The Best Part of Wildlife Photography

I think the most exciting aspect of Wildlife Photography is the chance to observe wild animals in their habitat, doing what they like to do. You can learn a lot from watching their behavior, and in doing that, I feel like a privileged secret observer. While we always keep a respectful distance in order not to distract or interfere with the animal, we whisper to each other, and our excitement is palpable.

Early one morning in Grand Teton National Park, we spotted a bull elk in the field, and his silhouette in the bright morning sun was striking.

Bull elk in Grand Teton National Park with morning light and fall colors.
A photograph of this bull elk in his habitat tells the story of his life in the wild. Grand Teton National Park, September 2021.
Bull elk running after his “girl,” an elk cow, during mating season in Grand Teton National Park.

At one point, we observed the interaction of the bull, the cow and the calf elk, and then they ran out of our line of sight. While close-up photographs are satisfying and show us exactly what the animal looks like, these experiences are exciting, and the photographs share a story. Autumn is a busy time in Grand Teton National Park for the elk, as well as the moose and bears.

The Hungry Moose

Early on a Monday morning, we visited the banks of the Gros Ventre River in Jackson Hole, often a popular hang out for moose. The sun shone brilliantly on the autumn grass and into our eyes. After a few minutes a bull moose silently emerged from the woods. Backlit by the bright sun, he appeared very dark in the yellow grass.

Bull moose emerges from the woods into a bright yellow field in Jackson Hole.

At a safe distance across the river and on a higher bluff, we watched the moose saunter to the willow bush for a nibble.

Bull moose finds a willow bush in Jackson Hole.
Bull moose in Jackson Hole nibbles a willow bush by the river.
Bull moose shows his long legs as he crosses the shallows.
Bull moose heads back into the woods and out of sight. Grand Teton National Park, September.

Well Hello, Heron Hatchling

April is the month for baby birds to hatch, and Southwest Florida is now alive with chirping sounds. Of course, we humans need to keep our distance and give plenty of space and security to all the birds in their nests. Let me assure you that I have a long telephoto lens, and I also crop my files to bring you a close up, while maintaining a respectful distance.

This stately Great Blue Heron stands astride an adorable hatchling, just a few inches tall, yet very alert and watching me. The sight of this nest with mother and chick was a very special first for me. I hope the photo brings you a sense of wonder and delight.

Adult Great Blue Heron with breeding plumage stands tall in her nest with two hatchlings at her feet. One is visible in this photograph near Naples, Florida in April 2021.

Prints are available; please contact cathykellyphotography@gmail.com for details. More nesting photos to come!

A Good Gator

In my opinion, a good gator is a motionless gator. I always try to keep my distance from an alligator, especially one that is watching me, because I have seen how lightening fast they move, when they bolt. This gator was floating in the fresh water of the Everglades. You can see its leg dangling in the water.

Alligator floating with legs dangling in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park. He seemed to be watching me while I photographed him with a zoom lens from at least 15 feet away. Thankfully, it did not feel threatened or make a move toward me.

Watch Your Step, Heron

Dear Beautiful Heron, Please watch your step as you tiptoe silently through the long grasses and past the purple thistle. Do you remember those baby alligators that you like to eat? When they grow up, those big alligators might take a bite out of you. If they catch you, they will eat you whole, feathers and all.

Great Blue Heron tiptoes slowly and silently through the tall grasses and the thistle in the Everglades, March 2021.

Also silently lurking nearby in the grass is this large alligator. If he is hungry, the Great Blue Heron could be his next meal. Yikes! The food chain is merciless.

American Alligator, lying in wait for its next meal near the water where wading birds feed. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, March 2021.

Eight Wood Storks

On my annual trip to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, I witnessed something for the first time. Eight wood storks were roosting in a single tree! I frequently see one or two in Pelican Bay or on the golf course, but I have never seen so many of them together, and I had never seen them in a tree. This remarkable scene was a distance away, but my Sony lens has a 400mm reach.

Eight wood storks roost in a tree in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park. It was an overcast day in March, right after a rain shower, Sony a7rIV, 100-400mm lens at 400mm.

Brown Pelican Party

These two Brown Pelicans met in the mangrove shortly after sunrise. Perched alongside one another, they looked identical. A few minutes later, they were splashing in the water nearby, breaking the silence of the early morning. Were they competing for fish, or showing territorial behavior? I honestly don’t know, but I said to my friend Marjorie, “It’s a Pelican Party over there.”

Golden morning light on two Brown Pelicans, perched in the mangrove at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, February 2021.

Great Pose for a Heron

This Great Blue Heron stretched its sinuous neck to look around from its perch high in the mangrove, giving us a great view of its ventral feathers. The heron’s body formed a pleasing serpentine curve. Lucky for me, the sun was behind me and perfect on the heron and the sky.

Looking up at a Great Blue Heron at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge in the Everglades, Florida, March 2021.

The Early Bird

What they say is true. The early bird gets the best light. (Maybe the worm too.). Patches of golden light filtered through the trees and lit this Great Blue Heron standing erect in the marsh. An hour later this soft, golden light was just a memory, or in this case, a photograph.

Admire the delicacy of this Great Blue Heron’s feathers as it stands tall and elegant in this serene setting at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Preserve at sunrise.

Gator on the Move

I made a sunrise trip to Ten Thousand Islands near the Florida Everglades hoping to see roseate spoonbills, but instead got a good look at a very large alligator. He was old, long and big bellied, yet still looking for his next meal. As he swam parallel to the shore, I followed him down the trail for about 15 minutes, getting a good look at him at each clearing. He was looking at me, while I was looking at him (her). Do you see the sunrise reflecting in his eye?

With my Sony 200-600 mm lens, I could stay at a safe distance, but get a close look at this gator’s face. Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Southwest Florida, February 2021.

To give you an idea of the length of this alligator, here is a second photo showing its length. As he cruised the marsh, pelicans, cormorants, anhinga, and a variety of herons flew off to safety.

Some shoreline grasses blocked my view of this 10-foot alligator, but I didn’t want to approach this dangerous creature, as they can move very fast when they attack. Here, he seemed to be crawling on a sandbar.