Osprey: Shelter in Place

As our boat passed this Osprey family on their nest Sunday evening, I thought about our human families adjusting our lifestyles to “shelter in place,” and slow the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

You have to admire the parental behavior of these beautiful Osprey. One parent will hunt for fish and bring it back to the nest to feed the family, and then tear apart the prey and feed the baby. Both parents keep a close eye out for any perceived threats coming close, such as bald eagles or humans. You can see the yellow eyes of mother Osprey on the right, hoping we will keep our distance. We were farther from the nest than it appears, as I made this photo with a 400mm Sony lens.

osprey_family_nest
Osprey pair bring food to their baby in the nest near Naples, Florida. March 2020

Who can resist the big amber eyes of the baby Osprey looking at the camera with naive curiosity. Babies of every species are precious.

While you curb your outside activities and exposure to other humans this month, please join our community following this blog. We love photography, nature, wildlife and travel and all four put together. I will keep posting to keep us connected. Feel free to comment and recommend this blog to your friends.

Bald Eagle: Mother and Chick

Young eaglet looks on as Mother Eagle flies away from the nest. We recognize the young eaglet by his dark feathered head and body, but he is nearly the size of an adult in just 8-10 weeks. Typically, he will learn to fly at 11 weeks, but in the meantime he relies on his parents to bring food to the nest. As mother bird flies from the nest in the morning light, youngster awaits her return.

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Mother Eagle will be back soon with fresh fish to eat, but until then the sole surviving eaglet awaits her return in the nest. Naples, Florida 2020.

At this bald eagle nest near Saint Leo’s Catholic Church in Naples, Florida, the fledgling has not yet flown from the nest. However, he has spread his large wings and practiced flapping them, jumping in place. At this stage, mother eagle leaves “junior” alone for some time while she goes out hunting for food.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Eagle’s Empty Nest

There comes a time when the bald eaglets are mature enough to fly on their own, and of course, the parents still like to keep an eye out for them. We human parents can relate! The pair of Bald Eagles who have raised two eaglets in their nest near Seagate Drive in Naples, Florida are taking their first flight. Join me in observing this special stage.

Bald Eaglet (upper right) near Seagate Drive took a tiny trip from the nest and perches just above it. He looks all around.

In this close up photograph, the eaglet shows his large claw. Soon he will catch his own prey.
Just a few yards away, the Bald Eagle parent continues to guard the eaglets, look around constantly.
My favorite image of the parent Bald Eagle, backlit in the sun. A magnificent bird.

Saturday is for Eagle Watching

On a recent Saturday, I visited three active nests of American Bald Eagles in South Florida to observe the eaglets and the pair of parents and to photograph some of the activity. The nest in Marco Island held the youngest eaglets, with two in the nest who were still weeks away from their first flight. As the eaglets moved around and stood up on the edge of the nest to take care of business — you know, to keep the nest clean — we got a good look.

Marco Island bald eaglet stands on edge of the sturdy nest and peers overboard. March 23, 2019.

Using my Tamron 150-600mm lens on my Nikon D800 mounted on a Really Right Stuff tripod, I got these close up photos, using ISO 200 around 10 am.

It will take five years for these brown eaglets to look like their parents with white feathers on the head and tail.
Scanning to the right and left, this bald eagle parent is on guard, to protect the eaglets in the nest.

Perhaps a dozen spectators with a variety of cameras, long lenses, tripods, binoculars and camera phones gathered on the sidewalk at a respectful distance (behind a rope as a reminder). One told the story of last year’s drama: The father eagle was electrocuted in a power line while chasing off prey. Some time later, a new male eagle arrived on the scene, and finding eaglets in the nest, he threw them out. The young eaglets, unable to fly, plunged to their deaths. This year, the family is doing well.

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.