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

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)

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.

Crystal trees in Jackson Hole

As we begin another week in Southwest Florida of temperatures around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a heat index around 100, I’m thinking back on a bitter cold morning in Jackson Hole when my fingertips and toes were frozen.

Venturing through Grand Teton National Park with two other photographers, we spotted elk, bison, eagles, trumpeter swans, big horn sheep and a coyote during the day. We also admired the shapes in the snow-covered landscape.

#hoarfrost, #frost, #jacksonhole, #winter, #snow, #snowy, #cold, #ice, grandtetonnationalpark, #gtnp, #morninglight, #sonyalpha
Hoarfrost coats the branches and leaves of this enormous bush in Jackson Hole, WY, February 2020.

A visual treat of the early morning light was the hoarfrost on the trees along the creek. Rising water vapor coated branches and froze overnight. Before the midday sun melted the ice, we were able to capture some photographs of these crystalline trees.

#hoarfrost, #frost, #winter, #snow, #snowy, #cold, #winter, #landscapephotography, #naturephotography, #landscape, #nature, #morninglight, #sonyalpha, #gtnp, #jacksonhole
Hoarfrost makes the trees look crystalline in early morning light, Jackson Hole, WY, 2020. Zoom in to see the branches in detail.

Learning Your Tropical Plants

My first thought of a name for this brilliant bloom was “fireworks,” but I wasn’t far off. This splash of color drew me close at the Naples Botanical Garden. It’s a Starburst bush / Clerodendrum quadriloculare. I was not finding it under searches for “fireworks flower” or “tropical plants,” but my friend Erika, a gifted gardener, led me to its proper name. The Starburst bush is native to New Guinea and the Philippines. No wonder it thrives in the tropical climate of Naples, Florida in the “Garden with Latitude.”

#starburst, #fireworks, #tropical, #light, #garden, #gardening, #naplesfl, #botanical, #botanicalgarden, #flower, #pinkandgreen, #pinkflower, #macrophotography, #naturephotography, #outdoorphotography, #nikon, #phillipines
The Starburst bush, clerodendrum quadriloculare, looks vibrant in the late afternoon light at Naples Botanical Garden, photographed in February 2020.

In doing my botanical research, I was tempted to order some seeds and plants, but I don’t currently have access to a garden or gardening tools. I’m hoping my desire to dig and plant will still burn when I return to my home in Pennsylvania.

Witness to Nature, Moment by Moment

You might wonder if that Yellow Crowned Night Heron knew how to “pick a crab,” if you read the previous blog (with the heron holding a live crab in its beak). My friend Mary and I watched the heron dismantle and texturize and finally swallow the crab. This series of photographs will share the experience with you:

As a Baltimore native, I know how to pick a crab: first you remove the claws and legs, (although there is more than one right way.) The heron shook the crab hard enough to knock those off. You can see the claws on the sand.

#yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #predator, #prey, #crab, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #birdphotography, #floridabirds, #florida, #naturephotography
Yellow Crowned Night Heron shakes his live crab until the claws and legs come off. It was the first step in turning the catch into an edible meal. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL.
#yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #floridabirds, #prey, #predator, #crab, #nature, #florida, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #action
Step Two: Yellow Crowned Night Heron pokes the crab’s body to break up the shell. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL.
#yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #birdphotography, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography, #nature, #prey, #predator, #crab, #action
Step Three: Yellow Crowned Night Heron tosses the crab body in the air and crunches it with his hard beak. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL.
#yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #birdphotography, #action, #prey, #predator, #crab, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #wildlife, #wildllifephotography, #floridabirds, #outdoorphotography, #nature, #naturephotography
Finally, Yellow Crowned Night Heron is ready to toss that crab down the hatch. Can you believe it? Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, FL. 2020

Trumpeter Swans

Temperatures might still be below freezing in Jackson Hole with the lakes covered in a thick coating of ice and snow, but the Trumpter Swans find the perfect spot to keep warm and well fed — in the hot springs.

#trumpeterswans, #swans, #duck, #symbiotic, #snow, #hotspring, #hotsprings, #kellym #jacksonhole, #wyoming, #winter, #wildlife, #wildlifephotography
Constantly bobbing for food, these Trumpter Swans keep warm in the hot springs in Kelly, Wyoming. It is a challenge to capture a photograph of these two swans with both of their heads above water. March 2020.

There is a fine mist rising from the hot springs, as the air is around 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The lakes and parts of the Snake River are frozen solid, showing moose tracks across the surface. Last night, we got 7″ of fresh snow.

It’s no coincidence that the ducks are swimming near the swans. They have a symbiotic relationship, as the swans foraging makes it easier for the ducks to forage as well. The swans reach underwater with their long necks, stirring up the underwater ecosystem. Both species can find plenty to eat here.

Incoming Bald Eagle

There is something bold and brave about the face of a Bald Eagle, don’t you think? When that eagle is flying straight at you that courage and confidence are especially evident.

#eagle, #baldeagle, #birdsofprey, #birds, #raptor, #florida, #parent, #adult, #inflight, #brave, #bold, #soar, #wingspan, #wings
Bald eagle in flight, showing its massive wingspan, soars directly toward the camera. Naples, Florida, 2020.

Leaving the nest to find some fresh prey, mother eagle will soon return to feed her youngster, who has grown nearly as large as its parent and is nearly ready to fledge at 10-11 weeks.

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.

#eagle, #baldeagle, #stleo, Saintleo, #naplesflorida, #naples, fledgling, #youngster, #eaglet, #hunt, #fledge, #notyet, #waitingforfood, #mother, #parent
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.