Leaf Art in the Tropics

It’s rare for a plant’s leaves to compete with the flowers for eye-catching beauty, but this tropical bromeliad features some very cool leaves. They look like someone hand-painted them.

#bromeliad, #sonyalpha, #luminar, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #leaves, #art, #color, #design #flower, #nature, #photography, #skylum
This Bromeliad bloom is eye-catching with its bright colored pointed petals, but these leaves are unique. Find this tropical beauty at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. © Catherine Kelly

Stripes and Polka Dots

Would you pair a striped blouse with polka dot pants? It’s not really my style. Can you think of a plant or animal that pairs stripes and polka dots together? That’s right: mix a zebra with a leopard!

This orchid has a unique fashion sense, and she reminds me of a spider. What do you think of her bold design?

#orchid, #stripes, #striped, #bold, #diversity, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #thingstodo, #flower, #nature, #photography, #sonyalpha
This unique orchid can be found at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. ©Catherine Kelly

Picking Up the Camera Again

Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic knocked me off my constructive and creative track with wildlife and nature photography. I found myself absorbed with cooking, cleaning, gardening and pondering the uncertainties of when restrictions will be lifted. Seriously, how long can this go on? All of us have had the rhythms of our daily lives disrupted, yes?

I knew that if I could get myself to pick up a camera and begin exploring nature in my own backyard, so to speak, that I would begin to feel like myself again. I ventured out to the newly reopened Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh (masked and careful), and indeed the magic reappeared. My vision and my technical skills are intact! Here is the first image I captured.

#vine, #nature, #meaning, #contrast, #why, #pink, #pinkandgreen, #phipps, #depthoffield, #focus, #photography, #sony, #sonyalpha
Can you feel the tug of Nature’s work in sharp focus, standing out before Man’s work, the Conservatory building? Yet, I believe the two elements harmonize. I see the vine as fresh, delicate, independent and strong. I made a deliberate effort to show only the vine in focus by using a wide open aperture with a short depth of field.

Dawn’s Early Light

While we are staying “safer at home,” I’m looking through the images I captured in February and uncovering a few hidden gems. I have found new examples of why it really pays off to wake up in the dark and get on location as the sun rises. The reflections on the lake makes this egret look regal.

#greategret, #reflection, #lake, #light, #morninglight, #earlybird, #fishing, #color, #dawn, #florida, #naplesflorida
Great White Egret catches a tiny fish while dawn’s early lights paints the lake with color.

This image is similar to one I blogged about in February, but it’s different with the fish in the egret’s bill. Here is another frame from moments later.

#greategret, #ripples, #lake, #water, #fishing, #reflection, #color, #dawn, #morninglight, #florida, #birds, #egret, #wildlife
Walking about in the shallows and dunking its head, this Great Egret makes circular ripples in the lake.

Bald Eagle in Winter

February 28, 2020 — It was just after dawn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with temperatures hovering around 8 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was scouting for wildlife with three other photographers. We spotted a Bald Eagle high in a frosty tree. A long lens (400 mm Sony) afforded us a closer look.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #winter, #wyoming, #wildlife, #nature, #jacksonhole, #eagleintree
Bald Eagle in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a frosty morning in February 2020. Perched high in an aspen tree along a stream, this eagle kept watch for possible prey.

For my friend Chris, this was his first time seeing a bald eagle. I had just been bald eagle watching and photographing in Florida the previous week, but seeing a Bald Eagle is always exciting.

We were only weeks away from the lockdown to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, but we were blissfully unaware. How blessed we were to complete this trip to Wyoming before the crisis hit the United States. I think of that childhood game of Musical Chairs. This is where we were just before the music stopped.

What Ducklings?

As soon as Mama Muscovy Duck saw a photographer across the lake, she silently signaled her ducklings to hide beneath her. It amazed me to see all eight ducklings completely hidden underneath her feathers, while she confidently looked around as if to say, “what ducklings? I don’t see any ducklings.” In this sequence of photos, you can see the adorable fluffy chicks before they huddle together beneath Mama’s feathers.

#muscovyduck, #ducklings, #muscovy, #florida, #motherandchild, #wildlife, #nature, #spring, naplesflorida,
Two yellow chicks and one dark one hide under mother Muscovy Duck. Soon the rest will follow. Naples, Florida 2020.
#muscovy #muscovyduck, #duck, #ducklings, #florida, #nature, #wildlife
Muscovy Duck with ducklings. Native to Central and South America, the Muscovy Duck is an invasive species, but very common now in Florida. Note the adult’s distinctive red fleshy face. Many bird field guides do not include this duck.
#muscovy, #muscovyduck, #ducklings, #florida, #nature, #wildlife
All eight chicks have followed each other under the protective skirt of their mother. One duckling takes a moment to look at the “threat,” only a photographer about 30 meters away. Photo shot with 600 mm lens, and cropped.
#muscovy, #duck, #mother, #behavior, #protect, #ducklings, #hiding, #nature, #instinct, #maternal, #florida, #colorful
Mother Muscovy Duck, hiding all her ducklings under her feathers while she sits lakeside. Location is near my home in Naples, Florida, 2020.
#muscovyduck, #muscovy, #duck, #ducklings, #behavior, #wildlife, #nature, #florida, #lake, reflection
Mother Muscovy Duck hiding her 8 ducklings, reflected in the lake — still until the photographer leaves.

Colorful Character: the Reddish Egret

Before leaving Florida for the season, I want to share a series of photos of the unique Reddish Egret. It’s a medium sized heron with a mane of elongated reddish feathers, a pink translucent beak and a cool way of dancing while foraging. You can find them in the salt water shallows foraging at low tide.

I observed this adult breeding reddish egret on Sanibel Island at J. N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve in February 2020. My friend marveled at the bushy neck plumage, asking, “Are you sure that’s not hair?”

#reddishegret, #heron, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #florida, #plumage, #pinkbeak, #birdphotography, #naturephotography, #wildlifephotography, #nikon, #birds,
Reddish egret shows its pink beak and reddish neck feathers in afternoon light, Ding Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island, FL.
#reddishegret, #heron, #preening, #birdphotography, #naturephotography, #wildlifephotography, #nikon, #dingdarling, #sanibel, #florida, #birds, #feathers
Reddish egret having a “bad hair day” while preening feathers and showing its flexibility. Sanibel Island, FL.
#reddishegret, #heron, #pinkbeak, #dance, #forage, #fish, #behavior, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #birdphotography, #wildlifephotography, #naturephotography, #nikon, #egret, #birds, #outdoorphotography
Reddish egrets are known for their graceful dance moves while foraging. They extend a wing to create a shadow to attract fish close to their legs, at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Florida.

Bald Eagles: Parent and Its Offspring

Watching the skies for soaring birds around 6 pm, I saw an osprey, an anhinga, a cormorant and … a large raptor that looked like a juvenile bald eagle. That possible bald eagle disappeared in the trees to the south. Leaning my heavy lens, camera and tripod rig over my shoulder, I hiked in that direction and to the nearest lake edge. I scanned the sky again. A swallow tailed kite swooped over the lake and then disappeared into the trees, too quickly for me to find him with my lens.

Moorhens near my location squawked at each other, but they are too common to attract my attention. The breeze kicked up, helping me to feel a bit cooler in the April heat. I scanned the water and the trees. “Wait, was that a brown spot in the tree across the lake?” I wondered.

Looking through my 600 mm lens, I confirmed that fleeting sight. It’s an adult bald eagle — unmistakable — and on the next tree is the juvenile! The juvenile looks the same size as the adult, but is all brown with flecks of white. It will take 5 years for him/her to develop pure white head feathers and a white tail.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #juvenile, #bird, #birdphotography, #nature, #wildlife, #naturephotography, #wildlifephotography, #florida, #sonyalpha, #naplesflorida
Juvenile Bald Eagle perched near its parent might be three to five months old, strong in flight, but staying close to the nest and parental oversight. Naples, FL, April 2020.

In this image, you can observe both parent and offspring in the same frame, as the juvenile takes flight. I stayed watchful for about 30 minutes, hoping to capture the adult bald eagle taking flight, but life was just perfect on that branch that evening and he/she outlasted me.

#baldeagle, #eagle, #juvenile, #adult, #wildlife, #nature, #florida, #birds, #action, #outdoorphotography, #naplesflorida, #sonyalpha, #luminar
Juvenile Bald Eagle takes flight while the adult, presumably the parent, looks on. Naples FL, April 2020.
(Clouds were added in post-processing)

Bald Eagle Action

Earth Day 2020 is a quiet one for wildlife with the United States shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The animal kingdom is no doubt wondering, “where are the people?”

Between illness and unemployment at unprecedented high levels, humans are having a very rough time. For the millions sheltered at home, trying to adjust to a new normal, art and nature can help to lift spirits.

Wildlife photography can happen in a limited way during this period, and I have found a few chances to get outdoors while staying away from all other humans. When I went out looking for bird photography opportunities yesterday, I got lucky and spotted something brown in a distant tree. The long lens on my camera focused on a compelling sight: this beautiful Bald Eagle. Please enlarge this photo on your device to see the detail.

baldeagle, eagle, bluesky, birdphotography, sonyalpha, luminar, wildlifephotography, wildlife, nature, naturephotography
Looking poised to fly, this adult Bald Eagle is a thrilling sight. Naples, FL, April 2020.

Perched in a nearby tree was a juvenile Bald Eagle. My next post will show both eagles in the same image. I hope this eagle photograph brightened your day, and I wish you and your family good health.

Spanish Moss at Sunset

I remember the first time I saw Spanish Moss on my first trip to Florida. I think I was in seventh grade, and I was amazed. It looks kind of spooky hanging from the trees.

#spanishmoss, #thesouth, #sunset, #evenightlight, #light, #sonyalpha, #luminar, #landscape, #nature, #naturephotography, #firstimpression, #florida, #naplesflorida
Spanish moss lit by the setting sun in Naples, Florida. If you grew up in the northern states, this sight will surprise you.

My delighted first impression still colors my thoughts when I observe this lacy plant hanging from tree branches. I especially like to see it in early morning or evening light when it looks like a chandelier.