Green Heron, Turn Around

Want to know a fun fact about the Green Heron?

  • The Green Heron is one of the world’s few tool-using bird species. It often creates fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, and feathers, dropping them on the surface of the water to entice small fish. (Source: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.)
The Green Heron is a short stocky bird, compared to other herons. I found this one at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary at the water’s edge.
As I watched silently, the Green Heron turned around for another view in the sunlight. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, near Naples, Florida.

Anhinga and the Bottle Brush

Just like every good movie has a great actor and strong supporting actor, every great Nature photo reads the same way. This female anhinga is a regal and fascinating bird with striking feathers and an unusual ability (for a bird) to swim underwater. But this contrasting and colorful setting, the bottlebrush tree makes this image sing.

Female anhinga perches in the Bottle Brush tree, lakeside, in Naples, Florida.

As I adjusted my ISO to 1250 and focused on the bird, my friend Cecil said quietly to me, “That’s the money shot.” Thank you, Cecil.

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.