My Favorite Hawk

I should be more precise: the Red Shouldered Hawk is the ONLY hawk I like. I think it’s such a handsome bird. It’s classy, quiet and artfully patterned. What do you think?

red shouldered hawk
Red Shouldered Hawk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in SW Florida, on the hunt.

I like this pose in which the hawk tilts its head while looking at possible prey.

red shouldered hawk
Red Shouldered Hawk with a sharp eye on the swamp below at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

I first spotted this silent hawk directly above me. At this angle, its torso is foreshortened, but the morning light illuminates its habitat. You don’t need binoculars to observe this large hawk.

red shouldered hawk
The Red Shouldered Hawk displays piercing eyes, a bright yellow bridge on its beak and a barred pattern on its feathered breast. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, SW Florida.

Ibis Activities

The Ibis — large white wading birds with pink curved beaks — are often seen in Florida. They feed in groups, pecking the ground in shallow water or near the water. I like them because they are beautiful, peaceful birds with black wingtips, whether I see them soaring overhead, landing on the beach or walking through my neighborhood.

The Ibis were active at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a wildlife observation site near Naples, Florida. A flock of three flew overhead, making a racquet with their unique “quack.” I observed one perched atop a high tree branch, and watched him long enough to photograph him fly into the brilliant blue sky.

ibis in flight
Ibis flies from his perch on a high tree branch in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in SW Florida.

Later, I watched an Ibis in a tree gathering nesting material. Usually, I see Ibis in shallow water or in the grass feeding, so this was interesting to watch.

Ibis nesting
Ibis gathers nesting material in January at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, SW Florida.

A more typical Ibis sighting is this one from Sanibel Island at low tide, where I observed this Ibis catching a crab in his beak.

Ibis feeding
Ibis feeding on a crab at J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida.

Pecking the Palms

This morning I rose before the sun to go birdwatching on our golf course. As the sun began to light the landscape, I spotted this Red-Bellied Woodpecker looking for insects on the palm trees. As he flew from one palm to the next, the sunlight gave us a good look at his red crown and black and white patterned wings.

This Red-bellied Woodpecker was spotted in Naples, Florida, but they can be found all along the East Coast of North America. Their red crown feathers are far more prominent than the tiny red lower belly.

Introducing the Pronghorn

This beautiful mammal is truly one of a kind, as the pronghorn’s 11 closest relatives are extinct. It is the last surviving member of the Antilocapridae family. The Pronghorn’s closest living relative is the giraffe!

The pronghorn (female shown here) is the fastest land mammal in North America, running up to 55 miles per hour. Grand Teton National Park.

You might have seen some pronghorns running at top speed around the national parks of Wyoming, because the species is repopulating, coming back strong from near extinction in the early 1900s, when it had been over-hunted by humans for food. It’s numbers dwindled to about 13,000. Private groups began buying up land to create a refuge for the pronghorn until the 1930s when Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt (FDR) created enough public land for them to live in a protected habitat. The presidents also put hunting restrictions in place. Now the pronghorn is estimated at 500,000 to a million in the American Rockies. (Read full details on Wikipedia.)

Now we could say of our fast-footed friend, that she is one in a million.

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.

Weekend Plans

What are your weekend plans? During COVID times, we need to choose an activity that is both safe and restorative. My husband and I are taking walks.

Depending on where you live and what climate you have, you might be walking in the snow, in the city, in the woods, the park or something else. What’s in your neighborhood? In Florida, we are often walking along the edge of a lake. In late afternoon, we find a walk in Nature to be restorative. Along the edge of the lake, we observe the colors and reflections of dusk.

Tranquil scene in the late afternoon as we walk around the lake in the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples Florida, January 2021.

Pelicans in Formation

When I observe birds flying and swimming in formation, I often think of synchronized dancers performing on stage or marching bands, but then I realize that humans are the ones imitating nature. We wear uniforms or dance costumes, so we will look as similar as two birds of the same species, right?

Two White Pelicans foraging together at low tide mirror each other in formation, as the overhead sun casts a mirror-like shadow on all three pelicans in the water. Low tide is feeding time, and on this day it happened near noon. J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, Florida, January 2021.

When photographing wildlife, you can’t plan this. You just have to be patient enough to sit and wait, following your subject and continually adjusting your focus. Note: something really cool usually happens after you pack up your tripod and start walking back to the car!

Pelican Stare Down

I’m not sure who blinked first, but I do know that my camera shutter clicked before this handsome Brown Pelican looked away. I followed this Pelican for several minutes through a 600mm lens at a significant distance, tracking his behavior at a comfortable distance, not disturbing him. Yet he saw me watching!

As a bird lover with a specific affection for Brown Pelicans, I enjoyed this moment of connection with a Brown Pelican at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida. The yellow crown feathers and pink bill indicate a pre-breeding adult. January 2021.

Brown Pelicans and Climate Change

There are so many reasons to like the Brown Pelican. I love to watch them dive for fish along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are so big with a length of a meter and wingspan of 2-3 meters, yet they are docile and quiet.

This Brown Pelican takes off while feeding in the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida. Its yellow crown feathers and pink beak indicate it is a pre-breeding adult.

Yet another important reason to love brown pelicans is the important role they play as an indicator species to help humans monitor the effects of climate change. We can monitor their numbers and migration to help understand the changes in fish population.

Pelican Landing

As I captured some action shots of the Brown Pelican flying low along the Gulf, I was able to sequence the glide, the “wheels down” position and the soft landing on the water. Today, I combined the three photographs into one to illustrate the sequence. In reality, this sequence would happen over a greater distance.

The Brown Pelican is fun to watch as it glides and lands in Naples, Florida.
Three images combine into one, ready to hang for pelican lovers.

The brown pelican is a family favorite. They fly in a V formation, and they never bother people. They just enjoy fishing and flying and make our time on the Pelican Bay beach entertaining.