Great Blue Heron in Flight

Ten days ago, I was biking in the Everglades National Park, working hard to get some photographs of the Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron in flight. I write to you today from my desk in Pennsylvania, because my efforts paid off and I have more images to share!

Great Blue Heron is up and away, spreading those enormous blue wings and stretching out its long body. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park.

For you photographers out there, I had to use ISO 2500 in order to freeze motion with a shutter speed of 1/1000 and keep the aperture wide enough to achieve enough depth of field that the heron would not fly out of my focus zone too quickly. My camera is the Nikon D800, with the Nikon 70-200 mm lens, handheld. When birds take flight, it is a challenge to keep them sharp in the final image.

The success of this image reminds me of why I prefer still photography to video: with a print, one can freeze this moment to enjoy forever. All of these camera settings worked to create an image you can enjoy as a 10″ x 10″ print, available on my website.

Mama Gator

The small baby alligators of the Florida Everglades are wise to follow their instincts and stay close to their mother, even lying on top of her. Their small size and still tender hides make them vulnerable to a Great Blue Heron or even a male Alligator. I spotted about six babies close to this parent.

Baby alligators like to bask in the sun, lying on their mother for protection. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, March 2018.

A 600mm lens allowed me to capture this close-up photograph, while standing about 15 feet away. It’s wise for humans to keep a safe distance away from this dangerous creature in the wild. While they lie still most of the time, when alligators are extremely quick when they attack.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama Gator. Good luck keeping your babies safe.

Tricolor Heron On the Go

This sequence of photographs of the Tricolor Heron in the morning light show his feathers from many angles. Such a delicate creature..

Landing on Bunche Beach near Fort Myers Beach, Florida, this Tricolor Heron is foraging for his morning meal.
Tricolor heron comes in for a landing. Look at that spread of blue feathers.
Tricolor heron flies on to a better spot in the creek, showing his white underside.
tricolorheron, feathers, eye, closeup, nature, wildlife, fishing, feeding, wading, foraging, march, Florida, beach, Bunche, fortmyersbeach
Tricolor heron walks by the water’s edge to get a better look at the photographer. He sees us with that red eye.

Watching for birds, found bobcats!

Whoever the teacher was who told me, “always look behind you,” was right again today. Watching a pelican at daybreak and listening to a dog barking persistently, I turned around to find exactly why the dog was barking… two bobcats were stalking in the shadows and hissing at one another.

I was lucky to have my 600mm lens mounted on my Nikon D800, and clamped on my RRS (Really Right Stuff) tripod, so I quickly focused and snapped a few frames. The light was very low in the shade of the large ficus tree and on a foggy morning at dawn, so the shutter speed was very slow. Motion blur, unfortunately, compromised the quality of the final image — but you definitely get the idea.

#bobcats, #wildlife, #nature, #florida
Bobcats seen just before dawn today at Royal Poinciana Golf Club in Naples, Florida.

These wildlife experiences are always teachable moments. One rule, often repeated for good reason is: Never hike alone. This morning I was grateful to be out with about 15 other bird watchers. The bobcats were more interested in each other than in us, but I’m sure the size of our group discouraged them from approaching us.

To capture a better final image next time, I will have changed my ISO setting ahead of time to 1600 or 3200. I confess to being half asleep at 7am, and I had not changed my ISO setting from 100, which I use for a still landscape when motion blur is not an issue.

Lastly, I feel more thankful than disappointed because this wildlife sighting was something special I experienced. It was exciting!

Where the Buffalo Roam

This herd of bison can often be spotted near the state road 191 in Grand Teton National Park several miles north of the Jackson Hole Airport. I made sure to take my husband there to see them, since he was raised as a Buffalo Bills football fan.

In this image, you see the bison from a safe distance, since it would not be safe to approach the herd on foot. (My mother would be happy to hear me say this.)

#bison, #buffalo, #grandtetonnationalpark, #jacksonhole, #jacksonholeairport, #wildlife, #landscape, #sony
I was able to shoot this photo with my Sony aIIr7 and the 100-400m lens handheld at ISO 1600, f/5.6 and at 1/500 second. I hoped the fast shutter speed would eliminate blur from camera shake as well as movement of the bison. 

There are an estimated 500 head of bison in Grand Teton National Park, and many more north of here in Yellowstone National Park. Spotting wildlife  — bear, moose, bison, coyote — is a big part of what makes American national parks an exciting destination.

Moose Maneuvers

Even more exciting than spotting my first moose was watching a spontaneous show of behavior between two male moose in the presence of a female and calf. Joining a Brushback Wildlife Tour in Grand Teton National Park one evening at dusk was definitely worth the investment.

What are these two moose looking at, you might ask? All eyes are on a mother and calf grazing on the nearby hillside. The young buck just wanted to get close enough to say hello, but the senior moose (notice the superior headgear), would block his path. Young buck takes a few steps to the left, Big Moose takes a few steps to the left. A few steps to the right are also blocked.

#moose, #behavior, #male, #grandtetonnationalpark, #sony, #sony100-400mm, #wildlife, #brushback, #nationalparks, #wyoming, #nature
A younger male moose tries to approach a mother and calf, but the dominant male moose blocks his path. No way, Jose. It’s not happening! Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

#moose, #wildlife, #wyoming, #male, #rack, #dominant, #behavior, #noway, #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalpark, #nature, #sony
As the younger male inches forward, casually munching on some grass, the dominant male keeps an eye on both the intruder and the mother and calf.

Light was low, and I had to increase my ISO to 3200 and use a tripod on the Sony aIIr7 with the Sony 100-400mm lens in order to capture these images.

Bear and Berries

It’s not too hard to spot a black bear by the side of the road in Grand Teton National Park. They are gorging on berries and getting ready for hibernation season. I used my 100-400mm Sony lens on my Sony aIIr7 mirrorless camera, mounted on a  tripod to capture this close-up.

One just has to keep a safe distance, because bears move very fast despite their heavy weight and they and kill a human quickly if they want to.  Photographers and hikers are urged to carry bear repellent spray to use in case a bear comes at you. The grizzlies are considered more dangerous than the black bears (which come in black, brown, cinnamon and golden colors), but you don’t want to startle a black bear or find yourself between a mother and her cub. Rangers (“wildlife management’) try to manage the enthusiastic humans who would otherwise get too close. These rangers should be called “tourist management.”

#blackbear, #berries, #wildlife, #bear, #bears. #grandtetonnationalpark, #nationalpark, #trees, #fall, #september, #hiibernation
This black bear ignored human spectators while harvesting berries in Grand Teton National Park along Moose Wilson Road.

See the earrings and necklace on the bear (tags)? This bear was trapped, tagged and released, so rangers can monitor him.