Thursday, March 31, 2011

Of Egrets and Grackles

After spending some time watching the young Little blue heron chase down lunch, and after realizing that my neck was on fire from the hot Florida sun, I turned to head back to the van. There, on the other side of the road, against a backdrop of a dead palm frond, was this Snowy egret. The composition took my breath away!

I took several shots until the bird moved past the spiky frond.

We made a pit stop at the Cruikshank trail head to use the bathrooms. There were several people seated in the car next to us, and the back driver's side door was open. Perched upon the car next to them, watching intently as they ate their lunch, was this immature Boat-tailed grackle.

I would have found his stare rather unnerving, if it had been my sandwich he was eyeballing!

After I put the camera away he actually hopped onto the top of the open door. I am pretty sure the person in back gave him a bit of bread for his efforts.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Little Blue Gets a Little Lunch

When I saw the immature Little blue heron fishing the shallows near the road I hopped out of the van and quietly set the camera up. It was a fascinating show to watch, as the bird would alternately stand still or run like mad through the water.

(Note: since writing this post I have realized this is not an immature little blue but a non-breeding adult. Immature little blue heron's are white as snow.)

 I was pleasantly surprised when he stopped dead and mantled!

 Herons are known for this behavior though I have only seen it myself a few times and never managed to get a photo of it. There are a few explanations for it. One is that, in warm, shallow water, fish are attracted to shady places to cool down.

In the photo below a Black heron in Bostwana takes this to extremes--

Photo by Gerald Friesen

--our little blue only paused for a moment before rushing on.

 But then he stopped abruptly and did it again! It seemed to me, watching as he tucked his head under his wing, that this was less about providing shade for the fish and more about improving his vision--either reducing the glare on the water, shading his eyes, or both.

 And then he struck--splash!

 I'll be darned if he didn't come up with a fish!

 I cheered quietly--well done!

 The fish wriggled and squirmed while he got it turned around, moved it down his bill, and in a flash, gulped it down.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tri-colored Heron

The silences in the marshes of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge where vast. No quacking ducks, no peeping coots, no wind, no disturbance. The sky was devoid of clouds and the only ripples on the water were made by the birds as they hunted in the shallows.

A Tri-colored heron plied the marsh, looking for lunch.

Down the road a piece we came upon a Great egret. Interesting how the light has passed through its eye, sending out a spark at the bottom.

And this? This is just absurd.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Heron Yoga

Along the Black Pond Drive we came across this Great blue heron, preening atop a mangrove. I moved around so there were no cars behind him, just in time to get him doing a little heron yoga.

I love the fluffy bits blowing away in this shot.

This one's just because....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Florida Birds Return

Let me start by saying that we had a wonderful trip to Florida last week. The weather was the nicest, most pleasant I've ever experienced there, and we had six consecutive days of it. And then seeing what the weather was doing here in Michigan (cold, cold, and did I mention, it's cold?!?) I really didn't want to come home.

However, I was also looking forward to writing about spring in Michigan, or at least not writing more about Florida for a while. Well...the weather here has not lent itself to growing things, much less to wanting to get outside and see if anything is growing. So back to Florida I go. Not that this is really a hardship.

Our first stop was a return to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. As I had feared, the waters were low and most of the waterfowl were gone. There were still lots of wading birds around, and we spent lots of time enjoying them.

While we watched this diverse group of birds that included a White ibis, a Tri-colored heron, a Snowy egret and a pair of Pied-billed grebes and an unidentified shorebird in the grass, this Snowy egret flew up and strutted past.

The water was like glass, and it seemed as if the bird was standing on a mirror.

Mirror mirror on the wall....

I could have watched for days....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Artwork--"Wave Runners"

I've been a busy girl! Through a head cold and sore throat I managed to get this new piece done after our return from Florida:

"Wave Runners", 5" x 21"

While the images I used for this piece came from last year's Florida trip, I was inspired by this year's trip to get the piece done.

I think that my most favorite thing to do on a beach in Florida is to watch the Sanderlings run in and out with the waves, probing for crustations as the water drains from the beach. I have yet to see one get caught up in a wave, and they rarely even get their feet wet. They speed along the beach, ususally in small groups but sometimes singly, their stout legs a blur. I could watch them for hours. As a matter of fact, I think I have!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Artwork--"Seeing Red"

We returned from our trip to Florida yesterday afternoon, and while I have yet to sort through this new batch of photos, I wanted to get something posted.

I finished this piece right before we left but didn't have time to shoot it. I needed to get the file set up today so I can use it for a few shows I am entering, so I shot it and set it up this afternoon.

This new piece, titled "Seeing Red", is of a Red-tailed hawk. This particular bird is a member of a falconry club, who bring their birds to CraneFest every year. I got a bunch of shots of this bird, but I wasn't real excited about any of them until I pulled out my little mask and started looking at the images cropped. THEN I got excited!

It's 12" x 6.5", will be framed to 18" x 12.5". Prints will be available.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The End is in Sight

Florida 2010 posts continued...

As I made my way along the Cruickshank Trail I saw a plethora of birds, big and small, short and tall. In an effort to finish this series up I have eliminated a bunch of stuff, and focused on just a few images.

I managed to get a series of shots, starting with it hitting the water, of this Osprey. Too bad it was too far away to get good shots of it. It heaved itself out of the water, struggling with its catch. I was amazed to see it shake the water off as it was flying and carrying such a load. I've seen Osprey catch fish before, and every time I am impressed by their strength.

This Anhinga looked like a water snake as it glided along, its body just under the surface of the water.

A small group of White pelicans drifted by, beaks in the water, swishing back and forth, filtering food. A tern looks for handouts. Unlike the Brown pelican, which dives for its food, the white feeds from the surface.

I don't know what the hell this is, but I am glad I wasn't swimming with it--look at those teeth!! Someone made a meal of it, though.

The best moment of the hike for me happened about a mile from the end. I had gotten to the point where I was tired and ready to be done. As I trudged along, some movement ahead of me on the trail caught my eye, and I stopped dead in my tracks. What I saw got me so excited I nearly piddled in my pants--

--an Eastern meadowlark!

It had apparently not seen me coming, didn't notice me until after I had stopped, and so wasn't sure what to think of me. The bird eyed me warily.

By the time the meadowlark turned its bright yellow breast my way it had moved into the shade, making it hard to get good shots.

Several minutes went by before this beautiful bird flew off into the grasses, alighting on a small shrub. I was hoping it would sing for me, but no such luck. That's OK. I was so happy to see this bird, another first for me, that its silence only gives me something else to look forward too--hearing one sing.

And so ends the Florida 2010 posts. Hope you enjoyed them, cuz I'm on my way back down. I hope to return with better images, and some more firsts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cruickshank Trail

Florida 2010 posts continued...

After much starting and stopping I finally made it to the trail head. Cruickshank Trail is a loop that follows several dikes that snake their way through the refuge. This was an ambitious undertaking for me, a five mile hike after a fairly sedentary winter. At least it was pancake flat.

For wildlife watchers the opportunity to get out of the car and away from the traffic is golden. You have the chance to pick a spot and sit, and will often be rewarded with a visit from one critter or another. Unfortunately, since I was getting a fairly late start, I did not have that luxury, and had to pretty much hoof it all the way around.

Aside from this old pier and the trail itself, there was almost no sign of man--or men or women, for that matter. The trail was deserted. I read that upwards of 90% of visitors to National parks rarely leave their cars. While I think that's sad and pitiful, it suits me just fine. I like the solitude I can find in the parks.

This Yellow lesser-legs likes that statistic too.

Not too long into the hike I came across this Tri-colored heron. As soon as I saw it I stopped dead in my tracks, and brought the camera slowly up to my eye. I tried to send out good energy, but the bird wasn't buying my benign vibes.

It fidgeted uncomfortably atop its shrubby perch, eying me warily.

He pondered for a moment or two...

...then decided to leave. I sometimes find in these places that the birds are more accustomed to cars than to people on foot, and are spookier around hikers. I had to go slowly and stop the instant I saw something or I would scare it away. Of course, for the most part they saw me first and I only saw them as they were flying away. Sigh....

This White pelican didn't take to the air, but it did swim away, watching me over its shoulder.

What a treat it was when this spoonbill flew past, low and into the sun. I am struck by their shape when they fly, and their black feet make me think of a dancer in black shoes, toes pointed as he leaps through the air. What an odd, beautiful bird.