The Rainbow Bird

It’s fun to spot the Purple Gallinule tiptoeing through the freshwater stream, pecking around for food. When it steps into the sunlight, its brilliant colors delight the birdwatcher.

purple gallinule bird
From purple to blue to shades of green and yellow, the Purple Gallinule’s feathers look electric in the Florida sunshine. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

The Cornell School of Ornithology describes the Purple Gallinule’s behavior:

Purple Gallinules forage near the water’s edge, where they walk nimbly on muddy margins, or on aquatic vegetation. They hunt a bit like domestic chickens, walking slowly and investigating the vegetation with outstretched neck, or pecking at fruits or tubers. Like most rails, Purple Gallinules swim well, and they sometimes perch high in bushes and trees, where their long toes make them agile climbers.

Great Blue Heron: Strength and Grace

Oh the beauty of the Great Blue Heron in flight: I see strength and grace, silent purpose, and independence.

Great Blue Heron, GBH, Shark Valley
Great Blue Heron takes flight in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

If you are up to a full day bike hike through the hot, sunny Everglades, you will observe birds and alligators in abundance and a tremendous variety of photo opportunities.

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.

Pelican Stare Down

I’m not sure who blinked first, but I do know that my camera shutter clicked before this handsome Brown Pelican looked away. I followed this Pelican for several minutes through a 600mm lens at a significant distance, tracking his behavior at a comfortable distance, not disturbing him. Yet he saw me watching!

As a bird lover with a specific affection for Brown Pelicans, I enjoyed this moment of connection with a Brown Pelican at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida. The yellow crown feathers and pink bill indicate a pre-breeding adult. January 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.

What the Woodstork said…

December greetings! I’m back in Florida with my camera pointed at the wildlife and tropical landscape. On a recent morning, I spotted this Woodstork and Anhinga foraging along the water’s edge, and I watched for awhile to observe their interactions.

The Woodstork yawned, and I wondered if birds (like dogs) yawn to express anxiety. My imagination is often thinking like a storyteller, and these words came to my mind: “And the Woodstork said to the Anhinga…” I wondered what he would have said?

The Anhinga was “all ears” when the Woodstork opened his beak, as if to speak. The golf course was all theirs in the morning along the 18th hole in Naples, Florida.

Colorful Character: the Reddish Egret

Before leaving Florida for the season, I want to share a series of photos of the unique Reddish Egret. It’s a medium sized heron with a mane of elongated reddish feathers, a pink translucent beak and a cool way of dancing while foraging. You can find them in the salt water shallows foraging at low tide.

I observed this adult breeding reddish egret on Sanibel Island at J. N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve in February 2020. My friend marveled at the bushy neck plumage, asking, “Are you sure that’s not hair?”

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Reddish egret shows its pink beak and reddish neck feathers in afternoon light, Ding Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island, FL.
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Reddish egret having a “bad hair day” while preening feathers and showing its flexibility. Sanibel Island, FL.
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Reddish egrets are known for their graceful dance moves while foraging. They extend a wing to create a shadow to attract fish close to their legs, at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida.