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.

Singing “Mockingbird”

When my children were little, my husband and I lulled them to sleep with a rocking chair and our favorite lullabies.

“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.”

Those memories are precious.

But I don’t think I have ever SEEN a mockingbird until recently on an early morning bird tour in Naples, Florida. This mockingbird stayed on the pine branch long enough for me to capture this photograph. Now I can SHOW my children (and my grandchildren!) a live mockingbird.

White Pelicans in Flight

#whitepelican, #pelican, #flying, #inflight, #wings, #sky, #howto, #nikon, #tamron
White Pelicans soar above Sanibel Island, showing their black wingtips. Their wingspan is the second largest for a bird in North America.

It’s certainly a challenge to photograph birds in flight. Your shutter speed must be fast enough (1/1000 second) and your depth of field sufficient to keep the birds in focus (f/20), as they won’t stop for you to capture your photograph. I used an ISO of 800 on a bright sunny day, to allow me to shorten the shutter speed and dial down the aperture. It helps if the birds are flying roughly parallel to your focal plane, rather than toward or away from you. And it takes practice. These beautiful birds look amazing as they come in for a landing, too.

3-2-1 — Contact. Back to the White Pelican Squadron on the sandbar.

Personal Space

Word on the street is that these White Pelicans migrated to Florida from the Great Lakes region.  Anyone who has driven that distance can appreciate how long that journey is. While they have flown a long way from home, they enjoy huddling together, wing to wing, beak to beak on this sunny evening.

#pelicans, #whitepelican, #pelican, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #florida, #southwestflorida, #birds, #sunset, #flock, #nature, #birdphotography, #wildlife
This flock of White Pelicans on Sanibel Island, Florida doesn’t mind standing in a tight pack on a sandbar just before sunset.

Feeling Frazzled?

How is it that the “common cold” can reduce a vibrant and productive adult into feeling like this? My head aches; my appetite is gone; my nose is running, and when I try to talk, I cough. My husband takes one look at me and says, “You look terrible.”

#reddishegret, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #sanibelisland, #florida, #heron, #wadingbird, #nikon, #tamron, #birdphotography, #wildlife
This Reddish Egret on Sanibel Island, Florida shakes like a dog. Weeks after I observed this fantastic bird, I recalled this image and relate to the feeling it projects.

While I have not been well enough to write or post for several days, I am starting to feel better today.  I look forward to smoothing my feathers, clearing my vision and taking flight again soon.

Osprey On Watch

It’s March and nesting season on Sanibel Island, Florida. While the mother osprey are tending eggs or new hatchlings in the nest, the fathers can be spotted nearby on the high branch of a tree. This father osprey is manning his high branch perch, even as the branch bobs in the wind.

#sanibel, #osprey, #eye, #male, #perch, #dusk, #dingdarling
As he faces the setting sun, the osprey’s eye reflects bright yellow and he opens his mouth to cry out.