Ballet in the Desert

Whenever the shapes of Nature remind me of ballet, I have to stop and take a picture. This Joshua Tree seems to be arcing a curved arm overhead in a graceful reach to frame the desert.

A single leaning Joshua Tree frames the desert scene on a sunny day in May, 2019.

When you are visiting from the East Coast, you don’t normally think of rattlesnakes and jumping cacti (the cholla or teddy bear cactus), but I was watching my step too.

Was your week wet or dry?

We have had a wet and stormy week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other parts of the United States have endured worse — floods or even tornadoes. This late spring/early summer weather can be violent.

So, my mind is traveling back to last week in the dry high-altitude desert. We had cacti all around us in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The Joshua trees themselves are as numerous as they are unique. This one, uniquely shaped, seemed to point toward the setting moon in the west.

Old Joshua Tree points toward the moon as it sets behind the mountains in Joshua Tree National Park, soon after sunrise in late May 2019. We were thankful for a clear day to enjoy some hiking.

Discovering the High Desert

As a part-time Floridian, I’m in love with the coastline, the ocean, tropical plants and birds. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy an adventure into the California desert, but I did!

My daughter booked an Airbnb in Yucca Valley for a couple days’ visit to Joshua Tree National Park, and we got to hike and explore the “high desert,” something new to me. I found the Joshua Trees to be really funky, and the sandstone boulders fascinating too.

We could see the snowy peaks of the San Bernadino Mountains in the distance, while taking in the textures of the high desert terrain at our feet. Just a short time after sunrise, the sunshine was brilliant.

We were lucky that the temperatures were moderate for our May 20-21 visit, and that we stayed close to the national park, in order to get there for sunrise. Stay tuned to this blog for more photographs from this special national park, Joshua Tree.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Ten days ago, I was biking in the Everglades National Park, working hard to get some photographs of the Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron in flight. I write to you today from my desk in Pennsylvania, because my efforts paid off and I have more images to share!

Great Blue Heron is up and away, spreading those enormous blue wings and stretching out its long body. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

For you photographers out there, I had to use ISO 2500 in order to freeze motion with a shutter speed of 1/1000 and keep the aperture wide enough to achieve enough depth of field that the heron would not fly out of my focus zone too quickly. My camera is the Nikon D800, with the Nikon 70-200 mm lens, handheld. When birds take flight, it is a challenge to keep them sharp in the final image.

The success of this image reminds me of why I prefer still photography to video: with a print, one can freeze this moment to enjoy forever. All of these camera settings worked to create an image you can enjoy as a 10″ x 10″ print, available on my website.

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.

Wood Stork Kneeling

Wood storks are an uncommon bird. They were once endangered, but now the species has been upgraded to “threatened.” This time of year (February) most of them are sitting on their nests, so they are not out and about and easy to find.

This wood stork was preening its feathers on the Royal Poinciana Golf Club early Monday morning. We can’t tell if it is male or female, for the birds offer no outward signs of their sex. Perhaps it will pick up some fish as take-out dinner to take back to the nest.

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Because the knees bend backwards, this wood stork looks like it is sitting on its elbows. Its a very large bird, making the great blue heron look like its skinny cousin.