Flamingos of Flamingo Gardens, Florida

•November 12, 2018 • 19 Comments


American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)

For as long as I have been photographing native birds here in South Florida, I have yet to see a Flamingo in the wild. As the pink long-legged wading bird is such an iconic representation on things as even Lottery Tickets, I was sure it was a common Florida bird. The only avian pink I encountered belonged to the Roseate Spoonbill, no Flamingos.

Curious, I looked it up and read at one point that Flamingos are not really Florida birds. But, that is not completely true as South Florida was once in the northernmost range of the reddish to salmon pink bird known as the American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).  It is also known as the Caribbean Flamingo and its distribution includes Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Yucatan, Colombia, Venezuela and the Galapagos. Although the Galapagos species does differ enough genetically being somewhat smaller and with body shape differences etc. which earn it sub-specie status ( Phoenicopterus ruber glyphorhynchus).  After the arrival of Europeans in the Americas the population of Flamingos declined and the species was considered locally extinct in Florida. If Wikipedia is correct then perhaps they may be making a come back as there are some year round residents in Florida Bay along with the visitors which fly in now and then. Florida Bay near the town of Flamingo has been for me a good place to see Great blue herons and Wurdemann’s herons, but I’ve not to date encountered any kind of Flamingo there. Though it stands to reason that the location name was chosen because Flamingos were once seen in that vicinity. It gives reason to get out there though and explore more as it would be a kick to see them in the wild.

Audubon himself was anxious to see the American Flamingo and his exuberance is easy to see as he began his biography of the species which became Plate 431 in this manner:

“On the 7th of May, 1832, while sailing from Indian Key, one of the numerous islets that skirt the south-eastern coast of the Peninsula of Florida, I for the first time saw a flock of Flamingoes. It was on the afternoon of one of those sultry days which, in that portion of the country, exhibit towards evening the most glorious effulgence that can be conceived. The sun, now far advanced toward the horizon, still shone with full splendour, the ocean around glittered in its quiet beauty, and the light fleecy clouds that here and there spotted the heavens, seemed flakes of snow margined with gold. Our bark was propelled almost as if by magic, for scarcely was a ripple raised by her bows as we moved in silence. Far away to seaward we spied a flock of Flamingoes advancing in “Indian line,” with well-spread wings, outstretched necks, and long legs directed backwards. Ah! reader, could you but know the emotions that then agitated my breast! I thought I had now reached the height of all my expectations, for my voyage to the Floridas was undertaken in a great measure for the purpose of studying these lovely birds in their own beautiful islands.”

For reason of scarcity in the wild or even at various wildlife preserves, I finally made the trek to Flamingo Gardens in Dania, Florida where I knew they had some resident Flamingos so I could finally assuage my sense of loss at never having photographed one. Those big bills of theirs are so fascinating to me.  The images below are primarily of the American Flamingo, but I wondered why one had a solid colored purple bill and a more whitish pale pink appearance of the feathers. That specimen is closely related but with an entirely different range. It is the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), the most widespread and largest of the Flamingo family and is found in Africa, India, the Middle East and southern Europe. Definitely does not sound like it was ever Florida bird.

I am happy to have gotten a personal view of these specimens even if in a rather captive site with a small concrete pond for their habitat. I expect that as it is early for the nesting season that the rings of orange I saw at the periphery of the yellow eyes of some means the eye color will become all orange/red as the season advances much like Louisiana Herons or Cattle egrets at mating time.



 Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)


Flamingo Gardens Wild Life Sanctuary & Gardens

Wikipedia on:

Greater Flamingo

American Flamingo





..and for all this, nature is never spent..

•October 28, 2018 • 11 Comments



A Louisiana Heron rests on floating branches, its
reflected beauty lit by the descending sun in
a scene of utter tranquility.

Fitting for the dying light of a Sunday, this late day image of a Louisiana Heron inspires a sense of peace and rightness in the world. Better even than a glass of wine to take the edge off the nagging concerns of life. For some reason when preparing to post this image I was impelled to include the poem, God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins with it.  A kind friend once introduced me to the poem and ever since a copy has resided via magnets on my refrigerator. It reminds me there are things greater and grander than any toil or worry of mine and that maybe really God’s Grandeur cannot be spent but rather will keep and uphold us until our own light goes out.


God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
By Gerard Manley Hopkins



Purple Gallinule

•October 28, 2018 • 30 Comments


The Purple Gallinule is well appreciated for its iridescent purple, blue and teal feathers. Initially as a photographer of birds, I found these guys hard to find, sometimes just a flash of iridescent color you think you saw amid a field of green. But over time they have graced my viewfinder many times. They never fail to mesmerize the senses with such opulent beauty. And those long yellow toes so well suited to climbing the thin flower stalks of the aquatic Fire Flag plant only add to the pleasing color palette. I couldn’t resist putting these images up for another of its brilliant features so close to Halloween—-its red and yellow ‘candy corn’ beak!! Perfect eh? Candy corn…a Halloween classic…still is right, or am I showing my age?

The first image with the bird against the large leaves of Fire Flag, I though lent itself well to trying some paint filters with it. The leaves in the capture shot looked very tropical and evocative but with distracting elements. The paint filters tend to smooth out the natural roughness as would be if a painter painted the leaves. I have always found that a painted dried up leaf or one with a hole in it or brown edges looked much more artistic when painted than photographed. At least sometimes. So you might notice the artistic rendering, though I kept wanting to control the brush stroke instead of being at the mercy of what the filters could do. There is motion in the scene with the lower foot and wings as the bird moves down the flower stalk to the water where the Fire Flag flower is.

Shots two and three are of the bird further down the stalk closer to the water, the third image being a close up view of the bird in order to better see its face and some detail.

More on the Purple Gallinule HERE






May the Purple Gallinule usher in a lovely Fall Sunday Morning!



Small Oriental Chest with Vintage Japanese & Chinese Coins

•October 21, 2018 • 10 Comments


The images within this post are from before Dad died. Having spent much of his military life as a child and as an adult in Asia, he saved some evocative artifacts when he had the chance– the stuff boys love to save in treasure boxes with feathers and stones.  During some down time when visiting last November, I played around with his interesting old Japanese and Chinese coins for some still life ideas. The little oriental chest was a long time presence atop his dresser. But, I honestly do not know where he bought it or if it belonged to his parents who were stationed in the Orient.  While I love knowing the story behind every little thing, there is a certain mystery when you are not quite sure of the provenance of an item. In fact Dad was in China when Japan invaded in 1937 and the family had to leave for Japan. Dad’s story was that he was around 12 and the Japanese had a strict lights out order in place at the hotel they were staying in –well everywhere period.  Dad was reading a book by candle light when someone knocked on the door and ordered the candle extinguished. Amazing they could tell a young boy was reading by candle light up in his room.

The coins pictured are not rare or in mint condition but probably date to the Meiji Period (1867-1912) or after. I am interested in learning the Japanese characters to determine period and year. Its fun and not too complicated, you just have to set aside time and learn the scheme. They generally go by which year in the period and you have to add that to the first year calendar date of the period. So Meiji year 45 is 1912. But you need to read the characters to determine the period, then the same to determine the period year, such as 45 and then add to 1867 for the year the coin was made.  Its a bit of fun if you enjoy the interesting characters. Other periods you start over on year 1 and add to a different starting calendar year. Don’t hold me to it though, I am far from expert.

The little box on the third image is very light as the material you make model airplanes with so I presume it is balsa wood. On the top of the box it says in a young boy’s handwriting “Keep Out” ” Old Coins.”  The contents in the photo are not whatever Dad had in the box as a kid but maybe. More likely a silver dollar perhaps was in there.

I suppose I inherited my father’s affinity for such things.









Elegant Thatcheria Shell in BW

•October 14, 2018 • 11 Comments


I’ve offered views of the Thatcheria shell a few times in still life but cannot seem to entirely stay away from this elegant form. In prior efforts I seemed to have trouble getting this front view of the shell as it sits more easily oriented the other way, perhaps some non permanent adhesive to position things that tend to roll might help in the future. Certainly the Thatcheria itself is stunning from any angle.  While I’d intended a single simple black and white image, I did get tempted to play with some background blending for and alternate texture. I thought the texture looked  a bit like stone and that the shell structure played nicely off of it. Hope you find it interesting.




May what remains of Sunday be peaceful as the busy work week looms.


Horse Shoe Crab with Barnacles

•October 7, 2018 • 25 Comments


Meet Limulus Polyphemus, the American horseshoe crab! This prehistoric creature is commonly seen here in South Florida on its beaches and salt lagoons. I’ve been fascinated with their ancient aspect since I was a child. They always did remind me of trilobites which are extinct marine arachnomorph arthropods so that makes sense. Horseshoe crabs are one of the oldest creatures on earth called “living fossils” sometimes. Crab is a bit of a misnomer as these animals are more closely related to spiders and scorpions or arachnids, than they are to crustaceans. Of the four species of horseshoe crab on earth today three species live in Southeast Asia while just one inhabits North America. See the bottom on this post for a good link to learn more about this very cool creature.

I collected this specimen in Merritt Island a couple of months ago. It was found along with a few others behind the Veteran’s Center there on the sandy shallows near some mangroves. All were dead but recently due to the good condition they were in, so not long I don’t think. Excepting, how did they become so barnacle encrusted so fast? I selected this one to take home and let dry for awhile as a good photography subject.

I started taking pictures of this specimen today on a plain platform and worked along nicely until I decided to flip it over to look and its underbelly. The carapace and legs served as an upside down bowl retaining quite a bit of sand. While I had tidied up the crab somewhat dusting off some of the sand on top, the flip spilled out sand in a starry pattern which I quite liked. The ancient arthropod seems now to transcend time sailing towards some point of origin in deep space. It looks organic and alien against the sandy heavens.

I hope you enjoy the sight of this interesting fellow and I’ll endeavor to take more time and care in removing sand and cleaning it up some more as it really is in perfect condition as a specimen.  I did notice that some of the spots of barnacle cement did fall off on their own so I do not know if the remaining barnacles will eventually separate from the carapace.







Horseshoe Crab arranged with a sand dollar and
some twigs also encrusted with barnacles from
another seaside adventure.

Learn about Horse Shoe Crabs




Giant Leather Fern – Shape, Shadow and Home

•October 6, 2018 • 19 Comments



Wilderness areas, as messy and tangled as they are, are filled with pleasing textures and a geometry of form and shadow. Like many photographers, no matter what the intended subject for the day, I stop at most any interesting pattern or attractive shape I see. This of course clogs my computer quite a bit and drives my pack rat nature into the digital world. You never know when you might have a use for something!! Right??

The giant leather fern, Acrostichum danaeifolium, is Florida’s largest fern and besides its tremendous size, growing typically 6 feet tall but can reach 12 feet, offers lots of interesting texture, shapes and shadows. Florida is the only state this species is found but it also lives in Central and South America and in the Caribbean.  The fern grows in coastal hammocks, mangrove swamps and on the fringes of canals and ponds. The fern grows in large clumps in many of the wetland areas I go to shoot birds and is often home to the nesting birds. The leaflets are quite leathery looking and substantial and the undersides of the fertile leaflets are coated with reddish spore cases looking much like a coppery felt. The greens and copper colors are quite lovely even when the fronds dry up and curl into intricate circles. The pinnately divided parallel arrangements of the frond leaves delivers great shadow patterns in most any angle of sunlight. The plants are also used in landscaping schemes and are quite hardy all year round.

In all probability, these won’t be far from my viewfinder when I encounter them in their various forms.







White Egret rests on a Giant Leather Fern Frond. Its
chicks are in a nest deeper within the clump of fern.

These images are from various times of year and I do look forward to cooler temperatures and exploring the Florida wetlands and rookeries soon!