Green Heron – Big Cypress Preserve

•March 19, 2016 • 15 Comments
Green Heron - Spiky Hairdo-Big CypressThis Green Heron has a bit of a punk attitude despite the
 knock-kneed  stance!! Well, it is the hairdo!!

The Green Heron is a common resident of the South Florida wetlands–A species I have shown probably a few too many times in other settings, such as along Florida Bay among the mangrove roots, or fishing from pond apple trees in wetland areas. This fellow dropped in on me while I was on the lookout for alligators. The winter cypress forest offers its backdrop of grays and muted mossy greens, a pale background to contrast the shimmery iridescence of the Green Heron’s natural coloring. Some call this the Green-Backed Heron for those glorious back feathers!

The community of wildlife in the Big Cypress Preserve is abundant and varied. My last few posts have featured white egrets, black vultures, a snowy egret, alligators and now the green heron which landed nearby…all from the same outing! It was an unbelievably great day!!

For those intending to visit South Florida or local photographers, bird watchers, hikers, and anyone who just loves the Big Cypress Preserve Area and has never explored the 27 mile scenic drive that loops just off of Tamiami Trail south of Monroe Station here is a map for your information. The images from my last few posts were taken along this road. Loop Road is not far from Clyde Butcher’s Ochopee Gallery and so a trip to Loop Road can include a visit to his wonderful gallery of Everglades fine art!! Not to be missed if you want to see something special!!

Loop Road - Cypress Preserve Map

Click on the Map for more information about Loop Road.

Green Backed Heron

Handsome iridescent green feathers earns this small
heron its name, the Green-Backed Heron!

Green Heron against Cypress Background

Green Heron - Cypress Setting

This shot, with its muted green and lavender palette
seemed like a work of art in its setting.

Green Heron Oil Filter Treatment

An experiment using Photoshop's Oil Filter on the last image
 to see how a natural picture might work with such a
treatment. This will be fun to learn.

Judy

Gators in Reflected Waters – Big Cypress

•March 16, 2016 • 9 Comments

 

Gator Reflections and Harsh Light

A trip to the Everglades is not really complete without a chance to sight an alligator or two. While I had planned to post the pictures of alligators along the banks of the swamp I couldn’t seem to get away from the watery reflected images instead. And so here are three for you. I am in hopes that they look fine to the viewer as my new IOLs seem to be flaring in the highlight areas which made it interesting to process. Perhaps I am digging in too soon since my second cataract was replaced just the day before yesterday with a nice new man made  Tecnis lens. I suppose I should be a better patient but since I had a chance to stay home and heal, well the computer beckoned!!

Even when you have your eye out for an alligator sighting, you can be looking right at one, lost in the myriad reflections before you realize you are being watched. I find the skin of the alligator, considering it is such a tough hide and seems so dark,  in harsh light  can really deliver highlights if you aren’t careful. Perhaps it is the water that amplifies the brightness in these cases. Image one was in rather harsh light facing into the direction of the light, the other two a little more forgiving. The third image really is intended to show how camouflaged the alligator can be drifting along right in front of you. Your attention is caught so by the reflections in the water and the pretty colors, then you see a round eye reflected upon itself just watching.

gator reflections_F6A2282-wps

Gator Camouflaged by Reflections

See him?

Judy

White Egret – Big Cypress Preserve

•March 15, 2016 • 17 Comments

White Egret - Big Cypress Preserve

Sometimes a White Egret looks like a very large bird and  sometimes in the wide tangle of places like Big Cypress Preserve perched within the vertical geometry of a cypress forest, it is a small blended element of a larger whole, surprisingly easy to miss. Big Cypress in the winter time has such lovely muted colors. The sky is paler blue between gray-brown stretches of cypress limbs. A white bird perches amid the gray-mossy greens of the ubiquitous Tillandsia fasciculata  bromeliad plants that I so love. The only really dramatic color being the red bracts stemming from this everglades epiphyte. Although, I love the colors all year ’round, I love the lower numbers of mosquitoes and delightful temps at Big Cypress in the winter. Well, and the fact that bird nesting season in Florida coincides with those pleasant temps, all ideal for seeing birds dressed in their very best!! Hope you enjoy these elegant cypress dwellers!!

White Egret - Up in Cypress Trees

Judy

 

The Purifier – Clothed in Black

•March 13, 2016 • 8 Comments

American Black Vulture Face

Black Vulture Face - Note reddish-brown iris of the eye and corrugated 
skin of head and neck. Interesting face, eh?

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Whereas the Woodstork is sometimes called Preacher Bird for its elegant, wise-in-the-ways-of-the-universe expression, the Black Vulture with its cloak of black and somber gaze belongs graveside among the mourners. The shambling, sidelong gait, patient gaze, and flat,dusky lustre of its dark feathers only accentuates its brooding appearance. When you see them in groups on a dusty road turning their eyes toward you, darkly watchful, and then with a couple of awkward, teetering hops take to the air, they seem somewhere between comical, sympathetic, and mournful.  They don’t always go far, but rather will stay and observe you from the safe elevation of a cypress tree.

Black Vulture-Cypress Vantage-SunningHere the Black Vulture adopts the sunning posture, a spread-wing 
stance  for wing drying,  warmth, and creating inhospitable heat to
 ward off pests in the feathers. All the while keeping an eye on
 the lady with the camera!!

The American Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) is one of the two vultures found in South Florida. The other is the red-faced Turkey Vulture. Compared to some more esoteric taxonomic names, those assigned to the Black Vulture are descriptively perfect. The word vulture comes from the Latin, vulturus, meaning ‘tearer‘ describing the feeding behaviour of a carrion eater. From the Latin, ater, meaning black, comes the species name, atratus, meaning ‘clothed in black.’ Likewise, the Genus name Coragyps means ‘raven-vulture’ from combining the Greek corax (raven) and gyps (vulture). The Black Vulture is a member of  the family Cathartidae meaning ‘purifier.’ (Wikipedia) This alludes to the cleansing role of a carrion eater and scavengers without which dead carcasses would remain a grisly platform for disease and germs. For the similarity of coloring with the feathers of a crow, Audubon called this bird the Black Vulture or Carrion Crow. Unlike the shining iridescence of another black bird, the Boat-Tailed Grackle, the vulture’s black is quite dull and seems to absorb all light without reflecting any.

The American Black Vulture is considered a New World bird and while similar in appearance to the Old World Vultures of Europe, that similarity is thought due to convergent evolution, different ancestors, but similar roles. While Old World Vultures are related to eagles and hawks, our New World Black Vulture is thought to be related to storks rather than hawks and eagles. And here it is surprisingly interesting to me to see some of those similarities. Such as, the vultures having dusky looking white legs. Just like the Woodstork, the black vulture deposits urine and feces on its own legs. As the water in the mixture evaporates, the legs are cooled. Also, like storks both male and female care for the young and feed their young by regurgitation.

Black Vulture-BW

In this black and white treatment it is easy to see the white streaks
 of urates squirted onto its legs for cooling. Similar to the behavior
 of the Woodstork.

I would refer you to American Black Vulture and Audubon exerpt on black vulture – carrion crow for more detail on these dark harbingers of death overlooked in favor the lovely White Egret, the majestic Great Blue Herons or other more cheery residents of the swamp.

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Big Cypress Snowy Egret

•February 24, 2016 • 31 Comments

Big Cypress Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret - Big Cypress Preserve - Florida

I had a little time to kill waiting until time to leave for the aforementioned cataract surgery appointment, so thought I’d distract myself by reviewing some of my pictures from Saturday along Loop Road in the Big Cypress Preserve area of Big Cypress Swamp. I picked this Snowy Egret out of the group as they can be very shy at times and I felt fortunate to be able to take picture of this one in such a nice setting. Everything thing seems special and different when you are in Big Cypress as the swamp water is cool and clear, the air is sweet, and I never tire of the sight of cypress trees or peering into the light filtered shadows like a kid looking for a hidden treasure.

Judy

Perfect Sense

•February 19, 2016 • 30 Comments

Tri-color Wing Spread

This is not a broken wing, but just a lovely reminder of
the beauty of unbroken!!

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Lately I have been feeling a bit like a bird with a broken wing. Not that I could ever fly of course, that is saved for the realm of dreams. But, when it seems as if your very senses are abandoning you, you do feel kind of defective or broken going about your day…at least in those moments when it gets in the way of the normal functioning we might take for granted, like answering the phone or walking in bright sunlight without the light scattering uncomfortably through the diffuse haze of a cataract.

So with two senses on the fritz, the 80% hearing loss and the clouded cataract vision, I was particularly susceptible to the themes in a movie I stumbled upon one insomniac night on Netflix. And as I prepare myself for cataract surgery next week, I find myself thinking a lot about these precious tools by which we engage and interpret the nature of our existence. Other than the hypothetical question most people ask at one time or another, “If you had to lose one of your senses which would you choose?”….or “between vision and hearing which would you rather give up if you were forced to choose?”…we pretty much don’t think about what is working fine.

The movie I stumbled upon is entitled “Perfect Sense.” I think I found it browsing the International Film section. Here is a blurb about Perfect Sense off of the Rotten Tomatoes site: “A hit at Sundance ’11 and winner of the Ediburgh Film Festival’s prize for Best New British Feature, the amazing genre creation directed by David Mackenzie stars Eva Green and Ewan McGregor as witnesses to the end of the world– strangers who form a desperate romantic connection in the face of an apocalyptic epidemic of sensory loss.”

The title for me did not reveal at first the themes in the movie, as I wondered what made perfect sense to do or to happen. But, it didn’t take too long for the first wave of sensory loss to occur in the film to realize the thematic spin. The movie at its heart is a love story but set in a situation where people were losing their senses on a global scale, one by one. The first to go was the sense of smell followed by the sense of taste. The female lead is an epidemiologist trying to figure if it was a virus or disease or what was happening to everyone. The male lead is a chef in a restaurant. As smell and taste are important to dining out, the restaurant was in serious trouble and considered closing. But, as each sense was taken people seemed to simply adjust and get used to it before the next loss would hit with turmoil anew. There was a scene I liked where the chef was eating something crunchy and then something smooth and you see a light switch go on. You knew in the absence of taste and smell, he was thinking texture. I liked the idea that when we dine out, it is not just for the taste of food, but the companionship of others and shared experience. Experience shared trumps the vehicle detecting the experience.

In the story an event would occur before a loss, such as the world being consumed by a raging spate of  uncontrollable gluttony with scenes of people tearing raw meat off of bones and stuffing all kinds of things into their mouths with the loss of taste in its aftermath. Raging anger takes over the world with fighting in the streets, lovers saying the utmost in unkind, hateful words to each other…and this preceded the third loss which was hearing. And, this is when our lovers become separated. He is hit by the impulse first and she runs away from the hateful bombardment of words. Her anger phase happens after that, and ultimately they frantically seek each other out. But, they nearly miss, he is looking for her but can’t hear her car, and she can’t hear him calling out after he sees her driving away. Finally, he runs out into the vacant street and she somehow turns the car around and sees him. She gets out and they run into each other’s arms and the world goes dark.

Perhaps the event leading up to a particular loss adds a philosophic element to the story, not just physical. If we are screaming hateful things at each other, do we deserve to lose hearing, do we want to lose hearing? I think maybe it is more about what is the most important thing  we do with our senses. We need them to protect us…see danger coming, feel the heat of a stove….but maybe what is most important is how we touch each other and that is the ultimate connection….the ultimate solace.

But, for me right now, it makes perfect sense to do the thing I dread,  which is having a doctor operate on my eyes. And, while I am AWAKE!! Yikes! In reality I can’t wait to get rid of the obscuring fog and thickness of my  existing lenses. I want to once again see for miles and miles and take clear sight for granted!! Though it won’t be nearly as much fun as buying a new lens for my camera and a heck of a lot scarier. These new lenses must last a very long time and as a product are a true gift of modern medicine giving sight, where in the past, affected individuals slowly and irrevocably lost their vision.

top flourish for vine

Signed: Anxious in Lighthouse Point,

Judy:)

PS: Please feel free to tell me of all the people you know who had cataract surgery and thought it was easy peasy!!

 

 

 

Wild Bird Center Visit – Key Largo, Florida

•February 15, 2016 • 30 Comments

 

White Egret perches on a limb - Key Largo
Great Egret perches on a shadowy limb at the Wild Bird Center.
 It was a perfect breezy, sunlit winter day in the Florida Keys. 
After so many rainy cold fronts, it was a delight to be there.

Last Saturday I tagged along with my husband while he scoped out some places that might serve as temporary storage for our boat in the upper Keys. This would enable us to drive down and launch more easily during some selected months of the year. I greatly look forward to some opportunities to explore some of the outer islands in the southern Keys more readily.

So naturally I jumped at the chance to go so that I could also stop in and see how the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Center was doing lately. My last couple of visits the sanctuary boardwalk and bird rehab facilities were under considerable reorganizing and clean up. Saturday’s visit showed everything looking great and with quite a few visitors in the time I wandered around. There was a team of young college kids involved with raking seaweed from the shoreline and helping with the rehab habitats while I was there. It was good to see how much was happening.  Please refer to a previous post entitled ‘Keep Them Flying’  with a bit more history of this unique effort and Laura Quinn’s vision.

Today I just wanted to share four images representative of my visit on Saturday and hope that you enjoy the view!!

Green Heron fishes among pneumatophores of the Black Mangrove tree

A Green Heron wandered out of a thicket of black
 mangrove pneumatophores on the bayside.  Unlike the red mangrove
which has high arched prop roots, the black mangrove
 roots send up these vertical aerial roots to bring extra oxygen
 to the tree. I find them kind of exotic and they have a similar 
appeal for me as do cypress knees.

 

Backlit Brown Pelican

At the entrance of the Wild Bird Center a brown pelican took
 center stage on a large coralliferous rock looking handsome
 backlit by the morning sun.

_Ibis on Roof-F6A2082-wps

This Ibis dropped in onto the shingle roof of one of the sheds, its 
blue eyes perfectly matching the bright background sky!

Already looking forward to spring-time exploration!!

Judy

 
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