Tag Archives: wildlife

Shark Valley

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 3River 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 airspaceCrowded 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 2River of grass 2 – The view looking ~ SE from the observation Tower in Shark Valley

The water and trees around the tower are full of wildlife.  I spotted this Yellow-crowned Night Heron there. I’m going to count this as a life bird (first sighting).  I saw one before, but it was outside the US (in Costa Rica).  I also saw what may have been a  juvenile at Viera Wetlands, but it was an iffy ID.

Yellow-crowned Night HeronYellow-crowned Night Heron

There are lots of turtles and alligators along the way.

Happy togetherHappy together – A pair of yellow-bellied sliders soaking in some sunshine

And you’ll probably see some “circle of life” scenes too.

Lunch timeLunch 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.

You can view my other Everglades National Park photos in this album on Flickr.  And I’ve started to collect photos from the Big Cypress area in this album.

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

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Wild baby gators!

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.

Momma gator 1 with five babiesA momma gator with five babies.

These are wild animals in their natural environment in the Everglades.

Momma gator 2 with six (seven?) babiesA 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!

You can view a bunch more of my alligator photos in this folder on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157625316066537

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

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

MINWR – 12/26/19

Twas the morning after Christmas*

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 pierDawn 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 DriveDawn on Black Point Wildlife Drive

Kingfishers dodged my camera with ease, not stopping for long even when I said please!

Male Belted KingfisherMale Belted Kingfisher

A lady Merganser was flapping her wings. Shaking off water and other things.

Female Hooded Merganser wing flapFemale Hooded Merganser wing flap

An unblinking gator watched me draw nigh. I almost saw myself in his eye.

Eye of the gatorEye of the gator

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

SpoonbillRoseate 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 ShovelerNorthern Shoveler

White Pelican PodWhite Pelican Pod

Now egrets and herons, with all of your calls.

Great Egret in flightGreat Egret in flight

Great Blue Heron portraitGreat 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 morningMerritt 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!

And have a very Happy New year too!!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

*With sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

MINWR – 11/10/19

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 dawnMarina at dawn

Kingfishers were abundant and even a bit cooperative.  This one rested on a dead tree for me.

Belted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

And another even waited until I had my camera all ready and focused on it before it took off!  You can view a short video time lapse of that at this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/49052297597/in/dateposted/

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 EgretReddish Egret in warm morning light

Egret and reflectionEgret and reflection

Great Blue HeronHeron 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!

I’ve put many more of my images from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723.  And please click on the photos in these blog posts to view them in higher resolution on Flickr.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Orlando Wetlands 10-25-19

There’s a lot going on at this city run park out in Christmas, Florida.  I needed steps last Friday, so I got up early and took a walk. Hours are “Sunrise to Sunset”, but generally the gate is open about a half hour before sunrise.  Plenty of time to catch some good light.

Marsh, moon, and sun raysMarsh, moon, and sun rays

The quantity and variety of wildlife is remarkable.  I’ve seen occasional deer, bobcat, raccoons, and otters in the past – and alligators and our common wading birds are plentiful.  Winter migrants are also arriving.

Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe (winter visitor)

Savannah SparrowSavannah Sparrow (winter visitor)

Other migrants I came across included Belted Kingfishers, Black-necked Stilts, and Palm Warblers.

Spoonbills have been numerous there in recent years, but I only saw one this time.  Maybe more will show as we get closer to springtime.

Spoonbill Spoonbill

There were other unusual things too:

Pie Billed Grebe and crayfishPie Billed Grebe and crayfish

I noticed this Grebe surface with what I thought was a fish. But when I got a better look I could tell it was a large crayfish.  It had a precarious hold at first.  As I watched for about a minute, it adjusted its grip and eventually swallowed the whole thing. The crayfish looked bigger than the bird’s head!

Other birds I spotted:  Black Bellied Whistling ducks, Mottled Ducks, Coots, Common Gallinules, Red-shouldered Hawks, Sand Hill Cranes, Limpkins, Wood Storks, juvenile and adult Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Snowy and Great Egrets, Common Yellowthroats, Red-winged Blackbirds, Glossy and White Ibis, Anhingas, Black Vultures, and I’m sure others I missed.

There are on-going or planned projects that’ll make this park even better.  They’re currently “demucking” cell 13 (far corner from the entrance).  And they’ve prepared a site for a new visitor center at the first corner as you hike north from the entrance.  I’m also looking forward to new vantage points a future boardwalk over lake Searcy should provide.

If you take a look at all the posts I’ve written about it, you’ll probably be able to tell that Orlando Wetlands is one of my favorite places . If you haven’t been, go.  It’s a Central Florida Photo Ops “must do”!  You can see more of my photos from there in this album on Flickr.   And this Flickr group will show you other folks photos.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Daybreak, Bobcat, Boar, and More

In the USA, the second full week of October each year is National Wildlife Refuge Week.  I visited my local refuge last Thursday to help celebrate.

Moonlit marsh 1Moonlit marsh

I decided to go straight to Black Point Wildlife Drive to photograph sunrise.  The gate was still closed when I arrived, so I set up by the sign at the entrance and made the image above. The wind was blowing and I like the surreal appearance of the clouds, moonlight,  and stars visible in the full res version.

This was the view a little later from the parking area at the southwest corner of the drive:

Golden Golden

And here’s a monochrome infrared photo along the western side of Black Point.  I like the low sun angle and clouds.

Out early on a straight roadOut early on a straight road

You might be able to tell from these three photos that I was the first and only one on Black Point Wildlife Drive that morning – which led to the next situation.  I stopped at the rest area and got out to scout around.  There’s a small observation deck there at the start of Cruickshank trail and as I was just coming off the path to go up the short boardwalk, I heard a noise and then saw a very healthy looking Bobcat jump over the rail and disappear into the vegetation.  Even though I had my camera in my hands, set up and ready – I was way too slow to get a photo.

I’ve come across Bobcats several times in the wild.  Usually when they see me, they fade away quickly and it’s hard to get a photo.  This time was unusual – I wasn’t trying to be super quiet, I can only guess it was catnapping and didn’t notice me at first, or it was hoping I wouldn’t come its way so it could stay comfortable.

I’m sorry I didn’t get the photo for you on Thursday and I know you’re disappointed.  So here’s a previously un-published one from March 2017 from very near the same area.  It’s typical of the brief and poor look I normally get of Bobcats:

Bobcat Bobcat

Feral pigs in MINWR aren’t as shy as Bobcats.  They typically go about their business when I see them.  This one stared me down and when it was sure I was going to stay put, continued across the road – hackles raised.  It too quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.

Young wild boarYoung wild boar

One more picture to close this out – from the boat launch area at Parrish Park:

#53#53 – A banded Ruddy Turnstone

I had an exciting day at Merritt Island.  Although the winter birds aren’t back in force yet, The Ruddy Turnstones and skittish Belted Kingfishers I saw are migrants – a good sign.

I have many more images from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in this album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/albums/72157627776386723.  And you can click on almost all of the photos on my blog to view them in much higher resolution on Flickr.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Merritt Island NWR, 9/7/10

Editor’s note:  First things first:  We’re safe here in Central Florida and came through our brush with  Hurricane Dorian with very little damage, although people are still worried about possible future flooding from all the rain – especially along the St. Johns river. Other places weren’t as fortunate as we are. The news from The Bahamas is horrific and some locations along the US east coast have severe impacts too. I hope recovery efforts are swift and thorough.


Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge announced they were re-opening on Friday (9/6/19) although BioLab Road and BioLab boat ramp were damaged and are closed for now. Kevin M. and I decided to ride over on Saturday morning and explore a bit.  Here are some photos from the visit.

Sunrise OspreySunrise Osprey.

There were several Ospreys fishing along the sunrise side of the entrance and we stopped  to watch.  I caught this one very close to the rising sun but unfortunately clipped a small part of its wing.  I was shooting in continuous mode though, so I was able to make this composite image using a separate frame to fill in the missing bit.

Wood Stork portraitWood Stork portrait

For some reason, I haven’t made / posted a Wood Stork photo in a while.  There were three or four hanging out at Parrish Park as we left.  They’re very tolerant of people (the folks fishing must give them handouts) and it posed quietly while I made this close-up portrait.  Some folks might not think they’re handsome, but I like their rugged good looks.  They have a lot of character and seem to own their unique style!

Perched OspreyPerched Osprey –  watching us from a dead tree branch on Black Point Wildlife Drive

Black-crowned Night-HeronBlack-crowned Night-Heron. Not a great photo, but I don’t see Night-Herons very often, so I’ll include it.

In general, the conditions at MINWR are pretty good.  The water is high, and wildlife is a bit scarce, but that’s not unusual for this time of year.  It’ll cool off soon and we can look forward to lots of birds visiting in the fall and winter.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Overdue in Osceola

Kevin M. wanted to go down to Osceola county and Joe Overstreet road last Friday.  I don’t seem to get down there very often (the last time I wrote about it was in March of 2017).  Since a visit was so overdue, I readily agreed to join him.

We stopped first along a side road for a sunrise pasture photo.  It’ll be hard to see at web resolution, but there’s a large herd of cattle on the right in the distance.

Cow country sunriseCow country sunrise

Next, we drove down Joe Overstreet road.  This is a great place to see birds that aren’t too common elsewhere in Central Florida.  Here are some examples:

Bob WhiteBobwhite

Snail KiteSnail Kite

Loggerhead ShrikeLoggerhead Shrike

We also saw many of our common wading birds including some Sandhill Cranes, Anhingas, Cattle Egrets, Great and Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks.  There were a couple of Bald Eagles, a family of Red-headed Woodpeckers, an Upland Sandpiper, several Solitary Sandpipers (several? solitary? I know, right?), many molting Meadowlarks, lots of Killdeer, and lots of swallows ( I think these were Cave Swallows, although there could have been others mixed in).

And dragonflies were very plentiful.

Dragonfly Dragonfly – Not sure of ID on this. Maybe a Red Saddlebags?

After Joe Overstreet, we stopped by Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area to see if we could spot any Red-cockaded Woodpeckers but they weren’t cooperating.

If you haven’t been to these areas, check them out.  They seem to attract a diverse group of species.  Click on any of these for larger versions, and you can see a few more of my photos from there in this album on Flickr.

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

A nice surprise

When I wrote about Father Crowley Overlook a couple weeks ago, I realized I had several promising Death Valley images in my  archives that I’d never processed.  A trip like that can be overwhelming, and dealing with so many photos takes time and effort.  I suppose back then I picked out ones I thought were best and left the rest for later.

Well this week I went back, found this one I liked, and worked on it.

Shifting sun, shadows, and sandShifting sun, shadows, and sand – early morning at Mesquite dunes in Death Valley.

This scene is looking roughly north about 15 minutes after sunrise.  The low sun angle makes for lovely contrasts and colors, and helps emphasize the shapes and textures of the dunes.

While I was working on this in Lightroom, I noticed something on the far sand dune, just below the shadow at the top. Please click on the image below so you can see it better.

.                                                                  The hidden surprise!

I was making landscape images, so I used a 24-120mm lens and fortunately liked the framing at 120mm.  My Nikon D800 camera had a 36 MP sensor and captured a great deal of information in the file.  Even though it’s at the limits of resolution, you can definitely tell there’s something there – tracks in the sand and one (maybe two?) animals!

A photo like this is a good example of something I wrote about 10 years ago: Photographic “Level of Detail”.  Looking at it from a distance, you see colors, shapes, shadows and lines.  Zoom in a bit and textures, tracks, and other details become visible.  Zoom in all the way and you can spot wildlife.  How cool is that?!

I really enjoy this aspect of photography.  Have you ever discovered something like this in one of your images?

You can view my other DVNP photos here.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos – it’s can be surprising!

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Back to nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flying birdFlying bird – a Great Egret glides above the water

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

©2019, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved