A Nice Day at the Nest with Woodstork Fledglings

•June 28, 2016 • 13 Comments

 

Woodstork Fledgling - Wingspread

Last year was the first season at Wakodahatchee that the Woodstork population set up housekeeping at the front pond apple tree island. This was due, I believe, to disturbance to the further out areas where they usually nest. Having missed most of the nesting season this year, I did have the opportunity to stop by the rookery on my way south from a visit to Merritt Island last week. I was delighted to find that the Woodstorks chose the same front island to nest build again this year and some fledglings were still hanging around their nests. I did not have my 300mm bird lens with me or even my small sensor camera for a telephoto boost, but took the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful sunny, summer afternoon watching birds. I did have my 5D and 100mm Macro lens with me and so tried that combination out for the first time in this locale and this application. The 100mm lens is a newer one of mine and  I haven’t used it much yet so this was a learning experience which paid off in getting more group shots of the nesting Woodstorks. Where I stood at this nesting island would have been too close for my 300mm to easily get all of the fully extended wingspread of these youngsters getting used to their beautiful fully feathered wings in one frame. I love doing portraits but it is nice to show the neighborhood too. Probably 200mm would have been about perfect for the day.

I loved the wingspread position of the Woodstork in the first picture and elected to treat it as a black and white to show the feather detail and stance better. I like those white feather flips next to the body of the bird…just like the whole natural design of bird wings. As you can see from the rest of the images, the leaves were lush and green as these young (but big) birds stood about on their platform of twigs looking quite chatty and amicable. No hint of any territorial disputes today!! Just everyone, including the photographer, being mellow!!

Fledgling Woodstork Wings Outstretched at Nest

 

Young Woodstork looking Amicable at the nest

 

Woodstork Siblings and Neighbors-Juvenile at Nest

 

Woodstork Fledglings at Nest

 

A Happy Summer to Everyone, May it Offer Many Adventures!!

Judy

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly

•June 15, 2016 • 24 Comments

Halloween Pennant Dragonfly

The Halloween Pennant Dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) is a year ‘round resident of South Florida. In northern climes along the east coast of North America you’ll see these mostly June through August. I have noticed them often in wetland areas and in my own backyard. They can withstand strong winds and tilt back and forth while gripping the tips of branches or twigs very much like a pennant tethered to a pole. The Halloween portion of its common name seems fitting for the yellow wings with the distinctive black banding. It is a most attractive species and enjoyable to observe going about its delicate touch and go’s from one branch to another.

While I have taken pictures of this species before, I’ve generally been a little too distant for any detail. Recently, I have been experimenting with my 100mm macro lens on coins and other static things. Outdoors has been a bit too bright looking through the viewfinder with my new IOLs from my March cataract surgery. But, finally I am out getting used to those internal lenses as well as the new macro lens. Wandering in my yard, I spotted the colorful dragonfly trying to land on the twigs of a tree was has long since dried up in my side yard. The skeletal remains have just been left in place until replanting something for the spot. But, it was a good area to follow the winged creature with my lens. Can’t say I got close enough to qualify for a ‘macro’ picture but the lens is fast and gives very good detail even handheld and trying to creep up on such a trembling, fluttery subject.

So it is good be back out with the camera and also working with the computer again on images. I gave the image a just a little texture instead of the flat sky as it seemed to bring out the dragonfly nicely. Or maybe I just wanted to mess around with my digital tools again!!

Judy

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 • 10 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?

bottom flourish for vine

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.

bottom flourish for vine

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

 
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