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.
tricolorheron, feathers, eye, closeup, nature, wildlife, fishing, feeding, wading, foraging, march, Florida, beach, Bunche, fortmyersbeach
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.

Sweet Pelican Landing

“Mind if I join you?” is the quote that comes to mind. There is something about this clumsy looking, yet actually graceful pelican landing that I find endearing. Brown pelicans are huddling in close quarters on this rookery island to spend the night.

#rookeryisland, #rookerybay, #naples, #florida, #sunset, #safety, #landing, #pelican, #mangrove, #estuary, #nature, #nikon
In the golden light of sunset, pelicans, ibis, cormorants and herons make room for one another on this popular rookery island.

It is a privilege to watch all of these graceful birds flock to the island in Rookery Bay (near Naples, Florida) at sunset. This close up is a cropped image, captured with a 200mm Nikon lens. We are not as close as we appear, and we stay silent to avoid disturbing this natural daily migration.

The sunset Eco-cruise is provided by the Southwest Conservancy. Buy your own ticket online at conservancy.org.

Looking for Color

Today I’m returning to snowy Pittsburgh where the sky may be overcast, and ice coats the sidewalks. As I board the plane in Florida, I remember my afternoon at the Naples Botanical Garden when my friend Marjorie walked around the lake on the lookout for alligators. I told Marjorie that I was admiring the textures of the grasses and pines. Marjorie replied, “I’m looking for color.” A few minutes later, I spotted this brilliant red orchid growing in the limbs of a tree. I liked the way the smooth white bark of the three tree limbs framed the plant.

This blooming orchid gave us a brilliant splash of primary colors, a wish come true.

Formation of a Fern

One of the best things about travel to a faraway land is learning about the symbols that derive from the natural environment there. When I visited New Zealand, I learned that the spiral shape celebrated in art and jewelry refers to the spirals found in the fern as it unfurls. Ferns are ubiquitous in the rainforests of New Zealand, and the ancient plants come in many varieties. As a new fern grows, you can see a delicate spiral unfurling as each leaf and stem grows. This spiral represents new beginnings.

These ferns are growing in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, an Audobon Preserve near Naples, Florida. I was delighted to notice the repeating patterns as well as the spirals at the ends of the leaves and stem on the left.

On the other side of the globe, we learned about a different interpretation of the spiral shape. In Turkey, the spiral shape represents the Meander River, which curves back and forth and seems to go on forever. When visiting Ephesus in Turkey, we were told the spiral shape in repetition, or the Greek Key design, represents infinity.

In yet another trip, we were surprised to find the Greek Key design in the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Surely the ancient people from all these places were not comparing notes! It seems to me that the ancient people in all these distant spots on the globe had put together an observation of the intriguing shapes in Nature and thinking that joined Nature, Art and Philosophy. I choose to embrace both meanings in the spiral found in Nature: new beginnings and eternity. Both concepts bring me optimism, peace and happiness.