Tag Archives: wildlife

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

A good day in the wild

I made a trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last Thursday. As you probably know, it’s a favorite of mine. I just hope all of you aren’t too tired of me writing about it.

Refuge:
1. Protection or shelter, as from danger or hardship

a. A place providing protection or shelter

2 b. An undeveloped area for the preservation of animals and plants.
Retrieved November 22 2020 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/refuges
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 RiverA 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!

_A6605130_DxO.jpgBelted Kingfisher

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).

Northern FlickerNorthern Flicker

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)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.

Pretty BirdPretty Bird

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.

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

What is that?

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. fishCormorant 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: Cormorant vs. fishEye 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!

Wetland rainbowWetland 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 vistaBlack Point vista: Monochrome, IR, stitched panorama

You can view many more of my Merritt Island National Wildlife photos in this album on flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723. And you can scroll for a long time through posts on this blog about MINWR and Black Point Wildlife Drive at this link: https://edrosack.com/category/photo-ops-in-florida/merritt-island-national-wildlife-refuge/

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!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Not so punny

Sometimes, I try to be clever and people ignore me – which may be a good thing.

I noticed a Bottlenose Dolphin making a fuss hunting for fish – big splashes and noise.  I was too slow to catch that ruckus, but a few minutes later I made this photo as it swam through calm water in front of colorful early morning reflections on Gator Creek and left interesting patterns in its wake.

A wake at dawnA wake at dawn

I posted it to Flickr and expected people to moan about the pun in the title, but crickets about that.  Maybe it would have worked better as “Awake at dawn”.  Dunno. I suppose I should leave the comedy to professionals.  At least I didn’t get a bunch of nasty comments about it!

Here are two more images from that trip.  This one is nearby, about 15 minutes earlier.

Restful rays, distant clouds, and a calm creekRestful rays, distant clouds, and a calm creek

And this one is two hours later, along Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Clouds over the marshClouds over the marsh

My drive to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was rewarding once again and well worth the time. No wonder it’s a favorite place for me!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope all of you are staying safe – take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families. And if you can, make some photos, and even some bad puns!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Web host issues

Editors note: The blog has been up and down all morning. My hosting provider (inmotionhosting.com) says they’re having “connection issues”. I couldn’t even get a chat window to open with their support team – frustrating!

It’s back on line right now so I’m going to take this opportunity to quickly post something. Just a photo I like – I hope you like it too. And I hope my blog stays on line so you can see it!

Ibis and EgretIbis and Egret

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, cherish your friends and loved ones, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A Storm and a Couple of Yard Birds

Well once again, I didn’t “get out and make some new photos” last week. But I do have some new ones to show you that I made right here at home.

These Florida clouds! We’ve had some especially awesome afternoon storms lately. This is an infrared image I made from our front lawn when Lynn told me she’d spotted some Mammatus clouds. And yes, it did start raining.

Cloudy with a chance of rain, IICloudy with a chance of rain

We’ve seen hummingbirds here several times, but they seem very shy and hard to photograph. Even when I have a camera ready they skedaddle as soon as I open the patio door. We were eating lunch when Lynn called out this one, and I was able to get the camera and make some images from inside through a window before it left.

Yard bird: Ruby-throated HummingbirdYard bird 1: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

It’s been a tough time for lizards. Last week I told you about that Red-shouldered Hawk grabbing one off the screen. This week, we had a Bluejay hunting lizards in the back yard too. It was hard focusing on it through the tree leaves and by the time I made this image, that poor lizard was about gone.

Yard bird: BluejayYard bird 2: Bluejay and the circle of life

So that’s how my photographic week went. I’m going to try even harder to “get out and make some new photos” next week. We’ll see.

Thanks to Lynn for once again being such an awesome spotter! I would’ve missed all three of these photos if she hadn’t pointed them out for me. Sometimes I get the feeling that there’s a lot more going on in our yard than I ever see. Maybe I should pay more attention!

And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, cherish your friends and loved ones, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos, even if they’re just in your yard!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Just Three Photos

I meant to get out and make some new photos last week, but that didn’t happen. For today’s post I’ll just show you three recent images that I like and that haven’t been in the blog. I hope you like them too.

These first two were made on the same trip as the ones in this post and this post. Looking back on it now, it seems I came home with more than my fair share of photos on that Merritt Island excursion.

Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville was one of my favorite places for sunrise, but it’s still fenced off waiting for some hurricane damage to be repaired. That morning I moved south a bit (along the shore between the bank and the condo) – to a spot that Jim Boland pointed out to me once. This is a 12 frame exposure bracket panorama that assembled nicely into an 83 megapixel image.

Dawn DisplayDawn Display

 The Titusville marina is another favorite spot. This image is a 3 frame exposure bracket panorama. Sometimes it’s hard to get colors correct there. Lights on the docks can make the water look very orange / brown if you expose and color balance for the dawn sky. In the past, I’ve given up on getting colors I liked and just processed a photo from here in black and white. This time I walked along the dock and found a spot where the lights weren’t as strong.

Morning MooringsMorning Moorings

And last, we’ve seen this Red-shouldered Hawk around our neighborhood recently. I think it’s the same young one that was in this blog post back in March. Lynn and I were eating dinner and I was gazing out the window when I was startled by this bird. It flew right up to our patio, grabbed a lizard off the screen, and kept going. I stopped eating and rushed to get my camera. By the time I got out to the back yard, it was sitting calmly in a tree watching me. The lizard was gone – and the hawk probably didn’t drop it. Red-shoulders are a common sight around Central Florida, but not usually in such great light. I would’ve liked to have gotten a photo with the poor lizard too.

Neighborhood HawkCircle of Life

As usual, you can click on these photos for a better view of them on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, cherish your friends and loved ones, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some (new) photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Black Point Wildlife Drive – 7/16/20

Here are a few photos from a short trip over to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge last week.  I spent most of my time on Black Point Wildlife Drive.  This first one is a six frame, handheld, infrared,  black & white panorama looking along the road near the entrance just after dawn.

What's around the bend?What’s around the bend?

I heard these Common Nighthawks before I spotted them. Several were calling and flying  near the road about half way around the drive. They’re very fast flyers, erratic and hard to track.  They spend summers in Florida but this is the first time I’ve been able to photograph them – although I’ve heard them and seen them briefly before (over at Lake Louisa).

A nice surpriseA nice surprise

Gators are frequent down here and I don’t often stop to photograph them anymore.  I thought it was worth a snap this time since it was posing nicely and looking at me like I’d make a tasty meal.

Ominous Ominous

Speaking of tasty meals, just up the road from the Alligator, I spotted two of these rabbits foraging in the grass.  I stayed in my car and this one was very cooperative.  But they should really be cautious around that gator!

Enjoying a snackEnjoying a snack – A Marsh Rabbit chowing down on some greens

I had this Osprey perfectly framed – before it took off.  Turns out I was a little too close, which doesn’t happen very often in wildlife photography (at least for me).  Even though I clipped the wings, I still like the image, so I’m including it.

Launch!Launch!

This time of year is very hot and things to see and photograph can be a little sparse.  It’s probably not a popular time to visit BPWD.  I only saw two other people on the drive while I was there.  But I’m glad I I decided to go over.  Even if I hadn’t see anything, a little time out there in nature is a welcome distraction from ‘doomscrolling’ the pandemic.

A few updates – if you go, make sure to check on things before you leave:

  • They’re collecting fees again on BPWD.  
  • Traffic was single lane and slow around some construction on the A. Max Brewer Memorial Parkway leading into the refuge.
  • Haulover Bridge on Kennedy Parkway was closed.

Black Point is a marvelous place.  I’ve had many wonderful visits there since I first discovered it (~2007).  It’s just the thing to cure a case of Slow Photography. You can read some other posts about it at this link: https://edrosack.com/?s=bpwd.  And you can look at other photos from there in this Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157622920465437

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved