The Eagle’s Empty Nest

There comes a time when the bald eaglets are mature enough to fly on their own, and of course, the parents still like to keep an eye out for them. We human parents can relate! The pair of Bald Eagles who have raised two eaglets in their nest near Seagate Drive in Naples, Florida are taking their first flight. Join me in observing this special stage.

Bald Eaglet (upper right) near Seagate Drive took a tiny trip from the nest and perches just above it. He looks all around.

In this close up photograph, the eaglet shows his large claw. Soon he will catch his own prey.
Just a few yards away, the Bald Eagle parent continues to guard the eaglets, look around constantly.
My favorite image of the parent Bald Eagle, backlit in the sun. A magnificent bird.

Saturday is for Eagle Watching

On a recent Saturday, I visited three active nests of American Bald Eagles in South Florida to observe the eaglets and the pair of parents and to photograph some of the activity. The nest in Marco Island held the youngest eaglets, with two in the nest who were still weeks away from their first flight. As the eaglets moved around and stood up on the edge of the nest to take care of business — you know, to keep the nest clean — we got a good look.

Marco Island bald eaglet stands on edge of the sturdy nest and peers overboard. March 23, 2019.

Using my Tamron 150-600mm lens on my Nikon D800 mounted on a Really Right Stuff tripod, I got these close up photos, using ISO 200 around 10 am.

It will take five years for these brown eaglets to look like their parents with white feathers on the head and tail.
Scanning to the right and left, this bald eagle parent is on guard, to protect the eaglets in the nest.

Perhaps a dozen spectators with a variety of cameras, long lenses, tripods, binoculars and camera phones gathered on the sidewalk at a respectful distance (behind a rope as a reminder). One told the story of last year’s drama: The father eagle was electrocuted in a power line while chasing off prey. Some time later, a new male eagle arrived on the scene, and finding eaglets in the nest, he threw them out. The young eaglets, unable to fly, plunged to their deaths. This year, the family is doing well.

The Ghost Tulip

“Ghost Tulip” is my own affectionate name for this unique tulip that reminds me of the Ghost Orchid, the elusive tropical orchid that blooms in Florida in mid-summer. Seasonal Florida residents can’t catch a glimpse of the ghost orchid, since they have months ago fled to northern climes.

The Ghost Tulip stands out brilliantly from its green leaves and earthy roots. Find it at the Spring Flower Show, Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh.

My good friend Sharon was patient with me as I composed, focused and captured 64 photographs at the Phipps Conservatory Spring Flower Show. I shared with her my thoughts on photographing flowers.

“I’m mainly concerned with finding good compositions here. The background must be simple yet show some depth. If I choose a single flower to dominate the composition, it’s helpful to have a second flower play best supporting actor, to echo the main actor, but play a secondary role, as in this composition,” I added.

Later, “I mentioned that a star pattern is always a good thing, as is an S curve or a diagonal.”

“Why?” she asked. “Ha, ha, good question,” was my reply.

Glimpse of the Barred Owl

Well hidden in the dark shadows of the Cypress Swamp, undisturbed by onlookers on a distant boardwalk, the Barred Owl seemed to sleep. Bird watchers gathered, whispered and pointed toward the quiet owl. It would take a long lens (600mm), steady hands, perfect focus and the right camera settings (ISO 2000, 1/1000th) to capture a good photograph. Since our owl stayed in place and turned in our direction eventually, I got the shot.

This Barred Owl is nesting at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida. I was ready when it turned its head in my direction.

While mostly stoic, this owl took a moment to scratch its leg, giving us a new perspective on its feather patterns and a view of the feet and sharp opposable claws.

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.

Threats of Invasive Species

Iguanas are not native to Southwest Florida, and they are definitely the “bad guys.” They climb the trees, as you see here, and invade nests of native birds like Anhinga, Heron, Egret and Osprey and eat the eggs — reducing the population of these beautiful native birds.

This large iguana, resting in a tree on a Naples golf course, has thrived by invading the nests of native birds and preying upon the eggs. It is one of several invasive species that are considered pests in Florida. This one might measure 3 feet or one meter in length.

Other invasive species that disrupt the ecosystem in Florida include the Burmese python and a certain species of frog that is toxic to dogs. Communities as well as National Parks work toward reducing their numbers. For their own safety, dogs need to be leashed to prevent them from chasing and biting one of these toxic frogs.

Friends of the environment in Florida talk about reducing water usage, fertilizer usage and run-off, excessive development. The use of native plants fosters native habitats which encourage growth of native species. Audubon certified golf courses actively work toward these goals and make members aware of how we can protect and preserve our natural environment.

Tricolor Heron On the Go

This sequence of photographs of the Tricolor Heron in the morning light show his feathers from many angles. Such a delicate creature..

Landing on Bunche Beach near Fort Myers Beach, Florida, this Tricolor Heron is foraging for his morning meal.
Tricolor heron comes in for a landing. Look at that spread of blue feathers.
Tricolor heron flies on to a better spot in the creek, showing his white underside.
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Tricolor heron walks by the water’s edge to get a better look at the photographer. He sees us with that red eye.