Happy Flag Day 2017

This bald eagle basically begged me to take his photo by perching atop this American flag and a brass bald eagle in Naples, Florida. Happy to share the good news that Bald Eagles are thriving in Southwest Florida and Alaska, too, by my observation.

#flagday, #baldeagle, #florida, #naples, #americanflag, #bluesky
Bald Eagle paired with the Stars and Stripes in Naples, Florida.

Finding Africa close to home

Some homework assignments are more fun than others. Learning to use my new 600 mm lens called for a trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo. I have wanted to “get closer” to wildlife in Florida while photographing birds and alligators. And I definitely want to be ready for puffins I will see in Iceland in July. I know I will get the best results from practice.

Mounted on a sturdy monopod and attached to my Nikon D800, my new lens focused on the African lion and tiger today, and brought home these images for you.

#pittsbughzoo, #zoo, #tiger, #wildlife. #lens, #600mmlens, #nikond800
This images shows the tiger’s markings.
#lion, #zoo, #Pittsburghzoo, #600mmlens, #nikond800, #nature, #wildlife
Sleeping male lion. Peaceful.

Pelicans’ secret

Did you ever wonder where the pelicans go at night to sleep? Their favorite spot is an island in the bay, safe from land-based predators like raccoons. In this image, shot in Rookery Bay south of Naples, Florida, you can see a large number of pelicans getting settled for the night at sunset.

#sunset, #pelican, #orangeandblue, #rookerybay, #rookeryisland, #mangrove, #goodnight
One Pelican lands on an outside branch as a dozen of them settle in for the night on an island in Rookery Bay, Southwest Florida.

Our boat cut the engine and floated silently, so we could watch the pelicans and other large wading birds settle in on their rookery island. It was a privilege to watch this natural phenomenon up close.

Alligator on the move

As the great blue heron took a giant step back, this large alligator silently swam past. The heron and the gator eyed one another, but the gator seemed to have set his sights on a school of catfish just ahead.

#blueheron, #alligator, #sharkvalley, #swimming, #everglades, #wildlife, #nature
Great blue heron steps back to let the alligator swim past in Shark Valley.

In Shark Valley, there is no shortage of enormous alligators, but most of the time you see them sleeping in the sun in the middle of the day. I enjoy biking the trail in Shark Valley, even though I find the 15-mile loop very tiring.

#alligator, #sleeping, #wildlife, #nature, #everglades, #sharkvalley
Biking Shark Valley today, you may see 100 of these hefty gators.

When the alligators are on the move or sitting near the path, you need to take precautions to stay away from them. If you’d rather not risk a close encounter, you can take the National Park Service tram.

“Feed me, Mama!”

Three young osprey were chirping up a storm, while Mama took a bath in nearby tidal waters and then dried her feathers while perched atop a nearby tree. Finally, Mama Osprey came to the rescue and landed on the nest.

#osprey, #nest, #babies, #cry, #chirp, #hungry, #pelicanbay, #naples, #florida, #wildlife, #birds, #nature
Mother osprey answers the hunger cries of her three babies, landing on the nest at Pelican Bay’s South Beach in Naples, Florida.

With a shutter speed of 1/1000 second, my Nikon D800 froze the action as Mama Osprey landed on her young.

“What alligator?”

I attribute this quote to the great blue heron on the left in this photo. The heron seems rather oblivious to the enormous alligator chomping on a fish right in front of him.

In fact there is a thick assembly of birds here in what remains of Lettuce Lakes in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary as a result of the current drought in south Florida. This small lake is the only wet spot in the entire swamp, and the tension between these birds is evident. The white egrets are continually squawking at one other to move over and yield territory. See the two on the right with outstretched wings?

#blueheron, #alligator, #corkscrew, #egret, #lettucelakes, #florida, #drought, #wildlife, #nature
Does the great blue heron even see the big American Alligator? Good news: the blue heron survived, and the alligator swam over to the bank to get some sun.

In this image, I can count 7 great white egrets, two great blue heron, a wood stork, a roseate spoonbill and two snowy egrets — one of which is sitting on the alligator’s long tail. There were many more birds in the tree and nearby in the lake.  Crowding the lake and fishing aggressively, these birds are a dramatic illustration of the strain on the food supply caused by the drought.

Tomorrow I am off to Shark Valley in the Everglades again to capture some more wildlife. Stay tuned to this  blog space!

What Lies Ahead

On a morning walk in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, you never know what lies ahead. One time, a Florida Panther jumped onto this stretch of boardwalk. Other days a Burmese python was sighted just below in the swamp. Most likely, you will see a dozen or more species of birds and some alligators. I was not disappointed as I entered the cypress forest.

#corkscrew, #swamp, #santuary, #naples, #florida, #nature, #birdwatching, #vertical, #sony
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is an active nature preserve near Naples, FL.