I hope you don’t mind a short post today. I’ve just recovered from a sore throat and laryngitis that I somehow caught in spite of all our pandemic precautions. It wasn’t serious and I’m feeling fine now, but I didn’t get a chance to go on any photo excursions last week.
Anyway, I made this image about a month ago in a favorite spot along the Indian River in Titusville.
It was a good morning
It’s on the western shore, just south of Veterans Memorial Park. The light was changing that morning and I managed to make several photos that I like. For this one, I exposed one frame for the foreground and bracketed three more for the sky. I adjusted them in Lightroom and merged all four manually in Photoshop.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And when you can – make some photos!
Well. Kevin M. wanted to meet and photograph the SpaceX launch scheduled for 5:15 am last Friday morning. Talk about zero dark thirty!
Anyway, I was all packed and prepared Thursday night when the launch was postponed. Since I was ready to go, I decided to head over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge anyway on Friday morning (just not so early!). I’m glad I did. I got to see a lot more things flying than just a space ship. By the way, if you like to look at photos of SpaceX launches, their Flickr stream is awesome.
With our recent cool, clear weather, I expected few clouds and a so-so sunrise. But this scene with the sun rising below the clouds and centered behind the Vehicle Assemble Building at Kennedy Space Center was pretty.
Gator Creek Road at MINWR has been closed for a while so I was glad to see it finally open again. They’ve been busy maintaining the dirt road surface and trimming vegetation along the sides. You can see a little better now – and you don’t have to dodge potholes! There was a lot of bird action.
A large squabble of gulls (Mostly Laughing and Ring-billed)
Birding is interesting in many ways. For instance, you can always call a group of birds a “flock”. But I think the group names for different bird species are fun. If you’ve ever listened to a big “squabble” like this, you’ll probably agree it’s an appropriate name for gulls. You can also call a gull group a “flotilla”, “gallery”, “screech”, or “scavenging”.
I’m not sure what attracted these huge gatherings to Gator Creek. but they sure seemed to like it there.
A tightly stacked scoop of Skimmers
“Scoop” is a wonderful name for a group of Skimmers too. The classic photo for Skimmers is of a single one feeding just above a calm surface with its lower mandible in the water (like this one). I didn’t see any of that behavior on Friday, but I really liked this alternate flight shot. It’s hard to understand how they fly that close without hitting each other. Groups of Skimmers are also known as a “conspiracy” or “embezzlement”.
On Black Point Wildlife Drive the water was very low in spots but there was still a lot to see. Here’s one more group flight shot:
A fling of Dunlins
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that Dunlin are sort of a life bird for me. What I mean is I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them before, but I find Sandpipers challenging to ID and I’d never consciously done so with Dunlin. I also saw / ID’d some Western Sandpipers on Friday for the first time. Flocks of Dunlin are also called a “flight” or “trip”.
And here’s one last bird photo. This group was a lot smaller than the others. They were spread out and flying around so fast the only time I could grab a collective image was when they settled for just a moment.
A small worm of American Robbins
It looks as though there’s only the one name for a group of Robins. I suppose you could always be boring and call them a “flock”.
So that was a great visit to my favorite wildlife refuge! In addition to the birds above, I also saw a Bottle Nose Dolphin, Alligators, a Bald Eagle, Roseate Spoonbills, Forster’s Terns, a Eurasian Collared Dove, Brown Pelicans, Turkey Vultures, Ospreys, Ibis, American Avocets, Great Blue and Tricolor Herons, Redish Egrets, Great and Snowy Egrets, and some others that I’m forgetting or (once again) didn’t ID.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos!
‘Twas the night after Christmas and I sat at my desk,
trying to decide which photos were best.
To the refuge I’d been three times in December.
I was writing a blog post to help me remember.
All of these pictures I selected with care.
In hopes that they’d make you feel like you’re there.
This light on the Fish Camp made me pause for a bit.
When the pandemic’s over, we’ll stop in and sit.
Early morning at the Fish Camp Bar & Grill. On SR 46 at the St. Johns River.
Going into the refuge the river’s reflection,
painted this scene approaching perfection.
Clouds on the Indian River. Just south of Veterans Memorial Park.
Kingfishers on Black Point are loud and brash.
But I managed to catch one, heading off in a flash.
Male Belted Kingfisher in flight
A Common Yellowthroat posed in the brush.
Then he flew away in a very big rush.
Male Common Yellowthroat
Storks in formation soared by above,
A wonderful subject to make photos of.
Three Wood Storks in flight
And what to my wondering eyes should appear?
A pretty pink spoonbill, preening quite near.
Preening Roseate 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 Shoveler drake
Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls,
Now woodpeckers, cardinals, eagles, owls and more,
So many birds along the shore!
Red-bellied Woodpecker. “I know I saw a bug in there…”
Male Cardinal in the Mangroves
Nesting Great Horned Owl
Large birds, small birds, short birds and tall,
stay for a while, don’t dash away all!
Ibises and Spoonbills
Ibises and Egrets
And I exclaimed as I turned out the light:
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL,
AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”
Calm Harbor – Titusville Marina
Note: I ended up visiting Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge three times this month and I had so many unused images from these trips that I decided to re-do a post from December 2019 with updated words to fit the new photos. MINWR is a truly wonderful place – especially at this time of year. I’m very grateful that I live close by!
Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope this holiday season brings each and every one of you and your loved ones peace and joy. I know the pandemic has been extra challenging and not being with family is especially hard at Christmas time. Stay safe and take care of each other so we can all enjoy the better times that are on the way for 2021!
This is my last post of 2020, but I’ll be back next Sunday with another one. Until then, have a happy and safe New Year!
I think MINWR lives up to these definitions and I’m grateful that it’s close by and has stayed open. Even as the pandemic here in the USA continues to worsen, a visit there seems very safe to me. Lots of fresh air, with just a few socially distanced people. And interesting landscapes and wildlife to see and photograph – and divert me from the 24/7 news cycle.
Anyway, our weather has been a bit strange here in Central Florida. We’ve had lots of rain showers and strong winds too, so I wasn’t sure what the conditions would be like. My weather app said there’d be some clouds (good for sunrise photos!) so I got up at zero dark thirty and headed over to the St. Johns River boat ramp on HW 50.
A windy morning on the St. Johns River
The air here is still on most mornings. But in this photo you can see nearby grass blowing and the water motion smoothed out from my 3s shutter speed. As I was photographing, an owl swooped in and landed about ten feet away. It only stayed for a few seconds as it looked me over. It was very dark, I was a bit startled, and I didn’t have the right lens on – so I didn’t even try to make a photo. But it was a very cool moment.
When I got to MINWR I made a pass around Black Point Wildlife Drive. Maybe it was too early, but I didn’t see much. Then I went over to drive through Gator Creek Road and it was roped off – I’m not sure why. This page says Catfish Creek and Peacocks Pocket are closed due to hurricane damage, but doesn’t mention Gator Creek Road. Maybe it was because of a rocket launch – we’ve had quite a few recently.
The wildlife photography part of my trip wasn’t going very well. Before I headed home, I decided to go through Black Point one more time and I’m very glad I did. The second pass was much better!
There are more winter birds showing up now than last time I was there. Kingfisher’s are notoriously flighty, but for some reason this one sat still for me – of course I wish it’d been closer!
Northern Flickers are always a treat. I wasn’t sure that’s what this was until I got home. It was severely back lit and I couldn’t see any detail until I looked at it on the computer (with the shadows slider cranked up).
There were several of this next one flying around over the marsh. I was pretty sure they were Northern Harriers – the white rump is distinctive. I don’t see these very often and I enjoyed reading about them when I looked them up again. They hunt with both hearing and sight and have evolved stiff feathers around their ears to help direct the sound. They also have soft feathers elsewhere to reduce their flight noise – leading to their nickname “Gray Ghost”. You can read more at this link: https://www.audubon.org/news/northern-harrier.
Gray Ghost (Northern Harrier)
Here’s one last photo. Reddish Egrets are one of my favorite birds and I usually spot one or two along Black Point. I’m including it because this is the first time I’ve seen one perched up on a branch – they must do this all the time, right? This photo is worth a click to view on Flickr. You should be able to zoom in there with additional clicks to see a lot of up close detail. This post is getting too long or I’d tell you how I made this 40 MP image with my 24 MP camera. Maybe next time.
I saw a pair of Bald Eagles, Yellow-rumped Warblers (also winter visitors), a few (far away) Roseate Soonbills, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Anhingas, Double-Crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Black and Turkey Vultures, many Ospreys, gulls and terns, and others too, although I’m sure I missed many. I also saw what might have been a vole scurry across the road. Lucky for it one of those Harriers wasn’t close by.
A good trip. I guess I’m glad Gator Creek Road was closed and I had to make a second pass on Black Point!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. If you have a National Wildlife Refuge near you, consider exploring it – in a safe, socially distanced way. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos.
Veterans Day is still a few days away, but since I only publish once a week, I’m going to jump the gun.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is approaching again and here in the US, we’ll observe Veterans Day. We should keep it in mind all year as a reminder of the debt we owe to every Veteran for protecting us and our freedom with their courage, sacrifice, and service.
View from Veterans Memorial Park, Titusville, Florida
I’d like to share a few quotes that are more eloquent than anything I might come up with.
“It’s about how we treat our veterans every single day of the year. It’s about making sure they have the care they need and the benefits that they’ve earned when they come home. It’s about serving all of you as well as you’ve served the United States of America.”
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
Sunrise over the docks – Veterans Memorial Park, Titusville, Florida
The photos in this post were made at Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville. I used to enjoy stopping by there for a sunrise photo on the way to MINWR. It was damaged in Hurricane Irma in September 2017 and the piers and seawall have been fenced off since then. I’ve stopped every once in a while to check on it, but hadn’t made any photos there. Until recently.
The fence is as ugly as ever, but I managed to poke my lens through and over the top of it for a couple of compositions. I thought they’d make good additions to a post about Veterans.
I searched online for news about this park, but didn’t see anything that was recent. Until it’s repaired, we’ll have to wait to get back out on those docks – and keep working around that fence.
I haven’t mentioned the Photography Interest Group in a long time. There hasn’t been much activity, and to be honest the expeditions have always been few and a little haphazard. But anyway Kevin K. organized an early morning photo excursion last Friday and we managed to gather five of us in one place.
We met in downtown Sanford, Florida at the Monroe Harbour Marina for a socially distanced photo walk. Kevin M., Mahesh S. and Lutfi S. joined us too. Here are a few of my photos from that morning.
I arrived a bit early and made this image while waiting for the others. Once I got home, I was curious about the very bright star above the moon and discovered it was the planet Mars.
Moon, Mars, and stars: before dawn at the marina
When everyone was there, we wandered around the area. Calm water and colorful skies made for a nice dawn image looking eastward through the moorings.
Zooming in searching for details, I discovered a Halloween themed sailboat:
Masks, no handshakes (or even elbow bumps), and 6 foot distances made it seem a little strange. But ignoring that, it was almost like old times – seeing friends, catching up on each other’s lives, and making a few photos too. Definitely good for the soul.
On the way home, I drove by Marl Bed Flats again and the standing water there still looks pretty widespread. So no changes in this year’s sunflower forecast – sorry.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay safe, take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you can, make some photos – with your socially distanced friends!
Sometimes, I try to be clever and people ignore me – which may be a good thing.
I noticed a Bottlenose Dolphin making a fuss hunting for fish – big splashes and noise. I was too slow to catch that ruckus, but a few minutes later I made this photo as it swam through calm water in front of colorful early morning reflections on Gator Creek and left interesting patterns in its wake.
A wake at dawn
I posted it to Flickr and expected people to moan about the pun in the title, but crickets about that. Maybe it would have worked better as “Awake at dawn”. Dunno. I suppose I should leave the comedy to professionals. At least I didn’t get a bunch of nasty comments about it!
Here are two more images from that trip. This one is nearby, about 15 minutes earlier.
Restful rays, distant clouds, and a calm creek
And this one is two hours later, along Black Point Wildlife Drive.
Clouds over the marsh
My drive to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was rewarding once again and well worth the time. No wonder it’s a favorite place for me!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope all of you are staying safe – take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you can, make some photos, and even some bad puns!
I meant to get out and make some new photos last week, but that didn’t happen. For today’s post I’ll just show you three recent images that I like and that haven’t been in the blog. I hope you like them too.
These first two were made on the same trip as the ones in this post and this post. Looking back on it now, it seems I came home with more than my fair share of photos on that Merritt Island excursion.
Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville was one of my favorite places for sunrise, but it’s still fenced off waiting for some hurricane damage to be repaired. That morning I moved south a bit (along the shore between the bank and the condo) – to a spot that Jim Boland pointed out to me once. This is a 12 frame exposure bracket panorama that assembled nicely into an 83 megapixel image.
The Titusville marina is another favorite spot. This image is a 3 frame exposure bracket panorama. Sometimes it’s hard to get colors correct there. Lights on the docks can make the water look very orange / brown if you expose and color balance for the dawn sky. In the past, I’ve given up on getting colors I liked and just processed a photo from here in black and white. This time I walked along the dock and found a spot where the lights weren’t as strong.
And last, we’ve seen this Red-shouldered Hawk around our neighborhood recently. I think it’s the same young one that was in this blog post back in March. Lynn and I were eating dinner and I was gazing out the window when I was startled by this bird. It flew right up to our patio, grabbed a lizard off the screen, and kept going. I stopped eating and rushed to get my camera. By the time I got out to the back yard, it was sitting calmly in a tree watching me. The lizard was gone – and the hawk probably didn’t drop it. Red-shoulders are a common sight around Central Florida, but not usually in such great light. I would’ve liked to have gotten a photo with the poor lizard too.
Circle of Life
As usual, you can click on these photos for a better view of them on Flickr.
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 (new) photos!
sur·prise: noun: an unexpected or astonishing event, fact, or thing verb: cause (someone) to feel mild astonishment or shock synonyms: astonishment, amazement, incredulity, wonder
One reason I like photography is because it often pleasantly surprises me. If you do a search on this blog (https://edrosack.com/?s=surprise). you’ll find I’ve used the word many times. Today I have a couple more examples, so lets discuss photo surprises again.
Jumping fish sunrise
The title of this one gives away the surprise. Of course, it’s not unusual for fish to jump out of the water. I was set up for landscape photography, not wildlife or action and I didn’t notice the fish that morning so I hadn’t tried to time my shutter to include it. When I started processing the photo on my computer I was amazed that my camera recorded the fish (a mullet?) mid jump. I think it adds interest to the photo. A small wonder, but a good one. Here’s a closer look.
This second image is a different kind of surprise.
First Light on Wetland Wildflowers
I was on Black Point Wildlife Drive and saw that beautiful light on the clouds. When I got out of the car to make a photo, I noticed those nearby wildflowers and wanted to include them – it was a difficult task. The exposure for the flowers would be very different from the sky. And getting everything in focus in one frame would also be hard. I decided to make three vertical frames (adjusting focus and exposure in each one) and then try blending them together into a single panorama image when I got home.
I wasn’t hopeful. On top of capture issues, I knew the blending would be hard too. The flowers were very close and would change perspective against the open marsh when the camera moved. And any motion from wind would cause ghosting or other issues. I made the frames anyway – it was worth a try. I didn’t think it would turn out this well – an unexpected success!
You can click on the first and last photos to view larger versions on Flickr.
Changing the subject, Tropical Storm Isaias is heading toward Central Florida. Our skies are blue and cloud free right now. Later today it’s expected to be a lot closer and we might get some strong weather beginning this afternoon. Lynn and I have done our hurricane prep and are hoping it stays out to sea and doesn’t get too bad. We also hope all of you anywhere near the projected path are prepared too.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some surprising photos!
I wish I knew how to predict what sunrise will be like. But I don’t, so I just show up and see how it’ll turn out. Here’s the first photo I made last Wednesday:
The water is wide
And this next photo is from nearly an hour later. The color and clouds were going strong the whole time!
Rays and reflection
That daybreak was remarkable. I’ve been out photographing some mornings where the colors only pop for a few moments. And I’ve been out other times where they don’t really pop at all. If any of you know how to predict this kind of thing, I really want to hear from you. If you too want to know, don’t ask me!
Well, our summer season has already arrived here in Central Florida. It’s hot and I was chased by many mosquitoes (and chewed on by a few) as I photographed the sun coming up. I think our recent afternoon thunderstorms have made the bugs worse.
And the birds seem to have moved on, or at least they’re hiding in the places I normally visit. There weren’t many to see along Gator Creek Road or Black Point Wildlife Drive. I did stop by the Green Heron nests that I bypassed on my last visit (https://edrosack.com/2020/05/17/minwr-11-may-2020/). I didn’t see any nesting activity, but this cooperative young one was still hanging around.
Youngster – This juvenile Green Heron has fledged and is out in the world fending for itself
And here’s one final image – a panorama of some trees that I thought were interesting in infrared.
Pines and palmettos
Changing the subject again – I hope all Dads out there are having a wonderful Fathers Day! Thank you for all you do – you make the world a much better place!
“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father.” Lydia M. Child
I miss you Dad. I hope we made you as proud as our families make us.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!