2016 … Looking Back Within Florida

Happy 2017 everyone!

As they say … “out with the old and in with the new”… but before that, I always like to take the time to reflect upon the past year.  To me, it’s all about looking back on where I’m been (mentally and physically), lessons learned, and adventures experienced.  Those reflections serve as the framework for my goals and direction for the new year.  So, grab yourself a drink, get comfy, and take a ride through 2016 with me.  🙂_dsc1983I think that 2016 can be summed up as near and far … usual versus unusual.  Let’s begin with the “near and new”.  Sounds like a Jeopardy category, doesn’t it?  Everyone knows that I live in Florida, and have most of my life, but that doesn’t mean that experiences can’t be new.

OK, I know you’re wondering “what’s so new about sandhill cranes”?  Well, of course I love them, especially those colts, which are their babies.  They are so darned curious and adorable.  Each one has its own personality … just like us.
_DSC8395While this is a typical image of the young colts being fed delicacies by their parents …_DSC0756-2…getting a shot of them precisely at the moment that one has just fallen face first into the muck is not.  To this day, when I look at this image, I find myself laughing.  Poor thing looks so indignant, while its sibling looks on.
_DSC9214-2When these colts are very young, they often can be found snuggled up into their mom or dad’s feathers for protection and warmth.  However, these two are getting big now, but that didn’t stop them from trying to snuggle in as well._DSC1807-2While I have other images from earlier years of our wood storks, I don’t think that I’ve ever captured one with the parents in courtship mode.  Don’t they look so happy?  _DSC3707For the first time in 2016, I was able to capture the courtship and nesting of the little blue herons.
_DSC4696Of course, when a bird flies in and perches on top of the trees, it’s a great photo op, but when the sky looks like a pastel colored canvas, it’s super special.DSC_0610Though many times I’ve seen painted buntings, this was the first time that I actually got a shot that I was pleased with.  Gosh, they are so incredibly beautiful._DSC5537Look out … it’s burrowing owl season again … where these captivating owls capture my attention in a way that few other birds can.  To say that I love with owls, is probably a bit of an understatement.  It’s more like an obsession._DSC3139Over the last 5 years or so, I’ve spend MANY hours with them, yet this guy managed to catch me by surprise as he jumped towards me on his way to returning to the burrow._DSC5274Tender moments such as the sharing of food during courtship seemed to be my focal point in 2016.  The behavioral aspect of photographing these owls fascinate me to no end._DSC4945Probably one of my unique experiences with owls this year came to me via a phone call.  A neighbor found this “bird” that he wasn’t sure what to do with … nor did he know what it was.  When I arrived, this is what a saw …FullSizeRender-1Of course, it was a very young eastern screech owl, which had inadvertently fallen out of its cavity nest.  Tom was able to find the nest and placed the baby owl back into it … with the mom sleeping inside!  This pair of owls was well known to us, as they had 3 owlets 2 years earlier in our yard._DSC9055I was honored to be able to follow this little owl from being a little fuzz ball … to being lost in the nest cavity … to barely being able to fit._DSC9095It was a proud day when it finally fledged … this being the last image I captured before it did.  I was so happy that we played a role in insuring the safety of this little one.  So cute!_DSC9327Trips out to see the activities of the nesting osprey were carried out, as in past years._DSC5624Usually I get solo shots, but this time many chase scenes ensued and it was a thrill to witness the calling out and acrobatic flying of these two osprey._DSC6375Swallow-tailed kites by the half dozen or so are the norm for me, but this year I got to photograph them by the hundreds!  It was so unreal to watch them as they roosted in great numbers, then swooped over the surface of the water to drink and clean themselves.dsc_7010Florida boosts another amazing owl, the Barred Owl, which has the most soulful eyes imaginable … I always find it hard to look away._dsc7785This year I got to observe some very cool behavioral displays, including this osprey who had just flown in with a fish, but was totally fending off its mate from joining in on the feast.  LOLdsc_2306This guy also gave me a unique shot … as it tried to dry off its wings from a recent sun shower.  Looks like it was meditating or saying grace.  For some reason, I really love this one.dsc_3206In 2016, white crowned pigeons became listed as threatened in the state of Florida, so it was appropriate that I was able to grab some nice images of them.  That was a first for me, though I do possess some really crappy ones from my very first encounter. 😉dsc_3767Kingfishers are probably a bird considered by many to be a nemesis … for they are so sketchy and flighty and rarely pause for an image.  This beauty was captured while preening herself.dsc_6987Speaking of endangered birds, this snail kite was successfully photographed one day while out in central Florida.  Love that red eye … no need to correct for that kind of “red eye”.  dsc_4930Of course, bald eagles are always a special sighting and I’m fortunate enough to have experienced many sightings and captured images, but this one is special.  I think it’s the topside, wings down position that I find so appealing.   What do you think?dsc_9556Yes, though I live in Florida and have for many years, it’s still fascinating and “new” images, birds, and behaviors can be witnessed.  Yes, the sun might be going down on this blog post (sorry for it being so lengthy), but there’s more to highlight in 2016._dsc5182I leave everyone with one final Florida image … that of the boat basis at the Deering Estate in south Florida.  So unique and beautiful … when shooting there, you never want to leave._dsc0945Next Up:  The “Far” of 2016

© 2016 TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

The Deering’s Fall Equinox Sunrise

Water … it’s one of the benefits of living in south Florida … especially when you’re referring to the waters of the boat basin.  Any sunrise at the Deering Estate can be a special one.  It’s a fabulous place that offers royal plam tree-lined entrance from the vast bay waters into the boat basin … offering shelter and calm waters for the boats.  Usually once a month, Miami-Dade parks opens up the estate just in time to get set up for a sunrise photography shoot.  Now, the area is still closed for about another 4 hours, so it’s prime time.  Just a limited number of photographers, unlimited number of mosquitos and no-see-ems, and the chance to watch the sun rise during the fall equinox, directly in the middle of the basin entrance._dsc0841Of course, you also need some help from the clouds, which seemed to be a challenge on this day.  Who forgot to order the clouds for this shoot?  LOL.  That said, we had some fabulous still waters for near perfect reflections._dsc0845On this day, it also seemed to offer deeper colors to the left, so that’s where I tended to shoot.  Why not?_dsc0848Before long, the rays of the soon-to-be sun were shining brightly.  It was so glorious to witness.  Between getting lost in the beauty of nature and uttering unmentionables at the no-see-ums in particular, sometimes I would forget to shoot._dsc0867_dsc0877Then all of a sudden a SUP’er (stand up paddle boarder) showed up.  Thankfully I had a bit of a zoom on (plus the benefit of cropping obviously) to show his silhouette against the golden sky and waters at that perspective._dsc0922Shortly later, I was back to shooting the horizon, with the golden yellows sharing center stage with some oranges popping through._dsc0925The eventually some pinks and blues in the clouds to the left._dsc0938Of course, out to the left at the entrance of the basin is a bird rookery, so we could hear them, as well as a quite vocal red-shouldered hawk in the trees behind us calling out.  Flocks of birds would move across the landscape in the far distance as well._dsc0945Of course, like all sunrise (as well as sunset) opportunities, they are quite brief and fleeting.  So before I left I took one last image of the backlit clouds out on the horizon.  Gosh, it’s a very early hour to get up to arrive there in time, but with scenes like these, it makes it all worth it._dsc0987-hdrFor those who have never had the chance to visit the Deering Estate, this is what it looks like.  Prime real estate for sure, fabulous mansion, with the most incredible views.  _dsc1052All I have to do from here is turn 180 degrees around the basin view again.  Can’t imagine how spectacular it would have been to live here.  🙂_dsc0984Next Up:  Since it’s winter … let’s finish with a winter wonderland!  Think polar bears. 🙂

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

 

Rural Florida

In the early fall season, I’m usually spending some time in south Florida.  Most of the time, it’s still quite hot … and buggy … so I tend to look for places that I can go and have my car in close range for respite.  Not too far from home is a wildlife management area that is fun to visit as long as there’s no hunting going on.  For this type of local getaway, we always try to get out nice and early.  Once we arrived, we were immediately  greeted by some local residents.  🙂dsc_7214One of the things that I love most when enjoying the outdoors is not only the sights, but also the sounds of nature.  Unmistakeable to me is the melodic song of the eastern meadowlark.  Before long, we spot the beautiful songstress perched up on a barbed wire fence … continuing with its song.dsc_7283This is one of the areas where I can usually count on seeing one of my favorite scavenger birds .. the crested caracara.  While they’re usually found feeding on carrion, this particular one was taking a break perched on a fence post.dsc_7313As I was photographing, it decided to launch into flight, though it didn’t go far.dsc_7327It landed in the grassy area and began to feed on the landscape … probably going after insects, lizards, and frogs.  Of all the scavenger birds, it’s got to be one of the prettiest.dsc_7410Red-shouldered hawks were also out and on the prowl for their own meals.dsc_7471We even spotted a black-crowned night heron foraging in the wet grassland.  I’m always fascinated by their signature red eyes at maturity.dsc_7492Even other songbirds were out and about.  This male northern cardinal paid us a visit on one of our many stops along the way.  Did you know that the northern cardinal holds the distinction of being the state bird of 7 states?dsc_7438Of course, grazing cattle are found throughout the ranch area.  This shot was taken of one of them with a signature cattle egret catching a lift on his shoulders.  That being said … am I the only one that thinks that this cow looks like it’s wearing a party hat?  LOL.  Well, it also looks like it’s been a bit violated or should I say christened?  🙂dsc_7496My favorite of the morning though was our encounter with several barred owls.  These medium-sized owls have distinctive large brown eyes, rather than the yellow eyes of most owls.  dsc_7521There’s something so special about the stare of an owl.  It’s almost hypnotic.  The barred owls have such soulful eyes too.  _dsc7785Of course, when they vocalize to each other, it’s often a symphony of calls … calling out … then a response call back.  Love it when they puff up their necks when vocalizing.dsc_7647Being careful not to spend too much time in their presence, we eventually got the hint when this barred owl seemingly rolled its eyes at us.  I guess we were a bit too boring for it.  🙂_dsc7792Yes, this is a fabulous place to visit, though I would advise to check the hunting permit schedule first.  Though south Florida is a large, crowded metropolis, it’s nice to know that within just a few hours, one can get away from the crowds and hustle/bustle of it all, and spend quality time with nature and its wildlife.  _dsc0837Next up:  The fall equinox at a most picturesque location

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

They’re Everywhere!

So much of what I photograph is actually far from my home state of Florida.  Sort of ironic I think.  Very often I get asked for advice for shooting locations in Florida … when I myself am on a photography adventure in another area of the country.  LOL.  Having grown up the vast majority of my life in south Florida, I have learned to appreciate other areas of the country, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t truly love what Florida has to offer.  Usually that means birds, which Florida is known for.  On this particular day, we were IN FLORIDA and shooting BIRDS.

Nothing says springtime in Florida to me than my first sighting of swallow-tailed kites.  It’s usually on a trip down to the Everglades.  To say that I’m excited by the sighting of a dozen of them is an understatement.  So you can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to photograph them as they roosted in the trees … getting some much needed rest before their migration out of the area.  The beautiful day started out early and very quiet.
stkOnce the sun rose, we could see them sleeping in the trees.  At first, just a few, but as our eyes adjusted, we could see hundreds!  It reminded me of one particular year in Alaska when we followed some bald eagles to their roosting grounds and found ourselves in what had to be the mecca of them … all little white dots in the trees … with the screechy call of the eagle coming from just about everywhere.

As the kites began to awaken, a few began testing their wings and the wind about them.  Before long, they were soaring about.  Of course, we were waiting for more than just soaring.dsc_6601We were waiting for the moment that they would come down to the water before us and complete fly-bys along the way.  I was so fascinated by their beauty.dsc_6680Once flying over the surface of the water, they would descend and grab a drink of water, as their image was mirrored on the lake.dsc_6481How could they hit the water at such a high speed and not endo?  dsc_6569But rather, they would do a “drink, drag, and fly away” maneuver.  dsc_6567Then back off to soaring they would go.  Swallow-tailed kites are the largest of the North American kites.  They are easily identified by their deeply forked tail, white head and body, and black topside wings.dsc_6571If you have never had the opportunity to observe one of these in real life, you’re missing a fascinating acrobatic show.  Their inflight maneuvers are simply stunning.  Tracking with the lens is often a challenge.  Though on this morning, we didn’t observe them directly feeding around us, that’s another amazing feat … they eat their prey on the fly!  Impressive!dsc_6674It seemed that they were coming and hitting the surface of the water regularly.  Over and over.  Sometimes their purpose of hitting the water was to clean off their bottoms.dsc_6784Of course, when they did that, a bit of extra effort was needed to pull themselves back out of the water and take flight again.dsc_6785As if the action of the swallow-tailed kites wasn’t enough, I just loved the way that the light danced on the underside of their wings.dsc_6786After grabbing a sip of water, they would always spit some leftover out as they flew off and prepared for another go around._dsc5077dsc_6790Sometimes as they flew off, they would almost collide with one another.  Clearly there were favorite areas to dip into and the “runway” would get a bit congested.  🙂dsc_6825That’s when we looked overhead … OMG, look at them all … catching thermals right over our heads.  Hundreds at a time.dsc_6713But the action continued right before our eyes … for a few hours.dsc_7140dsc_6912_dsc7770I felt a bit in heaven and now I’m curious if the dozen sighting of the past would even phase me anymore.  LOL.  OK, maybe this spoiled me.dsc_7010Such grace, beauty, agility, and poise.  I could sit there forever and watch.  Sometimes, like other wildlife opportunities, I found myself lost in the moment … just observing and soaking it all in … rather than shooting.dsc_6979dsc_6980It was a fabulous experience that I won’t soon forget.  I look forward to another day out on the lake again in 2017.  Can’t get enough of these swallow-tailed kites.  Until then, I wish them the best and safe migratory travels.  Thanks so much to Scott Helfrich for sharing this experience with us.  Fun times.  🙂dsc_6841Thanks to my better half, Tom Tubridy, who photographed alongside me this day.  Hey, got to give him sherpa duty break ever now and then.  LOL.  Good thing too, as when we compared shots on this day … his limited shots yielded many more keepers than mine. He needs to do this more often, I say.  What do you think?

Next Up:  More exploring in Florida

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy & Tom Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Revisiting Friends … Burrowing Owls, that is

The burrowing owl is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State Species of Special Concern by Florida’s Endangered & Threatened Species Rule.  They are “highly vulnerable” to becoming a threatened species by loss of habitat and thus in Florida, it’s illegal to harass or harm them, their nests, or their eggs.  I’ve been told that over the past few years, the public, including some photographers, reportedly have taken perhaps a bit too much liberty with them, which resulted in these signs being displayed at most of the burrows, which happen to be in heavily used county parks.  While I applaud the attempt to educate those who might not know better, I think that these signs (which are quite small) might actually encourage people to get close … in order to read these tiny notices. In addition, they tend to flap around in the wind, which also disturbs the owls.   Is it just me or what?DSC_5728So that being said … let’s all enjoy them from afar and know that when an owl bobs its head up and down at you or lets out an alert call when you’re present, you’re obviously disturbing them and need to give them their space.  Again, whether observing or photographing the owls, the goal should be to get them acting naturally.  Enough said.  🙂

Speaking of acting naturally, please note that this owl hasn’t been fed by humans, but rather has retrieved its prey from its hunting (usually at night or before dawn or after dusk) earlier.  They kill and cache it, like other predators do, and as you can see, this frog is covered in sand._DSC9194This owl is quite the hunter too.  It tries to offer the frog to its mate, who shows no sign of interest in taking it._DSC9201So the owl begins to consume it himself._DSC9172_DSC9192Once partially torn into and consumed, the owl tries again to offer it to its mate, but again she’s not interested._DSC9198What’s an owl to do?_DSC9212Is she just playing hard to get?_DSC9205Well, let’s try a lizard … maybe that will do it.  But no, she didn’t want that either!_DSC9218Eventually, after several visits to the burrow, this years baby owls start to appear.  Usually when I first see them, they still are in that “hair plug” stage, but these guys seem to be a few weeks out of that stage.DSC_5699Even at a young age, they learn to watch the skies overhead.DSC_5725At first, I just saw one young owl, which made me flash back to that hawk Tom & I had seen a few weeks ago.  But then a second appeared.DSC_5730There’s always one that’s more curious and brave than the other.  LOLDSC_5734Eventually, they both begin to feel comfortable with my presence and the animation begins.  🙂DSC_5769I just adore the young owlets and their fluffy belly feathers and those downy looking “petticoats” are priceless.DSC_5821The sun highlights their eyes, which are so big and focused on their surroundings.  DSC_5944DSC_6012At one point, 3 owlets appeared, which makes it more fun due to the interaction between them.  This owlet decided to strike a submissive pose when playing with the others.  So darned cute!DSC_6134More overhead scanning … a never-ending activity … for those owls and owlets that want to increase their odds of survival.DSC_6154More playing … a favorite part of their day I’m sure … as well as for the observers.DSC_6316Well, go to go today, but not before I say goodbye to these 3 cuties.  As you can tell, they all have their personalities, appearances, and unique traits.  However, they are all precious.  I wish them well.  As Arnold says … “I’ll be back”.  DSC_5973

Next up:  Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Naturally Florida

Spring season signals the time has come for birds to congregate, court, mate, nest, and raise their young.  The osprey are no different.  For me, spring also signals that a return trip to Blue Cypress Lake is in order.  This year I met up with some friends, bright and early, to try to capture the essence of this gorgeous place, as well as the wonderful osprey.

IMG_0901-1We got out on the water just in time for the sun to begin to emerge on the horizon.  This year, the wind was quite strong and thus the water choppy at times.  Didn’t make much of a difference though at sunrise.  Yes, it’s going to be a fabulous day!_DSC9017Our first juvenile osprey was spotted … as it waited patiently for its parents to return.  The young osprey are easy to differentiate from the adults by that orange eye, versus the yellow eyes of its parents._DSC5416There was a plethora of activity going on that morning.  Some of the osprey were sitting on nests … some were reinforcing their nests … some were out fishing … some were out learning to fly … some were defending their “air space”.  This fabulous osprey was multi-tasking bring ing back both nesting materials and dinner to its nest.  LOL_DSC5624Of course, there were more than osprey hanging out in the lake.  Always fascinating to watch, photograph, and listen to, were the black-bellied whistling-ducks.  When they take flight overhead, you quickly realize where they got that name from._DSC5879_DSC5903To give you a perspective of the nests, which number in the hundreds, and the beauty in which they exist, take a look at this image.  Gorgeous cycpress trees, filled with spanish moss, are the settings for the nests.  Talk about a room with a view … :-)._DSC6073There were so many osprey flying around that I had a bit of difficulty figuring out which osprey to follow.  I know, it’s a good problem to have._DSC5995_DSC6083Talons on predator birds have long captured my fascination.  When an osprey launches into the air and those talons get exposed, it’s a moment that I anticipate hugely, as I try to perfect that exact moment._DSC6168As you can tell, many of the nests are nice and low, which offer the photographer a great view at the occupants of the nests.  Notice those orange eyes … juvenile or adult?  Juvenile of course.  I absolutely love their feather markings too.  Much darker and distinct._DSC6265On this particularly windy day, the birds were fairly predictable in their flight pattern, as birds will always take off and land into the wind._DSC6325Taking advantage of the wind, they flew around quite a bit, almost taunting the others to take chase._DSC6367Many times, we witnessed attacks inflight, though often they were just having fun._DSC6369_DSC6375This juvenile osprey had been flying around the lake a bit and was coming for a landing.  I love this “orchestra conductor” pose, as they extend out their wings and obtain full feather benefit in helping them to slow down as they approach their landing._DSC6383Once again, those gorgeous talons extend as they pick their favorite branch to land on._DSC6438Not sure how many osprey were out there flying around, but safe to say it was far more than I could photograph.  Some flew high, some flew low, all were gorgeous inflight and exhillerating to watch._DSC6495This young one returns to the nest._DSC6548Following right behind it was the parent landed right behind it.  Notice the yellow eyes._DSC6565As beautiful as the adult osprey are, it’s the juveniles that get my pulse racing.  _DSC6581Again, it’s not just osprey … we saw anhingas, woodpeckers, sandhill cranes, ibis, wood storks, herons, etc.  Here’s another visitor … the red-shoulder hawk, which posed nicely on top of the tree for us._DSC6590While looking for other birds, we happened to find this beautiful black-crowned night heron.  Love that red eye!_DSC6607OK, any image that has both talons and all of this feather details and fluff is considered to be super special in my book._DSC6699The only thing that it was missing was that gorgeous orange eye.  Yes, we sure were treated to an amazing air show.  🙂_DSC6757Yes, this is the true natural Florida … as it was … as it wish that it could be everywhere again.  At least, I know, that there are still places that I can go in Florida to get simple moments like this.  🙂_DSC9026Hope that everyone enjoyed.

Next up:  More burrowing owls

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Lending Nature A Hand

One late afternoon, one of my neighbors called Tom & I and asked us to come over.  They told us that they found a baby bird of some type and didn’t know what to do with it or how to care for it.  So we ventured over and I couldn’t believe what they showed us…..

There it was … the cutest little baby owl – an eastern screech owl to be exact.  I was so excited and remembered how 2 years ago, we had a pair of owls raise 3 babies in our backyard.  Though I had continued to see them over the last 2 years, they didn’t nest in our yard this year or last.  This little guy made my heart melt and I immediately called my friend Amy, who is a falconer and had just got an eastern screech owl of her own for advice.  Tom immediately looked around for where the nest might have been and noticed a tree cavity not far from where it was found.  He gently returned the young owlet and we kept watch on it to see if the parents would return.  (Note: the image below is not my image).FullSizeRender-1Before long, there they were … mom and dad.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw them too.  They were the same owls (no doubt about it) that raised their young with us.  I was ecstatic to say the least._DSC9055Over the few weeks or so, I visited often, from another neighbors yard who had a better view of the cavity.  Using a long lens, and often teleconverters too, I photographed both the parents and the baby.  At first, the young owlet seemed to be lost (size-wise) in the cavity._DSC9071Mom is a beautiful gray morph and she was sleeping in the cavity when Tom first reunited the owlet with her.  I guess that it must have climbed on the adult and fell out of the nest.
_DSC9108Dad is the red morph and he was almost always nearby._DSC9120The young owlet would often peek out of the cavity.
_DSC9095Mom, and Dad also, was quite accepting of my presence and I always gave them no reason to be alarmed.  Part of me wondered if they knew that we played a role in helping out their baby.  Though I’m sure they would have taken care of it otherwise, it would have been vulnerable to the many cats in the neighborhood._DSC9289Before long, the baby grew up and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before it would leave the nest.  _DSC9280It was so cool to find them everyday standing guard over their baby.  Such dedicated parents.  _DSC9254This was the last shot that I took of the owlet before it fledged.  I was so happy that it survived and hoped that it would survive being out of its nest as well.  How cool was all of that?  I’m so glad that my neighbors found it and knew to call us to assist in coming up with a plan of action to help it.  Glad to help.  Happy ending too.  🙂
_DSC9327Update:  The last of these images was taken in mid-May.  The cavity nest that the owls were using to raise their young was destroyed in a summer storm, though the young owl had already abandoned it.  We weren’t sure what happened with the owls.  However, the other night, Tom saw one of the owls fly by him.  When he called me to come see it, two more joined the first.  Though it was dark, we can only assume that it was this family.  So good to know that they were well and that the “baby” was out hunting with them.  🙂

Next up:  Osprey overload  🙂

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Spring Transformations

Florida has many natural rookeries and they get quite active in the spring for the breeding season.  Generally speaking, I spend several months visiting them on a regular basis and it’s amazing to watch their colors emerge, their courtship dances, their cooperative nest building, and raising of their young.

The tri-colored heron undergoes quite the transformation with regards to their breeding plumage.
_DSC4346Talk about having a bit of spunk ….  🙂_DSC4766Their young are quite silly looking too … but so ugly, they’re cute.DSC_0425Probably the most prolific of all of the birds breeding in the rookery are the wood storks.  Funny, but not that long ago they were considered to be somewhat threatened as a species, however, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage now._DSC4796_DSC4369As the babies grow older, they get larger quite fast as well._DSC4615_DSC4635Such white fluff balls, they are also so adorable, with their big beaks.  Only when they’re fully grown will they get their trademark wood-like neck and hairless head and dark beak. I have always been fascinated by wood storks.DSC_0063Cattle egret, any other season, are often referred to as “white birds”, but during breeding season, their turn so beautiful … and colorful too._DSC4502Some young birds get fed scraps of food into their nest or fed directly from their parents piece by piece.  Others, like the anhinga, feed their young partially digested food.  As often as I have seen this, it never ceases to amaze me._DSC4527Great blue heron chicks grow into little “mini-me”s.  Love their crazy looking hair.  LOL_DSC4834These sibling are quite animated with each other and also quite aggressive with the parent that comes back to feed them._DSC4788Though I never got to see the chicks from the little blue herons hatch, it was exciting to see them mating, nest building, and tending to their eggs._DSC4696Swamphen are an invasive species, but nonetheless have been increasing in numbers in recent years.  This year I was able to see them raise a few chicks.DSC_0206DSC_0368Black-necked stilts are amazingly beautiful birds.  In breeding plumage they get very red eyes and legs as well.  Courtship and mating are fascinating to observe._DSC4720_DSC4739After mating, the male will drape his wing over the female and they cross bills.  Is that not amazing?  Such rituals … so sweet._DSC4745They together build a nest in the water and when the eggs are laid, they take turns sitting on them, turning them frequently.DSC_0563Yes, the rookery is always a fun and interesting place to spend time.  You never know that you’re going to get.  Though sometimes nature can be tough, when it’s going well, it sure is beautiful to observe and of course, photograph.  🙂DSC_0610

Next up:  Some old friends return … eastern screech owls  🙂

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

All Eyes on the Burrowing Owls

For many years now, I’ve been heading out to hang out with the burrowing owls and of course, take a few images along the way.  🙂  In all honesty though, often I would just go and sit nearby them and observe them being owls … and laugh at their silly antics and expressions.  In 2016, it was no different.  Well, except for one thing.  When I arrived, I expected to see perhaps a few very young owlets.  However I was greeted by this ….

_DSC1267So the owl on the right was as full grown as the one on the left, though still had some of those “juvenile or sub-adult” feathers.  What?  This couldn’t possibly be a 2016 baby … it was too big already.  Then I remembered a very small owlet last year who possessed these lighter brown eyes.  It was the last born of his siblings and hence was quite tiny compared to the others.  Could this still be him (or her)?  Am I witnessing a “failure to launch” owlet?  The 2 parents at that burrow were definitely the same ones from last year.  One with yellow eyes, the other with brown eyes._DSC1264I was so intrigued by this finding, that I could barely pick up the camera to capture images!_DSC1289Its size was about the same as the parents, but its behavior was still playful.  As hard as I tried to get them to explain what was going on … they just stared._DSC1314_DSC1394Other owls were paired up in their burrows, as they kept a watchful eye out for overhead predators.  _DSC1474Over the first few weeks that I visited, I would find new burrows springing up that hadn’t been there in years past._DSC3186Obviously, by the look of things, “groundbreaking” and “renovating” was still quite actively going on._DSC3192This poor owl looks like it has had enough already of the flying sand being tossed about them._DSC3204_DSC3235As i mentioned earlier, these owls spend a lot of time scouting out the skies above.  They are totally fascinated by flying insects, resident parrots, flying planes, helicopters, blimps, and even balloons hold their attention for quite some time.  So cute to watch as they track the action.  Of course, they spend most of their time on the lookout for predators.  Not too far away is a family of red-tailed hawks and of course, red-shouldered hawks are always a threat.  One particular morning, Tom & I were at one of the burrows and a hawk flew right into the tree closest to the burrow we were at.  I was fearful that we would watch carnage, though once the hawks are anywhere near, those owls get into their burrows faster than you can imagine!  _DSC3139These adorable burrowing owls are predators themselves though and no frog, lizard, caterpillar or other delicacy is safe from being served up on their buffet line._DSC4927While these owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, they often recover their cache and dine during the daytime.  As you can see, this unfortunate frog is quite covered in sand after being retrieved from nearby._DSC4929It’s amazing to watch the dexterity the owls possess in handling their catch._DSC4934Sometimes they tore into them right away, other times they seemed to just toy with them a bit.  Especially now, during breeding season, they are an important part of the daily routine.  This one seems quite pleased with its catch, don’t you think?_DSC4942After posing so nicely for the camera, he took it over to the female at the burrow and offered it up to her.  In this case, she gladly accepted.  _DSC4945She then paraded around quite a bit with it, finally stashing it into the burrow for later consumption._DSC4950_DSC5001I always love it when they fly into the nearby trees for a shady break from the hot sandy burrows.  _DSC5020Getting back to my possible “Failure to launch” owl, a few weeks after my first visit, I noticed that it was no longer at its original burrow.  Oh no, I hoped that nothing had happened to it.  I waited patiently for it to emerge, but to no avail.  Then as I scanned the landscape from a low perspective, I caught a glimpse of yet another freshly dug burrow, not far away.  I went over to investigate and sure enough, there it was, with another owl.  Did it finally launch?  I mean … 3 was definitely a crowd, as they say.  I noticed that it also had tufts of feathers missing on front of its neck and a would under its eye.  Maybe the parents had to make it leave or maybe it had a close call with a predator.  Unfortunately, I will never know.  However, I was happy to see it._DSC5118Such a darn cutie with those unusual browner eyes.  This year, I noticed just a few of them with brown eyes, while last year there were several.  One even had one yellow eye and a brown eye!  Now that I mention it, I haven’t seen that one this year, but I do know that other owls have taken over that particular burrow._DSC5173I just love it when they look up a bit from the burrow and the light catches their eyes perfectly and really lights them up.  So, do you wonder why this one is looking so bright eyed and wide-eyed?_DSC5234Incoming burrowing owl! … OK, maybe not the reason for that hypnotic stare.  This owl was hysterical though in the way that its behavior was so erratic and quick.  It literally ran out from the burrow about 30 feet or so, surveyed the area left and right, turned abruptly around, and jumped!  Then it proceeded to land and run frantically the rest of the way back to the burrow.  _DSC5274Such silly owls they are … always displaying silly antics and even more silly expressions … which leave me in stitches on more than one occasion … each visit that is.  🙂_DSC5222

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the burrowing owls so far.  Rest assured, there will be more coming up in a few weeks.

Next up:  More images and stories from the rookeries.  Stay tuned.

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Sandhill Crane Colts & More

Sandhill cranes, their young colts, and the sanctuary wetlands were a favorite subject for me to photograph earlier this year.  While there were many different species of birds transitioning through the area, my all-time favorite had to be the sandhill cranes.

Each time, I would arrive before sunrise and watch the first emerging into the wetlands … both colts in tow, sticking close to both of their parents._DSC2288-2Most days it continued to be a struggle for the young colts to get through the mucky muddy waters, but gosh darned, didn’t they just look so cute all wet and mucky?  LOL
_DSC2452-2I have always gravitated towards textures, especially in an animals fur, so these colts made it fun to photograph them._DSC2514-2Another feature of these birds that always fascinates me is the enormity of those feet that they possess!  Often they get them tangled up in the roots and grasses along the landscape and they would topple over.  No worries, they always would bounce back up and continue on.

Of course, their ability to just fall asleep anywhere and in any position was quite remarkable.  By the way, this image also gives a great illustration of those feet!!_DSC2610-2Mom and dad would continue to forage for food, not just for themselves, but also for their young.  Everyday they seemed to get better at accepting the food and improved the number of “dropsies”, as they continued to thrive._DSC2626-2Now at the wetlands, there were more than just sandhill cranes who frequented or called the sanctuary home.  Always flying around and quite vocal were the red-winged blackbirds.  This guy was quite skilled in grabbing dragonflies on the go._DSC2792-2The white pelicans would gather in the waters as well.  Sometimes just a few … sometimes hundreds.  Always fascinating to watch them depart, fly overhead, or come in for a landing._DSC2856-2Perhaps though the most entertaining of all, and quite vocal as well, were the snowy egrets.  Such boisterous birds, they always seemed ready and willing to start a confrontation with whatever happened to be nearby or looking at it.  LOL.  Never a dull moment!  Such beautiful and graceful birds too._DSC3482-2_DSC3511-2The black-necked stilts congregated here in pretty good numbers as well, though they never seemed to want to nest there.  Such beautiful and dainty looking birds, I’m always fascinated by them._DSC3529-2But of course, the real draw for me to this area was the sandhill cranes.  Such amazing and patient parents these cranes are too.  It’s like the endless buffet line of tasty morsels all being served up by the parents, who did their best to evenly distribute the “wealth” of food._DSC3016-2Whenever the colts seemed satiated, they would tend to find each other and interact.  I can only imagine what the conversation is about._DSC1537-2In the midst of it all, one of them happens to notice that mom has laid down on the grass and off they run to join her.  Of course, that means climbing into her wings for a nap.  This little colt looks like its figuring out where the other colt went and if there was any space left for him._DSC1580-2Finding a great spot to bury itself in, it begins its attempt._DSC1590-2Success achieved by both of the colts and off to a nice warm and dry siesta they go.  Funny how by just looking at this crane, you have no idea that there’s a baby or two settled into and underneath its wings._DSC1616-2Being colts they are obviously curios about what’s going on around them, so they both take a peek to investigate.  As you can see, as they’ve grown, there’s not a whole lot of room under there anymore._DSC1807-2They settle in again, that is until mom decided siesta is over and she abruptly stands up.  It’s quite fascinating to watch as they two colts come tumbling down._DSC1827-2As they do they clumsily fall all over each other … and try not to get stepped on by moms long legs.  I think that I heard one of them say “get off of me, bro” … j/k of course.  🙂_DSC1828-2More feeding ensues and this little colts set a huge worm!  Funny too how once they get a good hold of it, they slurp it down like spaghetti.  🙂_DSC1952-2Much like photographing the burrowing owls, these colts have their own repertoire of silly antics and poses.  I have to laugh at this one and secretly get upset at its flexibility.  I think it’s doing some type of “colt yoga”.  LOL_DSC2985-2Yes the two colts have learned to get along and take turns with the delicacies being served up._DSC2120-2They do however lose a bit of interest as mom does her version of an ostrich … boy, she really digs deep for those worms._DSC2147-2One of the most beautiful sights (other than when they perform “the dance”) is when the adults begin to preen themselves._DSC2196-2More interactions continue for these colts, as the younger one (almost always the instigator) issues a call to action!_DSC2661-2Soon its older sibling comes to its side and is greeted by the younger one grabbing onto its beak.  Over time, they really learned to love and watch over each other.  So very endearing to observe._DSC2692-2Can you guess which one was a day older?  It’s amazing to me to see the difference that just one day older makes._DSC2725-2The last day that I visited with them, they sure had grown up and were roaming large areas of landscape and were difficult to find.  As you can see, they still were developing their wings but were well on their way._DSC3567-2What used to be colts that you could barely see in the grasses were now getting bigger and stronger and starting to do a lot of foraging on their own._DSC3560-2Of course, they were still quite close.  Not sure what ever happened to them, but I was quite thankful for spending the time that I did together with them.  They were precious.  Can’t wait until next year!_DSC3550-2Hope that everyone enjoyed the sandhill cranes as much as I did.

Next Up:  Who wants some burrowing owls?

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com