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?
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!
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 :
Lake 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.
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 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.
This Centennial Park Osprey was gathering nesting material.
Another 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.
Here’s a close up of the Anhiga nest in the tree above. Dad is feeding his very hungry youngster.
This 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!
A 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!
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!
I don’t see Perigrines very often. It was way off in the distance but I managed to get an image ‘for the record’.
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.
Red-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.
Purple Gallinules seem to like Lake Apopka.
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.
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.
And finally, here’s a landscape photo of the pump house. I think the clouds we’d worried about add a lot of interest.
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.
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!
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
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!).
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.
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.
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!
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: This is along side the A. Max Brewer Causeway, looking east into the refuge, about a half hour before sunrise.
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. 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: This Eastern Phoebe has adopted the refuge for a while.
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: 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: Anhigas are very common here but still well worth photographing when they pose against such a nice background in morning light.
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.
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
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!
‘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!
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.
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.
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.
As I was starting home from Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge yesterday morning, I decided to make one last stop along the causeway. Looking around, I noticed something in the distance rolling around in the water. I couldn’t tell what it was and I wasn’t carrying the long lens, so I walked over to the car to get it. I thought it’d be gone by the time I got back but it wasn’t. This is the first image I made:
What it that?
I still couldn’t see it really well in the view finder. I thought it might be a manatee’s head or maybe even part of a dolphin. Then I saw this:
Cormorant vs. fish
So now I knew what it was! The bird struggled for several minutes trying to swallow that huge fish. It would hold it under water for a while (changing its grip?) before bringing it back up in the air. It eventually got it arranged just right and managed to get it all down. This was the fish’s final view of things – Circle of Life.
Eye to eye
The weather on this trip was somewhat unusual. I almost always go over there in the mornings. One reason why is that it hardly ever rains early in the day. Most of our rain comes down in afternoon thunderstorms. But this time there was a big downpour as I drove around Black Point Wildlife Drive and even a rainbow!
Overall, birds are still a bit scarce out there. I did see some of our usual ones including Pie Billed Grebes, a Red-shouldered Hawk, Ospreys, Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Tri-colored and Little Blue Herons, Mourning Doves, Common Gallinules, American Coots, a few gulls and terns, Anhingas, and (of course) Cormorants. And Jim Boland reports that there are two Bald Eagles hanging out near stop 11 on BPWD although I wasn’t looking for them and didn’t spot them. I also saw a few fast, un-identified tiny birds (UTBs?), a Belted Kingfisher, and some Blue-winged Teals – so maybe more winter visitors will arrive soon.
I’ll leave you with one more photo from the trip. I stitched this together from 21 frames made with my IR modified camera. I’m not sure who / what left that vehicle track there – maybe rangers doing some maintenance? Seems like a great place to get stuck. Anyway I think this gives you an idea of the landscape in the area.
Black Point vista: Monochrome, IR, stitched panorama
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you all are staying safe, and taking care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you don’t recognize something, keep watching – you might get a photo out of it!