Watch Your Step, Heron

Dear Beautiful Heron, Please watch your step as you tiptoe silently through the long grasses and past the purple thistle. Do you remember those baby alligators that you like to eat? When they grow up, those big alligators might take a bite out of you. If they catch you, they will eat you whole, feathers and all.

Great Blue Heron tiptoes slowly and silently through the tall grasses and the thistle in the Everglades, March 2021.

Also silently lurking nearby in the grass is this large alligator. If he is hungry, the Great Blue Heron could be his next meal. Yikes! The food chain is merciless.

American Alligator, lying in wait for its next meal near the water where wading birds feed. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, March 2021.

Eight Wood Storks

On my annual trip to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, I witnessed something for the first time. Eight wood storks were roosting in a single tree! I frequently see one or two in Pelican Bay or on the golf course, but I have never seen so many of them together, and I had never seen them in a tree. This remarkable scene was a distance away, but my Sony lens has a 400mm reach.

Eight wood storks roost in a tree in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park. It was an overcast day in March, right after a rain shower, Sony a7rIV, 100-400mm lens at 400mm.

Brown Pelican Party

These two Brown Pelicans met in the mangrove shortly after sunrise. Perched alongside one another, they looked identical. A few minutes later, they were splashing in the water nearby, breaking the silence of the early morning. Were they competing for fish, or showing territorial behavior? I honestly don’t know, but I said to my friend Marjorie, “It’s a Pelican Party over there.”

Golden morning light on two Brown Pelicans, perched in the mangrove at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, February 2021.

Great Pose for a Heron

This Great Blue Heron stretched its sinuous neck to look around from its perch high in the mangrove, giving us a great view of its ventral feathers. The heron’s body formed a pleasing serpentine curve. Lucky for me, the sun was behind me and perfect on the heron and the sky.

Looking up at a Great Blue Heron at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge in the Everglades, Florida, March 2021.

The Early Bird

What they say is true. The early bird gets the best light. (Maybe the worm too.). Patches of golden light filtered through the trees and lit this Great Blue Heron standing erect in the marsh. An hour later this soft, golden light was just a memory, or in this case, a photograph.

Admire the delicacy of this Great Blue Heron’s feathers as it stands tall and elegant in this serene setting at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Preserve at sunrise.

Lasting signs of Irma

Hurricane Irma lashed Naples Florida in early September 2017, stripping and uprooting trees, knocking out power and damaging homes. Three and a half years later, the year-round tropical growing season has filled in the gaps and erased most signs of Irma’s destruction. The landscape looks lush and green again.

This mangrove preserve in Pelican Bay still tells the story of Irma, when she stripped the trees bare of leaves close to the Gulf coast. This infrared photograph shows some of those bare tree trunks along the boardwalk that leads to the beach.

Like bony fingers, the bare mangrove tree trunks tell the story of Hurricane Irma’s forceful winds in September 2017. Infrared photograph in Pelican Bay, Florida in February 2021.

Driftwood in Infrared

This driftwood stump caught my eye while I was walking the beach, as I noticed grasses growing out of the center. The scene spoke to me of both the passage of time and the regeneration of life, naturally occurring. Looking it over, I saw a simple composition that would be interesting to photograph with my Infrared camera.

Grasses growing out of an old tree stump on the beach in Naples, Florida. Infrared Photograph processed to grayscale and ochre with high contrast in the sky, creative choices of the artist.

Do you find this image both peaceful and intriguing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Cactus or Street Sign?

This unusual cactus made me smile. With arms pointing horizontally north, south, east, west and a few other ways in between, I expected to see place names and distances written. ” It might say, “Miami – 103 miles,” or “Key West – 90 miles,” and “Cancun – 468 miles.”

Cactus at Naples Botanical Garden that resembles a multidirectional street sign. In fact, it is a rare Florida Semaphore cactus, because it resembles the semaphore signals of a railroad crossing.

I guess I’m more accustomed to cacti of other shapes like the saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert or the Cholla “Teddy Bear” Cactus of the high desert in Joshua Tree National Park. Perhaps you know the prickly pear cactus or the barrel cactus from your hikes in the Southwest United States. Say hello to the Florida Semaphore Cactus, or the Consolea Corallicola.

Bamboo Grove

My eyes were drawn to the stripes on these bamboo trunks. These tropical trees are so strong and sturdy, that they are used to make scaffolding in Hong Kong. I remember seeing them when I visited HK in 1998 — just a few years ago!

This photograph shows the striped trunks of bamboo at the Naples Botanical Garden, February 2021. Shot with Sony a7rIV, processed in Photoshop and Luminar 4.

Every time I visit the Naples Botanical Garden, I notice something new. Do you have a favorite Botanical Garden nearby?

Edelweiss then, orchids today

Christopher Plummer, the iconic actor who played Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” celebrated the simple goodness of an Alpine flower in his touching song, “Edelweiss.” (Sadly, CP died this week at age 91, but he left us gifts that will live on for generations.) In ” The Sound of Music,” the purity of a loving marriage, a close family, a father singing to his children and a tiny wildflower stand in contrast to the rigid, militaristic, powerful, cruel, violent and murderous culture of Nazi Germany.

Direct sunlight on this outdoor orchid at Naples Botanical Garden threw the background in shadow for a dramatic photograph, staged by Nature.

Sometimes I wonder if we have learned from history, or if we are doomed to repeat it. Take a moment to look at these sunlit orchids, and to think about what is good.