Woodstork Profile – Close Up

•July 10, 2019 • 13 Comments

I’ve shared Mycteria Americana, the Wood Stork, quite a few times. Their stately manner, size and interesting facial textures always fascinating. While the lighting here may be a tad subdued as it is on the monitor I am viewing presently, it looks rather awesome on my big, bright Photoshop monitor.  So that is why I thought I’d go ahead and share it. This is the closest I ever have been to a wood stork and barely fit the entire bill on this full file capture. This is not a zoom. Looking at the texture of the yellowish black bill you’d think that the bird was named Wood Stork or Wood Ibis (not an ibis though) for its woody texture. But, it is in fact because the bird likes to nest up high in tree branches. I just love the detail of it and hope that you able to click the image for a bit better view.

 

Judy

 

 

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks in a stylish geometry of light

•June 30, 2019 • 15 Comments

 

 

Meet Dendrogygna autumnalis the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck! I will confess to neglecting this species even though I see them all the time at various wetland environments here in Florida. Although, these are not the first images I have taken of them, just the first posted. Also, I normally do not like’ looking down’ views of birds from a boardwalk preferring more straight on views at the same level. However, the same reason I took them is the same reason I have posted them. I liked the geometry of the parallel and perpendicular light that illuminated the dark water from between the boards of the deck. The blue water, green plants, and autumnal colors of the duck contrasted nicely and looked rather stylish with the light. I took images looking both directions trying to figure which light angle the camera liked best or maybe which way I was more comfortable leaning over the railing.  The little whitish strands in the field of blue are plants on the bottom of the shallow water showing through. I gave a black and white version with the one with horizontal and vertical light to play with the light and textures in the scene a bit.

While I do not actually know yet with this species, often scientific names reflect the appearance of an animal or plant. Considering these ducks are year round residents of Florida, I am leaning towards autumnalis making sense with the fall colors of the duck rather than its season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy

Sweetwater Strand – A Green Mile

•June 27, 2019 • 11 Comments

 

Slow moving nutrient rich wetland waters of Florida can often be covered with tiny aquatic plants called duckweed which float on the surface or just beneath. The plant is a good food source for water fowl as it is high in protein and is often distributed when carried on their feet or feathers. Many times I have shot images of the wading birds which having fished and taken food back to the nest have as evidence bits of duckweed stuck to their long legs. While one would think the presence of such a carpet of plants would lead to eutrophication or stagnation actually the opposite is true. This aquatic species can shade and reduce light generated algae species and even provide nitrate removal. Wikipedia as a reference says that duckweed can be important in bioremediation as they absorb excess nutrients as nitrogen and phosphates and “they are touted as water purifiers of untapped value.” From my first ‘swamp walk’ in Big Cypress I found instead of decay and well, icky, water, that the water is actually cool, clear and part of the slow movement of water that flows to Florida Bay serving as a great aquatic filtration system for our glades environment. Despite the values duckweed (Lemnoideae) does seem to have, some consider the plant a nuisance. As it will proliferate where agricultural pollution runoff have introduced nutrients into the Everglades, there is concern this fast growing plant will displace other species native to that environment such as sawgrass. It’s nutrient absorbing properties though, seem to offer perhaps some form of solution for this. Although, there is no excuse for the agricultural industry not being required or simply not cleaning up after itself. While that is another story, perhaps the humble duckweed may be more than simply an element that practically glows in the sunlit waters of a swamp as seen through the eyes of a photographer.

 

Cypress knee looks interesting as a substrate for
vines insinuating themselves into its structure. They
seem to come alive crawling along its surface like
the legs of a spider.

 

A lush carpet of brilliant duckweed serves as a canvas
for leafy shadows in the sunlit swamp.

As custodians of our planet, hopefully with good science, wisdom and with a  little help from some tiny plants, perhaps some solutions may be found.

 

Judy

Great Blue Heron in Black and White – High Noon in the Swamp

•June 14, 2019 • 7 Comments

 

Linda, this one’s for you. Not sure I am finished messing around with this image but it is an example of harsh light streaming down through the green canopy at Sweetwater Strand and how it might lend itself well towards a black and white treatment. I felt the color was washed out sans any heroic saving via Photoshop. The pose itself for me is interesting as preening produces many interesting feather and wing positions I seem to find texturally and artistically interesting. Because the lighting is harsh there is a curved arc of dark shadow on the lower part of the body on the left side which I couldn’t see the source of. Since I generally don’t like hard lines I softened that some with shadowing but maybe better to leave as is. It is a natural shadow after all.

Par for the course, now that I’ve made the black and white the color version with its muted high key colors is looking interesting now. Photographers are so fickle! Ok maybe me?  Hope you like the pose too?

Have fun in the wild this weekend!! Will watch for some awesome images of your wilderness!!

Judy

 

Great Blue Heron – Sweetwater Strand

•June 12, 2019 • 15 Comments

 

While the Great Blue Heron has filled my viewfinder many many times, it never fails to be a thrill to see one land nearby when out photographing in wilderness areas such as the Big Cypress National Preserve. These images were taken towards the end of our Loop Road journey when we’d about given up on getting any nice bird shots. The gators lazed around in easy view but the big birds would land only to entice and frustrate with a speedy touch and go. The area of Loop Road that intersects with a stream called Sweetwater Strand near Monroe Station opens into sizeable pool with cypress trees and lush foliage. Depending on when you happen to be there you will see gators glide through and many species of bird drop in such as Night Herons, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, White Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Ibis and others. This day we were graced with the presence of a Great Blue Heron which perched and was content to preen and stay for awhile. I did see an anhinga drying with wings spread and an injured juvenile Little blue heron on a distant perch. Its torn up leg only recognized viewing the image later in the computer.

The first image captures a close view of the Great Blue perched on a fern covered tree branch. The second image is a wider angle view of the same spot showing the pool below and in the sunlit water you will see a gator cruising into the scene. I have a lot more difficulty with scenes like the second one as I want to capture the essence of what I am seeing with all of its light, shadows and various depth of field issues. Of course I want it all in focus, bird and gator. Not so easy sometimes. So while not perfect I was really happy to get both in the shot as it does show the life of the strand. Lastly, I included a typical image of what you see out there in the way of lush plants like Tillandsia ,varieties of fern, mosses and lichens, all crowding together for a spot in the tangle of life in the everglades and cypress swamps. If your computer monitor is really bright and overrides my shadowing, you might see the plastic egg crate down toward the lower right back under the fern. I did not see it myself at first but became aware of a pattern emerging clearly not natural. Loop Road is not entirely devoid of human activity of course, but I always hate to see things that could just have easily not been left to end up there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy

At Home with Gators – Loop Road

•June 9, 2019 • 16 Comments

 

I’m also fascinated by the difference between terror and fear. Fear says, “Do not actually put your hand in the alligator,” while terror says, “Avoid Florida entirely because alligators exist.

Mira Grant

She gazed toward the marsh that grew thicker, deeper, greener with approaching summer. Mosquitoes whined in there, breeding in the dark water. Alligators slid through it, silent death. It was a place where snakes could slither and bogs could suck the shoe right off your foot. And it was a place, she thought, that went bright and beautiful with the twinkling of fireflies, where wildflowers thrived in the shade and the stingy light. Where an eagle could soar like a king. There was no beauty without risk. No life without it.

Nora Roberts

I thought I’d start out today’s post with quotes I liked about alligators. To the first, you can see that alligators do exist here in Florida (be brave) , and to the second I agree that nature’s beauty comes with risk (again be brave). When we visit the wilderness, we are visitors in their world and it is good to be very observant. This is not a scientific post about the American Alligator,  Alligator mississippiensis, but I thought I’d show the big lizard in the colors of its natural environment. All of these images were taken on the same day, 3/20/19, along the 25 mile stretch of Loop Road, that loops off of Tamiami Trail in the Big Cypress Preserve area.  It is one of my favourite places and always with great photo subjects, if no alligators show themselves, there are birds, or if no bird hangs out, then there are reflections, cypress trees and cypress knees, filtered light, evocative shapes and shadows. It is always,always a delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a way to spend a warm tropical Sunday lolling around in the sun with your tail in the water.

Hmm, yeah good!! 🙂

Judy

 

 

Memorial Day – The Eagles of Merritt Island Veterans’ Center

•May 26, 2019 • 9 Comments

Today’s birds are beautiful works of art , eagle statues from the Merritt Island Veteran’s Center Memorial and Museum exterior courtyard area. The paved square outside is flanked with memorials of various wars and is a work in process. One of the most recent is the memorial for the Military Chaplains who served. This of course is important to my family as my paternal grandfather was a Colonel and Chaplain and served in WWI and WWII. I also have a nephew who serves today in the marines/navy as a Chaplain.  These images focus mainly on the eagles although I did have an image of their Korean Memorial to include. The Korean War was my father’s first war time duty as a young Lieutenant fresh out of West Point. As the story goes my mother had just hung her last curtain at their quarters in Fort Benning when Dad received orders to leave immediately for California to board a ship, The Sultan I believe, bound for Korea.  Mom had to pack up and Dad’s 17 year old brother came and drove my mother back to Fort Hamilton, NY to be with her parents while Dad was in Korea. There was to have been 6 months of training first but we sent over many young soldiers with little preparation as Dad found once he arrived and began his tasks. They’d been together just long enough to be expecting yours truly. Dad’s tour was rather extended in Korea and he arrived back home just in time for my first birthday. I have many wartime letters exchanged between my parents about sweet things like choosing my name and longing to be home and together again .

My father was one of the founding fathers of the Merritt Island Veterans’ Center and Museum where these birds grace the places of remembrance for the soldiers of many wars. I refer to it in my eulogy post for my father which I shared HERE. This place was very dear to his heart.

 

So many times when Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day comes around many poignant war poems just spring to mind. This poem was written by Alan Seeger who was born in New York on June 22, 1888 and died in WWI in 1916 on July the 4th. This one always seems to break my heart and is just as poignant over 100 years later as the day he put his thoughts on paper.

I Have a Rendezvous with Death

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes round with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air.
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath;
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With grateful thanks to all who have served and stood in harms way so that we might remain safe and free.

 

Judy

 

Links to the Merritt Island Veteran’s Center and Titusville Veteran’s Cemetery:

Merritt Island Veteran’s Center:       http://veteransmemorialcenter.org/

Titusville Veteran’s Cemetery:         https://www.friendsofthecemetery.com/

Both sites offer information about the organization and a Donate link if the cause touches your heart.