Lynn and I paid another visit to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm this morning to check on things at the Rookery. Things are hopping!
After a somewhat slow start (cold weather?), the Rookery has had a very active and varied nesting season. If you haven’t visited yet, you need to get over there before you completely miss your chance until next year. You can still see many species in the nest with chicks, although there are also many juveniles that have grown very large and are even flying around.
According to Gen Anderson – who is the Bird & Mammal Curator at the Alligator Farm (via the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list – no longer available), there have been over 250 nests with more than 700 chicks counted in the rookery. That’s a tremendous number of birds in a relatively small area! The following species are resident:
Mama Woodstork preens one of her chicks
Cattle Egret nest with chicks
Tri-Colored Heron nest with chicks
Mother Spoonbill with eggs
Great egrets, Snowy egrets, Little Blue Herons, and Green Herons are also in residence.
There are four Spoonbill nests in the rookery and since I’ve never seen Spoonbill nests or chicks, these have been very exciting for me. This is the first year that they’ve nested at the Alligator Farm and the farthest north they’ve been recorded nesting. Two of the nests are well hidden at the back of the property, but the other two are easily viewed. All four contain chicks although it is difficult to see them, since they’re still so small. The chicks in the easily viewed nests will only be there for about another 5 weeks before they fledge.
I’m going to depart from my usual practice of one subject per post and include three different ones in today’s entry.
Photos and information on a visit to Gatorland, yesterday.
An update on this blog after three years of publication
A political comment
Feel free to read the portion you’re interested in, or indulge me and look at all three.
1. Gatorland May Day Update
If you haven’t yet visited Gatorland this year, now is still a great time. Yesterday morning, I decided to drive down there to see how the rookery is progressing through nesting season. We’ve had a cold winter in Florida and as a result, the birds are about a month behind the normal schedule. The last time I visited (in March), it was mostly the great egrets building nests, courting, and sitting on eggs. Yesterday the Great Egrets were still very active (many with large chicks), but there are also Cattle Egrets, Tri-Colored Herons, Anhingas, and Cormorants all very actively fulfilling the purpose of life.
By the way, have you looked lately at the Gatorland blog that Mike Godwin writes ? He’s posted a report on the current nesting activity (sorry – no longer available), with a lot of detail and photos. There’s also an active Gatorland Flickr group and looking at the photos posted there on any given day can give you a real good idea of what’s going on.
Here’s some of what I saw yesterday:
Pair of Great Egret chicks in nest: You can get an idea of how far along the Great Egrets are by the size of this cute pair.
Cattle Egret: This one was hiding in the brush, but still posing. The Cattle Egrets seem to be just getting started with a lot of nest-building going on.
Mother Cormorant with just hatched chicks: Not a great photo, but you can see the chicks beside the very protective mother. Their eyes were not yet open and there was another un-hatched egg in the nest, so they had to be only hours old.
Common Moorhen Chick: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a moorhen chick before, but I have to admit I haven’t been paying that much attention to this species. They’re very common in the area.
Wood Storks and chicks on nests: Mike Godwin is a great host at Gatorland. He made sure we knew where these nests were so we could photograph them. There were two right next to each other and they were very crowded and active.
You can click on any of the photos above to view them on Flickr. You can also take a look at my Gatorland set on Flickr for some other photos from yesterday (the last nine in the set) as well as from previous visits.
2. Happy Birthday, Blog!
My first post was on the 4th of May, 2007, so it will be three years old on Tuesday. Not a long time in absolute terms, but more than a lifetime for some in “internet years”.
The blog has morphed a bit since then. Originally it was just a place to share my photos, photo experiences, and talk about photo related ideas. I still do that, but I’ve added a theme around all of this: I try to find interesting places around here to make photographs and then post blog entries including links to information about the places as well as some hints on what’s there and how to photograph it. My hope is that this will be interesting to photo enthusiasts visiting the area as well as people who live here. I know I’ve looked for similar blogs when I travel.
With this one, there are a total of 89 posts so far which is an average of about two per month, although lately I’ve been doing pretty well keeping up with my goal of one post each week. Of these, 45 are tagged “CFL Photo ops”, about photo opportunities in the area.
As near as I can tell from my server logs (and disregarding spam and robots), I seem to modestly successful – at least some people are reading what I write. If I’m interpreting the CyStats log correctly, I have over 100 RSS subscribers, and about 10 – 30 visitors on average each day. They are from multiple countries, which is really nice. The most visitors I’ve had in a single day was close to 200 early this year after Jim Goldstein posted his “best photos of 2009” entry on his blog. Thanks, Jim! The most viewed page is the main page, with the My Favorite Photos of 2009 post coming in second.
The most used browser, by a slim margin is Internet Explorer (~51%), followed by Mozilla, Firefox, Safari, etc. Many people still use IE version 6.0. If that’s you – update! Modern browsers are much more capable and secure.
Recent, frequent external search terms include things like: “focus bracketing”, “gatorland photographers”, “central florida photos”, “orlando bird photography”, “alligator farm orlando”, “orlando photo ops”, “photographing birds in central flordia”, “good area to photograph fl”, “central florida places to photo”, “wildflower photography in florida”, “photographing birds in central florida”, “photographing wildlife in central florida”, and “ed rosack”. I’m pleased that people are finding my blog with those search terms.
Of course, I’m my most loyal reader. I’ve enjoy writing it, but I also really enjoy going back and reading it and looking at the photos. I guess it really is a blog in the sense of a personal journal.
And what’s up with all the weird spam comments? Do they really think I’ll let those through? Would anybody? Why do they keep sending them?
I don’t really have any plans to change the blog going forward. However, I’d really like to figure out how to encourage more genuine comment and interaction. And, I’m always open to your ideas and suggestions. Especially for places around here to visit!
3. Warning – Politics Ahead
Caution – I apologize, but this paragraph is political. It does relate to photography and nature in general. Read at your own risk.
As I wrote down the words in topic one above about witnessing nature in all its glory, I couldn’t help but think a great deal about the gulf coast shoreline and what is beginning to happen there to countless birds, their chicks, and other wildlife from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The impact on people who are continuing to recover from hurricane Katrina will be an additional nightmare still to come. And the news this morning reports that it will eventually reach the east coast of Florida too as the Gulf Stream current spreads the spill.
The scope of this disaster is unprecedented – and it was a remote possibility. We can’t jump to conclusions yet, but complacency and the bottom line during the design of this oil drilling rig sure do seem to be causing great damage. I wonder how many of the decisions that were made in the design were probably financial in nature and not based on the worst case outcome, which by the way is occurring? The platform was either not designed or not built to preclude or handle it.
I also wonder if there are engineering memos or PowerPoint slides somewhere warning of this type of consequence if the design went forward as planned? I wonder how many fail safes in the well shut off valve didn’t fail safe and instead just failed due to shoddy workmanship or poor design? I wonder how the engineers that designed, built, and tested the equipment on that well feel today? I wonder how their management can sleep at night? I wonder how long British Petroleum will take to bring the well leak under control? And I wonder how they will ever undo the damage they’ve done.
So far there are no answers, only questions. And thousands of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico every hour of every day.
The Photography Interest Group elected to return to Viera Wetlands this morning. Once again, it was a very nice visit. The weather was much better than last time. We had clear skies and plenty of light, although the road was chained closed due the recent rains – making it a walking visit only. Walking is better for us anyway.
One thing I definitely wanted to see was the masked duck that had been reported in the paper recently. Apparently, these are very rare in the area – and I’d never seen one. There are a lot of birders coming from as far as 2 hours away to add this one to their life list.
Here’s a few other photos from this morning.
Wood Stork in flight – I like the water drops in his wake.
Limpkin in flight
Pair of Mottled Ducks (?) – I really like the lead duck’s head reflected in the water.
Note: you can click on any of these photos to go to my Flickr photo stream and view a larger version (click on the magnifying glass icon at the top). There’s also links at the end of this entry to the entire set and a slide show version of the photos.
In a “ToDo” post last year, I promised to visit and report on Gatorland and to compare it to the St. Augustine Alligator farm for you. I was finally able to go and this post is the basic review. I’ll follow-up with a comparison to the Alligator Farm shortly. Gatorland is a vintage, Florida, roadside attraction (started in 1949) and has grown into a 110-acre, photographer friendly theme park featuring some great shows with many kinds of animals on display. Although there are a lot of things to do in the park, the two that may attract nature and wildlife photographers more than others are:
The Bird Rookery: Created in 1991 as a natural breeding area for the gators, the 10 acre Breeding Marsh has over 100 adult alligators and is a completely natural environment. It attracts wild birds,which tend to nest above the alligators, since they provide protection against some of the bird predators such as raccoons and snakes.
The bird rookery and breeding marsh
The Swamp Walk: This is located at the southern end of the park and is a self guided tour on a raised wooden walkway through a Cypress Swamp and affords visitors a rare look back into what much of Central Florida looked like before development.
There is also quite a bit for the non-photo family members to do, including shows, a small water park, a petting zoo, and displays of other captive animals.
The gator jumparoo show
Photo hints: Gatorland reinstated its photo pass in 2012. It allows entry at 7:30 and lets you stay inside until dusk. Quite an advantage for bird photography.
Tripod/Monopod : Gatorland is a photographer friendly place. You can bring all of your equipment, including a tripod or monopod and there is ample room to use them as long as you are courteous.
Lenses: Of course, long lenses are a must for most bird photography and they will certainly help you at Gatorland. But since many of the birds are so used to people you can get very close to some of them, so very good shots with not so long lenses are possible.
Wood Stork and Alligator bokeh
Best time to visit : Early February through June (nesting season) where the weather is also not as hot.
Other : Normal hours are 10:00am – 5:00pm. Be sure to ask about Senior Citizen and Florida Resident discounts.
Families will find lots to interest them at Gatorland. It’s a good value in today’s overpriced theme park environment. And photographers will enjoy visiting this park multiple times.
The Photography Interest Group visited Orlando Wetlands Park yesterday and had another nice trip. There was lots to see and the weather was pleasant. We came across this very pretty bird with iridescent feathers and we’re wondering whether it’s a Glossy Ibis or a White-faced Ibis. My vote is that it’s a Glossy because of the dark eyes. A White-faced Ibis should have some red in the eyes. Does anybody reading this know for sure?