Growing Up In The Florida Wetlands

The spring season is an exciting one in the wetlands of Florida.  The natural rookeries that develop in the trees on the various “islands” of the wetlands, which are actually re-claimed waters, which supports the growth of trees, fish, and for the photographer, a wonderful place to watch the life stages of many of our south Florida birds.  So, sit back, take a stretch to unwind and take in some of the sights of spring.  🙂

Always present and anticipated with excitement are the great egrets.  These babies are absolutely adorable!DSC_4477-EditThough they start out pretty small and gangly, with a face that only a mother could love.DSC_5518You’ve got to love that ‘do that they possess.  Barely opening their eyes and with wobbly heads they try to sit up whenever the parent shifts a bit in the nest.  They get quite frantic as well when they know that food has arrived.DSC_5197Before long, they begin to grow up and look like they’re an established part of the family.  They seem to be quite excited when they’re in the company of both of their proud and loving parents.DSC_4621Life in the rookery has quite crowded quarters too.  Often, little squirmishes erupt and defensive moves result … for each wants to defend their territory, nest, and of course, their young.  Birds can be quite nasty to each other so it’s quite a testy time.DSC_4638Another bird that nested this year in the rookery was the glossy ibis.  They are quite beautiful always, but especially in the spring.DSC_5380The parents take turns sitting on the nest and bringing in food to one another.  As you can see, their nests are lower to the water, therefore it’s often not the cleanest of them all.  Yuck!DSC_5621Nonetheless, they are successful in their mating season and they carry on with the feeding of their first hatched baby, while still incubating the remaining eggs.DSC_5813The most prolific birds of 2017 were the wood storks … they were seemingly the first and they were EVERYWHERE!  They have the cutest young ones too … so oddly looking, but with that fuzzy white head, it’s hard not to love them.DSC_5570The white ibis, which is coincidentally the mascot of  the University of Miami Hurricanes, is another visitor, though I don’t think that I saw many nests this year.  They’re so beautiful in their breeding colors.DSC_6038As juveniles, they are not white, but darker or mottled until they reach maturity.DSC_6021A similar transformation takes place with the little blue heron.  As adults, they possess dark bluish-gray feathers, however as juveniles, they’re white.  As they age, they get mottled and eventually obtain their adult colors.DSC_5293Even while most of the rookery residents are already parents and taking care of their young, some birds, like this tri-colored heron are still looking for mates.DSC_5213With those fancy feather crests, beautiful blue beak, and red eye, they do their best courtship dance to attract the ladies.DSC_5233They are truly gorgeous in the breeding plumage.DSC_5866-EditMating season is not just for the birds either … the alligators seem to be in the mood as well.DSC_5122DSC_5126Alligators aren’t the only reptiles in the rookery environment.  Case in point is the basilisk lizard, also know as a Jesus lizard, notably because of its ability to run on the surface of the water.  It’s really quite fascinating to witness.DSC_4795-EditDSC_4807One of the most beautiful birds in the rookery, in my opinion, is the purple gallinule.  A medium-sized, chicken-like, marsh bird, its iridescent colors and its acrobatic skills are a thrill for all to witness.DSC_5909-EditSome confuse the purple gallinule with a more invasive, non-native bird, the swamphen, but their beaks definitely tell the story … with the gallinule’s beak being blue, red, and yellow … like a piece of candy corn.  LOLDSC_4907The gallinule prefers to feed actively on flowers and navigates the stalks of the vegetation that the flowers bloom from.DSC_5986Possessing those large bright yellow feet, they wrap their long feet or “toes” around the stalks ….DSC_5842… and they follow the stalk down to the bloom, often it leads to the waters surface … and they grab the bloom as a tasty treat.DSC_5058Of course, the always gregarious red-winged blackbird is ever-present as well.  I found this guy in a unique spot … sitting in the middle of a lily pad … singing away.  Loved that reflection on the surface of the water too.  🙂  Yes, the life in the rookery is alive and well.  Birds are thriving and insuring another generation to carry on.  Life is good!DSC_5448Next Up:  Who wants some burrowing owls?

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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An Environmental Success Story

In early spring, we took a quick trip out to Colorado.  We arrived into Denver in the darkness of the late night, so stayed overnight near the airport.  We decided that we would check out the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, not far from downtown Denver.

Much of the land has transitioned over the years from farmland to being used by the army to produce chemical weapons, and later their dumping grounds for the weaponry developed there.  It was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) and designated a “Superfund” site, being considered an environmental disaster.  After 23 years and $2.1 billion dollars in the clean-up efforts, the remediation and clean-up work was considered complete.

Consisting of currently 15,988 acres of national wildlife refuge, it’s one of the largest urban refuges in the USA.  The complex is home to 330 species, including the endangered black-footed ferrets, which were re-introduced there.  One of the species that was influential to the refuge’s existence is the bald eagle.  DSC_4221I had often seen images of the bison there with either the backdrops of the Rocky Mountains or downtown Denver.  I hoped that we could get some of the same.  Sure enough, before too long, we came across 2 bison grazing in the grasslands.DSC_3655Further along, there were more.  I couldn’t help but wonder if those bison appreciated the wildlife refuge, where they could roam freely, with those amazing scenic landscapes.DSC_3801-EditA few of the areas are fenced off a bit, which made those images a bit annoying, but it sure was a beautiful day and the bison didn’t seem to care.DSC_3856At one point, we encountered a herd of bison, roaming from one side of the road  to another, and often, back again.  It made traveling down the road a bit challenging.  LOL_DSC2119These bison seemed a bit more skittish than others that I’ve encountered before.  At one point, I got out of the opposite door of our vehicle to get a better image … well outside safe distances for photographing bison.  To my surprise, I startled them and them stammered a bit, to which I quickly got back in the car.  The last thing I wanted to do was alter their behavior.DSC_3970DSC_3881-EditTrue to natural bison behavior, they preferred to hang out together in the herd.  There were a few young ones, which we would observe nursing on their moms.IMG_3286Of course, the Arsenal is more than bison.  Though we didn’t see the black-footed ferrets (except the ones in the exhibit viewing area), but we did see LOTS of prairie dogs!DSC_4128A good variety of birds were seen as well.  The northern flickr, which is a favorite of mine, was spotted in a nearby tree.  It didn’t feel like cooperating for the camera lens, so I left it alone and kept driving.DSC_4077The western meadowlarks were out in force as well, though fairly erractic in flight and a bit further out than I’m used to in Florida (our eastern meadowlarks, of course).DSC_4206Always a thrill for me to witness observe, and photograph were the red-tailed hawks.  Several times while we were there, a few circled in the thermals above us.DSC_3723-EditDSC_3711-EditNear the waters within the refuge, we spotted lots of birds, though most were a bit further out as well.  The Barrows goldeneye in flight was a fun subject.DSC_4092The Canada Goose was present in pretty good concentrations and some were seemingly nesting along the roadside as well.  This one let me get low and close for a head shot.DSC_4091-EditYes, we enjoyed our time at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge … where it’s living proof that good things can happen at bad places … for both the benefit of man and nature.  🙂_DSC2140As we were driving away, one of the MANY prairie dogs was spotted checking us out.  It seemed to be saying … “leaving so soon”.  LOL  Ok, maybe not!  if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend to visit this urban gem.DSC_4295Next Up:  Back to the wetlands of Florida

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Colts! No Not Horses Either ;-)

Cranes … OK, I know that everyone knows that I love bears and now everyone is aware that I love owls as well … but what about cranes?  Well, they come in as a very close third place for the attention of my viewfinder and the affection of my heart.  Cranes … whether they be sandhill cranes, whooping cranes, Japanese cranes (which incidentally is on a short list for me to photograph one day) … really doesn’t matter, I love them all.  So much so that I have crowned myself as an official “craniac”.  😉

So when my good friends, Jess and Michael alerted me of sandhill crane babies, that’s all I needed to hear.  I was on my way, this year, with my wallet!  (OK, I have been known to leave home without not just my American Express, but my entire wallet!).  I was so anxious to get there that I arrived almost an entire hour prior to the roads being open.  LOL

It didn’t take long before I found the nest, with one of the parents sitting on it, in the wee early hours of the morning.  I got my gear out and waited anxiously for the moment that the baby sandhill cranes, called colts, would pop their heads up from the parents topside back feathers._DSC9095To my surprise, it was a bit uneventful and unexpected as the first of the pair of colts backed out of the feathers without peeking upwards first.  After it backed up a bit, it clumsily fell, then ran back to the protection of the parent._DSC9102At the point it got the attention of the parent, who undoubtedly felt the other colt getting a bit anxious as well, though still covered up._DSC9123The colt scurried itself back into the parents protective wings for comfort.  See, the other parent was still out foraging and this one wouldn’t get up until it was back in sight.  I guess the task of taking care of both of the colts simultaneously and alone was too much of a job to handle.  Before long, one colt delighted us by popping its head up … the parent turned to look._DSC9182Then the second head popped up and they were both vocalizing a bit.  At this point, everyone was either silent and taking rapid images … or intermittently taking images and squealing at the same time.  Can you guess which one I was?  LOL_DSC9223As with most siblings, there’s always a bit of rivalry going on and the two colts began a bit of a friendly confrontation._DSC9260The sight of a young newborn colt emerging from the natural featherbed that the parents offer is a sight that I can barely describe when it comes to the joy I feel when witnessing it.  “Be still, my heart” is all that I can think._DSC9356-EditSoon they were both off of the parent and playing together.  Sandhill crane eggs generally will hatch, via the colts pip tooth, about a day apart.  When hatched, they’re fully feathered and shortly after their drying period, they are able to walk about and even swim.  They do need the parents to feed them initially and sandhill cranes make the best parents._DSC9629-EditMom and dad communicate with them though gestures and a series of sounds and it always impresses me how quickly the colts learn and tow the line._DSC9542This pair of colts was so adorable and I really didn’t perceive too much difference in size.  It took a while for the other parent to return and the colts were getting a bit antsy.DSC_3238One of my favorite poses with these colts is the interactive poses with their parents.  I’m pretty sure that this sandhill crane parent is quite pleased with their newborn colts.  Going nose to nose simply pulls at my heartstrings. DSC_3246I think that this colt is trying to its mom or dad that they’re hungry!  DSC_3253Staying close to the nest sight and next to the parent the two colts have to settle their need for food and activity until the partner crane shows up._DSC9691Their young lives are full of learning and fun, but also full of danger.  I pray that they will be safe as they grow up…. and have lots more colts of their own one day.

In the meanwhile, I have just one question … does anyone else out there love the cranes and colts as much as I do?  If so, annoint yourself as a self-proclaimed “craniac” and join the club! _DSC9737Next up:  From the wetlands of Florida to the mountains of Colorado

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A New Year For The Burrowing Owls

Most everybody who knows me, is keenly aware that bears of all species are my favorite thing to photograph and spend time with.  Bears though, while not impossible to find in Florida, are not everyday subjects.  Lucky for me, owls are my next favorite subject and in Florida we’re fortunate to have several different species including the eastern screech,  great horned, barred, barn, and one of my personal favorites … the burrowing owl.  As in years past, I have been spending a lot of time with them, so if you like them like I do, get ready for several blog posts featuring these entertaining, expressive creatures.  🙂DSC_5965-EditIn Florida, the mating season begins sometime around February.  While full time residents of Florida, the fun with them usually begins at that time … and when their owlets first emerge from the safety of the burrow at about 2 weeks of age.  For the purpose of this first blog, these images are all adult owls, mostly just prior to mating for the season.  DSC_6332The burrowing owl is one of the smallest owls in Florida, standing about 9 inches tall with a wingspan of about 21 inches.  They lack ear tufts that some owls possess and as their name suggests, they live in established burrows in the ground.  Those burrows can be quite intricate too … with burrow tunnels reaching lengths of several feet.  They normally have bright yellow eyes, though in Florida it’s not unusual to have dark brown, light brown, or even olive green eyes.  As you can see in the image below, this couple illustrates the varied eye color.DSC_5858Their scientific name, Athene cunicularia, translates to mean “little digger” and it’s easy to see why … they are effective diggers and are often seen digging out the sand in the burrows.  Often the owls become unknown recipients of all of that sand and dirt.  LOLDSC_6184Burrowing owls in Florida are listed as a State Threatened species by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, thus are under much protection.  Therefore “taking, possessing, or selling burrowing owls, their nests (i.e., burrows), or eggs is prohibited without a permit (68A-27 F.A.C.)”.  Burrowing owls, eggs, and young are also protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Usually in the winter, they begin to pair up at various burrows.  Sometimes I know that it’s the same owls at the same burrow … sometimes a new partner will show up … sometimes it’s an entirely new couple.DSC_2858Either way, the behavior is the same.  Burrowing owls keep keen eyes on the skies above for potential predators or threats.  It’s amazing to me how they can perceive things long before I ever get the tiniest glimpse.DSC_2845The couples are actually quite affectionate together and offer food to one another …DSC_2884… and often nuzzle together as they pass the time together. DSC_2897Solitary and mutual grooming is part of the ritual too.  🙂DSC_2895Then there’s more of what seems to be an endless chore of housekeeping, and all of that flying dirt.  LOLDSC_2939I hope that you enjoyed the blog and will be back soon when the blog carries on with images and stories of the real stars … the new installment of this years baby owlets … with their downy fur, “hair plugs”, and clumsy ways.  They are the perfect way for me to pass the day … and they’re never short on expressions, attitudes, and fun!DSC_2955

Next Up:  My next favorite subject …. hmmm … what could it be?  Check in to find out!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

All Around the Neighborhood

So, most people think that I’m a birder because I photograph them a lot.  Truth be told, I’m really not … I just happen to live in Florida and therefore I photograph what I have locally … BIRDS.

One day, I walked outside because I could hear what sounded like a symphony of various birds in the trees.  When I investigated further, it was actually just a European starling nestled in the palm fronds.  How could so many sounds be coming out of one particular bird?  Well, the European starlings are quite talented in that regard and can mimic up to 20 species of birds!DSC_3004After a good bit of time, I noticed many more starlings flying in and out as well.  This species is quite prolific in breeding and not native to the area.  Back in the early 1890’s, an industrialist released 100 birds in NYC’s Central Park, wanting to establish in the US, all of the birds mentioned by Shakespeare.  There are now an astounding 200 million of them!DSC_2979
They are known to be quite the bullies too, evicting woodpeckers from their tree cavities after pretty much having done all of the work.  Eventually they take over the cavity for themselves, leaving the woodpeckers to do double the effort by excavating a new one.  As you can see, they raise their young in no time.DSC_1623One cold day (by south Florida standards), we were out in the backyard moving about, when I spotted something spying on me from a sandy location in the yard.  Upon careful inspection, we found this iguana.  It was laying there pretty motionless … see they are quite the warmblooded reptiles, which have difficulty surviving in the cold.  We think that it was laying in the dark dirt area, trying to soak up some of the heat from the ground.  It was about 3.5 feet long and quite beautiful.DSC_2641A while back, I noticed that in photography, I have a preference towards textures, colors, and eye details.  This buddy had them all.  I just loved how its dewlap (the hanging flap of skin under its jaw) moved about, even with its tiniest of movements.  The spiny spikes down its back would raise on alert when we approached.  Knowing that it was cold, I was a bit braver than usual near it, though we always gave it space and respect.  DSC_2720Its friend was waiting near by on the roof of my neighbor’s detached garage.  I just loved the way that the trees in the background provided a fun bokeh for the image.DSC_2734-EditOf course, when it stood up and gave us some attitude of its own, everything was even more interesting … including that lit up bokeh.DSC_2784Before we let them carry on with their day, I couldn’t help but focus in on that face.  Notice the tiny teeth and that tongue.  Gosh, to me they’re quite fascinating to observe and contemplate how their live is.  A few years back, we had one digging in our rocky landscape, we thought to burrow a home for eggs, but we never saw any young ones, so it must have been for a “dummy nest”.DSC_2807-EditNot in our yard obviously, but in our county, we also had the pleasure of photographing a mated pair of bald eagles nesting … and raising 3 young eaglets.  It was quite fascinating to see.DSC_7781They protected their young with vigilance too … especially when sub-adult bald eagles came by to inspect the goings on at the nest.DSC_8099Dad though would always escort it out and return to the nest to help mom out.  We didn’t go there often because the area was patrolled and wanted to keep onlookers out to not interfere with the nesting process.  Of course, we complied with that request.  I did hear that all 3 have successfully fledged.  What amazing parents!DSC_7756Next Up:  “Hoo” do you think?

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

March Equinox Sunrise – Deering Estate

Any sunrise has the potential to be a wonderful moment … the start of a new day, a new beginning.  Any sunrise, as photographed from the Deering Estate in the Cutler community of Palmetto Bay is fabulous, with the boat basin, lined by royal palm trees, overlooking Biscayne Bay.

The March equinox is the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator.  It’s roughly equated to the beginning of spring.  On this day, the sun’s position has it rising smack in the middle of the keyhole of the boat basin.  So, of course, I made the very early morning trek down there to see what kind of sunrise I would get._DSC2022The sky was virtually devoid of clouds, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  Before long, I noticed a very low layer of thin cloud on the horizon._DSC2087The wind was pretty much nonexistent that morning as well, making the reflections amazing, with little to no ripples._DSC9776Ultimately there was an amazing golden glow happening on the horizon, which contrasted nicely with the deep blue skies, and reflected itself nicely on the still waters as well._DSC2044-EditIt was a stunning scene for sure.  We were even treated to a flock of birds flying by, which added dimension and life to the images.  I snapped off a few more images, taking advantage of the somewhat obscured sun emerging._DSC9785When the sun got too hot (in the camera) to photograph, I switched to shooting the reflections of the royal palm trees on the waters surface.  It was a wonderful time … not even the mosquitoes or no-see-ems showed up to ruin the “party”._DSC5494For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Deering Estate or its history, let me share some information.  The Deering Estate was built in 1900 and served as the Florida home of Charles Deering, an American businessman and philanthropist son of William Deering, from 1922-1927.  Deering purchased it in 1916 and died there in 1927, when he then turned it over to his wife and family.  In 1985, the State of Florida acquired it … a 444 acre environmental, archaeological, and historic preserve.  The grounds are considered to be the largest virgin coastal tropical hardwood hammock in the continental U.S.  It holds the distinction of being named on the National Registry of Historic Places.  Though the sunrise photography takes place long before the Estate opens, they do offer tours of the homes and buildings within the estate._DSC9823While photographing the sunrise, I can always hears many sounds … hawks, owls, woodpeckers, etc all make their presence known._DSC5421Besides birds and the fabulous views, there are many different gardens and paths lined with many different types of trees, vegetation, and blooms.  There’s literally something for everyone.

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Before leaving though, I had to take one last image of the view from the grounds, overlooking the boat basin and Biscayne Bay.  If anyone is interested, they usually offer sunrise photography one weekend day a month, by reservation, and I highly recommend it at least once … or many more times.  🙂_DSC2101Next Up:  Around the neighborhood fun

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Winter in the Wetlands

Let me paint the scene for you … it’s a beautiful winter day in Florida … the air is cool (by Florida standards) and the birds are getting frisky.  Florida has many wetland areas with quite the variety of birds congregate for the breeding season in the rookeries.  There’s always action of some type going on.

One of my favorite wading birds ever is the snowy egret.  From the time that I first heard them calling out … to witnessing their spunky attitude around others … I was hooked.  So if I know they’re around, I visit with them first.  On this day, this lone snowy egret was flying about as it fished in what was obviously its favorite spot, since it did a great job of chasing all other birds away from that area.DSC_0496With their angelic white feathers, they seem to have every single one in place as they gracefully fly by … and execute the perfect drag of the feet along the surface of the water while fishing.  On this day, the wind was calm, so it was double beauty to me.DSC_0311Speaking of doubles … check out these two cuties.  A pair of pied-billed grebes, sporting breeding fashion, swam nearby … also providing for reflective images.  I guess this would be a quad sighting then, right?  LOLDSC_0525The red-winged blackbirds make their presence known by their song first, then they come over to check us out, with this male showing off the gorgeous red-toned shoulder decorations.  Always a joy to encounter.DSC_0685-EditTrying to be inconspicuous, but discovered anyways, is the black-crowned night heron.  Hard to miss with that fabulous red eye they obtain at maturity.DSC_0466The green heron scouts out the waters edge along the vegetation also looking for dinner.  They are extremely patient hunters and quite beautiful when in full breeding colors, which this one has not yet obtained.DSC_0921-EditWhile some birds are looking to settle down, some are simply migrating through, like this beautiful black & white warbler.  I normally don’t photograph warblers (they’re way too fast for me), this one gave me a chance by being out in the open.DSC_0800-EditAnother fun sighting was the always beautiful downy woodpecker, the smallest of the woodpeckers in North America.DSC_0765However, most of the birds are effectively utilizing the resources of the rookery by gathering up nesting material for their homes where they will take care of their young.  The most elegant nesters of the wetland rookeries is hands down the great blue herons.  They execute their flight patterns with grace and beauty and seem to always return with just the right stick for the lady of the nest.DSC_1827-EditFeathers are amazing at this time of year … like a well conducted orchestra, each does its designed job in flight with precision.DSC_1808-EditWhen the snowy egret aren’t around, the cattle egret take over the feisty behavior on the islands.  Since they usually take the interior real estate of the trees, they get into many confrontations with the other birds, on their way to and from their nests.  Normally seen as “just a white bird” any other time of year, with their breeding plumage and colors, they are quite impressive during breeding season.DSC_1372They are also quite beautiful inflight as they preform their nest building and reinforcement duties as well.DSC_1425How fun they are too.  I mean, look at the attitude exuding from this one?  LOLDSC_1767-Edit-EditOf course, the best dancer of the lot is the great egret.  His dance is so rhythmic and flowing, I don’t see how any female great egret lady can resist his flirtations.  😉DSC_2046-EditYep, he certainly knows how to “work it” for sure.DSC_2024-EditWhile the previous great egret was still searching for his perfect someone, this one was working on keeping his lady happy with new sticks for its nest.DSC_1210-EditYep, I think she approved, as they began to preen each other at the nest.DSC_1178Well, I hope that I provided everyone with a bit of a snapshot of what the Florida wetlands rookeries are like in the winter … full of color, action, displays, and lots of beautiful plumage.

This last parting shot was actually taken by Tom, my hubby and normally my sherpa and wildlife spotter.  Wish that he would take more images as well routinely … I think he does a great job as well.  What do you think?_DSC5330-EditNext Up:  Sunrise photography and a bit more  🙂

© 2017  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Everglades NP Fun

Often in south Florida, you have to dodge raindrops … or should I say weather system storms.  See, we were scheduled to attend a sunset photography workshop, involving boats and I was so looking forward to attending and learning.  Unfortunately a tropical weather storm was scheduled to “attend” that day as well and therefore our afternoon of fun was cancelled with a days notice.  Torrential rain, high winds, and rough seas were forecast over most of south Florida.  However, it didn’t look too bad in Everglades NP, so my friend Claudia and I decided to give it a try.  In the early morning rain, I picked her up and off we went.

Sunrise photography at the lake, which has been popularized by Claudia, appeared at first to not be very cooperative to us.  Already there, and packing much hope with us, we waited … and waited …_dsc1884 … eventually the clouds and colors cooperated for us.  It was weird too because there were fast moving clouds on the low horizon, which made the captures even more challenging._dsc1941-hdr Once the colors began to wane, we decided to leave the area, only to find these magnificent clouds all around us.  It was the type of sighting where you didn’t know where to photograph first or even how to get it all in.  I chose to grab this one … looking a bit up to the clouds, but including that crow on top of the pine tree near the right … as the sun began to peek through._dsc1983 Not long ago, the white-crowned pigeons were listed on the threatened list of birds within Florida, so I was quite excited when we came across these beauties.  In the past, my images of them were rare sightings, canopied by tree branches, with them looking down at me in the relative low light.  On this day, they were out in the beautiful sunlight and out in the open.  So very beautiful was this mature one taking a peek at me as well.dsc_3785 I’m certainly no expert on these birds, but this one might have been more of a juvenile, as its crown was still mottled and nowhere near as brightly colored.  However, it exhibited those beautiful iridescent colors around its neck.  dsc_3699 Nearby were a group of red-bellied woodpeckers who also cooperated quite nicely.dsc_1905 I was lucky enough to time this one to the second before it flew off from its perch.dsc_3744 Again, always present hawks and other predator birds circle overhead.dsc_2639 Of course, when I photograph any birds or wildlife, I tend to get distracted by birds flying in and out of my line of sight.  I usually don’t photograph them because … 1. I have difficulty chasing them in and out of the tree branches and  2. I don’t usually even know what I’m photographing!  LOL.  After consultation with bird ID and photographer extraordinaire, Michael Libbe, my gut ID was correct … Savannah sparrow.  Thanks Michael!dsc_2562 It’s always a treat to encounter a bald eagle in the area, as I saw this one fly by and then perch itself on a bare snag.dsc_4199 Imagine my surprise when the one eagle turned out to be two bald eagles that eventually mated in the very far distance!  dsc_3010 After they tried to assure the next generation of eagles, they settled down and looked out over their landscape.  It was a fascinating experience that I had never witnessed before.dsc_3081 Iconic landscape shots abound in the Everglades, and the famous “Z Tree” is one of them.  Had to capture one more image of it.  The Everglades NP is a place near and dear to me and I worry about its preservation.  I encourage everyone to activate themselves, in whatever way possible, to assure all of our national parks, monuments, and recreational lands are protected for all to enjoy.  🙂_dsc2014Next Up:  Life In The Rookery

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

My Local Everglades National Park

There’s been a lot of talk about #mypark … indicating what national park is your favorite.  Sometimes people choose the park that they find most beautiful … or perhaps the one that they can relate to the most … or even the one geographically closest to them.  It’s a very individual perception and designation.  For me, I would have to say that Katmai NP is “my park”, though I certainly don’t live anywhere near it, though I do absolutely adore the wildlife and landscape of Katmai.  For me, another NP, which is actually closest to me, is Everglades NP.  It’s a place of diverse beauty and landscape … and depending on the season and other environmental factors, its presentation is very different.  Like all of the national parks though, its a fragile habitat and environment, and we need to protect them and the wildlife living in them.  In the case of the Everglades, it’s also critical to our water supply in Florida.  Enough said ….

Usually in the summer, our visits to the Everglades are fairly sparse.  It’s hot, humid, and buggy during the summer.  Sometimes those conditions extend into the other seasons as well.  We did make a few visits in the beginning of winter and found it pleasant … well except for those mosquitoes.

One can find white pelicans there, as this duo shown feeding on the surface of the water near Flamingo.  Brown pelicans can also be found year-round, but these white pelicans are more winter residents.dsc_2003 American avocets are a favorite of mine, especially when they’re in their winter plumage, as this adult female is.  Love their grace as they swim or walk around the shallow water foraging for food.dsc_2760 You can almost always count on the American kettle to make an appearance when visiting, though sometimes they’re more cooperative than others.dsc_3535 Such graceful beauty in flight as they patrol the area for a meal.dsc_2580 Another common resident year-round is the red-shouldered hawk.  They’re quite smart predators too, as we watched this one tagging alongside the riding lawnmower man, taking advantage of the grasses being stirred up, making insects much more accessible.dsc_3324 A variety of hawks, as well as turkey and black vultures, are a sure thing, especially when warm and windy, as they seek out thermals to circle in flight.  dsc_2841 In the Flamingo area of Everglades NP, there are always many osprey found and in the winter, they are generally pairing up through courtship behaviors and nest building.  The adults are always easily identifiable due to their yellow eyes, versus the orange eyes of juveniles.  The female adult also generally adorns a “necklace” across their upper chest.dsc_4173 It’s a blast to watch and photograph them as they fly around … leaving and returning to the nest … as they bring in food and nesting material, as well as defend their nest.  We watched one day as a vulture tried to land in the nest.  Well, that didn’t go over too well, as the occupant of the nest and its mate (from a destination in the distance unknown) went into aggressive modes to defend their nest.dsc_2091 It’s fun to watch as the female gets excited when she sees the male coming in with some dinner.  (Note: the dark mottled “necklace” feathers indicates this one is a female).dsc_2213 What this female didn’t count on was her mate being very defensive with the fresh fish he brought in.  It reminded me of a dog being teased with a toy, as he jumped around and around, keeping an easy pick of the fish away from its mate.  Eventually, it flew off with the fish, which he devoured a bit, then returned with it … finally surrendering it to its mate.dsc_2306 I don’t think that she liked that initial “hoarding” of the food and she screamed at him when he left with it.  LOL
dsc_2120 After she got her share of the meal, I guess that he was forgiven, since they worked on the next generation of osprey.  😉dsc_2481On this particular day, we encountered a bit of a rain shower.  I just loved the way that this male osprey perched itself near the nest, dropped its wing and bowed its head, in an attempt to speed off drying its wings.
dsc_3206 An appropriate end of the day … and the blog … is the appearance of a rainbow, as seen right over the nest of the osprey couple.  I think rainbows are a lucky sign of what’s to come.  Wishing them the best in their nesting endeavors.  🙂_dsc1881Next Up:  More from Everglades NP

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Spring Is In The Air

Spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 20th … or so the calendar say.  Try telling that in the midst of winter to the birds of Florida.  They’re already out and about in the Florida sunshine!DSC_0061Whether it be the beautifully irridescent purple gallinule foraging about in the flowering plants or the yellow-rumped warbler darting in and out of the trees, there’s always something going on.  _DSC9057-2While some of the birding activity involves migratory birds just passing through or here for a brief stay, many of them are residents.  Such is the case of the great egret, seen here in full courtship display.  That plumage is amazing to witness that’s for sure.  Like it placed a foot on a magnetic ball and static electricity resulted … plumage standing up in every conceivable direction._DSC5262-EditSome birds, such as the double-crested cormorant, while they sport colors that pop out during breeding season, their display is one more in the dance or rhythmic movement.  It’s truly hard to miss._DSC8767One of the more popular birds to observe during this time is the great blue heron.  Probably due to its beauty, grace in flight, and dedication they possess and exhibit.  Of course, their size makes them an easy target for your eyes as well.  Standing high on the tops of the pine trees, this guy prepares for flight in search of more nesting material._DSC8349_DSC8350After some preliminary flapping, we have lift-off!  No other bird in my opinion executes such full extension of its body as the great blue heron.
_DSC8377Before long, it returns with the perfect stick._DSC8453As it prepares for its landing, I get a topside (or is it backside?) view … love the variety of feathers it possess, each with a role in the perfect landing.  🙂DSC_0115Landing light as a feather at the nest, it greets its mate with the presentation of the chosen stick for the job.  She examines it and accepts it from her mate and they together place it in the nest._DSC8416I think that she liked it!  They celebrate their union and their love, as well as their young ones to come soon._DSC8566Other birds of the rookery are doing the same thing as well, such as the ever-present wood storks.DSC_0083-Edit-EditSome birds do it quite quickly, while others seem to use the task time to take a break along the way.  Isn’t that just like a man?  LOL, sorry guys, couldn’t let that one pass by.  This anhinga rests for a moment before it grabs a sprig of pine needles to return with.  I just love their breeding colors and plumage as well.  Like a skilled make-up artist and hair stylist just paid a visit.  🙂DSC_0180-EditWhile some birds, even of the same breed are still preparing their nests and choosing their mates, some got an earlier start and are already raising their young.  This great blue heron parent returned to the nest, with fish dinner in tow (stored in its throat), to an anxious young one._DSC8865At first, the young one just makes their “request” (i.e. FEED ME!) known politely.  If the parent doesn’t oblige in a timely manner, the young one takes matters in its own hands, or should I say beak!  If you look closely, you can see the parent trying to share that fresh catch._DSC8916As often as I’ve seen this rough feeding routine play out before my eyes, I always wonder if the parents absolutely dread coming back to hte nest to take this kind of abuse!  Haha.  Sometimes, the parents walk away, almost as if to teach their young a lesson.  As you can see, the young one uses that moment to throw an utter temper tantrum … yet learns to use their wings a bit in the process._DSC9016Of course, nothing sounds as sweet as the flocks of black-bellied whistling ducks as they fly overhead.  Love their calling out melody.DSC_0063Next up:  Let’s all go to the Everglades!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com