Great Egret's Angelic Wings

If I were asked to paint the wings of an angel, I would use the Great White Egret as my model. Their grace and pure white color seem like a perfect fit.

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My third photo in a series that features the Great White Egret with its wings extended and lit by the morning sun. Naples, Florida, February 2020.

I would love to hear from you, my readers, on your favorite image of the three. Here are the other two:

This image shows the Great White Egret with wings outstretched. Naples, FL 2020.
As the Great White Egret settles in the littoral plants, its large white wings are seen in profile. Naples, FL 2020.

Speaking of Woodpeckers

The ecosystem of Southwest Florida also supports lots of Pileated Woodpeckers, and we spotted this one on an early morning tour of our golf course. I love this one with its brilliant red crown and interesting profile.

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Pileated woodpecker makes a brief stop at the top of this pine tree, turning his head from side to side as if listening for his mate.

Next up are my newest images of the Great White Egret. Follow this blog for views of sunlit white feathers for the next several days.

Feeding the Eaglet

Happy news: the Bald Eagle pair close to my home in Naples has an eaglet in the nest. One lucky observer saw the eaglet peering over the side of the nest. When I visited the nest, located high in a pine tree yesterday, I did not see the eaglet, but I did observe one of the parents standing guard, looking all around. After a few minutes I observed the parents feeding the eaglet. It was tearing little bits of pink flesh from some prey to feed to its young.

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Can you spot the pink flesh in the eagle’s beak? I made this image with my Nikon D800, with Tamron 150-600mm lens extended to 600mm, held steady on a tripod.

Male and female eagles look alike, so you can only tell the sex of the parent by seeing them together. Often the female is larger. Both parents participate in parenting by taking turns guarding the nest and hunting for food. The eagles know enough to guard the eaglet from an incoming predator like an osprey or iguana.

I will be stopping by frequently in the coming weeks to watch for the eaglet.

The Prize Winning Photo

One of these action shots of an osprey pair won first prize in the Royal Poinciana Golf Club’s 2019 Nature Photography contest. In this image, the female osprey is landing in the nest.
In this second image, the female osprey eyes the incoming osprey with a wary eye. You can identify the female with the brown speckles on the white breast feathers.

While I didn’t like the post in the center of the top image, the osprey in flight looked amazing. I like to photograph wildlife in action and let the image tell a story of wildlife behavior when possible. To achieve this, you need a fast shutter speed that will freeze action and produce a sharp image. It helps when the subject is well lit and the photographer is facing away from the sun. There is some luck involved, but practice, practice, practice allows you to be “lucky” and successful more often.

Miracle of Migration

It’s exciting to spot the special bird species that migrate thousands of miles seasonally and find the same location every year. Purple martins and swallowtail kites migrate north to Florida from Brazil. Cedar waxwings, fly south in the winter from their breeding ground in Canada.

I was excited to capture a photo of these Cedar Waxwings, stopping for a few brief moments atop a Ficus Tree in Florida. They travel in flocks and migrate south to Florida (and Central America} from the northern reaches of the United States and Canada. Their coloring is beautiful.

Brian Beckner of Native Bird Boxes relates the story of Swallowtail Kites who were tracked by GPS monitors. Researchers found the individual birds returned to the same specific nest year after year. Their sense of direction and navigation is far superior to ours as humans.

Brown Pelican Yoga

Watching and waiting, and watching and waiting some more is a practice that is rewarding in wildlife photography. As you will see here, some behaviors happen so fast, that a photographer will only capture them if he or she is already poised to shoot.

Not much happening here: two brown pelicans preening their feathers in Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida.
Whoa! One Brown Pelican stretches its neck to give me a good view of its pouch.
Brown Pelican stretches his neck even further! What a moment.
Final image in the surprising series of Brown Pelican yoga.

White Pelicans in Flight

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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.