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?”

#reddishegret, #heron, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #florida, #plumage, #pinkbeak, #birdphotography, #naturephotography, #wildlifephotography, #nikon, #birds,
Reddish egret shows its pink beak and reddish neck feathers in afternoon light, Ding Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island, FL.
#reddishegret, #heron, #preening, #birdphotography, #naturephotography, #wildlifephotography, #nikon, #dingdarling, #sanibel, #florida, #birds, #feathers
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.

As the Osprey Flies

The osprey is a bold, vocal and athletic bird. In Florida I enjoy watching them soar, pluck fish out of the water and return to the nest to feed the young. This week I aimed my camera lens at one osprey while it was looking for fish in a lake. Then I combined four images into one composite showing the same osprey in flight in four positions.

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Enjoy the strength and grace of the Osprey in flight in this composite image. Zoom in to see even better.

Bald Eagles: Parent and Its Offspring

Watching the skies for soaring birds around 6 pm, I saw an osprey, an anhinga, a cormorant and … a large raptor that looked like a juvenile bald eagle. That possible bald eagle disappeared in the trees to the south. Leaning my heavy lens, camera and tripod rig over my shoulder, I hiked in that direction and to the nearest lake edge. I scanned the sky again. A swallow tailed kite swooped over the lake and then disappeared into the trees, too quickly for me to find him with my lens.

Moorhens near my location squawked at each other, but they are too common to attract my attention. The breeze kicked up, helping me to feel a bit cooler in the April heat. I scanned the water and the trees. “Wait, was that a brown spot in the tree across the lake?” I wondered.

Looking through my 600 mm lens, I confirmed that fleeting sight. It’s an adult bald eagle — unmistakable — and on the next tree is the juvenile! The juvenile looks the same size as the adult, but is all brown with flecks of white. It will take 5 years for him/her to develop pure white head feathers and a white tail.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #juvenile, #bird, #birdphotography, #nature, #wildlife, #naturephotography, #wildlifephotography, #florida, #sonyalpha, #naplesflorida
Juvenile Bald Eagle perched near its parent might be three to five months old, strong in flight, but staying close to the nest and parental oversight. Naples, FL, April 2020.

In this image, you can observe both parent and offspring in the same frame, as the juvenile takes flight. I stayed watchful for about 30 minutes, hoping to capture the adult bald eagle taking flight, but life was just perfect on that branch that evening and he/she outlasted me.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #juvenile, #adult, #wildlife, #nature, #florida, #birds, #action, #outdoorphotography, #naplesflorida, #sonyalpha, #luminar
Juvenile Bald Eagle takes flight while the adult, presumably the parent, looks on. Naples FL, April 2020.
(Clouds were added in post-processing)

Bald Eagle Action

Earth Day 2020 is a quiet one for wildlife with the United States shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The animal kingdom is no doubt wondering, “where are the people?”

Between illness and unemployment at unprecedented high levels, humans are having a very rough time. For the millions sheltered at home, trying to adjust to a new normal, art and nature can help to lift spirits.

Wildlife photography can happen in a limited way during this period, and I have found a few chances to get outdoors while staying away from all other humans. When I went out looking for bird photography opportunities yesterday, I got lucky and spotted something brown in a distant tree. The long lens on my camera focused on a compelling sight: this beautiful Bald Eagle. Please enlarge this photo on your device to see the detail.

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Looking poised to fly, this adult Bald Eagle is a thrilling sight. Naples, FL, April 2020.

Perched in a nearby tree was a juvenile Bald Eagle. My next post will show both eagles in the same image. I hope this eagle photograph brightened your day, and I wish you and your family good health.

Good Night, Birds

Have you heard of a “rookery island” where dozens of birds of several species flock at sunset to find sanctuary for the night? I have found it magical to observe: as one great egret and eight ibis and three cormorants and six pelicans and a couple great blue heron and even more and more soar in from every direction and land side by side on every available branch of a tiny island of mangrove trees as the sun turns a brilliant orange and the light rapidly fades across the water… and the scene is silent.

I described the scene to my uninitiated friends as a Christmas tree fully decorated with ornaments on every bough, or a crowded church were a few more families arrive late and say, “please make room for us.”

Birds of many species crowd on to the branches of this rookery island for sanctuary overnight. Naples, Florida 2020.

Witness to Nature, Moment by Moment

You might wonder if that Yellow Crowned Night Heron knew how to “pick a crab,” if you read the previous blog (with the heron holding a live crab in its beak). My friend Mary and I watched the heron dismantle and texturize and finally swallow the crab. This series of photographs will share the experience with you:

As a Baltimore native, I know how to pick a crab: first you remove the claws and legs, (although there is more than one right way.) The heron shook the crab hard enough to knock those off. You can see the claws on the sand.

#yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #predator, #prey, #crab, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #birdphotography, #floridabirds, #florida, #naturephotography
Yellow Crowned Night Heron shakes his live crab until the claws and legs come off. It was the first step in turning the catch into an edible meal. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL.
#yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #floridabirds, #prey, #predator, #crab, #nature, #florida, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #action
Step Two: Yellow Crowned Night Heron pokes the crab’s body to break up the shell. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL.
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Step Three: Yellow Crowned Night Heron tosses the crab body in the air and crunches it with his hard beak. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL.
#yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #birdphotography, #action, #prey, #predator, #crab, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #wildlife, #wildllifephotography, #floridabirds, #outdoorphotography, #nature, #naturephotography
Finally, Yellow Crowned Night Heron is ready to toss that crab down the hatch. Can you believe it? Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL. 2020

Great White Egret’s Live Catch

This Great White Egret strode purposefully across my path at the Naples Botanical Garden. I squatted down low and focused my camera on his back-lit body, hoping to capture some action. As both the egret and I followed our instincts, we were both rewarded. Catching a wriggling lizard in its beak, the great egret found dinner, and I got my image of the day.

#greategret, #lizard, #catch, #freshcatch, #livecatch, #foodchain, #backlit, #nikon, #naplesbotanicalgarden, #botanicalgarden, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #egret, #nature, #florida
Late afternoon sunlight outlines the Great White Egret as he captures a lizard in his beak. Naples Botanical Garden 2020.

Osprey: Shelter in Place

As our boat passed this Osprey family on their nest Sunday evening, I thought about our human families adjusting our lifestyles to “shelter in place,” and slow the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

You have to admire the parental behavior of these beautiful Osprey. One parent will hunt for fish and bring it back to the nest to feed the family, and then tear apart the prey and feed the baby. Both parents keep a close eye out for any perceived threats coming close, such as bald eagles or humans. You can see the yellow eyes of mother Osprey on the right, hoping we will keep our distance. We were farther from the nest than it appears, as I made this photo with a 400mm Sony lens.

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Osprey pair bring food to their baby in the nest near Naples, Florida. March 2020

Who can resist the big amber eyes of the baby Osprey looking at the camera with naive curiosity. Babies of every species are precious.

While you curb your outside activities and exposure to other humans this month, please join our community following this blog. We love photography, nature, wildlife and travel and all four put together. I will keep posting to keep us connected. Feel free to comment and recommend this blog to your friends.

Trumpeter Swans

Temperatures might still be below freezing in Jackson Hole with the lakes covered in a thick coating of ice and snow, but the Trumpter Swans find the perfect spot to keep warm and well fed — in the hot springs.

#trumpeterswans, #swans, #duck, #symbiotic, #snow, #hotspring, #hotsprings, #kellym #jacksonhole, #wyoming, #winter, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography
Constantly bobbing for food, these Trumpter Swans keep warm in the hot springs in Kelly, Wyoming. It is a challenge to capture a photograph of these two swans with both of their heads above water. March 2020.

There is a fine mist rising from the hot springs, as the air is around 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The lakes and parts of the Snake River are frozen solid, showing moose tracks across the surface. Last night, we got 7″ of fresh snow.

It’s no coincidence that the ducks are swimming near the swans. They have a symbiotic relationship, as the swans foraging makes it easier for the ducks to forage as well. The swans reach underwater with their long necks, stirring up the underwater ecosystem. Both species can find plenty to eat here.

Narcissus: Beauty on the Surface

This Great Egret is no Narcissist. He’s just foraging for fish on a Tuesday morning. But his clear reflection in the lake reminded me of the Greek Myth about Narcissus, the character who fell in love with his reflection. This moment frozen in time in a still image gives the impression that the egret may have stared at his reflection for a few minutes. Of course, this moment passed in an instant.

This morning the colors reflected in the water and the ripples surrounding our Great Egret gave this image a unique ethereal quality. The smooth white egret and its reflection contrast with the color and texture of the water, bringing our eye to rest on the bird and its mirror image.

#egret, #greategret, #mirror, #reflection, #colors, #ripples, #symmetry, #narcissus, #greekmythology, #naplesflorida, #naples, #naturephotography, #morninglight, #texture
Great Egret looks beneath the water for fish, while I quietly capture the reflections and ripples on the surface. Naples, FL 2020.