Reddish Egret Dance

I drove three hours roundtrip last evening to Sanibel Island, hoping to observe and photograph some birds during low tide at the Ding Darling Nature Preserve. It seems you never find what you expect to find — the white pelicans or the roseate spoonbills — but lucky for me, I met a ¬†big bird that was new to me: the Reddish Egret.

The medium-sized heron is not too common, categorized as “Nearly Threatened,” and this bird wore a transmitter on his back. Some naturalist is keeping track of his movements. I enjoyed watching the unique way the Reddish Egret fishes by wading in shallow water and using his wings to shade the prey right before spearing it. With my 600mm Tamron lens, I had a close look and spent about a half hour tracking it as it moved about in the shallows. Of course, I had to use a tripod to steady the heavy lens.

#reddishegret, #heron, #dance, #feeding, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #behavior, #florida, #wadingbird, #bird #tamron, #nikon
The Reddish Egret shades its prey using its wings like an umbrella. Look at the evening light on its translucent pink bill.
#reddishegret, #bird, #wadingbird, #heron, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #fishing, #behavior, #dance, #tamron, #nikon, #florida
The “gotcha” moment for the Reddish Egret as it spears a fish. See its unique red and blue coloring.

Comeback Kid, Mattek-Sands

At the Miami Open (2018), Bethanie Mattek-Sands came back from a first set loss and a 5-2 deficit in the second set to tie up the set 5-5. From our grandstand seats beside her court, I could relate to her feelings, when she turned around and gave herself a “you can do it” fist pump.

#matteksands,#behtanie, #american, #tennis, #miamiopen, #miami, #womenstennis, #goldmedalist, #comeback, #fivealll
One more point, Bethanie, and you will break serve and tie the set. You can do it.
#tennis, #womenstennis, #matteksands, #bethanie, #comeback, #singles, #USA, #miami, #miamiopen, #2018
Olympic Gold Medalist in Mixed Doubles Tennis (with Jack Sock), American Bethanie Mattek-Sands plays in the Miami Open, 2018.

Miami Open Tennis

Watching world class tennis players alongside the court gives the enthusiastic amateur like myself a great demonstration of how tennis is played at the highest level. Just look at Rebecca Peterson of Sweden serve the ball. She is powerful!

#tennis, #serve, #power, #miami, #miamiopen, #wta, #womenstennis, #howitsdone, #nikon, #tamron
Look at her extension on the toss, and the legs ready to jump. Rebecca Peterson of Sweden at the Miami Open, 2018.
#tennis, #wta, #serve, #firstserve, #miami, #miamiopen, #womenstennis, #power, #howitsdone, #nikon, #tamron
Rebecca Peterson of Sweden goes airborne serving at the Miami Open, 2018.

Great Ball of Fire

The last few minutes before the sunset pass so quickly and quietly. In Rookery Bay surrounded by water and mangrove, it is especially peaceful. While peaceful, the moment is also filled with drama — the brilliance of the sun, the vibrant color of the sky and the quickening darkness. Nature gave us a magnificent show.

#orange, #sunset, #rookerybay, #florida, #swflorida, #kayak, #dayisdone, #nature, #landscape, #humanelement
Sunset from Rookery Bay, south of Naples Florida.

Green Heron: Shhh, Do Not Disturb

Binoculars or a long lens (600mm) can give you a closer look at the delicate green heron, quietly perched on a branch at the water’s edge, enjoying the morning sun. A few yards away, we are quiet and careful not to disturb him.

#greenheron, #sanibel, #florida, #bird, #birdphotography, #heron, #nikon, #tamron, #reallyrightstuff
This green heron keeps a low profile in the shrub on Sanibel Island, Florida.

Sunset Silhouette

If I hadn’t shot this image myself, I would guess it’s location is Hawaii. But that guess would be way off — across a continent. The stark remains of this tree were found eroding along the shore on Lover’s Key in southwest Florida. It’s on protected lands where development has not been permitted, and Nature continues to tell stories.

#sunset, #tree, #silhouette, #gulf, #florida, #loverskey, #gulfcoast, #nature, #sunstar
I like the way the clouds echo the outstretched fingers of the tree’s branches.

As the sunstar records this fleeting moment, I am reminded that soon it will be dark, and I’d better hike back.

The Shell Tree

The Shell Tree on Lover’s Key is a unique spot where countless passers by have hung a shell. I think they wish to be remembered by Nature at the same time they pay quiet homage to this tree, which lives on and continues to tell stories beyond its lifetime.

#loverskey, #tree, #skeleton, #shells, #rememberme, #stories
Take a close look at the shells carefully placed in the crevices and on the hooks on the skeleton of this tree.

It will be interesting to visit this site again after Hurricane Irma to see what remains.

Woodpecker Love

There are many reasons to love the Pileated Woodpecker.  First, you notice its brilliant red crown feathers and the red, black and white plumage, which would be a striking way to dress yourself today. Second, you can observe its impressive ability to steady itself vertically way up high in an old tree or utility pole. Then, you may marvel at its ability to hunt for food or carve out a nest by tapping its beak into the wood like a hammer 10 to 20 times per second. How can its head withstand all that impact?

#woodpecker, #birds, #tamron, #nikon, #nature, #pileatedwoodpecker, #naples
Female pileated woodpecker in Naples, Florida, high in a tree, pecking for food in the early morning.

Lastly, you may like the woodpecker for these traits you would admire in a human: it is non-migratory, inhabiting the same territory for its lifetime. It chooses and is loyal to a single mate. It benefits many other bird and mammal species in its environment, as song birds, owls and even raccoons later inhabit the old tree holes that the woodpecker has carved out for its nests.

And here is a mixed blessing. That pileated woodpecker in your backyard may be giving you some free advice: that dead tree needs to come down.

Waiting for Spring

On a quick trip from Florida to Pennsylvania in March, I miss the colors of the tropics. It will be another month before Spring brings blossoms out of the dormant plants still hunkered down for the short days and cold nights.

But the magic of photography can treat us to tropical colors and brilliant blooms at any time of year. This pink and purple bromeliad blossom caught my eye at the San Diego Botanical Garden last fall. Today it whispers to me of the promise of Spring.

#bromeliad, #fern, #botanical, #photography, #flowerphotography, #pinkandgreen, #garden, #spring, #promise
Leading lines in the green fern and bromeliad leaves guide the eye to the delicate spiral of the pink bromeliad bloom.