Anhinga and the Bottle Brush

Just like every good movie has a great actor and strong supporting actor, every great Nature photo reads the same way. This female anhinga is a regal and fascinating bird with striking feathers and an unusual ability (for a bird) to swim underwater. But this contrasting and colorful setting, the bottlebrush tree makes this image sing.

Female anhinga perches in the Bottle Brush tree, lakeside, in Naples, Florida.

As I adjusted my ISO to 1250 and focused on the bird, my friend Cecil said quietly to me, “That’s the money shot.” Thank you, Cecil.

Anhinga Chicks

On January 9, 2018 the first of three anhinga chicks emerged from their eggs at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.   The Sanctuary is not a zoo where humans take care of the animals. It’s a boardwalk through a cypress swamp teeming with birds and alligators, ferns and cypress, frogs and snakes — where nature lovers can walk and watch during the day. I visited the site on February 11, 2018 to discover the one month old anhinga chicks so grown up!

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Having just emerged from their nest but not able to fly, three young anhingas await their next meal.

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Stretching out its wings and its neck, this young anhinga shows us its new black feathers. It stands about a foot tall from beak to tail, at the age of one month.

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Could this be the anhinga mother? This female landed on the branch below the chicks. You can see all the black feathers on her wings and tail. She stretches her neck around backwards to check her tail feathers.

The Anhinga is frequently seen drying out its feathers like this in the sun after swimming underwater to hunt for fish. Because of its long neck, it is often called the snake bird. The male birds are all black with some white streaks, while the females have a brown neck and belly and all black feathers. Anhingas are very common in Southwest Florida, and they are not generally afraid of people. You can walk right past one without scaring it away. Having a good look at the young, however, is pretty special.

Anhinga grooming

You can tell an Anhinga from a Cormorant by remembering that the beak of an Anhinga forms the letter “A,” and  the Cormorant’s beak forms a little “C” at the tip. Both birds are large black tropical birds (35″ long), and can both be spotted in Florida.

Often called the snake-bird for its long neck, you can spot this bird swimming underwater. This Anhinga typically takes time to dry off after swimming. This fearless black bird takes a moment to preen its feathers.  Keep an eye out for one when you visit Florida.

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Anhingas dry off after swimming underwater to catch prey.

Antiqued Anhinga

This monochrome treatment of the anhinga, drying its feathers, isolates the elegant dark bird from its habitat,  a busy tangle of tree branches spotted with lichen. Anhingas are plentiful in southwest Florida, tame around people, and interesting to watch as they swim underwater to catch fish. After a swim, they fan out their wing feathers to dry.

I like this the sepia effect on a square composition. While the bird takes center stage, the diagonal branch and star shaped air plant add interest. The overall effect of the image reminds me of photo taken in the early days of photography. It makes me feel akin with the wildlife explorers of old.

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In Florida, the Anhinga dries its feathers on its perch in the trees.