While I have been away the Wood Storks have taken over the rookery!

•April 13, 2017 • 19 Comments


Wood Stork dozes the afternoon away keeping its chicks nice and warm.

Last Saturday marked my first trip to visit the rookery at Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray this bird season. Life does get in the way sometimes and I was longing for a little respite and Mothers Nature’s help in leaving the hurried world and my worries behind. For years I visited and wished that the shy Wood storks which tended to return each season out here to the more distant islands would get more comfortable with the spots within my camera range. About three years ago (maybe 4) there was some disturbance in the outer areas with the plants, overgrowth, insects and necessary maintenance. That year the first of this very large species of wading birds set up housekeeping closer in. It was truly exciting to see for the first time, baby Wood storks. Since that time, regardless of the far off places, the Wood storks have come to dominate the rookery while raising their very hungry chicks. I did not see Great Blue Herons and other species in as great numbers as usual, maybe it was just the timing as the Great Blues do tend to nest early and the chick of theirs I noticed were fledglings or nearly so. In nature anytime nature or disruption of habitat forces changes something gets displaced…maybe everyone else has scooted over to make way for these interesting giants.

I find this species to be dramatically regal and would point you to other posts I have made about them over the last couple of seasons for a little more information on them than I have presented with these images.

Baby Wood storks feeding sequence443 pounds of fish and it shows Its wood stork nesting season A cute preen


Wood storks have most assuredly taken over the rookery. This 
image shows two neighboring nests with diligent parents and young.


An attractive pose of an attentive Wood stork parent
watching over its chicks in the colony.

This young fellow stretches its wings while having a chat
with its sibling.


An adult wood stork stands atop its pond apple tree
nesting island preening and showing off its pretty pink
feet and stylish black toe nails.

Truly good to be back in the land of the Wood Storks and look forward to the change of occupancy when the White Egrets and Louisana Herons settle in.


Eulogy as a thank you – remembering my Mom

•March 18, 2017 • 16 Comments

Ann Lastayo - portrait of a young woman

My Mom passed away on January 17th this year at the age of 87 after a long battle with progressive dementia. She died peacefully, loved by family, in a very natural order of things. Birth and death are equally natural and a graceful goodbye is something to cherish. I debated whether to share this on WordPress but in the end have decided that it is ok (or at least a compulsion that can’t be denied) and perhaps something said here might help someone else as they deal with the death of a parent. Besides the finality of loss and the hole it leaves in your life, there are the details of a Memorial Service and eulogies to be given. Quite gratefully I report that my youngest sister, Lynda Gail, handled the arrangements with the funeral home and the order of events for the service. My job was working on a selection of photos to show my mother’s very full and interesting life as the daughter of a military officer, military wife and mother, and as an artist.

I have always had a fear of public speaking so even with a very intimate memorial with mostly family and a few friends I felt the weight of responsibility as if being oldest and giving the first of the eulogies meant I had to do more or say more.  Jerry Seinfeld, put the fear of public speaking in a humorous light when he said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” On the responsibility part a very good friend gave me the best advice on the matter saying that my mother’s life was a mosaic and that I was just a part of that mosaic. Keep the talk to a few points, not too long, and that all the other family members would fill in the picture and that I don’t own it!! This was very freeing for me because this is a moment in life when we all should feel free to just say what touches our hearts out of an entire life where there are so many directions you could go, so many stories you could tell. So I did, I said just what meant the most to me, those memories that just always stuck even though I was barely aware of it…it was just life. Oddly, when I stood up at the podium with its nice light and microphone and my words before me, with the first sentence all my fears seemed to dissolve and I enjoyed talking about my mother. This post will be a little long as I feel compelled to share my words to Mom. I can’t say it serves as an example but maybe. Don’t be afraid of your eulogy as memorials are a celebration of life and a eulogy is one last chance to say thank you.

Mom’s Eulogy

Mom was always my biggest confidence booster and being a nervous public speaker, she is seeing me though one last oral report.

My mother was beautiful, intelligent, talented and full of life. Her laugh was so beautiful and musical it could literally light up a room. You wanted to be near it. She loved her friends and she loved art and after high school chose to attend fine art school instead of the traditional university approach. Having the soul of an artist she had a wonderful perception of color, proportion and composition and saw the beauty around her. I feel in some ways she was a woman, like many in her generation, caught between those who chose careers and those who chose family. She could have done many things. As her daughter, I am so grateful that she chose marriage and motherhood and poured her creativity, intelligence and passion into loving Dad, raising her children and balancing the demands of being an Army wife. I am thankful for the wonderful childhood she gave me. I cannot imagine a greater gift.

As alluded to before, I confess to not having been the most confident child during my school years and Mom was always there for a pep talk and to build me up. She would tell me to hold my head high, shoulders straight and walk down the halls like I owned the world. She’d tell me that with God’s help I could do anything.

When so many complain of parents who only listen with half an ear or are just not altogether there for them, my mother was a very present, astute parent. She was always available for quizzing me for chapter tests in school, listening to an oral book report, and bouncing off ideas. She bailed me out in grade school when I had an assignment to write a poem animating an object. At my wits end, she came up with the idea of describing the roar and long neck of a dinosaur only to end with the hungry beast being revealed as our humble family vacuum cleaner. I remember it as being very clever.

Mom’s sense of art was always an inspiration for me to create. I drew birds and copied horses off of book covers. When we lived in Florida I sat outside with my sketch pad and drew palm trees. Mom was the best critic on all my efforts. One time I wanted to do an artistic female nude and got my hands on a Playboy magazine. Mom was not upset with me over this, not in the least, and just grabbed her pencil and showed me how to improve the drawing with her obvious skill with human anatomy and classical training from art school. I think when she fixed that pencil sketch I got my first real inkling at how good she was.

Besides, school work, Mom’s astute understanding of human nature was applied directly towards my boyfriends. Much to my annoyance, when it came to motives and character flaws, she was usually right. I was clueless and she was a good guide. I do remember in my early dating years sitting at the foot of her bed when I returned home from a date telling her all about it. I can tell you I had friends quite stricken by this idea. I was amazed and sorry to know that other people had mothers they couldn’t talk to. Mom was my supporter and my confidante.

As our family moved from base to base every two years or so, my civilian friends would often ask how I could have school spirit when I’d been in a place for such a short time. My happiness and security were completely the result of having a solid core of support and love at home. My family was my home, it didn’t matter where we were. The fact that we would move in a couple of years for me was an exciting change to look forward to, not an emotional disruption. That could only happen when the family unit is strong. Even when my father was off at war serving his country overseas and in harm’s way, Mom was there to keep us centered. Life was normal and things ran along as they should. She really didn’t let us kids see if she felt stressed or worried when he was away and she never passed along any anxieties to us kids. I look at myself and wonder if I could have done the same. She conducted her role with such grace.

Our saddest time as a family was over the loss of my baby sister, Susan Leigh, at the age of 6 months due to a heart defect. We all loved her so much that Mom and Dad turned sorrow into joy giving us baby Lynda Gail. I can still remember them announcing that Mom was expecting. Around 16 and still clueless, I looked over at Mom and said “you are pregnant again?”! She just laughed and replied, well not “still.” She could lighten a serious mood and see the fun in things.

No matter how old we are, our parents are always our parents and we are always their kid. I can remember one visit to Merritt Island a few years back when I was excited with my first digital camera. One of my plans was to do a photography day of route 192 which had some Old Florida spots to take pictures of before they dissolved into the past. So Raymond and I got up early to leave quietly without disturbing Mom or Dad, and there they both were in their pajamas at the front door seeing us off with a canteen of water and some sandwiches like we were children heading off to day camp. The vision of my elderly mother in her feminine soft robe handing me the water is indelibly imprinted. It was so cute.

Lynda Gail writes romance novels and this led directly to one of my favourite memory scenes with Mom. Mom was always a reader of historical romance and mysteries and loved a good plot. So one beautiful afternoon, with soft light streaming in the living room windows, Mom, Ginger and I found ourselves sitting around brainstorming on romance novel scenes with Lynda Gail. All the while twirling and nibbling on strawberry string licorice while we talked. Just four women having fun being women. That was the best.

When Mom and Dad retired to Merritt Island, my mother turned her love of painting to China Painting, and joined a group of women who loved the craft. Mom’s last few years were marked with progressive Dementia and Memory Loss but her interest in compositions and painting never waned. Even when she became unable to see a project to completion, she kept inspiration all around her in the form of calendars of beautiful birds and magazines with images of brilliant flowers, still life scenes, and trade publications for porcelain artists. She was always planning compositions and that occupied her mind. I would show her my latest bird pictures utilizing my iPad where she could stretch and move the image around to suggest best composition. Invariably she was right on. We spent many hours in her last years talking art and looking at compositions. I truly miss having her to share creative ideas with.

One of my last memories of Mom at La Casa showed me that there were still lessons my Mom and Dad could teach me. It was dinner time and Dad and I were sharing time with Mom in the dining room. She was sitting in the wheel chair at one of their circular dining tables after the meal. Dad pulled out his tattered, well- loved favourite book of poetry from the pocket of his cargo shorts and began to read her a poem. I felt as if I was watching them from afar and was reminded how dearly we love to share the things we love most with the people we love most and that we need to let them. I also remember showing up and Mom saying,’ Judy, where have you been?’ and being so pleased that this frail woman who raised me still had me in her mind despite everything.

Above all, Mom loved her family. Advanced dementia was marked by thoughts of her parents being alive, and sometimes her mind was occupied with looking out for the arrival of her young children. Parental love both received and given was so deeply imbedded in her being.

To you Mom, I say thank you for all that you poured into the person I am, for building me up and never tearing me down, and for a solid stable childhood I can forever draw from.

Now you reside with the angels and dip your brush into the colors of the stars and paint on a heavenly canvas the wings of angels.

I am deeply blessed you were my mother and miss you dearly.





Ann Lastayo Howard - her desire to create
never waned - this is from November of 2015 at 86

Hillsboro Inlet Jetty Decking Textures & Rust

•October 9, 2016 • 30 Comments


I suppose in many ways photographers are a strange bunch! No matter what we think our particular area of interest is, it seems we cannot resist aiming our viewfinders at anything that looks interesting in the way of color, design, or texture. (Not just me right?) If it looks remotely cool, I mean! This is why one must never leave one’s camera home!! You never know what grungy or lovely thing might appear serendipitiously.

This particular day I had just intended to take a friend out to Hillsboro Light, to stand on the jetty decking and aim at the lighthouse across the inlet or passing vessels.

Some of these images look a bit like I had flash but it was just the high angle of the sun on a rather hot day. I hope that you enjoy the textures, after all who doesn’t like rust, rot and decay? Think of what the Lighthouse has weathered, standing so staunchly for so long when you look at these colorfully rusted nuts and bolts.

They say that rust is the best corrosion protection in certain situations, but I am dedicating this post to my brother, Darby Howard, who coincidentally enough is a Corrosion Control Engineer. Here is a link to JDH Corrosion Consultants, Inc. and his team of talented engineers. I must come by this naturally!!


While rust is typically very orange, I loved the
purples and burgundy hues on this rusty bolt.


I loved the textures of the fallen gull's feather
against the rusted bolt and weathered wood.


Here I thought the weathered wood looked very 
feathery like a bird's feathers.


Hillsboro Jetty Rusted bolt 7095



This is a context view of the beams covering
the jetty rocks. This view looks back at the
Hillsboro Inlet Bridge up for passing vessels.

Blue Flag Iris Cross for Sunday

•September 24, 2016 • 11 Comments

Blue Flag Iris Cross-8775

Sometimes life gives you crosses to bear and sometimes beautiful crosses! But, I much prefer the latter. Whether a serendipitous gift of sultry breeze and humid clime or divine providence, this Blue Flag Iris found while hiking the boardwalk of Florida’s amazing Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is draped so perfectly into the shape of a lovely wild cross. I found it soothing somehow to see it there with its hues of purple and blue against the green ferns and vines of the wilderness. Something organized and recognizable presenting itself out of natural wild chaos.

Blue flag, Iris versicolor, is an emersed plant which grows from underground rhizomes and is found in swamps, marsh environments or along ponds or even ditches here in South Florida. I see them at my favourite places such as Corkscrew Swamp and the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in South Florida. Seven iris species are found in Florida but the Blue Flag is the only large iris which grows wild here. It is a most distinctive plant with petals which can range in color from a pale blue to deep purple. They are unmistakable when you see their colors standing out from a field of green and no photographer can resist framing one in their viewfinder. Always amazing and beautiful. I took just two pictures of this particular bloom, one horizontally oriented and one vertically…so I give you both here along with a close crop for better viewing. The last two images from Wakodahatchee and Corkscrew respectively and look more like you see them in the field than the wonderful drape of my Blue Iris Cross.

Blue Flag Iris Cross-8775


The greens and browns of the wetlands are sometimes punctuated by the pretty purple swamp iris.

Blue Flag Iris at Corkscrew Swamp-8777

Perhaps we are given peace through nature’s beauty in many surprising ways!

jalovell signature-green overlay


Different Day Different Grackle!

•September 18, 2016 • 30 Comments


Boat Tailed Grackle against Green Background 9902

Mostly I am attracted to the big wading birds such as Great Blue Herons, Great White Herons, White Egrets, Wood Storks and the like that live here in South Florida. But, as mentioned before in my previous post The Uncommon Iridescence of A Common Florida Blackbird I cannot entirely leave alone any of these gloriously rich looking birds when one is in range of my view finder. I always say that no matter how ubiquitous a species may be, its beauty is never diminished by virtue of there being so many of them. The first two images were taken at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands at different seasons with a background of green foliage.  The second two were taken in sequence when I noticed them in a tree at Kelly Park in Merritt Island, Florida against a bright blue sky and some leaves of fall.

The last image is for the author of Crimson Prose because she likes to play with photo filters for artistic effects. And the bird does have such a nice artistic body position. (Be sure to visit  Crimson Prose for her wonderful story telling and profound knowledge of British history.)

Hope you enjoy these finds as I sort through for stock photos!! Did I say this is taking forever?? Course my day was not limited to the shimmering male boat tailed grackle. I lifted the below info and quote from Audubon off of my previous post as it is ever so true.


Audubon was quite taken with the characteristic iridescence of grackles describing  the Purple Grackle  ( Quiscalus versicolor, Viell) (or Common Crow-Blackbird as it was known then) as he observed them in  Louisiana where much to the irritation of farmers they devoured young corn plants.

“No sooner has the cotton or corn planter begun to turn his land into brown furrows, that the Crow-Blackbirds are seen sailing down from the skirts of the woods, alighting in the fields, and following his track along the ridges of newly-turned earth, with an elegant and elevated step, which shews them to be as fearless and free as the air through which they wing their way. The genial rays of sun shine on their silky plumage, and offer to the ploughman’s eye such rich and varying tints, that no painter, however gifted, could ever imitate them. The coppery bronze, which in one light shews its rich gloss, is, by the least motion of the bird, changed in a moment to brilliant and deep azure, and again, in the next light, becomes refulgent sapphire or emerald-green.”



Boat Tailed Grackle on dried Fern-8642

Boat Tailed Grackle Looking Up-8070


Boat Tailed Grackle Arch-8069




Plume Shadows – Color

•September 14, 2016 • 28 Comments

Plume Shadows - color - 4844

It is interesting sometimes what drives someone’s artistic endeavors whether it starts from the capture point where you decide where to stand for your composition, whether it starts when  you look at your files via the computer, or whether it is entirely driven by the one photo in front of you as you see that one thing, right then regardless of any vision you may have had on site. I seem to be a one photo at a time person and have never ever tried to do batch adjustments. This is why I take forever I suppose. Sometimes I even forget what I intended and sometimes the image I expected the least of might be one I like best out of a shoot. I really seem to let the image call the shots at the time I begin to work on it kind of like a character in a book can get away from whatever the writer thought they intended.

So here is this image I worked on ages ago and saw only as a black and white because of all the texture and feather detail and the marvelous geometry of those parallel plume shadows and so that is what I did with it and never looked at it again. You might remember it from the previous post called Plume Shadows from back in 2014.

Since I decided to put images on Alamy, the stock photo site, to see if some of my work might have usefulness for things like nature calendars or maybe even artistic purposes for someone who can use the compositions or poses for something, that has forced me to look back and see what I  have. I may never get to taking any new pictures at the rate I am going though. I posted the black and white with them and thought I should put the image up in color as well. A prospective buyer, I am sure, would have a lot more options with a color image than my previous treatment.

Perhaps some might have wondered at the past post what it did look like in color, so I thought I ought to show it here too. The bird is in full breeding colors with the deep blue lore and reddish streaking to the otherwise yellowish bill. The beak is rather beautiful in color.  The detail of all the feathers just adds to how magnificent the Great Blue Herons are. The feathers vary so much between the ones at the wing margins, the wings, chest, legs of the bird, the distinctive black at the crest and those terrific plumes. I can still remember the first time I got a close look at a Great Blue and realized how complex its coloring and feather structure really is. I thought they were all pretty much gray blue birds with a black crest swoop and that was it so I was completely fascinated.

Sorry for the wordy intro for Plume Shadows in color and hope you enjoy him in all his glory.


Happy Trails,





Wood Storks at Nest & A Cute Preen

•September 4, 2016 • 19 Comments

Wood Stork Pair Nesting 9301

While gathering some images for my stock photo page at Alamy I came across these two previously unattended to images and thought I’d share them here. They are from a shoot at the rookery in March of 2015. Generally, when I take pictures I start out attracted to certain ones (in this case it was some nesting egrets)  which I work on but then I’ve done another shoot before long and neglect to review all of what I already have for the current excitement of a new venture out.  Terrible I know. The stock photo effort is getting me back into the older files to sort out items which could be useful to someone else whether a nature calendar or something along those lines. This may or may not be a productive exercise but it is still fun to rediscover a shoot.

The top picture is rather sweet of presumably the male bringing the faithful nest sitting female a twig to arrange in the nest. This bringing of twigs and arranging them goes on a long time into the process even after chicks are hatched. I guess it is universal in the animal kingdom, or at least some, that the male secures the furniture and the female does the arranging and decorating. Rightfully so I would say!! She looks up ready to take the twig he is presenting.

The second image is of a single wood stork at the nesting colony in the process of preening his cute little rump with its black tail feathers. The image offers a great view of the head of the wood with all of its marvelous textures. Easy to see how it earns one of its nicknames, Old Flinthead, with the flinty strike- a- match- on- it texture of the neck. I find wood storks most interesting to look at and observe.

Wood Stork Tail Preen-9417


As Ever,