A fish swimming near the surface doesn’t have a chance when an adult osprey spots it and descends to sink its sharp talons into it. Once the osprey grips the fish, up it flies to the nest where young osprey chicks are waiting. Atop the nest, the osprey parent shreds the fish and feeds the youngsters. It’s a tender moment for any species…
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.
Next, the blue heron suddenly dunks its head under water to pierce or grab its prey.
Finished feeding here, the little blue heron takes flight for a new location.
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.
Please share my blog post but not the photograph by itself. Prints are available upon request: email@example.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.
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.
Pelicans in Formation
When I observe birds flying and swimming in formation, I often think of synchronized dancers performing on stage or marching bands, but then I realize that humans are the ones imitating nature. We wear uniforms or dance costumes, so we will look as similar as two birds of the same species, right?
When photographing wildlife, you can’t plan this. You just have to be patient enough to sit and wait, following your subject and continually adjusting your focus. Note: something really cool usually happens after you pack up your tripod and start walking back to the car!
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!
Brown Pelicans and Climate Change
There are so many reasons to like the Brown Pelican. I love to watch them dive for fish along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are so big with a length of a meter and wingspan of 2-3 meters, yet they are docile and quiet.
Yet another important reason to love brown pelicans is the important role they play as an indicator species to help humans monitor the effects of climate change. We can monitor their numbers and migration to help understand the changes in fish population.
Synchronized Swimming: White Pelicans
These White Pelicans reminded me of swans as I watched them forage together and look like mirror images of each other. As these three swam away from me and kicked up ripples on the surface, they looked back toward the camera.
White Pelicans are true “snow birds,” as they migrate to Southwest Florida in winter from the Great Lakes region. Dozens of them return to Sanibel Island every year.
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?”
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.