Woodpecker Love

There are many reasons to love the Pileated Woodpecker.  First, you notice its brilliant red crown feathers and the red, black and white plumage, which would be a striking way to dress yourself today. Second, you can observe its impressive ability to steady itself vertically way up high in an old tree or utility pole. Then, you may marvel at its ability to hunt for food or carve out a nest by tapping its beak into the wood like a hammer 10 to 20 times per second. How can its head withstand all that impact?

#woodpecker, #birds, #tamron, #nikon, #nature, #pileatedwoodpecker, #naples
Female pileated woodpecker in Naples, Florida, high in a tree, pecking for food in the early morning.

Lastly, you may like the woodpecker for these traits you would admire in a human: it is non-migratory, inhabiting the same territory for its lifetime. It chooses and is loyal to a single mate. It benefits many other bird and mammal species in its environment, as song birds, owls and even raccoons later inhabit the old tree holes that the woodpecker has carved out for its nests.

And here is a mixed blessing. That pileated woodpecker in your backyard may be giving you some free advice: that dead tree needs to come down.

Yellow Crowned Night Heron

This tall and tranquil bird stood still for quite some time at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary as I set up my tripod to make this photograph. He/she is a classy bird, seeming confident, or should I say, comfortable in his feathers.

#nightheron, #yellowcrownednightheron, #heron, #bird, #florida, #naples, #Corkscrew, #birdphotography
Stepping out to look for a bite to eat, this Yellow Crowned Night Heron looks striking in his vivid feathers.

Gator Camouflage

Wearing “camo” is in. Especially if you are an alligator and hunt for food in the wild. Alligators floating in the swamp have a natural advantage, because they resemble floating logs, and they are silent and often still. Unsuspecting fish, birds and even people swim or walk by, in close range.

This 14-foot American Alligator seen at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was cruising Lettuce Lakes early Sunday morning, beneath the nest of three Anhinga chicks. He took on a new “camo” outfit as the plants adhered to his back.

#alligator, #corkscrew, #swamp, #water, #predator, #florida, #southwestflorida, #wildlfie, #camouflage
I had to move quickly to capture this image of a large alligator from the safety of a boardwalk over the swamp.




Anhinga Chicks

On January 9, 2018 the first of three anhinga chicks emerged from their eggs at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.   The Sanctuary is not a zoo where humans take care of the animals. It’s a boardwalk through a cypress swamp teeming with birds and alligators, ferns and cypress, frogs and snakes — where nature lovers can walk and watch during the day. I visited the site on February 11, 2018 to discover the one month old anhinga chicks so grown up!

#anhinga, #chicks, #baby, #conrkscrew, #swamp, #florida, #birds
Having just emerged from their nest but not able to fly, three young anhingas await their next meal.
#anhinga, #baby, #onemonthold, #bird, #florida, #corkscrew
Stretching out its wings and its neck, this young anhinga shows us its new black feathers. It stands about a foot tall from beak to tail, at the age of one month.
#anhinga, #adult, #black, #neck, #mother, #bird, #florida, #corkscrew
Could this be the anhinga mother? This female landed on the branch below the chicks. You can see all the black feathers on her wings and tail. She stretches her neck around backwards to check her tail feathers.

The Anhinga is frequently seen drying out its feathers like this in the sun after swimming underwater to hunt for fish. Because of its long neck, it is often called the snake bird. The male birds are all black with some white streaks, while the females have a brown neck and belly and all black feathers. Anhingas are very common in Southwest Florida, and they are not generally afraid of people. You can walk right past one without scaring it away. Having a good look at the young, however, is pretty special.

Incoming White Pelican

Snowbirds from the Great Lakes region, these large White Pelicans are fun to watch, especially when they spread their wings to fly, soar over the Gulf and come in for a quiet landing on the sandbar.

It was a balmy morning on Sanibel Island, Florida today in the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Bird lovers cruised slowly in cars and on bikes, and perched themselves along the shoreline with binoculars and cameras. The highlight of the morning was when one of us would say quietly to his neighbor, “Incoming!”

#whitepelican, #flight, #bird, #pelican, #sanibel, #birdwatching, #birdphotography, #nikon, #tamron
Squadron of White Pelicans assemble on the sandbar in J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. February 4, 2018

Making new (bird) friends

Early this morning, a naturalist introduced me to an American Kestrel , and I was able to make some photos of him for the first time. He is a large bird of prey, about 12″ tall. Look at those spots!

#bird, #wildlife, #florida, #audobon, #photography
My 600mm Tamron lens mounted on my Nikon D800 helped me get a better look at him high up in the tree.
#kestrel, #bird, #wildlife, #photography, #birdphotography, #florida, #birdofprey, #spots
One more look before we go. American kestrel with head turned.

Standing tall

The Great Blue Heron is my favorite bird to watch in Florida. I love the dusty blue color, the impressive size (4 feet tall perhaps), and its graceful movement. The heron typically stands still like a statue in shallow water, then  slowly takes long, deliberate steps and snatches underwater prey super quickly. He will often fly if a person approaches him, so getting a good photograph can be a challenge.

I sat quietly in the grass while observing this Great Blue Heron recently. He stalked through the water  and grabbed a fish. Then he kept taking giant steps until he paused on the shore. As he stood tall to look around with those brilliant eyes, I made this photograph.

#heron, #blueheron, #greatblueheron, #eye, #breedingplumage, #standing, #wildlife, #birds, #florida
Framed between to palms, this Great Blue Heron displays his breeding plumage.