Wood Ducks seem to really like Lake Davis. There were more than a dozen adults and many more babies. Other kinds of ducks like it too. This Mallard posed in nice light so I could make its portrait:
A colorful, curly tailed Mallard
With pandemic lockdowns nearly everywhere here in the US, it’s nice that we have close by spots for a little solo exercise (with a camera, of course). MK and I made these photos on two separate trips around Lake Davis near her place over the last couple of weeks. Thank you for your help with this post, MK!
I’m glad the ducks like this place as much as we do!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay safe out there and take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you can, make some photos!
We also have a lot of Cypress trees in Florida. They’re deciduous conifers – the leaves turn reddish brown or orange in the fall and drop by winter time. New growth in the spring is a vibrant green.
When we left on our walk, I’d seen a large bird take off from a tree. It happened too fast for a photo and I couldn’t really make out what it was. But I remembered to look for it again when we returned.
Watching the Neighborhood
That’s when I spotted this pretty Red-shouldered Hawk watching intently from the gutter on a house by the corner. Our squirrels and rabbits need to be careful!
Park closing info: I don’t want to post anything about which parks and areas are open or closed in Central Florida. The situation has been changing every day. But many places have shut down – do your research first if you decide to head out.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay safe out there and take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you can, make some photos!
I sincerely hope that all of you are staying safe and well.
This is my next entry in the occasional blog category called “Postcards” where I upload a photo of Central Florida scenes – similar to ones you’d see on a postcard.
It’s easy to find them all. Just use the “Places / Categories” pulldown menu over on the right side of the blog and select “Postcards”. If you’re viewing the site on a phone, you may not see that menu – in that case, just type “postcards” into the search box.
Cattle Egret in breeding colors
I made this image in June of 2015 at Gatorland in Orlando Florida. Gatorland is a theme park and wildlife preserve in south Orlando. The main attractions there are of course the alligators, but wild birds also use it as a breeding area in the spring. The birds are used to people and you can get some fantastic photos of nesting birds and breeding behaviors. I’d been thinking about buying an annual pass this year, but the pandemic has delayed that – Gatorland is closed for now. I’ll get one when we get back to normal.
Note: Items in my blog that are marked with a Creative Commons license are available in high resolution for you to download for your personal use. Please visit this page to see details and restrictions that apply: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.
With all the bad news about the novel coronavirus pandemic and the economy / stock market, blogging about photography doesn’t seem too important, does it? But maybe photography can distract you from those headlines for a bit, like it distracted me last Wednesday morning.
Gator Creek Mirror
I made a solo trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and spent a few hours enjoying nature. I started on Gator Creek Road before dawn, and then went round Black Point Wildlife Drive. When it was about time to head home, I decided to make one more pass through Gator Creek Road before I left. I’m very glad I did.
As I went past where Catfish Creek Trail branches off, I heard a loud group of birds squawking in the distance. I decided to back up and go and see what was making such a big racket. I found hundreds of (mostly) Laughing Gulls along with a few terns and skimmers in the water – all making noise. They were a little too far away for good photos, but on the other side of the road I spotted several circling Ospreys.
Osprey catch sequence 1
They were looking for fish in Catfish Creek. I stayed for 15 minutes or so watching and photographing. They dove and missed a few times and then I saw this one plummeting toward the water.
Osprey catch sequence 2
The splash was huge and things were happening very fast. It wasn’t until it gained some altitude that I could clearly see it had a fish.
I’ve seen Ospreys fishing before, but these are the best photos I’ve been able to get of an actual catch. It’s exciting to see something like this in the wild. My experience is that you have to be lucky to photograph it when it happens. Thank goodness those gulls were calling or I’d have driven right by!
You can click on these photos to see higher resolution versions on Flickr. You can also visit these related Flick albums:
On a side note: I’ve been enjoying our bug free weather here but I noticed when I got home from this trip that I had several mosquito bites. Time to break out the bug spray – I think our Central Florida spring may already be just about over.
I hope that all of you make it through our current troubles unscathed. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, stay safe – and make some socially distanced photos!
Anyone can snap a photo. As photographers, we choose subjects and then compose frames around them so a viewer’s eyes are drawn to what we want them to see. One thing to think about when we’re out with our cameras is how to isolate the subjects in our images.
Scan the scene when shooting – look for distracting elements and get rid of them. How? Sometimes you can’t, but here are some suggestions.
Viewpoint: Shift a few feet one way or another to hide things. There’s a much less attractive mailbox just out of the frame below on the left.
A Mailbox on Joe Overstreet Road
Magnification: We never have enough zoom, do we? Use what you do have to get close and separate subjects from clutter. You can also crop later on the computer, but you’ll risk losing some image quality / resolution.
A good morning for a song – singing Eastern Meadowlark. Joe Overstreet Road
Light: Sometimes the light is just right to make your subject stand out from the background – take advantage of it! This can be modified a bit in post processing too.
Shy bird – A Roseate Spoonbill in the light. Black Point Wildlife Drive
Depth of Field (DOF): In addition to getting as close as you can and using a long focal length, shooting with a wide open aperture creates a shallower DOF and blurs the background behind your subject. You may need to shift your position a bit to insure that the entire subject (e.g. both the insect and the bird) are in the plane of focus.
Butcher Bird – Loggerhead Shrikes often kill prey by impaling them on a thorn or barbed wire. Joe Overstreet Road
Color: Catching your subject against a contrasting color can help it stand out. These American White Pelicans with their yellow beaks were very nice to pose for me in the blue water.
American White Pelicans. Black Point Wildlife Drive
So that’s a few ideas. If you think about this when you’re out, your photos will improve. Do you have any other suggestions? Feel free to add them in the comments.
And speaking of isolation, Lynn and I are both generally in good health (thankfully!). But the CDC says we’re at higher risk from the COVID-19 virus due to our ages. We’re going to follow their recommendations and stay up to date on developments.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go out, stay safe – and make some photos!
Kevin M. asked me on Friday if I wanted to go photographing Saturday. I’d just been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge that morning, but Lynn and I didn’t have anything planned so it sounded like a good idea to me! I told him to pick a spot and he wanted to go down to Osceola County / Joe Overstreet Road.
We’d already had a very nice trip – trying to find Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, checking the Bald Eagle nest and finding the Scissor-tailed Flycatchers again on Joe Overstreet – among other things. As we got close to the lake, we started to notice a lot of Tree Swallows.
Tree Swallow Trio
These birds are winter migrants in our area and breed as far north as Alaska. We’re used to seeing them here but as we got closer to the lake, we’d never seen them like this.
Tree Swallow Swarm
There were thousands – maybe tens of thousands (?) of the birds in the fields and areas close to the lake. They were madly flying around chasing something. Eventually we got close enough to notice the hoards of blind mosquitoes they were after. Here’s one of those that got inside the car.
These aren’t really mosquitoes and they don’t bite, although they were thick enough to be bothersome (for us, not the Swallows). Actually, I don’t think they’re blind either! We stopped by the store at the landing and I asked the young lady running it about all the birds. She told us that when the chizzywinks show up, it’s not uncommon for large groups of birds to go after them. I’ll say! I’d never heard them called that and had to ask her to repeat it so I could make a note and look up the word.
If you’ve ever seen or tried to photograph Tree Swallows, you know how energetic / erratic their flight is. Going after the flies was definitely a high energy task and we also saw them congregating on some nearby wires to rest between servings of their chizzywinks happy meals.
Resting Tree Swallows
Photographing Tree Swallows is usually hard because it’s difficult to keep them in the frame. Photographing this spectacle was hard too, but it wasn’t because we couldn’t keep them in the frame – they were literally wherever we pointed our cameras. It was just that it was so chaotic that I was never sure what I was capturing. and I was worried about depth of field and motion blur. There was plenty of light, so I ended up stopping down and making sure my ISO was high enough to get a fast shutter speed. This frame is my favorite:
Chizzywinks and swallows
Something like this is why I really like photography. It gets me up and out of the house and every once in a while, I see something amazing that I’ve never seen before. And if I can figure out how to photograph it, I can share it with people too. Fun!
Also, I occasionally learn a new word!
My video skills are not the best and this is a bit jumpy with a lot of wind noise, but here’s a ~20 second recording of this:
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go out and explore nature. You may see something amazing – and make some interesting photos!
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 – 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 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 2 – The view looking ~ SE from the observation Tower in Shark Valley
There are lots of turtles and alligators along the way.
Happy together – A pair of yellow-bellied sliders soaking in some sunshine
And you’ll probably see some “circle of life” scenes too.
Lunch 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.
I returned Friday afternoon from several days in South Florida, scouting and photographing in Big Cypress National Preserve and the northern Everglades. I have a huge backlog of images to go through so I’m not yet ready to blog about it. Today I’ll just post this teaser because I know some of you are alligator fans (hi Calvin!).
I see alligators all the time here in Florida and often spot younger ones. But I only remember seeing babies together with their mother once before, up in Paynes Prairie. Last Wednesday morning in the Shark Valley portion of the Everglades I saw several different momma gators with their 1 – 2 year old babies close by.
A momma gator with five babies.
These are wild animals in their natural environment in the Everglades.
A different mom with six (eight?) babies.
I made them from the tram ride in Shark Valley. Highly recommended! The guide was very knowledgable and let us know where to spot all sorts of things. He also knew a lot about these animals:
Alligators are one of the few reptile species that care for their young.
Only the females take care of the babies – the males aren’t involved (well, except at the beginning!).
The female defends the nest from predators and helps the babies hatch and make it into the water.
She’ll continue to provide protection for a year or two.
The hatchlings are 6 – 8 inches long and grow 9 – 10 inches a year at first, so the ones in these photos are less than two years old.
After a couple of years, the juveniles will move away (or get chased away by mom) and it’s time for her to mate again and start over.
Alligators normally ignore humans. But you should always keep your distance and respect the animals. Our guide said to stay at least 15 feet away (some say 30 – 60 feet is better). However, alligator moms can be especially aggressive defending their nests and young. If you see one in the wild, be very cautious. Always back off if the animal hisses, starts paying attention to you, or moves toward you at all. They are faster than you are, especially over short distances.
The two photos in this post are fairly high resolution and worth looking at a little closer. But one of my readers (thanks Lynn!) pointed out that not everyone knows how to zoom into them on Flickr. So if you want to zoom in:
Click on the photo in the blog, which will open the same image inside Flickr.
It’ll probably already be higher res, but Flickr scales it to the size of your display and window. To see it best, maximize your browser window.
Then you should see a cursor with a little + sign inside a circle. This means you can zoom in a little further. Click once to zoom and use your mouse to move around inside the photo.
Some images are detailed enough to support a second level of zoom. If so, you’ll see another + and you can click again to zoom in even further.
Take a look!
I need to finish going through my photos from the trip and I’m looking forward to writing about other things I saw. More to come!
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 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 Drive
Kingfishers dodged my camera with ease, not stopping for long even when I said please!
Male Belted Kingfisher
A lady Merganser was flapping her wings. Shaking off water and other things.
Female Hooded Merganser wing flap
An unblinking gator watched me draw nigh. I almost saw myself in his eye.
Eye of the gator
And what to my wondering eyes should appear? A pretty pink spoonbill wading quite near.
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,
White Pelican Pod
Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls.
Great Egret in flight
Great 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 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!
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!