Wood Stork Colony on the Brink of Spring

•March 4, 2019 • 28 Comments

Wood Stork alights on a limb beside wetland waters.

 

 

 

 

Visiting the rookery at Wakodahatchee a week ago, you’d never guess that Wood storks were so recently considered an endangered species in Florida. No they’ve definitely been down listed in that regard and have truly taken over my favourite rookery. While this selection of visuals of the day is specifically of wood storks, they share the nesting sites with Great blue herons, anhingas, Cattle egrets and others. They do seem a bit crowded out by Old Flinthead presently though.

The colony is very active now with paired and mating birds and some pairs already tending to their tiny young. Because I lost my hearing, in recent years I could not hear the chorus of hungry chicks I loved so much. A fellow birder told me that the juvenile wood works bills hitting each other sounds like baseball bats. My cochlear implant has changed everything. So I did hear those tiny little wood stork chicks making quite a ruckus when they were ready for food. And, they are ready for food quite often. I love the clamor of the Great blue heron chicks too…always was a favourite sound. So, I will return to watch them grow and listen.

I’ve written of this marvelous species in past seasons and I invite you to return to this OLDER POST for more about them.  Or type in Wood Stork in the search bar; you can tell they’ve been a favourite.  Images here tell last week’s story. I look forward to my next visit when the little ones will be easier to watch.

 

 

Three wood stork nests layered within pond apple
branches. The central pair stood patiently on their
platform of twigs the entire time I was there.
Above them you see wood stork incubating eggs and 
another feeding its tiny barely visible chicks.

 

Wood storks have built their nests atop the pond
apple trees in the lush wetland environment.

 

 

Wood stork mating pair stands patiently at 
the nest. No chicks yet.

 

Wood Storks doing the wild thing. I am sure there 
will be an egg in the morning. 🙂

 

This nesting pair has a close by cattle egret
neighbor. Very close! Hmm hmm! There will be some
territorial scuffling in the near future.

 

A view of a wood stork nest with three teensie chicks.
As with all babies, they have tiny bodies but
big voices. Not easy to see until they stretch to ask
 mom for some nice fish juice!!

The cycle of life once again unfolds. And always to the amazement of us humans so battered by the noise and hype of our lives, the sight of this rambunctious display calms the spirit.

 

Judy

 

 

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Flamingo Portrait

•December 30, 2018 • 31 Comments

American Flamingo Portrait

 

I am always fascinated by the expressions of birds I photograph and the desire to turn them into avian portraits is always a temptation. So before leaving the images of my trip to Flamingo Gardens a few weeks ago, I was drawn to do something with this rather stern Flamingo Face. For this I utilized the Photoshop Oil Paint filter and some detail with lighting adjustments. I did nothing to change the background as it was already out of focus and looked somewhat like a cloudy darkening sky….other than the texture of the paint filter present in the image. That background is the edge of the pool of water with the lighter area above just being the shadows on the sand with a little vignetting.  Amazing how camera focus and depth of field can create a background that could be many things. I endeavored to have the dark bill stand out via its highlights from the dark background as I like dark on dark, but does it really get lost in the viewing? Flamingos are marvelously enchanting birds.

I wanted a lovely and serious poem or quote to accompany the portrait above. Instead I offer two quotes that made me laugh.  The first may allude to the character of the Flamingo as they are rather feisty and flamboyant. And, the second is so totally my life right now (new roof finished, new seawall needed post Irma grrr) !

Judy

 

The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo.

Lewis Carroll

I feel these days like a very large flamingo. No matter what way I turn, there is always a very large bill.

Joseph O’Connor

 

A Tropical Christmas

•December 24, 2018 • 25 Comments

Reef Reef Beach Seascape

I think this time of year can leave those of us who live in tropical climes feeling somewhat disconnected from the season. Iconic scenes of Santa and his reindeer making their Christmas Eve rounds above snow covered roof tops or Christmas Greeting Cards featuring quaint cottages surrounded by new fallen snow and glimpses of fir trees decked out in pretty lights through snow fringed windows, does nothing to lessen the sense that Christmas feels more right when there’s snow. A few Christmases ago I made an Everglades Christmas Card with the poem Christmas Everywhere by Phillips Brooks and featured a scene with an egret in The Everglades of Florida which touched on this point of our romantic perceptions of the celebration and that it happens in winter. And being a tropical girl who has also lived in snowy places, its been in my thoughts many times.

This year I’ve been going through old papers and photographs, some things from my family’s time in the Philippines. I thought I’d share the poem My South Sea Christmas  this year which expresses the sentiment so sweetly. The time was 1968 to 1970 and the war was raging in Vietnam. The poem was written by a dear friend who was an airman stationed at Clark Field Airbase where we were also stationed at the time. Even in the worst of times, it seems our minds still turn to sweeter thoughts and memories, or maybe even because of them.

My South Sea Christmas

by Thomas Clark “TC” Good

The sounds of Christmas, a South Sea Christmas,

flows on soft sweet air:

The glee of children Christmas morn,

like children everywhere.

The sounds of palms, like rushing wings,

as the radiant sun shines down,

The sounds of waves along the sands,

of a little South Sea town.

Sometimes I dream about the days

not very long ago,

the feel of frost as it kissd my lips,

my feet crunched in the snow.

Oh,there was a time when I really thought,

that no Christmas could ever be,

the kind of Christmas I’d once enjoyed,

beneath a snow blushed tree.

But, I have grown with passing years,

and now I can understand,

it’s not the place but Christmas love,

shared with my South Sea Land.

I do not need the snowfall,

for white sand’s beneath my feet,

And the musical sounds of rustling palms

can replace my thoughts discreet.

And I share my South Sea Christmas

with ones I really love,

And give of myself with all my heart,

the gift of love, sweet love.

No matter where we celebrate, our thoughts travel back to the little babe born in a manger in Bethlehem, the reason we celebrate anywhere.

Merry Christmas,

Judy

Flamingos of Flamingo Gardens, Florida

•November 12, 2018 • 24 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

 

 

Judy

..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

 

Judy

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!

Judy

 

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.

 

 

 

Judy