Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday at Gatorland Rookery (Orlando)

I am slowly (and reluctantly) working my way back to the Carolinas. Spent pretty much all day at the Gatorland nature rookery. The Egrets (great, snowy, cattle, etc.) have settled in, selected mates and producing offspring. As you can see from this photo they are not the prettiest of youngsters but make absolutely stunning adults. The Spoonbills are busy making preparations and the Woodstorks are also busy getting ready for family. This place is going to be bedlam come April/May and I certainly intend to come back then.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday was a long day!

Friday night certainly did not live up to expectations for the Little Estero Lagoon but one of the other photographers there said that there would be a low tide Saturday morning at 7am and that means there would be a lot of birds. Got up early and was on the ground at sunrise...few birds. I waited hopefully until about 9am and decided that this just was not going to work and time to shower, pack and move out to Cape Coral for the Burrowing Owls. By the time I was showered and checked out and had a bit of breakfast and on the road, it was near noon before I got to Cape Coral. There was a Burrowing Owl Festival scheduled for today but it was cancelled because of the rain. After coming this far, I was reluctant to leave without seeing a single owl so I waited around until the rain tapered off around 2pm. And then I saw my first Burrowing Owl...what a precious little bird! I am now definitely a fan of the burrowing owl. These little guys are really neat! Cape Coral, with over 1000 nests, is the largest single location for these endangered guys. They were easily accessed after the rain and could be spotted on almost every site and the sites are marked by bright colored tape. The heron and shorebirds are from the morning shoot at Little Estero Lagoon and the Owls are, of course, from Cape Coral.

On The Road Again

Well, had a nice break in travels to play golf with some old golfing buddies from Northern Virginia. Shot an 82 the first day, then on the second day shot a 41 on the front nine before getting rained out on the 11th. I remember when I would have played on in the rain. Funny how your perspective changes at age 70. On thursday, our last day, we played TPC Tampa Bay and I shot an 86. All in all, not bad for an old man!!
Now back on the road for a few days. Spent Friday at Venice Rookery and the Little Estero Lagoon in Ft Meyers Beach. Neither were especially productive. I think the water is too high and the weather is too cold for the birds. Saturday I will try Cape Coral for the Burrowing Owls and then check out Ft DeSoto Park before heading back to Orlando area to shoot Gatorland Rookery again!! That has definitely been the best spot so far.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Road Trip - Break for Golf

On Monday I met my buddies here in Tampa for 3 days of golf so there probably won't be much posting until I continue my photography on Friday morning, probably at Vienna Rookery. Today I shot a 92 at MacDill AFB North Course. Not that good but I had a good time with buddies and won a few wagers.
Here is one of my favorite images so far from GatorLand Nature Rookery. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Road Trip Day 4

Wow, Florida is chocked full of wildlife, especially birds. After oversleeping Saturday morning I drove the 2 hours to Merritt Island NWR and spent most of the day there. The place was hopping and sometimes I was so caught up with watching the birds that I was forgetting that my primary reason for being here was to photograph the birds. I spent the last hours of the day at Viera Wetlands, another birding hotspot down near Melbourne. To my delight, there was a pair of Crest Caracaras nesting in the area AND a pair of Sandhill Cranes among all of the other species. I was able to photograph both the Caracara and the Cranes but only from a distance.

Then we got word that it was raining in California and therefore the shuttle was coming to Canaveral to land and .... the entire Merritt Island NWR and the Canaveral National Seashore were closed down to the public. With no Sunday access to Merritt Island I proceeded to the Orlando area to try the Rookery at the Gatorland and, boy, did I strike paydirt. What an absolutely fantastic place with hundreds of nesting and roosting birds: Egrets of every shape and size, Herons also of every ilk, Wood Storks, Ibis, Comorants, Ahhingas, etc., etc., etc. You can purchase a photographer's pass good for a year and gain early entry and late visitation rites or you can pay an extra $5 for a normal day pass which allows you to stay after closing until sunset. This is necessary to view and photograph what can only be described as a spectacle...hundreds of Ibis and other species flying in at sunset to roost. I will definitely be back here again and again. Ran into Art Morris (Birds as Art) there today. He was also mesmerized by the place.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Road Trip Day 3

Started Day 3 by over sleeping!! When I opened my eyes and looked at my watch it was already 8am. I had intended to be in Merritt Island NWR by 8am this morning. I guess all of that exercise and fresh air yesterday was a bit too much for this old man. Got packed and on the road and arrived at Merritt Island about 10:30am. It was a nice slightly overcast day which worked in my favor and the Refuge was packed with birds. I have never seen so many ducks on Merritt Island: Shovelers, Blue Winged Teals, Pin heads...huge flocks of them. I suppose they will be leaving soon since it is finally getting warm down here. Anyway, I shot until about 3:30p and decided to hurry over to Viera Wetlands for last light. Shooting was okay but not as good as Merritt Island was...did see a couple of Sandhill Cranes though and that was kind of a surprise. Will meet Don Wuori and his wife, Joanne, there tomorrow morning so better get some sleep and set my alarm this time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Road Trip Day 2

Started out the day at Savannah NWR but it was a disappointment. Not much activity there. Most of the water fowl have left as they do this time of year. I did get some nice shots of Ring-Necked Ducks. They were skittish and took a while to get something other than their hindsides as they swam away from me. So I packed up and headed to St Augustine earlier than I had planned. And. lo, there were few birds at the Alligator Farm Rookery. Lost of Night Herons and Green herons and only a couple White Egrets and Snowy Egrets. I didn't sleep well last night so I checked into my hotel to take a nap while waiting for the light to get less harsh. Went back into the Alligator Farm Rookery around 4pm and the birds were putting on a show as they flew in to roost. We all have a million shots of these big wading birds but we never hesitate to take more and I shot away until they threw us out around 6pm. I purchased a Photographers pass for the year which allows me entry an hour earlier than the public and to stay after closing. Wish I could come back in April/May when I am told things are absolutely crazy with hundreds of birds nesting with their young. Here are some of my favorites shots of the day. Off again tomorrow for the Merritt Island area and will meet up with Don Wuori and others to shoot Viera Wetlands on Sunday.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 1 of the journey

My SouthEast US tour started today about 2pm, about 2 hours later than I had intended. It is interesting how on most of my trips I spend the first few hours becoming accustomed to the solitude and trying to set a rythmn that does not include nodding off!! But I finally settled in and before I knew it I was approaching I95 Exit 5 which was my route to the Savannah NWR. I arrived a bit late and entered the Refuge about 5:45p and the sign informed me that the exit gate would close promptly at 6:30p. I didn't have a lot of time to dally but I was able to get a feel for the place. this image was literally the first thing I saw on the 4 mile wildlife loop. The loop has loads of places to park and walk. I only wonder how careful one must be of the alligators!! Well, I intend to find out tomorrow first thing. I'll be there at first light and spend a few hours before continuing to the St Augustine, Fl area. Now for a good night's sleep!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Days for the Herons

I awoke this morning to a fairly decent snow for this part of the country. I immediately grabbed the camera and went about trying to capture the morning. Then I thought of the Herons and grabbed a bigger lens (500mm and 1.4 extender) and proceeded to slip and slide over to the hillside overlooking the rookery. Most of the inhabitants were just standing around looking cold but one pair was busy building (reinforcing) their nest with no regard for the weather that I could see. I was surprised to see the male take a few visits to one of the not yet occupied nests and proceed to take twigs (building materials) from it and take them to his mate to use in building their nest. To me this is akin to taking shingles from the house next door (knowing no one is home yet) and using them to repair your roof!! I was also treated with a Red-shouldered hawk who decided to stop for a while.
Some days are better than others!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Herons are Gathering

Adjacent to the 4 Mile Creek Greenway (Milepost 1) is a rookery of Great Blue Herons. Last year there were 18 nesting pairs and I really enjoyed observing the raising of the family and photographing the rookery. I drove by this morning to see if there was anything there and, lo and behold about 10 of the nests are already occupied. And the best news of all, if you go into the White Oak neighborhood off Elm Street, the homeowners association have built a viewing platform out over the marsh and beyond the tree line so there will be some great views even when the trees began to leaf out. I ran home, retrieved my camera, and took a few shots this afternoon. Hope you enjoy them!