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.

A White Christmas Tree

Welcome back, American White Pelicans! Every winter it is delightful to see the return of the true snowbird, this beautiful and enormous bird that migrates to Florida from the Great Lakes region. I usually find large flocks on them on Sanibel Island in the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and further south in “Ten Thousand Islands.”

In this close up photograph, the closely packed White Pelicans made an artistic arrangement. I see the composition as a white Christmas tree. I share the image with you as I send best wishes to you for a wonderful Christmas holiday filled with peace, joy and love.

Flock of White Pelicans on Sanibel Island at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. Copyright Cathy Kelly.

Please share my blog post but not the photograph by itself. Prints are available upon request: cathykellyphotography@gmail.com.

Bringing Color to the Shadows

The start of every wildlife photography outing is overshadowed by doubt. Will I see anything today? Will the wildlife come to me? There is a great deal of luck involved in success: while we plan for weather, the angle of the sun and the tides, we don’t control the wildlife. We just pray for it.

The other half of the success equation is preparedness. How often do we go out there? I tell myself that I won’t see anything staying home or sleeping in! How good is your equipment? How well do you use it?

On my last trip to Sanibel Island, Mother Nature gave me a gift. The sought after Roseate Spoonbills were feeding at low tide in the shadows of the mangroves. I was there with my Sony mirrorless camera, a 600mm lens and a tripod. All the pieces came together.

The pink plumage of the roseate spoonbill brings a splash of color to the shadows of the mangrove in Sanibel Island, Florida. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.

I delight in the pink hues of the Roseate Spoonbill’s plumage. In this photo the splash of pink contrasts the dark shadows of the surrounding mangrove and water.

My Eastern Bluebird

I’m taking the liberty of calling this photo “My Eastern Bluebird,” because I was just complaining to a friend that I have never taken a satisfactory photo of an Eastern Bluebird. I just love the coloring of this elusive bird, which always seems a step ahead of me. In the past, by the time I focus the lens, he is gone.

I knew that I had captured a photo of an Eastern Bluebird, but the small bird was so far away from me, that I wasn’t sure how successful the photo would be. In fact, the background of the sky was just a bright, amorphous glare. Yuk.

As I processed the photo and liked the focus and coloring of the bird, with thanks to my Sony 200-600mm lens, fully extended at 600mm and mounted on a tripod, I went in search of a better sky to create a more harmonious image, and voila…

Adding a pale blue sky with wispy clouds from Skylum’s Luminar software, my Eastern Bluebird shows off her beauty.

Pecking the Palms

This morning I rose before the sun to go birdwatching on our golf course. As the sun began to light the landscape, I spotted this Red-Bellied Woodpecker looking for insects on the palm trees. As he flew from one palm to the next, the sunlight gave us a good look at his red crown and black and white patterned wings.

This Red-bellied Woodpecker was spotted in Naples, Florida, but they can be found all along the East Coast of North America. Their red crown feathers are far more prominent than the tiny red lower belly.

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.

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.

Unlikely Pairing: Infrared and Wildlife

When I set out to shoot Infrared Photography with a modified camera, I usually employ a wide angle lens and look for sunny skies and green foliage that create a strong composition. The direct sun and the strong composition are key.

When I set out to shoot wildlife, I use a regular camera (not modified for infrared light) and a close up lens, so I can capture true color and detail and avoid approaching and disturbing the wildlife. My strategy and my equipment are completely different.

So, today when I was roaming the golf course along the lake with my Infrared camera and wide angle lens, I was surprised to see an Anhinga (large bird) that just happened to contribute interest to my composition. “Hello, and hold that pose!”

The female Anhinga perched in the lakeside tree added interest to this Infrared photograph. Green foliage appears white in this south Florida scene.

Bird Drama

As soon as a Great Blue Heron flew into the space shared by the Woodstork and the Anhinga, tensions rose. The Woodstork had enough, and sent a clear message to the Anhinga, “Back off. I need some space!”

With feathers extended and beaks open, there was plenty of body language between these birds to communicate a “Back off!” type of message. I had to frame and focus quickly to catch the action.

The Woodstork and the Anhinga got along really well on the lakeside… until they didn’t.

At first, the scene with two dissimilar birds was one of peaceful co-existence. The Woodstork preened its feathers, and the Anhinga walked over to be alongside its friend. This scene contradicts the old adaage, “Birds of a feather flock together.”