White Pelicans Foraging

Two Great White Pelicans foraging in Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve. Got one!

Low tide is the perfect time to observe White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Great Egrets, Blue Heron and Ibis foraging on Sanibel Island. If you are lucky, you might even see some Roseate Spoonbills. Dozens of these beautiful birds crowded an area where the fish seemed to be concentrated.

The White Pelicans are literally “snow birds” who have flown south to Florida from the northern reaches of the United States for a respite from winter.

At 10:30am, the sun was high in the sky, but the light illuminated the throat pouches on these Great White Pelicans.

Anhinga’s Fresh Catch

This female anhinga caught a catfish that looks almost too big to swallow. She kept adjusting the fish in her beak, perhaps tenderizing it with each chomp, ultimately lining it up to go down the hatch. As she juggled her prey, it was fun to watch.

Female anhinga with catfish in beak, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, Florida.

Here is another view:

This catfish will soon see the inside of an anhinga, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

Hot Blue Heron

You know it’s a very hot day in the Everglades when the Blue Heron is panting. I had never before seen a blue heron open its mouth and flutter its tongue. Its neck was undulating too, and it was making sounds. I took a video, so I could ask the National Park ranger about it. Sure enough, the ranger said that the blue heron pants like a dog when it needs to cool off.

Great Blue Heron panting to cool off at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, Florida.

Which Gator Ate the Python?

When I biked the trail in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park yesterday, I saw more large alligators than I could begin to count. Which one, I wondered, ate the huge Burmese Python (a problematic invasive species) recently?

When I spotted this enormous alligator, I had a suspect. His belly looks very full, and it looks like he may be resting while the large meal digests. He looks mighty enough to have taken on the python and won the battle, don’t you think?

I took this photo with a 200mm Nikon lens from about 15 feet away, and I did not linger. The image is also cropped, making it appear that I was closer than I actually was. Alligators are dangerous, and they move very fast when they attack.
Here is a second image of this massive alligator in Shark Valley, part of Everglades National Park. He appears to be resting after a recent meal.

White Pelicans in Flight

#whitepelican, #pelican, #flying, #inflight, #wings, #sky, #howto, #nikon, #tamron
White Pelicans soar above Sanibel Island, showing their black wingtips. Their wingspan is the second largest for a bird in North America.

It’s certainly a challenge to photograph birds in flight. Your shutter speed must be fast enough (1/1000 second) and your depth of field sufficient to keep the birds in focus (f/20), as they won’t stop for you to capture your photograph. I used an ISO of 800 on a bright sunny day, to allow me to shorten the shutter speed and dial down the aperture. It helps if the birds are flying roughly parallel to your focal plane, rather than toward or away from you. And it takes practice. These beautiful birds look amazing as they come in for a landing, too.

3-2-1 — Contact. Back to the White Pelican Squadron on the sandbar.

The White Pelican says…

As the giant White Pelicans on Sanibel Island raised their wings and assumed different positions, I was poised to capture several close up photographs. Each pose seemed to call for a caption.

To me, it looked like the White Pelican was trying on an oversized dress. “Does this fit?”

The White Pelican’s reflection in the water makes a natural mirror.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to observe these beautiful migratory birds, who arrived from the northern United States in January.

Secret of the Aspens

The shimmering golden aspens of the Rocky Mountains are known for their white trunks and brilliant fall color, but did you know their biological secret? Clumps of aspen trees are actually clones of each other. Yes! They share the same DNA.

The National Forest Foundation explains it this way:

One aspen tree is actually only a small part of a larger organism. A stand or group of aspen trees is considered a singular organism with the main life force underground in the extensive root system.”

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Stands of golden aspen trees flourish in Grand Teton National Park. September, 2018.

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