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

#whitepelican, #pelican, #flying, #inflight, #wings, #sky, #howto, #nikon, #tamron
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.

“Honey, I’m Home!”

Sometimes do you just wish that when you walked in the door, your sweetheart would greet you at the door with a big hug and kiss? Or maybe just stop what he/she is doing and look up?

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Two American White Pelicans share the sandbar with a cormorant in Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida.

That moment, of wishing for for attention from your sweetie when you arrive — or land on the sandbar — came to mind as I watched these American White Pelicans come and go on Sanibel Island. These enormous migratory birds, averaging 16 pounds, have the second largest wingspan of all birds in North America, second only to the California Condor. This one may have wintered as far north as Wyoming, and now the squadron is enjoying the Florida sunshine and lots of fresh seafood.

As the White Pelicans landed and stretched their wings and then preened their feathers, I thought of so many captions, imagining what the body language seemed to say. (More White Pelican photos to come!)

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. May your sweetie look up when you enter the room!

Snowy Egret Ballet

Silently watching a rookery island at sunset, I observed flocks of ibis, flocks of pelicans and flocks of snowy egret gently glide along the water to land on the island and take refuge for the night. One bird in flight is a graceful wonder to watch, but a flock of one species in flight together is a veritable ballet.

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Incoming! A flock of snowy egrets: notice their black legs and yellow feet.

Seconds later, the flock extended their wings and feet to land on the rookery island. Zoom in to get a closer look!

If you look carefully, you can find several pelicans and cormorants already nestled in the tree branches.

Ospreys Mating

While the female Osprey perched next to the massive nest, high in the pine, the male Osprey flew in over my head with more sticks to make that nest just right. For several minutes, he installed the new sticks and “smoothed the sheets,” as the female Osprey cried out every few seconds.

#osprey, #mating, #nest, #tamronlens, #nikond800
Female osprey looks on as male osprey adds more sticks to their substantial nest.

I kept my 600mm lens focused on the osprey pair as the male lifted off from the nest. Our birding guide Brian Beckner asked, “Cathy, are your ready? Do you know what comes next?”

Lift off! Are you ready, Sweetheart?

Landing next to her on the branch, Female Osprey is all eyes.

Yes! It’s mating season for Osprey in Florida.

Sweet Pelican Landing

“Mind if I join you?” is the quote that comes to mind. There is something about this clumsy looking, yet actually graceful pelican landing that I find endearing. Brown pelicans are huddling in close quarters on this rookery island to spend the night.

#rookeryisland, #rookerybay, #naples, #florida, #sunset, #safety, #landing, #pelican, #mangrove, #estuary, #nature, #nikon
In the golden light of sunset, pelicans, ibis, cormorants and herons make room for one another on this popular rookery island.

It is a privilege to watch all of these graceful birds flock to the island in Rookery Bay (near Naples, Florida) at sunset. This close up is a cropped image, captured with a 200mm Nikon lens. We are not as close as we appear, and we stay silent to avoid disturbing this natural daily migration.

The sunset Eco-cruise is provided by the Southwest Conservancy. Buy your own ticket online at conservancy.org.