Tag Archives: Tri-colored Heron

Back to nature

It seems like ages since I’ve been out amongst our natural Florida wonders.  So I was eager to visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week for a look ’round.  I stopped first by the Indian River before dawn.  The geometry of the pier, bridge and sun rays teamed up to form nice leading lines toward the pending sunrise.

A peaceful morning on the pier by the bridgeA peaceful morning on the pier by the bridge – Veterans Memorial Fishing Pier by the Max Brewer Causeway in Titusville, Florida

East Gator Creek road was closed, so I drove up to Haulover Canal and the Mantee Observation Point – of course there were no manatees visible there!  Then I circled back to Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Standing birdStanding bird – Tri-colored Heron on a bush. It was so still that I had time to zoom in and make a three frame vertical panorama.

We’ve had lots of rain lately and there was plenty of water at Black Point.  I saw fish schooling in several spots, although for some reason the birds weren’t interested. I think the highlight of the trip for me was watching two Reddish Egrets dancing over the water.

Running birdRunning bird – a prancing Reddish Egret seems to walk on water

There were just a couple other people on the drive and I only saw them briefly.  It’s a special privilege to have a place like this mostly to yourself – even at this time of the year when it’s so hot and the wildlife is a bit sparse.

Flying birdFlying bird – a Great Egret glides above the water

What a delightful morning!  I have many more MINWR photos here.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go enjoy nature – it’s good for you!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island – 4/3/19

When I  visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I’m never sure what I’ll see.  But almost every time there’s something new and interesting.

I hadn’t been to Gator Creek Rd. for sunrise in a while.  This spot is at one of the curves where there’s a break in the mangroves so you can get down to water level.  There weren’t many clouds.  I used a low camera position for this photo  to emphasize the foreground and made a 4 image panorama to get a wider field of view.

Gator Creek MorningGator Creek Morning.

Next, I drove up to the Bairs Cove Boat ramp.  Manatees seem to like the area – I think I’ve seen them there every time I’ve been.  Sure enough, I spotted several and debated whether to park and make a photo.  I’ve made so many photos of their noses that more of that kind of shot isn’t very exciting .  But since I was there, I got out of the car.  I  counted over a dozen as I walked quietly down to the dock.  It wasn’t until I was right at the water that I saw three of them next to the wall.  I’d only brought my long lens with me from the car, so after making several “Manatee Head Shots”, I pulled out my phone to get a photo of the group (https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/40566342263/in/dateposted/).  When I left they were still there – calmly resting and taking occasional breaths.

Manatee head shotManatee head shot

I was heading back toward Black Point Wildlife Drive along Shiloh Rd. when I caught a glimpse of some water through a break in the trees.  I stopped and walked over to make this infrared image in a spot I’d never noticed before.

By the Indian RiverBy the Indian River

Things were fairly busy on Black Point – lots of birds and people too.  I stayed at one small feeding frenzy for a while making images of the birds hunting for fish.  This heron had just launched from the left.

Tricolored Heron in flightTricolored Heron in flight

I stopped next to another photographer who’d found this Killdeer close to the road in very nice light.  I was careful not to disturb her bird as I quietly got out of my car to get this image.

Killdeer Killdeer

I spotted our usual Herons and Egrets, Brown and White Pelicans, a few ducks (mostly Blue Wing Teals, Northern Shovelers, Coots, etc.), Ibis, Willets, Sandpipers, Cormorants, Anhingas, Roseate Spoonbills, Belted Kingfishers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grackles, Turkey Vultures, Mocking Birds, Ground Doves, Black-necked Stilts, a few Killdeer, and one new life bird for me:  a Whimbrel.

Another pleasant and interesting morning at MINWR!

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Is Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Shutdown?

Kevin M. asked if I wanted to go photographing on Saturday and we decided to go over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  I hadn’t been in a while and I wanted to see how it’s doing during the Government shutdown.  We also invited Kevin K. to go along.

Sunrise by the causewaySunrise by the causeway

We stopped at the Titusville Marina for a few sunrise snaps.  A cold front was passing through and it was still overcast and a little dreary.  But there was a small break in the clouds right at daybreak.

As far as the shutdown goes, this is what the MINWR website says:

“Where public access to refuge lands does not require the presence of a federal employee or contractor, activities on refuge lands will be allowed to continue on the same terms as before the appropriations lapse.”

So facilities at MINWR are closed and locked, but the trails we tried were open (Gator Creek road and Black Point).  We didn’t see any rangers, but the wildlife is still showing up.

Note:  Jim Boland reports that Cape Canaveral National Seashore (Playalinda) and Biolab Road are closed.

Some of what we saw:  a Bald Eagle, Ospreys, a Northern Harrier, Belted Kingfishers, a Reddish Egret, Coots, Common Gallinules, Northern Shovelers, Blue-Wing Teals, Hooded Mergansers, Pie Billed Grebes, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great and Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis, and Alligators.

Tricolored HeronTricolored Heron

The birds were fairly abundant, but I struggled to get good images.  The light was  dim under the clouds and the birds were a little too far away.  We even came up on a feeding frenzy.  But it was in a small pond behind some thick mangroves that were just about impossible to photograph through.  Here’s my best shot of that – this Ibis was diving back in to get another snack:

Launching IbisLaunching Ibis

The sun broke through one other time before we left:

Sunbeams in the swampSunbeams in the swamp

All in all, a pretty nice photo expedition.  So don’t use the government shutdown as an excuse. – you can still go out and enjoy our natural resources.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Reconnaissance

Kevin M. invited me to go out photographing with him last weekend, but I begged off since Lynn and I had just returned from Pennsylvania and I was tired.  Instead we went out on Friday to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Kevin K. was in town and he tagged along too.  It’s been over six months since the three of us have been on a photo excursion together.  Much too long!

We met way too early and car-pooled over, stopping at Titusville Marina Park for sunrise.  Riding together is great for catching up with friends!

Dawn on the Indian RiverDawn on the Indian River

Dawn was subdued until the sun actually rose, when the color finally popped.   Photoshop and the Topaz Clarity plug-in might’ve helped nature out a little too.

We saw several other photographers (and non-photographers) also out too early.

Early startEarly start on a calm, lovely morning

In general, summer isn’t the best time of year to bird in Central Florida – but there are exceptions to every rule-of-thumb.  For instance, Kathy B. found a Clapper Rail on Black Point at the end of June, and D. Cunningham enjoyed seeing the Swallow Tail Kites that visit us before heading to South America for the winter.

We didn’t spot any unusual birds on Friday, but we did enjoy photographing a few of the common ones.  This “Swamp Chicken” was posing with its reflection in good light;

Swamp ChickenCommon Gallinule

And so was this Tri-colored Heron:

Tri-color HeronTri-colored Heron

… and this Green Heron too (although it wasn’t kind enough to include a reflection):

Green HeronGreen Heron

We’ve been having torrential rains nearly every afternoon. and the water is very high around Black Point.   The St. Johns river is also high – the area around where it crosses SR 46 is flooded although it doesn’t come all the way up to the road.  I hope we don’t get a hurricane any time soon – adding even more water could be dangerous.

And the rain has created a great environment for mosquitos – expect to get bit unless you wear some repellent.

One more  (small, kind of sad) story.  We saw two pigs at Black Point.  The second was along the canal near the exit.  I snapped a few photos of it and when I got home and looked at them the poor thing was obviously deformed.  I don’t want to post my images, but if you’re curious, look at Kevin K’s photo.   It doesn’t look like a recent injury – this little pig is a tough survivor.  I wonder if it’s a birth defect or from an encounter with an alligator or other predator?

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

©2018, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Gatorland – May 11, 2017

I didn’t go to Gatorland last Thursday with Kevin K.  intending to make images for a Mother’s Day blog post.  It happened anyway – it’s pretty hard to avoid this time of year.

The nesting season has moved along and there are more species active now and raising their young.  This tricolored Heron is hoping her mate gets back soon with some food for the kids!

Bawling, big mouth babiesBawling, big mouth babies

Even with the chicks making all that noise, the Mom is sitting quietly, protecting them in case they’ve attracted any predators with their squawking.

In the next photo, an adult Great Egret is feeding an almost mature young one.  I watched one nest where there were three juveniles this size, all competing for food from one adult.  They were squawking and wildly grabbing for the adult’s beak.  The adults are very careful and  fortunately seem to avoid eye injuries.

Feeding timeFeeding time

Cattle Egrets are on the nest too and although I think some have already hatched, I couldn’t see them – they’re way back in the bushes.

Checking her eggsCattle Egret checking on her eggs

There are also some Dads around.  This guy was preening – trying to look good for his mate.  He impressed me!

Showy AnhingaShowy Anhinga

And the alligators were getting in on the act too.  Here’s a video of a bull gator bellowing a mating call.  I like the sound track, the standing wave ripples over his back, and the steam (mist) coming out of his nose!

Gator Bellow

All of these animal behaviors are fascinating to watch.  They’re exciting to photograph too!

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

Oh, and happy Mother’s Day!!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Two Merritt Island Photos

Both of these images are from a short trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge  yesterday morning.  I thought I’d tell you a bit about how I made them.

It was a good thing that I got there well before dawn, because the place I had in mind for a sunrise photo didn’t turn out (construction and street lights).  On the way over I noticed a massive thunderhead that looked like it would add some interest to my photos.  Unfortunately, it also added a lot of rain to the area, so I spent some time wandering around looking for a new place and making a few uninspired photos during gaps in the downpour.

Almost made it...Almost made it… A sunken sailboat near the Titusville Municipal MarinaI

I ended up at the Titusville Municipal Marina. There always seems to be a sunken boat or two there.  I think this one is recent, but it’s hard to be sure.   By this time, the rain was slacking off, so I parked and hurried over to where I could get a good angle on the colors in what was left of the rain clouds.   The light was pretty and I used the boat and the rocks on shore to add foreground layers to my composition.

I made many exposures, framing the boat in different ways.  The color built and I like the last set of frames best.  For this image I made seven exposures from the tripod.  Four were for the sky / clouds, pointed up slightly and bracketing exposure to make sure I captured the entire dynamic range.  I pointed three down slightly for the boat and water, to make sure I had everything in focus.  One of these three was through a neutral density filter so I could get a long shutter speed and smooth the water surface.  At home, I ended up using six of the frames, combining some in Lightroom’s merge function, and blending the rest manually in Photoshop.  Finally, I used Nik Color Effects Pro to tune the colors and Topaz Clarity to increase mid-range contrast to get what you see above.

After sunrise, I headed over to Black Point Wildlife Drive for a look around.  It’s been closed while they worked on the road.  It’s open again, in great shape, and ready for all the fall visitors.  There’s not much bird activity yet, but I did find this nicely posing Tri-colored Heron.

ReflectionsReflections – Tri-colored Heron, Black Point Wildlife Drive

This image is less complicated.  It’s just two frames, hand-held.  One’s focused on the bird’s eye and the other on its reflection in the water.  I merged them in Lightroom via the Photo Merge – Panorama function, and finished this one too with tweaks to color, contrast, and cropping in Photoshop.

Should you try these techniques?  I can’t decide for you.   For me, it’s more work, but it gives me much more control over the final result.  If you do decide to try them and have any questions about how to do this kind of thing, please leave a comment and  I’ll do my best to answer.


Thanks again to Mary Kate for writing last week’s post.  I apologize for the lack of images in that email.  I need to figure out how to get the server to send the photos when they’re not referenced from Flickr.  If you didn’t get a chance to see her photos, please click through and visit the blog.


Reminder: The flowers are coming!  The annual Florida Sunflower bloom should start by the end of September, and only lasts for a couple of weeks – be ready!.  In Central Florida, you can see them at Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation area. See here for more info.


You can see many more of my photos from MINWR in this album on Flickr.

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

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland Update – 8 April 2016

I had a delightful visit to Gatorland yesterday morning.  Tom M. and Jim B. were also there.  I started following Jim’s blog (sorry, no longer available) years ago and we’ve been web friends for a while.  I’m happy I finally got to meet him in person!

Anhinga gathering nest materialAnhinga gathering nest material

The nesting season is going full blast now, and this gives everyone a chance to see and photograph wild birds in breeding colors doing nesting season behaviors.  Quite an opportunity!

We saw Anhingas, Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, Cormorants, Great Egrets, Common Gallinules, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, and Woodstorks all in various stages of breeding.  Little ones in the nest are quite common and some of the baby Great Egrets have grown into “teenagers” already and will be fledging shortly.

Nesting Double-crested CormorantNesting Double-crested Cormorant – Can you tell where this bird gets its name?

The early entry program at Gatorland is perfect for catching the birds in good light on the west side of the breeding pond.  They enjoy the morning light too.

I'll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry...I’ll be with you in a moment just as soon as my feathers dry… – This Wood Stork was soaking in  the morning sun

Keep an eye out for backlit birds – they can also be beautiful.

Great Glowing EgretGreat Glowing Egret

Gatorland is an exceptional place to practice your “birds-in-flight” skills.  Patient observation lets you figure out movement patterns and get ready.  I waited several minutes with my camera in “BIF” mode (high shutter speed, continuous auto focus) until this Tri-Colored took off.  I didn’t expect it to grab a little fish on the way, but I was glad it did!

Breakfast to goBreakfast to go – A Tri-colored Heron scoops up a minnow on the fly

Click on any of these photos to see them larger on Flickr.  And look at this album for many more images from Gatorland.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  If you haven’t been to Gatorland yet, go.  And if you haven’t checked out Jim’s blog (sorry, no longer available) yet, go do that too.  Then – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland – June 4, 2015

Once again, it’s that time of year:  The Gatorland photography pass season ends soon – so if you want to get in early at 7:30am, you’ll have to hurry.  After June 17th, they’re only open during regular hours.

I like to watch the progression of wild birds nesting in the rookery and usually visit several times. Check out this very handy bird nesting season reference guide on the St. Augustine Alligator Farm web page for hints on what you can see here in Florida and when.

A juvenile Tri-colored Heron, (with a typical "hair-do")A juvenile Tri-colored Heron, (with a typical “hair-do”).  This one was waiting for Mom or Dad to return with some food.

Great Egrets start the year off, but this late, most of their eggs have hatched and the chicks have grown and fledged into nice looking juveniles.  When I was there this week with Tom M., Wood Storks, Anhingas, Snowy Egrets, and Tri-colored Herons were still raising chicks and tending to nests.

Wood StorkWood Stork – Bringing a branch back to Momma.

Several of the Wood Storks had found an abandoned Cormorant nest and were stealing branches from it.  This one made several trips!

Cattle Egrets are taking over the starring roles and are busy attracting mates, building nests, and breeding.

Cattle Egret - posing in breeding colorsCattle Egret – posing in breeding colors

This was probably my last visit to Gatorland for a while but I’m looking forward to returning next year.  It’s a wonderful place to get close access to a number of Florida bird species.  I’ve posted a great many photos from there in this set on Flickr.  You can read Central Florida Photo Ops posts about Gatorland at this link and posts about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm at this link.

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Breeding blue and hatching chicks

Thursday night, Tom M. invited me to meet him at Gatorland.  We both showed up at 7:30 Friday morning to see what’s changed from our visit on February 20th.  The answer is a lot!  Last time, it was mostly the Great Egrets starting to breed.  This time several more species are dressed up in their fancy colors and plumage and building nests.  And the Great Egret chicks are starting to hatch.  Here are some photos from the trip.

I saw this male Anhinga getting ready to take off and managed to make a frame  just as it left the tree.  You can see the breeding season blue around his eye as well as some of the crest on his head.

Anhinga close upAnhinga close up

Cormorant eyes are always pretty in the right light.  They add a striking blue mouth during nesting season.  Some of the Cormorants are already on nests.  This pair looked like they were just about to “get busy”.

Cormorant couple 2 Cormorant couple

Tri-colored Herons also add a dash of blue for breeding season.  They’re starting to show off with courting behaviors and poses to attract mates.

Tri-colored Heron displayingTri-colored Heron displaying

And here’s a couple of Great Egret siblings huddled up close to Mama in the nest.  I’m not sure you can call these young chicks without a full set of feathers beautiful, but they are cute.

Mama and two chicksMama and two chicks

Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Wood Storks and other species usually also nest in the this rookery – so we still have those to look forward to.  It’s a wonderful time to visit Gatorland, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, or your local bird rookery.  Don’t miss this chance to see nature in action!

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

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Gatorland update, 5/11/13

Keith H. and I took advantage of our annual photo passes and stopped by Gatorland yesterday morning. If you’ve planned to see the wild bird rookery there, don’t wait too long. There’s a lot going on now and it won’t last forever.

Cattle Egrets and Cormorants are still incubating eggs and should start hatching soon.  Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Anhingas, and Woodstorks have hatched and you can get great photos of parenting activity including feeding, nest maintenance, displays, and flight to / from nests.  All of the birds are in peak  breeding colors.

Tri-colored Heron in flight
Tri-colored Heron in flight

Gatorland is a great place to practice flight photography.  Observe the bird behavior for a while, pick a likely place with a good background (hopefully in the shade) and wait.  Opportunities will occur!

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret

Most of the Cattle Egrets were back in the bushes, in bad light and obscured by twigs.  Be observant and patient you’ll find one out in the open and maybe even in front of a dark background.

Here’s a couple more photos from yesterday:

Anhinga in flight
Anhinga in flight – they’re very different (and attractive) in breeding season. 

Double Crested Cormorant
Double Crested Cormorant – very pretty eyes if you can catch them in the right light

We also saw several other birds types including a Swallow-tailed Kite.

If you go during the week, take advantage of the early entry option.  We got there at 7:30 and there were only a few other photographers there.  As we were leaving about 10:15, there was a huge line waiting to get in.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer to photograph in the early morning light and when it’s peaceful.

Another reason to visit Gatorland is to see the new Panther Springs exhibit.  These animals are very impressive – I didn’t realize how large they are.  These two are a brother and sister pair that were raised in captivity and so can’t be released back to the wild.  The Florida Panther population is estimated at only 100 – 160 in south-west Florida.  Well worth seeing.

Hello kitty

Hello kitty!

You can read other Central Florida Photo Ops blog posts about Gatorland from this link.  And this set on Flickr has many other photos I’ve made there

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

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.