The Obvious Choice: X

Standing on the bluff overlooking ice fishermen on the frozen lake and a wide vista of snowy Utah mountains, I did not at first recognize the most dramatic composition — the one that included the X on the ground. “X” marked the landing pad for a rescue helicopter. Yes, the X attracts the eye and tells a story about a dramatic rescue that took place here.

Aren’t the best photographs, the ones that tell a story? Maybe not the most obvious story, but stories that happened in the past that we can only imagine?

Utah, winter, mountains, ice, lake
One tragic day a school bus careened over this cliff, and a rescue helicopter landed here. “X” marks the spot on this frigid day in the Utah winter.

Frozen lake’s sights and sounds

My eye followed the leading lines in this frozen lake across to the Wasatch Mountain Range. While the mountains were lacking in fresh snow, the temperatures were very cold, in the single digits and teens on this February day. Nearby, a well-bundled man was ice-fishing.

Wasatch mountains, lake, Utah
Frozen lake at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, Utah.

While I was taking in this vista, I noticed the interesting sounds the ice was making. Have you ever listened to the sounds of a frozen lake?

Attention Horse Lovers

Have you ever seen such a furry horse? The thick coat on this horse makes him look almost like part bear! Surely this blanket of fur helps this horse stay warm in the frigid Utah winter, when temperatures often lurk near zero (Fahrenheit).

horse
A thick winter coat helps to keep this Heber Valley, Utah, horse warm on cold winter days.

If any of you horse experts want to chime in, I’m happy to hear your thoughts on what type of horse this is. I’m not sure if the legs are stocky, or the overgrown hair obscures slim legs. I have never seen a horse with this appearance.

Longhorn Bull Up Close

As an East Coast girl, I’ve never seen longhorn cattle before, but this trip to Utah gave me the chance. Two bulls were feeding and spending time outside on a bitter cold February morning. I enjoyed getting a close look and taking some photos. Both bulls were friendly; one of them came to the fence for a scratch on the forehead.

longhorn cattle, Utah, nature
Looking at those horns on this longhorn bull in Heber Valley, Utah as he drinks from the creek.

Daybreak in the Wasatch Mountains

Before the rising sun can light Squaw Peak, it has to clear some pretty tall mountains to the East. Here is the first morning light on Squaw Peak.

Wasatch, Heber Valley
First light makes the Wasatch Mountains look like a giant sculpture, rising from the Heber Valley, Utah.

I’m exploring the mountains around Park City, Utah for the first time. It’s fun for a Floridian to experience a bit of Winter, even if the temperatures are frigid. A good pair of gloves and hand warmers are a must!

Late Afternoon Reflections

It’s 5pm in South Florida, when the sun is low in the sky and the water still. The moment is right to look for mirror-like reflections. I choose a low viewpoint to photograph this tall magenta water lily at Naples Botanical Garden.

reflection, water lily
This blooming water lily stands tall above the lily pads and another bud, reflecting in the pond at Naples Botanical Garden.

The pattern of these nearly parallel trunks also catches my eye. Each trunk has its own irregular shape, which adds some additional interest to the cluster.

reflection, tropical
This photograph of water reflection contains a push/pull of same/different elements. Naples Botanical Garden.

Today, I will take a flight north to a far colder climate, where snow and ice rule. I will trade this tropical environment for an arctic landscape. I’m hoping to be inspired by the change.

Naples Botanical Garden Never Disappoints

Even on a cloudy, humid and misty day, the Naples Botanical Garden always shares some new visual treats. So much has changed there in one month’s time. First, these pink Calla lilies greeted us at the entrance. These elegant plants thrive in South Florida.

calla lily, florida
Pink Calla Lilies display their elegant shape at Naples Botanical Garden.

The holiday lights are only a memory, and a massive new landscape project is underway, transforming the island in the center of the lake. Stay tuned for more photos from my recent visit.

Blue Heron: Gotta Eat and Run

Today’s episode on bird behavior features the Little Blue Heron, now officially named “Blue Heron.” You’ll notice its blue beak and smaller size in comparison to the Great Blue Heron. As you follow along this series of four photographs, you will see the heron wade into shallow water and look for food with a head tilt.

Blue heron, reflection
Little Blue Heron looks for food in shallow water, but it looks like it admires its reflection. J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL.

Next, the blue heron suddenly dunks its head under water to pierce or grab its prey.

blue heron, feeding
Ker-splash! Blue heron grabs its food in the shallow water. Sanibel Island, FL
blue heron, feeding, wading bird
Blue heron feeding during low tide on Sanibel Island, Florida.

Finished feeding here, the little blue heron takes flight for a new location.

Wings outstretched, the blue heron takes flight on Sanibel Island, Florida.

My Favorite Hawk

I should be more precise: the Red Shouldered Hawk is the ONLY hawk I like. I think it’s such a handsome bird. It’s classy, quiet and artfully patterned. What do you think?

red shouldered hawk
Red Shouldered Hawk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in SW Florida, on the hunt.

I like this pose in which the hawk tilts its head while looking at possible prey.

red shouldered hawk
Red Shouldered Hawk with a sharp eye on the swamp below at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

I first spotted this silent hawk directly above me. At this angle, its torso is foreshortened, but the morning light illuminates its habitat. You don’t need binoculars to observe this large hawk.

red shouldered hawk
The Red Shouldered Hawk displays piercing eyes, a bright yellow bridge on its beak and a barred pattern on its feathered breast. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, SW Florida.

Ibis Activities

The Ibis — large white wading birds with pink curved beaks — are often seen in Florida. They feed in groups, pecking the ground in shallow water or near the water. I like them because they are beautiful, peaceful birds with black wingtips, whether I see them soaring overhead, landing on the beach or walking through my neighborhood.

The Ibis were active at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a wildlife observation site near Naples, Florida. A flock of three flew overhead, making a racquet with their unique “quack.” I observed one perched atop a high tree branch, and watched him long enough to photograph him fly into the brilliant blue sky.

ibis in flight
Ibis flies from his perch on a high tree branch in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in SW Florida.

Later, I watched an Ibis in a tree gathering nesting material. Usually, I see Ibis in shallow water or in the grass feeding, so this was interesting to watch.

Ibis nesting
Ibis gathers nesting material in January at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, SW Florida.

A more typical Ibis sighting is this one from Sanibel Island at low tide, where I observed this Ibis catching a crab in his beak.

Ibis feeding
Ibis feeding on a crab at J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida.