Baby Woodstorks – Feeding Sequence

•April 18, 2015 • 25 Comments

Woodstork Nestlings

Life in a rookery has its many beautiful moments however the energies and amounts of fish required for avian parents to sustain themselves and their young can make for a gooey mess at times. Woodstork families will need an estimated 443 pounds of fish each breeding season and in the first two weeks of life the chicks are fed as often as 17 times per day. It is truly exhausting work. Woodstorks will not breed if conditions do not support the needed quantities of food. In times of natural drought or flooding or with unfavorable man-made hydrologic changes,  they simply won’t nest. This is one reason they are considered an indicator species for the health of the Everglades ecosystem. While Woodstorks were upgraded from endangered to threatened in June of 2014 after three decades of conservation effort, the challenge will be to continue with the work and secure this great natural ecosystem forever.

This is why it is such a pleasure to witness several healthy nesting pairs in proximity I have never seen before. The scenes here are of baby Woodstorks about two weeks old by my very loose reckoning. This sequence shows hungry chicks ready for a meal while their parent patiently digests fish already in its gullet. When ready the parent bird will lean into the nest with open mouth and predigested fish will plop out onto the waiting baby beaks.

Taking their pictures at this time was somewhat challenging due to their small size and being hidden behind the fringing leaves and structure of their crib. So you have to wait until something happens that energizes the little ones to stretch and raise their heads above the rim of the nest to get a view of their faces. Generally, that stimulation is being hungry and seeking food. Movement can be awkward and often the head will be thrust back and fall forward as if it were too big to hold steady like all babies. Already they will shake their heads in a side to side movement typical of their species.  Nest watching involves periods where all are still and snoozing in the nest and even the parent on duty stands by with eyes closed. Then a great flurry of activity as feeding begins, difficult to realize in stills but fun to remember.

 

Three Woodstork Siblings

This nest has three chicks. Woodstorks can lay up to 4 or 5 eggs and on average two chicks will survive to fledge. While these pictures are of a single nest, Woodstorks are a gregarious species and nest in colonies. There are several nests in this same island with chicks about the same age. Most appear to have three hatched chicks.  Aren’t they cute?

Woodsotrk Nestling with Attentive Parent

The nestlings are ready for food; their parent has been working on the fish and is preparing to feed the chicks.

Woodstork Baby Food

The throat of the parent is full of baby food (predigested and broken up fish) and the little ones are watching intently.

A nice Woodstork Meal

Ahh everyone is happy! Chicks are chewing their bits of fish and the parent looks happy to have delivered that meal.

Just Fed Woodstork Nestling

From Mom’s throat to the chick’s!

Woodstork Nestling Satisfied after a good meal

Some people call Woodstorks “Preacher Birds” because after a meal they appear to stand around and contemplate the universe. Maybe they start young?

The Littlest Woodstork

While siblings are flopped over in the nest sated, not sure the littlest one got its fill?

Oh, if you are wondering about the streaks of white liquid on the legs of the adult Woodstorks, it is due to peeing on the legs for cooling basically. In some stork species their legs act as a radiator to cool down the stork’s body when it is very hot. They deposit urates (in birds, a combination of urine and feces) onto their legs so that the moisture evaporates and cools the underlying blood vessels.

Let us work for the continued health of this interesting Everglades bird and its entire ecosystem home.

Judy

LEARN MORE – about the biology and status of the Woodstork with these links:

Everglades National Park – Woodstork Species Profile

North Florida Ecological Services – Species Biologue – Woodstork

Scientific American – Woodstork Removed from Endangered Species List  6/26/2014

Interesting nesting data showing decrease and increase in nesting pairs from 1975 thru 2013 but with changes in locations of nests

Habitat Management Guidelines for the Wood Stork in the Southeast Region – January 1990

Ospreys of Rookery Bay

•April 12, 2015 • 14 Comments

Osprey Glare_9203-wps

Who can ignore the round, brilliant yellow, all seeing eyes of the Osprey?

Sunday has historically been the day for afternoon drives out into the country to relax and regroup for the work week…and to commune with the natural world! One recent Sunday my husband an I made our afternoon drive three hours up the road to the Naples area to finally explore Rookery Bay by water. Rookery Bay is located at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands on Florida’s Gulf Coast and is the western extension of the Everglades.  In the Naples area and  near Marco Island it is a popular natural destination.   The Reserve is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coastal Office in cooperation with the NOAA. The mission of the reserve is to provide educational opportunity and exposure to this complex bio diverse community in order to cultivate stewardship of the natural and valuable eco system. Please visit the Rookery Bay official website–here–to learn more about this wild and beautiful place.

As one of the few undisturbed mangrove estuaries left in North America, The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is home to a great diversity of wildlife including 150 species of birds. I did see pelicans, cormorants, black vultures and other species nesting in the distance, but for me this particular Sunday outing was all about the Ospreys!! I found them on nearly every nautical marker along our route and while they seemed most inquisitive about our boat nearing various markers for an avian portrait, they remained unperturbed and went about the business of family life. It was my very first opportunity to take pictures of nesting ospreys and my first sight of osprey chicks…well at least close enough to see clearly. I have posted a variety of images, being my first probably offering a bit of redundancy of images, but hope you enjoy the ride. The images show the large, intricate nest structures on various nautical markers as well as the birds and some views of the mangrove laden waterway.

Entering Rookery Bay_9253-wps

Osprey Marker 6_9059-wps

I’ve always maintained that nautical markers are great oceanic bird perches. The Ospreys of Rookery Bay did nothing to prove me wrong! Marker # 6 is home to this family of birds.

Rookery Bay - Natural Waterway

Osprey-Manatee Zone-Marker17_9085-wps

Osprey Nest Marker 28A_9219-wps

Osprey Pair-Slow Speed_9186-wps

I don’t know if this happy couple is going slow, but they do have a couple of chicks already!!

Osprey Looking_9246-wps

Osprey Parent Landing at Nest_9229-wps

Osprey with Chicks_9232-wps

I was unaware that while the adults have yellow eyes, the nestlings eyes are reddish with ospreys.  I am so used to seeing other species such as Lousiana Herons with yellow eyes in the immature and red in the breeding adults.

Osprey with 2 chicks on nest_9231wps-2

Osprey Shell Nest_9112-wps

I included this picture as the nest was loaded with seashells stuck to the twigs the nest builder selected for the massive structure. Wherever a rookery is, the species who build there utilize nearby resources, so here things like shells are attached.

Rookery Bay Waterway

What a great Sunday at Rookery Bay!!

Judy

Cattleya-Light Play

•April 11, 2015 • 8 Comments

 

 Cattleya Orchid Outside in Morning Light

Before letting the lovely Cattleya plant just passively grace my house with beauty, I wanted to offer two additional images with different lighting than the Easter Orchid image. Whether a plant or some other subject, varying the lighting can produce completely different kinds of works. It is similar to being outside taking a landscape picture. Easy to become so vested in the scene in front of you, that you might forget to turn around and find there is something utterly gorgeous there too. I remember a dawn shooting effort of Alligator Lighthouse, floating around on our boat waiting for the lights to get turned on. I focused on the sun coming up behind the lighthouse but the real beauty for me was shooting the light facing south with glorious side lit clouds courtesy of the rays from the east.

The Easter Orchid image was taken indoors with the plant simply placed in front of a dark area with morning light coming through the sliding glass doors. In that image the greens are dark, rich with a bit more yellow and the purples dark with great detail. The top image here is not so different in idea except that the plant was placed on a table outside also in the morning a distance in front of my bougainvillea hedge.  The direct early light produced a softer result. The flowers are softer lavender and the leaves more a sagey, muted green. The hedge off in the background adds a nice field of dark green color with highlights and hints of red blossoms instead of the deep black.

Another effort in morning light is the backlit image below. While orchid flowers seem heavy and textured front lit, the opposite reveals the petals to be highly translucent and airy. For this image the plant was inside on a table in front of the sliding glass doors with light from the east coming through. This and the Easter orchid picture are opposites in the same room.

Always remember with photography to look the other way and to see what things look like from different positions as subjects take on new life.

Backlit Cattleya with Artistic Textures

As Ever,

Judy

PS: I did put in links to Alligator light pictures in the text if one was curious.

Easter Orchid

•April 4, 2015 • 8 Comments

Cattleya Orchid - Art Treatment

I am calling my Cattleya orchid an Easter Orchid because I post it here with my wishes for a –

 Happy Easter !

According to Wikipedia there are three orchids called Easter Orchids and two of them are of the genus Cattleya. Otherwise I know little about the genus only that like many orchid species what was once beautiful and rare, thanks to modern methods is now beautiful and abundant. When I found a neighborhood man grows orchids as a sideline I could not resist acquiring the lovely plant with its twin blooms. The sweet fragrance was unexpected and a bonus added to having the lovely plant to photograph and look at.

The picture itself is one of a couple that I planned to work with out of the photos I took of it. My vision for this shot was to take the picture in morning light with the plant placed in front of a dark area of my house. That way the window light would illuminate the flowers and let the background drop to black. I also wanted it to look a little bit painterly so I gave it some artistic filtering and even threw in a tad of canvas texture onto the black background (although that maybe hard to see unless you view on an iPad where you can size it up and down). I hope you enjoy the treatment!

Because no prayer says it better I include again this Easter  Rev. Peter Marshall’s thoughtful prayer which opened the Senate Session the Thursday before Easter Sunday in 1948 with my wishes for a wonderful Easter Sunday.

 

Thursday, March 25, 1948

Lord Jesus, Saviour of the World, in Thy holy name we join our hearts in prayer.

This week, as we remember all Thou didst endure for us, we may be sure Thou hast not forgotten. For we will not let thee forget.

With every sin of ours, we renew the pain Thy heart did know. Every time we ignore Thee, forget Thee, and heed not Thy way, we revive for Thee the loneliness Thou didst feel and the spiritual blindness that broke Thy heart.

O Lord, give us Thy grace that we may not crucify Thee afresh, but, loving Thee keep Thy commandments.

With a steady faith that Thy kingdom will yet be established upon the earth, help us to hasten its coming by letting Thee work in us and through us to do Thy will.
Amen.

Judy

She Sits in Her Beauty Upon Her Nest

•April 1, 2015 • 31 Comments

White Egret Sits in Her Beauty Upon Her Nest

 ♦

I stated in my previous post that it was nesting season for Wood Storks, but it is also nesting season for what may be our loveliest, most iconic Florida bird…the Great Egret! An egret is a special class of herons having abundant ornamental back feathers during breeding season. This is a subject I truly never tire of!! Those ornamental plumes, once the great desire of the plume hunters to obtain and sell to decorate ladies hats, give this heron its name. Aigrettes is from the French for a spray or tuft of feathers often worn on the head or adorning a helmet, and is as one might expect pronounced ‘egrets’. I look forward to seeing nestlings in the weeks to come as it is another chance to see them up close after last year’s loss at a favorably located nest for photography.

I thought you might enjoy the egret sitting so beautifully with aigrettes all around! The picture beneath it has a nice clear view showing the lower eyelid of the egret closing upward instead of upper lid down as with humans. I was surprised at how translucent it was. The third image, a light and airy view of the preening egret at her nest, seems a captured private moment. I should say I have taken liberty referring to my subject as ‘she’ because it is hard to do otherwise with something so lovely. But the male and female look the same with the female slightly smaller if you are even able to pick up that nuance visually with active birds (unless mating then you know at that moment)!

White Egret- View of upward moving lower eyelid

 

White Egret Preens in the Seclusion of Her Nest

As Ever,

Judy

It’s Wood Stork Nesting Season!

•March 26, 2015 • 19 Comments

Woodstork Pair Nest Building with newly gathered twigs

Intimate View of a Wood Stork Pair Nest Building

Once called the Wood Ibis for its re-curved bill resembling that of a true Ibis, the Wood Stork is the only stork which lives and breeds in Florida. My favourite nickname for the Wood Stork is Old Flinthead for the rough black skin which covers the head and neck of this large waterbird. While the Wood Stork’s numbers have improved, it is still the most endangered of the waterbirds here in Florida. As of June 26 of 2014 the US Fish and Wildlife Service upgraded its classification from’ endangered’ to a ‘threatened’ species. In my years observing Wood Storks, I find with time that I have been seeing them much more frequently and in greater numbers.  The largest breeding population is in Florida in the old growth cypress forests, primarily Corkscrew Swamp.

Taxonomically, the Wood Stork is in the Genus Mycteria and family Ciconiidae. The black- faced stork you see here is Mycteria americana. I have included Audubon’s Plate 216 of the Wood Ibis in this post and you’ll notice that he has used the genus/specie name of Tantalus loculator for the Wood Ibis. Always curious about taxonomy, I did a search to learn a little about the difference in today’s name and Audubon’s reference. Apparently there was some confusion in the genus names Mycteria and Tantalus from even 1758 when Linneaus originally described them and the figures in Systema Naturae. Both genera were monotypic with Mycteria having the single species Mycteria americana and Tantalus having the single species Tantalus loculator, but both names related to the same species of bird. Article 30 of the International Code of Nomenclature states: “A genus proposed with a single original species takes that species as its type.” So M. americana became the type and T. loculator which appeared second on the page in Linneaus’ book ( Syst. Nat., ed. X, 1758, P. 140) became therefore, a synonym by virtue of page placement. At least if I am reading that correctly.  A more detailed discussion can be found by clicking: ‘The Generic Names Mycteria and Tantalus of Linnæus, 1758′, by JA Allen, The Auk, Vol 25, No 1, pp 37-38, which was published in Jan of 1908 with citations in the late 1800’s.  Of course, Audubon named his plate prior to that as Havell engraved it in 1834.

The Wood Stork forages  in fresh, salt and brackish water marshes, generally in areas where water levels are lower allowing a concentration of fish to feed on. The birds patiently step along slowly and deliberately in the shallow water seeking aquatic prey such as fish or frogs and sometimes large insects. Prey is located by touch or tacto-location rather than sight or smell. The wood stork stands in shallow water with one foot stirring up the water in what I call a foot swish technique, and keeps its bill open and partially submerged. When a fish is detected the wood stork forcefully snaps it shut. This feeding technique does require a good concentration of fish to feel around for and often breeding and feeding  young is timed for the drier times of year.  Anything that reduces the number of fish in a marsh has impact on the health of the wood stork. During breeding season it takes 400 pounds of fish to feed the parents and chicks of one Wood Stork family.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, where these images were taken, has had breeding Wood Storks for the 5 seasons I have enjoyed visiting the rookery. In the past they have located their nests on the further out tree islands making any kind of detailed photography less likely. However, this year some pairs have relocated to nesting islands much closer to the pathway providing a wonderful opportunity to observe them up close.

As with the other large wading birds,  the male and female quite equitably share the duties of gathering materials and building the nest. Though like some of the herons, the male may be the primary gatherer and the female the interior designer. At this very moment nests constructed of various twigs and vines are occupied by Wood Stork pairs busily taking turns incubating their eggs and making the food runs.  Incubation takes about 30 days and as many as 4 to 5 eggs can be laid. Typically, only two chicks within a single nest will survive the season. When the nestlings are about four weeks old, both parents can leave the nest for food gathering and fledgling wood storks can survive on their own at about nine weeks of age.

I greatly look forward to my first views of baby wood storks and sharing them here in a few short weeks.

 

Woodstork Portrait in Morning Light

Wood Stork aka Wood Ibis aka Old Flinthead in a confident pose!

Woodstork in Black and White

This wood stork has already pair bonded and alights back home at the nesting colony. The black and white portrait shows off its feather detail and the flinty texture of its neck which understandably gives the bird its nickname Old Flinthead.

Chatty Woodstork in morning light

Wood stork begins its day in a friendly mood and feathers beautifully backlit by the eastern sun of a Florida morning. This treatment is a black and white given a very light sepia tone.

Plate-216-Audubon - Wood Ibis - wps

John James Audubon’s Plate 216 of the Wood Ibis

Judy

Beautiful Male Anhinga Pose in Black and White

•March 8, 2015 • 18 Comments

Males Anhinga Black and White Portrait

Photographing even naturally lovely creatures is more often a case of behavior documentation than it is art. But, sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the subject’s natural movement, the photographer captures that moment of particularly pleasing body position. I found that with this beautiful male anhinga. My effort in this was to detangle the bird from its complex background without losing context so that its form was the main focus. I loved the head and body position relative to the tilt and spread of the tail feathers. He already has a mate and young ones at home, so he doesn’t really have to flirt so! And such a dapper dresser!! He’s ready for a formal dinner.

I hope you enjoy this black and white interpretation of the stately Anhinga anhinga male in his breeding plumage.

 

 

Judy

 
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