Tag Archives: wildlife

Merritt Island NWR – 11/4/22

Jim Boland sent out his latest email newsletter last Thursday and it made me want to visit the refuge again. The last time I’d been was a while ago and before Hurricane Ian. I charged up my batteries and left early on Friday morning to explore.

There are still some road closures over there (see this link for the latest official status: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/merritt-island), but the good news is that Black Point Wildlife Drive and West Gator Creek Road – spots I usually visit – are open.

I arrived well before sunrise and stopped by the Titusville Municipal marina. The weather forecast had me expecting very few clouds and I had a longer lens mounted to try and frame some details on the boats. When I saw this low cloud drifting in, I didn’t think I’d have time to swap lenses, so I pulled out my phone. Current phone cameras are just amazing! (Click on this one to see a higher res version on Flickr.)

A cloud drifts by above the marina before dawnA cloud drifts by above the marina before dawn. iPhone wide camera, handheld, 24mm eq., f/1.8, 1/5 sec, ISO 8000. RAW capture, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom.

I saw the same things that Jim reported including Spoonbills, a Reddish Egret, Blue-winged Teal, and Black-crowned Night-herons. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out this Redish Egret is the exact same bird he saw. It was especially entertaining: busy showing off its fishing prowess and ignoring photographers interested in making photos.

Hunting EgretHunting Egret.

I enjoyed seeing all the Goldenrod in bloom. This one was in nice light:

Goldenrod in golden lightGoldenrod in golden light.

And I couldn’t resist making a photo of this people watching gator. The header image is a crop from the center of the photo.

Craggy face critterCraggy face critter.

Our other common birds were out and about. I spotted a few warblers too, although the only one I was able to ID was a Yellow-rumped Warbler. It was a great trip – thanks for motivating me Jim!

I hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make some photos!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Glad I Stayed!

There’s a fenced lot near the NW corner of the A. Max Brewer Memorial Parkway and County Road 3 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. An old utility pole there has a nesting platform near the top. I’ve seen Great Horned Owls and Ospreys using the box before: (https://edrosack.com/2015/01/11/merritt-island-national-wildlife-refuge-172015/).

It’s probably way too late in the year to see the Owls nesting, but there’s a chance that the family could be near so I drove by hoping to spot something. When I slowed down and saw a bird on the nest, I was a bit disappointed that it was “just” an Osprey and almost didn’t stop. They’re common and seeing one isn’t as exciting as finding owls.

Nesting Ospreys 1 of 6: Mom and two chicksMomma* Osprey guarding two chicks

But I stopped anyway and waited a bit to see if the chicks would pop up a little so I could get a better photo of them. It was hard to see the chicks and I was thinking about leaving when I saw another bird off in the distance that turned out to be:

Nesting Ospreys 2 of 6: Dad brings home the groceriesDad bringing home the groceries

One of the chicks did show itself then, but neither one made a fuss and they weren’t calling out for food, so I think they must be pretty well cared for. I watched a little longer hoping to see them feeding and when that didn’t happen, I thought about leaving again. But then this:

Nesting Ospreys 3 of 6: Since Dad's back, Mom leaves on an errandSince Dad’s back, Momma leaves on an errand

I din’t have clue why she left. It turns out she must’ve discovered a weak spot in the nest, because it wasn’t long before she came back:

Nesting Ospreys 4 of 6: Mom returns with a stick to repair the nestMomma returns with a stick to repair the nest

And landed in the nest with the stick, very careful not to poke one of the chicks.

Nesting Ospreys 5 of 6: Mom carefully lands back at the nest with her stickMomma carefully lands back at the nest with her stick

Which she moved into place to repair the flaw she’d found.

Nesting Ospreys 6 of 6: Mom patching the nestMomma patching the nest

I was there for about a half hour and these six photos cover a total time span of only 5 1/2 minutes. I was very lucky and excited that this family shared all this activity with me. Maybe Nature was trying to teach me a lesson: Slow down, stay a while, observe. You might see something wonderful. And it doesn’t have to be an owl!

*I’m not an expert when it comes to telling male and female Ospreys apart. But I think I’ve got it right in this post based on behavior and markings. See this link for some more info: https://hawkwatch.org/blog/item/1016-telling-osprey-sexes


Winter Park Osprey nest: On a related note, Jean Thomas commented (in this post: https://edrosack.com/2022/04/24/busy-birds/) that she went by that nest on April 25th and there was one chick that seemed about two weeks old. She’d heard that there were two seen there earlier. I went by on May 3rd and the nest was abandoned. Sad to know, but not all nests are successful every year.


Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the US: It’s our opportunity to remember those that have sacrificed so much to defend our country. Please honor them with a moment of silence, a reverent act or a thoughtful gesture of thanks.


Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. Honor the fallen. And whenever you can, stay for a while and make some photos. Nature might reward you!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved


First flight?

Robert Wilson and I watched and photographed at this nesting tree for a couple of hours on our April 18th trip to Centennial Park in Holly Hill.

Nesting tree panoNesting tree pano

It was hard to keep track of all of the activity. Whenever I looked at this nest on the right side at the top of the tree, there were always two or three of the juvenile herons there. So I’m not sure if they were taking turns or only one of them has fledged so far. Anyway, I was fortunate to catch this moment about halfway through our stay:

Look at that! Should we try?Look at that! Should we try?

It really looks like only one of three siblings has fledged and the other two seem to be watching in astonishment. Or envy. Or admiration.

Or maybe the two in the nest are just worried about a crash landing!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, hang around a nesting tree – and make some photos!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Busy Birds

Very busy birds! And in a lot of different places!

Seems like the nesting season is going full blast. I’ve been seeing them everywhere I go. Lake Apopka, Winter Park, Holly Hill, and Ormond Beach. Here are a few photos. The first two are from a Lake Apopka trip a few weeks ago :

Four or five nestsLake Apopka Nesting Tree (near the pump house). I could see four or five nests in this tree: Two Anhinga, a Cormorant and a Great Blue Heron. There’s also a Common Gallinule perched (or nesting?) in the lower left.

Great Blue Heron and chick(?)A close up of the Great Blue Heron nest in that tree. Some feathers sticking up from the bottom might be a small chick.

This next photo is from the Winter Park Osprey nest. I’ve checked on it several times this year and although it seems active, I haven’t been able to spot any eggs or chicks yet.

Winter Park OspreysWinter Park Ospreys: As of the afternoon of 4/19. I couldn’t see any sign of eggs or chicks in this nest. I’m going to try to go by again next week.

My friend Robert Wilson offered to show me one of his local spots: Centennial Park in Holly Hill. We went by last Monday and there was a lot of activity there too.

Osprey gathering nesting materialThis Centennial Park Osprey was gathering nesting material.

Nesting treeAnother nesting tree (Centennial Park). This one has five active nests: One Anhinga and four Great Blue Heron. These chicks are getting quite mature, with some already fledging.

Hungry youngsterHere’s a close up of the Anhiga nest in the tree above. Dad is feeding his very hungry youngster.

A stick for the nestThis nest in a close by tree is still under construction. The male just passed his mate a new stick to add.

And finally, Robert and I stopped by another spot up in Ormond Beach where he knew of a nesting Yellow-crowned Night Heron. It was hard to get a good photo, but it was exciting to see. These birds are a rare sight for me and to spot one in the nest was a treat!

Nesting Yellow-crowned Night HeronA Yellow-crowned Night Heron playing peek-a-boo from its nest in Ormond Beach.

You can click on any of these images to see higher resolution versions on Flickr.

It always amazes me what nature shows us if we go out and look. I wonder if you have some near by places like this where you could see some busy birds. We won’t know if you don’t go!

Thank you for reading my blog. Your visits, comments, and likes are always welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, wander a bit out in nature – and make some photos while you’re there!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Kevin M. and I have been going out photographing together since 2008 or 2009. But we hadn’t done so for a while. When he invited me to go with him to Lake Apopka yesterday, I eagerly agreed.

The morning didn’t start well. The weather forecast was poor and the fog on the drive up was discouraging too. But we’d agreed to go “rain or shine” and sometimes things work out.

Kevin is a much better birder than I am, and it was a treat to ride along with him, catch up, and look for birds together. Two heads (and two sets of eyes / ears) are better than one and we ended up sighting 34 species (see the list below). Here are photos of some of the things we saw:

Finding bitterns is fun. They’re usually well hidden, but this one was right out in the open and in good light too!

Least BitternLeast Bittern

I don’t see Perigrines very often. It was way off in the distance but I managed to get an image ‘for the record’.

Perigrine FalconPerigrine Falcon

I first thought this next one was a Northern Harrier. Kevin had seen one just before. But thanks to a comment from Wally and a closer look, I think I was wrong about that.

Northern HarrierRed-shouldered HawkNorthern Harrier

Kevin pointed out this Common Gallinule (Moorhen) balancing on a reed and busily feeding on the seed head. It kept at it while we made some photos and looked like it was enjoying the snack.

Snacking MoorhenSnacking Moorhen

Purple Gallinules seem to like Lake Apopka.

Purple GallinulePurple Gallinule

I’d heard about Gray-headed Swamphens and seen some images on Flickr. But I hadn’t ever encountered one myself. They’re non-native birds that first started appearing in south Florida in the 1990s and are spreading north. They’re very distinctive and this one knew how to pose.

Grey-headed SwamphenGrey-headed Swamphen

Black-crowned Night-Herons were along the trail in a few spots. They were all in shadows back in the vegetation. This was the best photo I managed to make of one.

Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron

And finally, here’s a landscape photo of the pump house. I think the clouds we’d worried about add a lot of interest.

The PumphouseThe Pumphouse

It was a great trip – catching up with a good friend and letting nature show us her wonders. The weather improved for most of the morning and it didn’t start raining until after lunch. Here are 34 species we took note of:

American Coots, Anhingas, Barn Swallows,
Belted Kingfisher, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, Black-crowned Night-Herons,
Black-necked Stilts, Blue-winged Teals, Boat-tailed Grackle,
Cattle Egrets, Common Gallinules, Common Ground-Doves,
Double Crested Cormorants, Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Glossy Ibis,
Gray-headed Swamphens, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets,
Least Bitterns, Limpkins, Little Blue Heron,
Mourning Doves, Northern Cardinals, Northern Flicker,
Northern Harrier, Ospreys, Painted Bunting,
Peregrine Falcon, Purple Gallinules, Red-shouldered Hawk,
Red-winged Blackbirds, Snowy Egrets, Swamp Sparrow,
Tricolored Heron

And we also saw a lot of Alligators, several Marsh Rabbits, and a turtle.

If you click on these photos, you can view higher resolution versions on Flickr. And I have many more images from Lake Apopka in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157656060310175/with/24168732782/

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my blog! Your visits, comments, and likes are always very welcome and a big motivator for me. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, go out photographing – with a friend!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved



Just for me?

I enjoy mornings like this one. Out in nature, seeing the sun rise in a pretty spot, or handsome birds posing in lovely light – with my camera along to hopefully capture an impression of a gorgeous moment in front of me.

A new sun kisses the  morning marsh A new sun kisses the morning marsh

Before the pandemic, most of my photography excursions were with other people along to share the sights and experience. Now, it’s rare to go out with anyone else. Sometimes there are other folks around, but I’m mostly by myself seeing beautiful things that no one else sees (even if there’s someone else there!).

Little Blue Heron Family(?) Little Blue Heron Family(?)

Going out alone is good for concentration and getting into a “photography flow“. But going out with others is also good.

Redish and reflection Reddish and reflection

When I made all of the images in this post (and many of the photos in recent posts), I was the only one there to witness what I photographed. I’m grateful that the universe arranges these scenes for me, but it seems like a lot of trouble for an audience of one.

Basking heron Basking heron

I suppose that’s not the right way to think about it. It’s not about me / us. The universe goes about its business regardless of whether any one or thing is there to observe (let’s set aside metaphysics and quantum mechanics for now).

It’s not creating things just for us. Although it seems like it if we’re the only one there.

Fly by Fly by

Isn’t it incredible that even in an urban area like Central Florida we can still at times enjoy nature in uncrowded or even empty places.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please be kind, take care of yourselves and each other – and if you can, get out and make some photos! Maybe I’ll see you out there!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR: Oct. 18,2021

Our weather here in Central Florida is finally starting to cool off a bit. I could definitely feel a difference when I set out for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge early last Monday. And the high temperature reached just 81ºF later that day. Our forecast for next weekend predicts highs in the mid 70s – the beginning of a very nice time of year!

Anyway, I came home with a number of photos I really like. This week I’m going to go way over my usual photo quota and share many of them. First, a couple of landscapes

Beneath the bridge at daybreak Beneath the bridge at daybreak: This is along side the A. Max Brewer Causeway, looking east into the refuge, about a half hour before sunrise.

Around the shore Around the shore: Pretty light and calm water along Gator Creek Road, about 15 minutes before sunrise

Next, some visitors. As pleasant as the cooler temperatures are, they also mean it’s time to start looking for some of our winter bird friends and I spotted several on my trip.

Palm Warbler Palm Warbler. They can be a little jumpy and hard to photograph. But this one sat still for a moment on an interesting and close perch, in nice light, with a good background. Doesn’t happen very often for me – I’m glad it was briefly cooperative.

Adopt an Area Adopt an Area: This Eastern Phoebe has adopted the refuge for a while.

Blue Wing Teal Blue Wing Teal: A few ducks have started to show up too.

Of course we also have many of our normal residents around.

Bottlenose Dolphin Bottlenose Dolphin: The Dolphins and the Brown Pelicans were chasing plentiful fish in Haulover Canal

The header image is a of a Brown Pelican that just caught a fish in the canal. It’s not that good of a photo, but I kept it because it shows an interesting moment in nature’s circle of life.

Posing Anhiga Posing Anhiga: Anhigas are very common here but still well worth photographing when they pose against such a nice background in morning light.

Dragonfly Dragonfly: These can be skittish too, but if you see one in pretty light, be patient and still. Often they’ll return to the same perch and you can squeeze your shutter button.

I saw other birds on this trip, including Great Blue and Tri-colored Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, White and Glossy Ibis, Ospreys, Belted Kingfishers (sorry couldn’t get a photo), Pied-billed Grebes, Mourning and Common Ground Doves, and others I’m forgetting. I also used the Merlin bird app a couple of times to listen to bird calls. It ID’d a Black Scoter. Those have been spotted before at MINWR, but I wasn’t able to find it to confirm.

I haven’t mentioned this in a while, so I’ll bring it up again: You can find out what birds are in an area on the ebird website: https://ebird.org. Their page for MINWR is here: https://ebird.org/barchart?byr=1900&eyr=2021&bmo=1&emo=12&r=L123565 and it shows what species are seen there during each month of the year – a fabulous resource!

You can click on each of these photos to see larger versions on Flickr. And I have a huge collection of MINWR images in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723


Changing the subject #1 : This week, Go take a look at Diane’s Swamp Sunflower post: https://lavenderdreamstoo.blogspot.com/2021/10/in-search-of-swamp-sunflower.html. She spotted them near the Pruitt Trailhead at Halpata Tastanaki Preserve and along the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway trail. Wonderful photos Diane!


Changing the subject #2 : Halloween is next weekend so here’s one more photo from last Monday that fits with the holiday:

Web and Mangrove Web and Mangrove

Okay – I think that’s a long enough post for today! Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Please take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, get out and see some nature. And make some photos!

©2021, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island NWR – December 2020

‘Twas the night after Christmas*

‘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 & GrillEarly 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 Indial RiverClouds 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.

Belted Kingfisher 3Male Belted Kingfisher in flight

A Common Yellowthroat posed in the brush.
Then he flew away in a very big rush.

Common YellowthroatMale Common Yellowthroat

Storks in formation soared by above,
A wonderful subject to make photos of.

Formation flight: Three Wood StorksThree Wood Storks in flight

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?
A pretty pink spoonbill, preening quite near.

Preening SpoonbillPreening 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,

Norther ShovelerNorthern Shoveler drake

White PelicanWhite Pelican

Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls,

Reddish EgretReddish Egret

Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron

Now woodpeckers, cardinals, eagles, owls and more,
So many birds along the shore!

I know I saw a bug in there...Red-bellied Woodpecker. “I know I saw a bug in there…”

Male Cardinal in the MangrovesMale Cardinal in the Mangroves

Nesting Great Horned OwlNesting Great Horned Owl

Large birds, small birds, short birds and tall,
stay for a while, don’t dash away all!

Ibises and SpoonbillsIbises and Spoonbills

Ibises and EgretsIbises and Egrets

And I exclaimed as I turned out the light:
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL,
AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”

Calm HarborCalm 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!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.

A Cautionary Cygnet Saga

Since we’ve been following the Lake Cherokee and Lake Davis Cygnets here on the blog this year, I thought you’d be interested in another update. I apologize in advance for the somewhat disturbing photo below.

Back in late October, a neighbor saw one of the 6-month-old Mute Swan cygnets with what looked like blood all over its body.

Injured cygnet (Photo by Nicole Halstead, used with permission)

Worried about the bird, several people that live near the lake started calling Florida Fish & Wildlife and other rescue groups to get the swan some help. Many rescue organizations limit help to native species only, and since Mute Swans are considered invasive in Florida it was tough to find anyone that could assist.

A Lake Eola Park Ranger agreed to come over and it turned out the bird was severely wounded with a fishing hook caught deep in its neck. It was also bleeding from its mouth. The ranger tried to remove the hook, but it was in too deep.

Winter Park Veterinary Hospital regularly provides free veterinary assistance to injured wildlife and veterinary services to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. They agreed to treat the cygnet and the ranger got permission for one of the neighbors to transport the injured swan.

Dr. Catherine Hellenga, DMV, and her team examined the swan.  It turned out that most of the blood was due to injuries to its mouth and tongue from trying unsuccessfully to get the hook out of its own neck.  The vet was able to remove the hook, and they also took X-rays and checked for possible lead poisoning from weights on the line – all of which came back negative.

They kept the swan for two days, providing fluids, treatment and excellent care until it was ready to be released.  Again with approval from park rangers, the neighbor transported the cygnet back to Lake Cherokee where the Lake Eola Park Ranger team helped release it and reunite it with family and friends.

Ranger releasing the cygnet

Recovering Lake Cherokee Cygnet

Cygnet release and flight to join siblings (Portions of this video by MK Rosack, used with permission) 

Unfortunately that isn’t the end of the story.

We all hoped it would be accepted back into its family and could stay for a bit longer on Lake Cherokee. The park ranger told us they’ve returned swans to Lake Eola after longer than two days and they’ve been accepted. But when this one was released, the cob acted very aggressively toward  it and drove the cygnet away.  

Parents usually drive young swans away at around 5+ months old. This cygnet and its siblings had already fledged and were probably old and large enough to survive on their own1. But after it was rejected, it started acting strangely and wandering out in the street – endangering itself and drivers in the area.  A police officer saw this and called animal control. They came and took the cygnet to a sanctuary in Christmas, Florida.

Our cygnet has adjusted well to its new home and has another swan for company as well as other feathered friends. It should do fine there.

This is a good reminder though, that we all need to be careful about what we do outside while enjoying nature.  Our actions can impact the environment and wildlife, sometimes in a bad way.  Pick up after yourself and never leave things like fishing line and hooks behind where they can injure animals or even other people.

Many thanks to Winter Park Veterinary Hospital, the Lake Eola Park Rangers, and Lake Cherokee neighbors for saving this baby swan!

And thanks to all of you for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other and watch out for wildlife too. And if you can – make some photos.

©2020, Nicole Halstead, MK Rosack, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

1. Here’s an article about cygnet development and when they naturally leave their families: https://www.swanlife.com/months-four-to-six

 

Spellbinding Stare and Tremendous Talons

Ospreys are common here in Central Florida and actually throughout most of the world. Even though I spot them all the time, I still think they’re fascinating photo subjects.

This bird was already on its perch when I saw it. It looks like it just made a dive and hadn’t finished preening yet.

What're you lookin' at?What’re you lookin’ at?

They’re remarkably well adapted to finding and taking fish out of the water. Their keen eyesight helps them spot prey from on high before plunging in to grab them with opposable talons.

“I think he’ll be to Rome
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature.”

Shakespeare in Act 4 Scene 5 of Coriolanus

According to Wikipedia, Shakespeare was referring to “a medieval belief that fish were so mesmerised by the osprey that they turned belly-up in surrender”.

Looking at those eyes, it’s no wonder people thought the birds could hypnotize their prey into surrendering. This looks like a piercing stare, but it was really just a passing glance in my direction from about 100 feet away. Luckily, I wasn’t fully under its spell and still managed to make a photo!

And check out the muscles and long curved claws on its feet! It’s hard to imagine even a slippery fish escaping from a grip like this.

A common and totally awesome bird – sovereignty of nature indeed!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can – make some photos.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved