I watched for one where I could frame the drops standing out against a clear background.  When I found this particular one, I had to figure out how to best image them.  One part of it was making sure the sensor plane was as close to  parallel with the lines of drops as possible.  I stopped down to f/8 for increased depth of field.  Then I focused on the front string and made a high-speed sequence while I rocked slowly forward.  This captured about 17 frames with different parts of the scene in focus.  Back at my computer, I picked 5 of the frames and made a focus stack to get as much as possible in sharp focus.  The last steps were to do some selective contrast / sharpening on just the drops.  I like the way it turned out.

As I explored further on Black Point Wildlife Drive, I saw something for the first time – a fogbow:

Fogbow and birds in the misty morning marshFogbow and birds in the misty morning marsh.  This is a two frame panorama (and exposure bracket) that I blended manually in Photoshop.  See this post for an explanation of my  technique.

Fogbows are mostly colorless because the water drops in fog are so small that diffraction smears the colors. Physics in action!

Eventually, the fog cleared and I was able to get some good light on a few birds.

SpoonieSpoonbill along Black Point Wildlife Drive

Double Gull stare-downDouble Gull stare-down – along the causeway into MINWR

You can click on these photos to see larger versions on Flickr.  And you can view an album of my MINWR photos here and some other fog / mist photos in this album.

I’ll leave you with another John Muir quote:

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

That perfectly expresses my feelings after I got home last Tuesday.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go ‘walk with nature’ and make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.