Making new (bird) friends

Early this morning, a naturalist introduced me to an American Kestrel , and I was able to make some photos of him for the first time. He is a large bird of prey, about 12″ tall. Look at those spots!

#bird, #wildlife, #florida, #audobon, #photography
My 600mm Tamron lens mounted on my Nikon D800 helped me get a better look at him high up in the tree.
#kestrel, #bird, #wildlife, #photography, #birdphotography, #florida, #birdofprey, #spots
One more look before we go. American kestrel with head turned.

Standing tall

The Great Blue Heron is my favorite bird to watch in Florida. I love the dusty blue color, the impressive size (4 feet tall perhaps), and its graceful movement. The heron typically stands still like a statue in shallow water, then  slowly takes long, deliberate steps and snatches underwater prey super quickly. He will often fly if a person approaches him, so getting a good photograph can be a challenge.

I sat quietly in the grass while observing this Great Blue Heron recently. He stalked through the water  and grabbed a fish. Then he kept taking giant steps until he paused on the shore. As he stood tall to look around with those brilliant eyes, I made this photograph.

#heron, #blueheron, #greatblueheron, #eye, #breedingplumage, #standing, #wildlife, #birds, #florida
Framed between to palms, this Great Blue Heron displays his breeding plumage.

Alligator, Open Wide!

Why do alligators lie there with their mouths open wide? Pretty much the same reason that a dog pants — to cool off. They might also lie in the shade or swim, but this gaping mouth gives us a good look at the gators large jaws and sharp teeth.

#alligator, #gator, #mouth, #teeth, #yawn, #why, #sony, #sunnyday, #everglades, #miami, #nationalpark, #nature, #wildlife
Alligator cooling off on a hot day in Shark Valley, part of Everglades National Park near Miami, Florida.

 

River of Grass

The “Everglades” means ever flowing river of grass. It is a massive shallow river of grassy swamp that drains fresh-water Lake Okeechobee in a wide path southward. Its depth varies from the wet season to the dry season, and it creates a fertile habitat for thousands of species of reptile, fish, insects, birds and plants.

December is just the beginning of the dry season, but there is still enough water (with the help of from Hurricane Irma in September) — to provide reflecting pools like this.

#everglades, #sharkvalley, #clouds, #florida, #sunnyday, #nationalpark, #bluesky
December water levels turn the Shark River Valley into a reflecting pool on a sunny day.

Wary Alligator

While this gator casts a wary glance at me, I am quite wary of him too, and I keep a respectful distance. On a recent trip to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, I learned a few new facts about the American Alligator. If he chases you, don’t run serpentine, like the wive’s tale says. Run in a straight line, as fast as you can for alligators are very quick for just long enough to catch you. (They can run at 20 miles per hour.)  The jaws too are powerful (2900 pounds of force recorded), and no match for human self-defense.

#gator, #alligator, #americanalligtor, #everglades, #nationalpark, #florida, #sharkvalley, #dangerous,
Keep your distance from the American alligator. While humans are not its favorite food, it is both fast and powerful.

The 70mm lens on my Sony a2r7 camera makes it appear that I am close to the gator than I really am. (“Kids, don’t try this at home.”) Park rangers suggest a distance of at least 15 feet. Watch behind you, too. There are hundreds of alligators in the Everglades, some hidden underwater, Any fresh water watering hole in Florida could contain one.

Rainy days and Mondays

I’m not a morning person, are you? Don’t you love to wake up on your own time, and then curl up on the couch with coffee and your iPad? I love those mornings especially when it is rainy or snowing.

#sleeping, #rainydays, #mondays, #tired, #reflection, #flamingo, #sandiego, #safaripark
It was a sunny Friday in San Diego, but these flamingos felt like a nap.

Why do I love the lion?

Maybe I fell for this beautiful lion because her behavior reminded me of my dog.

#1. I could look at this face all day.

#2. Licking her paw and yawning, that’s my dog.

#3. I can’t get close to this dangerous African animal, but I CAN look at her all day with these photographs I made with my Nikon D800 and Tamron 150-600mm lens, at 600mm held steady with a monopod.

#lion, #yawn, #sandiego, #safaripark, #paw, #behavior, #eyecontact, #teeth
Transvaal lion just chillin’ in the shade at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Gotta love that face, and respect those canine teeth.