Cleared for Take-Off

Watching and waiting for this Great White Egret to take off, I was rewarded by this sighting of outstretched white wings. With my Nikon camera shutter set at 1/1000 second, I was prepared to capture this image to share with you.

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Early morning sun shines through the white egrets wing feathers, as the egret lifts off from the littoral plants.

Since I also set my Nikon D800 on “continuous-high,” I have two more great frames to share. You can help me decide which one is best. I will submit one or two of these photos to the Royal Poinciana Members’ Photography Contest. The submitted photos have to be shot on the property.

Speaking of Woodpeckers

The ecosystem of Southwest Florida also supports lots of Pileated Woodpeckers, and we spotted this one on an early morning tour of our golf course. I love this one with its brilliant red crown and interesting profile.

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Pileated woodpecker makes a brief stop at the top of this pine tree, turning his head from side to side as if listening for his mate.

Next up are my newest images of the Great White Egret. Follow this blog for views of sunlit white feathers for the next several days.

Mother and Child: Great Horned Owls

I identify myself as a mother more than any other role, so a glimpse of mother and child in the animal kingdom is a moment with special resonance for me. While photographing this majestic Great Horned Owl, I noticed something fuzzy moving near the owl. Hmmm. I kept my finger on the camera trigger, hoping to capture a moment when the owlet would peer over the edge of the nest.

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Looking like a cuddly stuffed animal, the owlet shows us its head and eyes for a hot second, while mother owl keeps a protective eye out for any predators.

Remember the expression, “Mothers need eyes in the back of their heads?” I think mother owl would agree, as she keeps one eye on my dog Sophie.

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.

#greathornedowl, #owl, #nest, #owlsnest, #naplesfl, #guarding, #birdphotography
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.

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.

Glimpse of the Barred Owl

Well hidden in the dark shadows of the Cypress Swamp, undisturbed by onlookers on a distant boardwalk, the Barred Owl seemed to sleep. Bird watchers gathered, whispered and pointed toward the quiet owl. It would take a long lens (600mm), steady hands, perfect focus and the right camera settings (ISO 2000, 1/1000th) to capture a good photograph. Since our owl stayed in place and turned in our direction eventually, I got the shot.

This Barred Owl is nesting at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida. I was ready when it turned its head in my direction.

While mostly stoic, this owl took a moment to scratch its leg, giving us a new perspective on its feather patterns and a view of the feet and sharp opposable claws.