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.

Snowy Egret’s Galoshes

The easiest way to identify a Snowy Egret is to spot his Yellow Galoshes. This image from January 2020 in Naples, Florida shows the Snowy stepping from rock to rock while looking for some fresh fish to catch and eat.

A fast shutter speed (1/1600 second) creates an image with clarity in the feathers and the ripples of the creek while stopping the action of the Snowy Egret with his yellow galoshes.

While not very skittish, the snowy egrets generally take a step away from you when you approach. It’s best to give them space and not cause them stress in the wild.

Jumping the Waves

Humans of all shapes and sizes flock to the beach on a hot summer’s day, saunter to the water’s edge and…jump the waves! The water feels so good. I think it’s fun to find animals doing the same things people like to do. So I had fun photographing this Snowy Egret in the air, jumping the waves.

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Snowy Egret jumps the wave while fishing on the beach in Naples, Florida.

This image also gives us a good look at the crashing surf, frozen in time, and the snowy egret’s wings outstretched. He/she is such a graceful bird!

The Delicate Cleome

This white Cleome stands out so beautifully in Erika’s garden. I love the delicacy of this flower and also how tall, complex and balanced it looks. If someone described me this way, I would be happy.

cleome, flower, summer, white, garden
I love the delicate petals of this white cleome, growing in Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

When I was making this photograph, I looked for a simple background, so the Cleome would take center stage. I think the yellow coneflowers, shown out of focus in the background do a nice job as “best supporting actors.”

Spinning Flowers

I nudged myself to get out in the backyard and experiment with some flower photography today. Summer 2020 should be the summer of experimentation, right? I played with long exposures and spinning the camera while pressing the shutter. My favorite image was this one of my hydrangea plant that preserved the outlines of the leaves.

#hydrangea, #experiment, #creative,  #july #flowers, #flowerphotography, #nature, #outdoorphotography, #abstract, #spin
Hydrangea blossoms in pink and blue appear slightly abstract in this spinning image, nicely framed by a wreath of vibrant leaves. © Catherine Kelly

If you want to try this method, you need to set the camera to manual and dial in a long exposure like a third of a second. To achieve a correct exposure, you will need to stop down the lens (to perhaps f/11 or f/16), and set a low ISO (such as 100). The settings will vary for you based on the available light. Focusing is still important. Once you have achieved a good exposure with shutter speed, aperture and ISO, it’s time to play.