What the Red-Bellied Woodpecker said

While I was leaving Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary at 5pm, I witnessed a dramatic ambush. A Red-Shouldered Hawk swooped into the woods and nearly took out a quick moving Red-Bellied woodpecker. As the hawk flew in and just as quickly flew away, the woodpecker, traumatized by its near-death experience, shrieked and jumped around frantically for several minutes. I recognized the behavior as a way of communicating, “HOLY —-. That hawk almost KILLED me!!!”

#woodpecker, #birdphotography, #redbelliedwoodpecker, #prey, #survival, #tree, #treeclinging, #bird, #outdoorphotography, #naturephotography, #corkscrew,
Red-Bellied Woodpecker has just survived an ambush by a Red-Shouldered Hawk in Naples, FL, 2020. Observing wildlife behavior is always a learning experience.

I set up my tripod as quickly as I could and made some images of the woodpecker as he momentarily rested on the trunk of this tree. When I got home to examine my photos, I was able to identify the type of bird he was. While the hawk’s behavior is part of Nature’s food chain, I could relate to the anxiety of the little woodpecker. That was one scary experience!

The Sunstar at Naples Pier

We arrived at Naples Pier about 10 minutes before sunset. My friend Marjorie warned me, “It’s going to go fast,” and she was right. We needed to pick a spot for a sunset photo quickly among scores of others who were on the beach for the very same reason, to witness the sunset and preserve the memories with photography.

I realized that the sun was going to slip behind the pavilions at the end of the pier, creating an opportunity to photograph the sun as a sunstar with rays. When the sun or other bright light source is clipped by a foreground object, you can create this type of image by stopping your lens down to f/16. (This assumes you know how to manually set your camera!) If not, no worries. Just enjoy this image of a beautiful end of an equally beautiful day.

#pier, #naplespier, #naplesfl, #sunset, #sunstar, #gulfcoast, #blessing, #peace, #sun,
What a blessing to share this moment of peace and wonder with dozens of other respectful visitors at Naples Pier on the Gulf coast of Florida.

Click on the image to enlarge. Need a print? Please visit my website anytime.

Mother and Child: Great Horned Owls

I identify myself as a mother more than any other role, so a glimpse of mother and child in the animal kingdom is a moment with special resonance for me. While photographing this majestic Great Horned Owl, I noticed something fuzzy moving near the owl. Hmmm. I kept my finger on the camera trigger, hoping to capture a moment when the owlet would peer over the edge of the nest.

#greathornedowl, #owl, #motherandchild, #owlandowlet, #owlet, #nest, #owlnest, #parentchild, #wildlife, #nature, #birdphotography
Looking like a cuddly stuffed animal, the owlet shows us its head and eyes for a hot second, while mother owl keeps a protective eye out for any predators.

Remember the expression, “Mothers need eyes in the back of their heads?” I think mother owl would agree, as she keeps one eye on my dog Sophie.

Eyes of a Great Horned Owl

My first photographs of the Great Horned Owl feature exciting eye contact. Do you know who I have to thank for that? My dog! This fantastic owl was guarding its nest and keeping a watchful eye on my Australian Shepherd, who was patiently waiting by my side. I didn’t realize that Sophie would play an active role in my photo shoot today!

#greathornedowl, #owl, #nest, #naplesfl, #naples, #birdphotography, #nikon, #tamronlens, #600mmtamron, #eyes, #eyecontact
Terrific eye contact with this attentive Great Horned Owl, guarding its nest. Naples, Florida 1/31/2020.

In the next photo, the morning sun is nicely lighting the owl about 70 feet high in the pine tree. Since the owl had to be relocated by the Southwest Conservancy, the nest consists of a man-made wicker basket (if you were wondering). That little fluff ball you see beneath the adult owl is a baby owlet! I noticed it moving. Stay tuned for my next blog where you will catch an even better glimpse of the owlet.

#greathornedowl, #owl, #nest, #owlsnest, #naplesfl, #guarding, #birdphotography
Great Horned Owl did not take its eyes off my dog. Not to worry, she can’t climb trees. Naples, FL 1/31/2020.

Thanks to Brian Beckner of Native Bird Boxes for telling me about the nest’s location. My next blog will share the best photo of this parent and baby Great Horned Owl. Oh, the thrills of bird watching!

Feeding the Eaglet

Happy news: the Bald Eagle pair close to my home in Naples has an eaglet in the nest. One lucky observer saw the eaglet peering over the side of the nest. When I visited the nest, located high in a pine tree yesterday, I did not see the eaglet, but I did observe one of the parents standing guard, looking all around. After a few minutes I observed the parents feeding the eaglet. It was tearing little bits of pink flesh from some prey to feed to its young.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #adulteagle, #florida,#wildlife, #naples, #birdphotography, #outdoorphotography, #asmppittsburgh
Can you spot the pink flesh in the eagle’s beak? I made this image with my Nikon D800, with Tamron 150-600mm lens extended to 600mm, held steady on a tripod.

Male and female eagles look alike, so you can only tell the sex of the parent by seeing them together. Often the female is larger. Both parents participate in parenting by taking turns guarding the nest and hunting for food. The eagles know enough to guard the eaglet from an incoming predator like an osprey or iguana.

I will be stopping by frequently in the coming weeks to watch for the eaglet.

Mirror, Mirror

I don’t think this Great Egret gives a hoot about his reflection, but I do! I was pleased with the detail in the reflection — which is equal if not better than the detail in the egret himself.

#greategret #egret, #birdphotography, #nikon, #pelicanbayflorida, #naples, #florida, #reflection, #mirror
One of those times that I realize the Nikon 70-200mm lens was worth every penny. Great Egret seen in Pelican Bay, Naples, Florida.

I will upload the full size (63MB) image to my website, if you want to make a print. The detail in those white feathers would really show off in a large print!

Making Connections: Birds and Humans

Watching a bird preen his feathers reminds me of watching a girl brush her long hair. It’s pretty special to watch wildlife behavior and learn about what birds and other wildlife do naturally. But the cool thing about observing preening — or hair brushing in humans — is that you feel like you catch a glimpse of private time, where the bird (or the girl) takes a few minutes to think of herself and make herself look good and feel good. In a way, it’s intimate.

This Great Blue Heron was taking time to preen before low tide, which is time to hunt for food. Early in the morning, he was getting ready for his day. (I assume this heron was male, due to the breeding plumage, the long wispy feathers in front.) Here are a series of photos:

#heron  #preening, #greatbluleheron, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #preen, #wildlife, #behavior
Great Blue Heron preening, with his neck twisted around into an S curve. Sanibel Island, Florida.
#heron, #greatblueheron,#breeding plumage, #preening, #preen, #wildlife, #behavior
With his head tucked under his wing, this Great Blue Heron’s head is hidden. Sanibel Island, Florida.
#heron, #greatblueheron, #preening, #behavior, #preen, #preening, #wildlife, #birdphotography
With a bit of down in his beak, this Great Blue Heron is preening his feathers. It’s a privilege to observe this beautiful bird up close in Sanibel Island, Florida.

As I photographed this preening session with the Great Blue Heron, I thought of Renoir’s paintings of his red haired daughter brushing her long hair. Are you familiar with that painting? Do you share the connection I make with hair brushing and preening?