Learning to Fly- Great Blue Heron Chicks & Neighbors

•February 27, 2020 • 22 Comments

 

C’mon, let’s fly!!

Being an observer of Florida’s avian nesting season is nothing short of privilege! The often rambunctious process of raising, especially feeding, chicks seems a distillation of the general cycle of life which happens in just a couple of months from egg to fledgling. This post centers around a pair of siblings nearly ready to go off on their own, their nest and neighborhood. You can see bits of fish matter on their bills which tells me that they are still being fed in the nest as you know adult fishermen herons catch and swallow their fish whole.

One of my favourite aspects of watching the young of this majestic species is the development of the young wings from skeletal appendages with sheath covered pin feathers to the fully feathered strong graceful wings of the adult. Here there is quite a bit of practicing going on learning to fly and gaining lift off the nesting platform. Because I’d still call them teenagers, they seem more inquisitive than definite, still attached to the nest. Not for long though. Click PINFEATHERS for a view of developing wings with pin feathers from a previous post.

This series shows the sibling pair of Great blue herons but also some wider angle shots of the neighborhood. Mostly featuring wood storks but you can also see anhinga chicks and adults, a cattle egret, and a cormorant in the tree too. A nesting colony is by no means exclusive to one species although there seems to be a phased aspect to it as they do not all mate and lay eggs at exactly the same time though there is overlap with the young of different species in neighboring nests. I find the Great blue herons nest a bit earlier than the white egrets or tricolor herons for example.

 

Judy

Florida Everglades – Anhinga Trail

•February 17, 2020 • 11 Comments

 

On January 19th I had the opportunity to join some friends who make it an annual event to get together to  visit and explore Everglades National Park. The maps inserted below show our basic travels that day starting from the Royal Palm Visitor Center and The Anhinga Trail making our way through several stops as Pinelands and Mahogany Hammock and ending our day at Flamingo. It was truly a pleasure to travel the boardwalks and paths with other people who are keen on being out there and find Florida’s unique environment a true respite from rather hectic South Florida city life.

The Anhinga Trail itself is a rather short trail, about .8 mile, consisting of some paved walkways and boardwalks. It winds through marshy areas with sawgrass and pools with pond apple trees laden with tillandsia epiphytes of the pineapple family. The Anhinga Trail is very popular due to its abundance of wildlife in close view and the easy layout of the walking areas. The site is complete with many birds as anhingas, various heron species, alligators and turtles. It is a great introduction to the vast environment that is Everglades National Park.

I look forward to sharing some other images from the day as it was filled with lots of color and texture. But, today thought I would share these three birds. The top image is an anhinga in a beautiful wingspread pose with its dark plumage silhouetted against a wash of light from the bright day making background for its perch in the pond apple tree. It was practically the first thing I saw rounding the bend of The Anhinga Trail and seemed perfectly fitting! Winding around the boardwalk was a body of water populated with some pond apple trees where I saw the Great Blue Heron perched on a rather gnarly branch. This majestic and beautiful species is no stranger to my view finder and always irresistable to record. And, lastly is a member of Corvidae which includes crows and ravens. I could stand to be corrected but this large bird with its shaggy rather than smooth appearance is a raven. Shaggy seems to be one of the differences between a crow and a raven and upon that and its apparent size I rest with raven.  I have never taken a picture of a raven before and cannot  even think of the word or bird without thinking “Nevermore.”

Update: My raven is indeed a crow. Ravens do not live in Florida as it happens. I guess I have never seen a raven and the ominous looking crows fit my internal image of them. Perhaps in travels I’ll see them where they live. 🙂

“Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the last receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country.”

President Harry S Truman, address at the Dedication of Everglades National Park, December 6, 1947

“Everglades National Park is at once a limited and vast sampling of a region full of contrast…. This park, which is chiefly of biological interest, requires a different perspective on the part of the visitor.”

Charles W. Tebeau, Man in the Everglades, 1968

Free Grows Fertile – Central American Republic 8 Reales

•November 21, 2019 • 17 Comments

 

“When Spanish domination in New Spain (Mexico) came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba on September 15, 1821, independence also resulted for the Captaincy-General of Guatemala. This was a loosely connected subdivision of the Viceroyalty of New Spain and was itself divided into the provinces of Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Augustin Iturbide, the final leader of Mexico’s revolution, was proclaimed Emperor Augustin I and extended his domination over Central America. A typical struggle for power followed, and the first Mexican Empire collapsed early in 1823. Central America broke away from Mexico at this time, and political connections with the larger country to the northwest were permanently ended.

Most historians emphasize the bitter and long-continuing political feud between two schools of thought which flared from time to time in almost all of Latin America. Briefly, The Conservatives wanted new governments similar to the traditional Spanish Colonial pattern, emphasizing strong central power and retention of the old social classes (i.e. favoring the landed gentry, the clergy, and the established political groups). The Liberals, pointing to the recent revolutions in France and the United States, talked of the new opportunities for all through land reforms, through restriction of church-state ties, and through a generally more flexible form of government. This is only a hint of the social and political unrest prevalent throughout Latin America, but the student of Latin American Coins will gain a better understanding of the bewildering changes in coinage if he keeps these ideas in mind.” Holland Wallace “Central American Coinage since 1821”

The coin I have featured today is one which springs from this time of political change and unrest. A union came into being formed from the old Spanish Colonial Captaincy-General of Guatemala and its five provinces of Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. The “Republic of Central America” union began July 1, 1823. Coins bearing the legend “Republica del Centro de America” were initially struck in 1824 and continued until 1851.  While political strife tore the union apart and it ceased to function by 1838, Costa Rica and Guatemala continued to strike coins with the same design until 1850 and 1851 respectively–partly for convenience and partly I think for a dream of reunification which never happened.

Born of the spirit of independence, this short-lived republic produced some of the most universally beautiful designs ever in coinage. As a collector of 8 reales coins I was mesmerized by that radiant sun with its large, full face streaming beams of light over the 5 mountains or volcanoes representing those old five provinces and future republics on the obverse. I thought the design oddly modern and fanciful. The reverse legend “Libre Cresca Fecundo”  (later Crezca) meaning “Free, Growing, Fertile” or as I like it “Free Grows Fertile” is a strong positive, statement of freedom and independence. The Ceiba tree on the reverse separates the denomination and is the national tree of Guatemala and important in mythology. The trunk is the stairway to heaven and the branches paths to God. The coin pictured with its mintmark NG and assayer initials MA is an 1842 oversrike of an 1837 issue.

You’ll notice this example does have a flaw feature.  That nick on the rim is a flan flaw (as I was told) and that is a defect in the silver blank that was impressed with the design. While flan and planchet can be fungible as terms, planchet can refer to a blank or flan where the edges have been turned to form a rim prior to impressing the design.

Photographically my effort with this image was to set the coin obverse in natural afternoon light and orient it such that the sun face was in good focus and so that the light hit those design beams in order to look as if the sun were breaking out over dark mountains. Like a new day of vibrance and freedom so a people could flourish in peace.

I wanted to add though, that current guides/descriptions call the sun over the mountains side the obverse and the ceiba tree side the reverse…which is how I think of it naturally. But, Holland Wallace in his book, Central American Coinage, has it the other way around in his write up. I expect as with other coins I’ve encountered what is considered the front (obverse) and what is considered the back (reverse) may change with perception or historical emphasis. Additionally, various sources disagree on when exactly the Central American Republic officially ended, whether 1838 or a couple of years later. The history of this region and time is fascinating and I am just a newbie on the subject. Attracted by a brilliant sun face over some volcanoes.

 

We all want to be free and thrive and that is what this coin says to me!

Judy

Morgan’s Miss Liberty

•November 17, 2019 • 12 Comments

 

 

Today’s post is most decidedly for the numismatically inclined. I wanted to do some stock photos of collector coins, not necessarily for documentary or sale purposes but rather for artistic purposes as you might see on the cover or on a page within a numismatic magazine. I would have to say that anyone in America who is interested in collecting coins would have interest in the Morgan Silver Dollar (1878-1904 + 1921). The coin, which in early years of its production was shown as unpopular, has become one of the most popular and collected series of all time. Derogatory complaints were rampant from calling it nothing but a cartwheel ( I assume referring to the heavy 1797 UK 2 Pence Copper known as a Cartwheel) to the Buzzard Dollar referring to what was viewed as a scrawny eagle on the reverse. Who knows about these things as this particular coin comes in finishes that are absolutely glorious as satiny business strike, mirrored proof like, deep mirror proof like (DMPL) and actual proof examples depending on the state of the dies. And, what can you say about the worn circulated coins, well perhaps they were tossed onto a poker table in a saloon out west when gold and silver were king? All I can say is that it was a great thrill as a child when my father gave me a real silver dollar. Magical!
The example I took the close up of Miss Liberty’s profile is a DMPL coin and as such offers lovely contrast between the mirrored fields and the frosty cameo of Lady Liberty. The face belongs to Anna Willess Williams part of whose story I’ve pasted below from an article series on Anna Williams, George T. Morgan’s model, which Dave Bowers of Stack’s Bowers, the noted Rare Coin Auction House,  is offering on that company’s blog. The excerpt being dated May of 1896 is a piece of history in of itself.

 

The Numismatist, May 1896, printed this item:

“To Marry A Goddess, the Young Lady Whose Profile Appears on Uncle Sam’s Silver Dollars:

“The announcement that the Goddess of Liberty is about to be married has aroused new interest in the woman whose face is known to more people than that of any other woman of the American continent. Every man, woman or child who has a silver dollar carries the handsome profile of the Philadelphia schoolteacher, Miss Anna W. Williams. Her classic features have been stamped upon millions of silver disks.

“It is twenty years since the pretty blonde girl became world-famous. It was then stated that Miss Williams’ profile was the original of the Goddess of Liberty on that much abused, much admired and equally much disliked Bland silver dollar. The friends of the young woman placed every obstacle in the way of possible identification, but failed in their object. The story of how Miss Williams came to be the Goddess of Liberty may be retold, now that it is said she is soon to become a bride.

“In the early part of 1876 the Treasury Department secured, through communication with the Royal Mint of England, the services of a clever young designer and engraver named George Morgan. Upon his arrival in this country Mr. Morgan was installed at the Philadelphia Mint and was assigned the task of making a design for the new silver dollar. After many months of labor the young engraver completed the design for the reverse side of the coin upon which he represented the American eagle. His attention was then turned to the other side, and his original inclination was to place on it a fanciful head representing the Goddess of Liberty. But the ambitious designer was too much of a realist to be satisfied with a mere product of fancy. Finally he determined the head should be the representation of some American girl and forthwith searched for his beauteous maid.

“It was a long search, although pleasant. He told his friends of his desires, and one of them spoke of the really classic beauty of Miss Anna Williams. The English designer was introduced to the girl. Mr. Morgan was at once impressed by her beautiful face and studied it carefully. Then he told her what he desired, and she promptly refused to permit herself to be the subject of the design. Her friends, however, induced her to pose before an artist. After five sittings the design was completed.

“Mr. Morgan was so enthusiastic that he declared Miss Williams’ profile was the most nearly perfect he had seen in England or America. His design for the Bland silver dollar was accepted by Congress, and so the silver coins have been pouring from the mints all these years adorned with the stately face of a Quaker City maiden.

“Miss Williams is a decidedly modest young woman. She resides on Spring Garden Street, not far from the school in which for years she has been employed as an instructor in philosophy and methods in the kindergarten department. She is slightly below the average height, is rather plump, and is fair. She carries her figure with a stateliness rarely seen and the pose of the head is exactly as seen on the silver dollar. The features of Miss Williams are reproduced as faithfully as in a good photograph.—New York Mail and Express.”

To read the complete article, see:
Anna Willess Williams, The “Silver Dollar Girl” (www.stacksbowers.com/NewsMedia/Blogs/TabId/780/ArtMID/
2678/ArticleID/64920/Anna-Willess-Williams-The-%E2%80%9CSilver-Dollar-Girl%E2%80%9D.aspx)

 

This image is not a DMPL coin but a Mint State business strike example. The fields are satiny with the revolving highlight referred to as cartwheel luster. Luster is due to the pressure created in the minting process which causes the metal to flow outward with very fine parallel lines. These catch the light in such beautiful ways and the delicacy of these fine lines is lost when the coin is handled and is one of the defining characteristics of an uncirculated coin.

The image from an artistic point of view was intended to contrast the gold tones and design of the old brass box I placed the coin on with the pretty shimmery silver of the silver dollar.

 

 

 

This is the reverse side of a Morgan Dollar with its eagle design. The coin caught some reflected blue from the daylight I put the coin in which made a colorful contrast. The background is dark with a burgundy hue to show off the coin a bit.

 

 

I played with this profile with various scaling and color treatments for fun. This is the same as the top image scale wise but I enjoyed the bi-color filter I used on it with a light tone to the cameo and some deep blues along the legend and stars to fade it off a bit.

To be immortalized on a such a silver dollar….cannot think of a cooler thing that could happen to a person.

Judy

Adult Wood Stork – Inquisitive Portrait

•November 8, 2019 • 9 Comments

 

 

Even though I feel the magnificent wood stork has been featured here perhaps a time too many, I played with this one just the same with no plans to post. But every time I encountered that inquisitive expression looking right at me on my big screen and it seemed to say put me up!! Why not!!???

So with all due request for forbearance I give you another wood stork. The original image is color with a blue sky with some clouds. But, the expression seemed like a great pose for an avian portrait so I went for it. I converted the image to a black and white and adjusted the tonal range to my liking and burned the edges a bit. Then just overlaid a nice texture layer mostly in gray tones with some muted purple tones in the upper corners. Then masked out the texture off the bird itself putting instead a low opacity color layer to just tone down the white feathers to go with the background and not be so stark against it. I thought the lighting was very agreeable on the bird and good to work with.

In hopes you enjoy the effort and I promise no more wood storks until next bird season. Hard to believe I am even saying that as I never, when I first starting shooting birds, ever thought I’d have so many opportunities to capture what was once a highly endangered species here in Florida. Here’s to preservation efforts that actually have made a difference.

 

As Ever,

Judy

 

 

 

 

Drops of Fire Flag

•November 1, 2019 • 12 Comments

 

Thalia geniculata aka bent alligator-flag, arrow root or my favourite name for it, fire-flag is quite common in the wetlands of South Florida. I suppose it is a good early warning plant and perhaps why it is called alligator flag as its broad leaves and flowers on delicate stalks will wave around when an alligator is moving through them. If you are a birder there is no better spot to find Purple Gallinules than among the lance shaped leaves and waving purple bow ties. Gallinules just love them!! The lush environment they provide is nothing short of a tropial eden visually.

I have found over time trying to capture nice sharp images of these flowers to be challenging as they do move quite easily and in an irregular pattern at the slightest hint of a breeze. Still days are a rarity and even more so at the particular times when I happen to have the opportunity to be taking pictures of them.  If the lighting is just right and the flowers a bit backlit, from a distance the drops of lavendar dripping from the tops of those tender stalks look like little purple lights blinking over the wetland as they move.

I cannot now show you the long view I have yet to capture the way I want, but the day I took these pictures was remarkably still for periods and you can see how pretty and unusal the little blossoms are and how they might catch the light and glow with their pale color against the deep greens. The last image was from a long time ago but shows the leaves and flowers complete with a hungry Gallinule for context.

 

Purple Gallinule balances on leaves and stems of fireflag seeking its delicate purple blossoms

Judy

 

Lousiana Heron – Egretta Tricolor – in leafy shadows

•October 27, 2019 • 15 Comments

 

Audubon’s ‘Lady of the Waters’, Egretta tricolor also known as the Louisiana Heron never fails to appeal. The bird pictured here seems to me to be a young adult with its full slate coloring not yet established with a good deal of brownish coloring of the young fledgling remaining on its neck and head. I found the bird in the depths of its arborial abode, where the herons often nest, camouflaged well with coloring like the branches and hidden by shadows of leaves as light filters through. Slate and copper contrast nicely with the various greens of its background. The dainty heron has always been on of my favourites and watching the nestlings scamper about the colony like monkeys especially entertaining.  On at least two occasions this species was the culprit in going after white egret eggs and that of a green heron I was watching. Parent herons alternate guarding their nests quite diligently as they are not entirely safe even from their neighbors.

Louisiana Herons are constant residents of South Florida and I greatly look forward to the upcoming nesting season. When Fall arrives here in Florida with its drier, cooler air, the season of winter visitors and early nesting is in the offing. For birders, I’ve always thought it was most generous of nature to have cooler temps and bird nesting coincide on the calendar. The doldrums of summer are over and it is time to hike!!

If you click on this title “Louisiana Heron Chicks” it will take you to a previous post here on Janthina Images of Tricolor chicks scampering about the rookery. That was actually one of my favourite early shoots of them. Gotta love that spiky hairdo.

Click on ‘Baby Faces of Louisiana Heron Nestlings’ for very young nestlings with lots of pin feathers and not fully feathered. Who can resist those curious yellow eyes?

Click on ‘Louisiana Heron – Pond Apple Portrait’ for a view of an adult tri-color. Here you can see the ruby eye, white head plume, coppery aigrettes of the breeding season and the fully slate colors with tinges of burgundy and not that youthful coppery brown. This image I think was late season so the lore is back to yellow.

Click on ‘Tri-Color Heron-lores and textures’ to see what the bird colors look like in full adult breeding plumage…notably the intensely ruby eyes, florescent purplish blue of the lore and bill and white head plumes. When the adult is not in breeding season, the lore and eyes are yellow and the aigrettes and head plumes are gone. There are many in between stages as the colors change.

You an see by these links, among others, that I can’t stay away from this species for very long! And, I have just wetted my wanderlust for getting out to visit all my favourite species this season in a variety of favourite habitats.

I have been watching advertisements for an app called Calm which offers watching and listening to falling rain for relaxation. As for me, I’d rather visit the birds for serenity.

 

 

Judy