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

 

Driving Through Rural Florida

Don’t ever be mislead into thinking that Florida is entirely a “concrete jungle”.  While that may be more of a reality on the Florida’s coastline, especially in the south, there are certainly areas that offer a much more rural feel.  On days that Tom & I both have some free time together, we take drives into such areas.  Why don’t you come along for the journey?  🙂

Along the shores of one of the many lakes in Florida, we came across some horses, albeit not wild, but they still made for a peaceful looking image.  DSC_9042That was until we heard and saw a bunch of action going on.  Seems like a crested caracara joined a party of two crows and was far from welcome there.  They both ganged up on the caracara with some ferocity, which I always find so fascinating.DSC_8992DSC_8993After a chase ensued, the caracara finally got the message and took flight over the landscape.DSC_9005The crested caracara is normally found dining roadside with some of our vultures (black and turkey) … feasting on some recent road kill or some other type of carrion.  They are referred to as “Mexican eagles” since they have so many of them there and are found in areas like Florida, Texas, and perhaps other gulf states.  They are actually in the falcon family.  I have always found them to be quite beautiful and interesting.DSC_8211Speaking of the oddly intriguing … we also find many wood storks along the way.  It’s easy to see how they got their name.  They’ve made quite a comeback too and can be found bullying over the nests of other birds in our Florida rookeries.DSC_8310More elegant are the common great blue herons.  They have got to be the most patient birds when it comes to feeding, as they will stand there motionless for what seems to be an eternity (at least while you’re photographing them) waiting for the precise moment of opportunity to strike.DSC_8290DSC_8255Feelings of pride and patriotism rush over me whenever I spot our U.S. national bird, the bald eagle.DSC_9107DSC_9223DSC_9171Such a symbol of freedom are they.  I remember that when I was growing up, I never saw them, but they are many out there now in numbers.  Such an amazing comeback story of how the Endangered Species Act, as well as environmental protections, work together to ensure that they thrive again.DSC_9542Always searching for hikes to take out in wilderness and this one yielded this juvenile black-crowned night heron, who incidentally, wasn’t bashful at all.DSC_9378Sandhill cranes, always a favorite of mine whever I can find them, are a thrill to see.  These two are a mated pair and exhibit such dedication to each other.DSC_8512When they start unison calling, I just stop in my tracks.  Much like the sound of elk bugling or a bear cub purring, I can’t get myself to myself to even flinch a muscle when I hear it.DSC_8534Only to be outdone is when they begin their dance of love and celebration.DSC_8521This pair was drinking water in the field, exhibiting a behavior that I had never seen before.DSC_8568The whooping crane can sometimes be found hanging out with the sandhill cranes.  It is primarily white feathered, with black tips and a red crown, it’s much larger than its cousins.  I hope that they will rebound like the bald eagles did.  While sandhill cranes are sometimes hunted (why?) over migration states, the whooping crane is protected.  Sadly though, they are sometimes “mistaken” for a sandhill crane.  When you see a whooper, it’s hard to understand how  they could possibly be mistaken as adults.DSC_9526The great egret, sporting its white lacey breeding plumage backlit by the sun, is a fabulous sight to see as well.DSC_9708Of course, the trip-colored heron is a show to watch as it hunts as well.DSC_9759Towards the end of the day, the sandhill cranes begin to return to roost for the night.  In the beginning, they fly a few at a time….DSC_9859… eventually numerous constructions of cranes soar overhead … all generally calling out their impending arrival.DSC_8838Their silhouettes against the setting sun, which has highlighted the atmosphere, is nothing short of wonderful.  When they drop their legs, as they ready to execute their landing, reminds me of paratroopers as they find their way back to earth.DSC_8856Yep, we may not have mountains and varied mammal wildlife in Florida, but we do have much to be thankful for.  🙂
FullSizeRenderNex Up:  Wonder of the wetlands

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Lady Kingfisher

The belted kingfisher is just about everyone’s nemesis bird … I don’t think that I’m alone on that one.  As a rule, I think that I’ve seen them along the side of the highway quite often, however, as soon as I would apply the brakes … of it would fly.  Sure, I could sometimes sneak an image of them when they were busy hovering over the water, as they carefully timed their lunge for a fish.  But I wanted some portrait shots of them as well.

Towards the end of 2016, I got my chance.  By using the benefit of photographing from a blind, I was able to spend some time with this beautiful female belted kingfisher.DSC_6465-EditAt first, I was quite thrilled just to see her … closer than I had ever been.  The female possesses that lovely rust colored “necklace” across its chest.  I never realized just how beautiful they were with their markings in their feathers.DSC_6927-EditI marveled at her long pointy beak, which allows her to pluck small fish out of the waters surface.DSC_6842-EditThis gal was quit skilled too.  She used the entire pond area to fish from.  I found it difficult to follow her darting flight to and from her chosen perch.  I often settled for the shot of when she would return … fish hanging from her beak … as she would seem work it a bit to make the consumption task easier.  Such a feisty little gal she was.DSC_6856-EditDSC_6904-EditSometimes she would find other places to rest in between her fishing runs.  I was thankful it was winter, for the bare trees.  Of course, belted kingfishers migrate during the winter, so I guess it would be no other way.DSC_6735-EditBut mostly she had a favorite perch.  I just love the chestnut marking on her.  I never realized that it was so vast.DSC_6654-EditWe observed her hunt quite a bit, but by far my favorite activity of hers was when she would preen … it was all I could do to keep the squealing to myself.  LOLDSC_6587-EditDSC_6987-EditDSC_7096-EditWhat a great time we had spending a few hours with the elusive belted kingfisher.  It was an experience that I won’t soon forget.DSC_7469-EditDSC_7614-Edit

Next up:  More birding from Florida

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Day To Remember ;-)

I’ve often wondered if I take living in Florida for granted.  While my friends from other areas of the country are dodging snowstorms and bitter cold, I’m basking in temperatures ranging from a cold of 50’s to a warm of 80’s.  It’s totally no problem for me to drive out in search of wildlife or natural landscapes in just my light pants and top … maybe a fleece for the early pre-dawn hours.  I laugh because when I wear long sleeves and pants … it’s to keep the sun or mosquitoes away.

Nonetheless, in the midst of “winter”, I venture out and see sights such as the juvenile bald eagles circling around known nests, probably looking for mom/dad to give them a once willing handout.  No more … they are on their own for food.
DSC_4455The mature eagles are too busy guarding their nests from intruders, which include past years broods.  I find it strange when I visit out west and see this nesting and courtship period much later in the season … often at least spring.  Makes sense, as these eagles don’t have to worry about snow or migration.DSC_4713Once I’m away from the hustle and bustle of coastal south Florida, eagle fly freely as they go about their day.  They often call out to one another as they soar over the landscape, with a call that’s quite distinctive and always summons me to stop and look for their presence.  Sometimes I get a up close fly by that would be hard to miss … sometimes I can simply detect a tiny white head in the faraway trees.
DSC_4761DSC_4760Other predators lurk nearby as well, such as our ever-prevalent red-shouldered hawk.DSC_4737But by far, the eagles are mst prevalent and busy with their nest building, courtship, and hunting.  I’m always so fascinated by their feather patterns and love it when I get a topside view.DSC_5054Beside predator birds, there are also a wide variety of “little birds” migrating through.  Most times I’m struggling to isolate them in the trees as they dart in and out, but this one was quite curious about me and came over for a closer look.  Reward:  picture taken.  🙂DSC_4813While bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and a wide variety of “little birds” can be found in other places besides Florida, the Everglades snail kite is endemic to Florida in the US.  Endangered in the Florida, it feeds primarily on pond apple snails, though Florida now has some invasive snails that it will feed upon, though with some difficulty.  See, the other snails are invasive and quite a bit larger, so the Everglades snail kite has to work harder with its beak to get the snail inside.  They are quite fascinating hunters and always a thrill to encounter.DSC_4930The belted kingfisher is also a treat to see and photograph … for when it’s hunting for fish, you can capture them in their notorious hovering position … much like a hummingbird.
DSC_5424Limpkin, a noisy wading bird found regularly in Florida, also eats the snails, but with their long straight beaks, they effectively crack open the invasive snails and pull their snail out of its shell much more efficiently than the Everglades snail kite.DSC_5211Even when birds are scarce, you can almost always count on the great blue heron to be somewhere about the wetlands.  The most patient hunters I’ve ever seen, they will eat just about anything!DSC_5404Of course, when the sun begins to set, the party really begins._DSC5159_DSC5179Just when you think your day is over, here comes the owls … count them … 1 … 2 … 3 … great horned owls getting ready for the evening hunting ritual.  Of course, though not an esthetically pleasing location, it’s always a thrill when you can find 3 together!DSC_5685On this evening, I had the pleasure of encountering something that I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing before.  As I was winding down my pole shots of the owls, one flew away to a location unknown.  The other two remained behind until I could see one getting ready to fly as well.  It flew down to a post nearby to where I was shooting from.  I was photographing it, figuring that it would fly off to begin its hunting.  Then before I knew it, the other remaining owl flew down.  I wondered where it was going to land because unlike the burrowing owls who jockey for position on the posts nearby, there really wasn’t room for two.  Was I way off!  This guy was jockeying for position all right … on the backside of the female.  As they say, the rest was history.DSC_5835-EditDSC_5841-EditDSC_5847-EditI clicked away furiously trying to capture what I could of the rendezvous … dark or not … I mean it was literally right before my eyes!  When he was finished, he flew off right over my head, but I was so stunned that I didn’t capture any more.  I looked at Tom, who was sitting in the running car (remember I was just ready to call it a night).  We were both speechless.  Note:  Pardon the grainy/soft images, but I just had to share the experience.

Yep you could say we had a great time that night, though maybe not as much fun as that great horned owl couple.  😉_DSC5189Next up:  A date with a king … fisher, that is  🙂

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Florida Birding

Florida is known for many things … the sandy beaches, beautiful weather, tropical winds, palm trees … perhaps crowds and traffic too … but also for its birds.  During the winter, there are many birds which migrate through Florida, though there are many year-round residents as well.  Such is the case of the bald eagles.dsc_9526It’s a favorite sighting for me to see the bald eagles (coincidentally the only eagles we have) soaring overhead, building their nests, courting, mating, and raising their young.  Such a symbol instilled into all Americans … representing freedom, power, and respect.dsc_9556dsc_9777Then there’s the substantially smaller American kestrel, which in my opinion, has the personal goal of flying away as soon as you see them or even just slow down the car.  🙂dsc_9754The calling out of the limpkin is loud and pretty much unmistakable.  They are beautiful birds which, like the snail kite, feed on snails, but also on frogs and insects as well.  They are year-round residents of Florida as well.dsc_9789dsc_9992The belted kingfisher is a fabulous, fast, and flighty little bird … who I generally can only capture in the hovering mode.  🙂  Generally speaking, in most of Florida, it migrates here in the winter, so it’s a treat when it’s vacationing.dsc_9820But for me, the story is usually revolving around the eagles.  Here a pair of bald eagles perch near each other and begin calling out together … also an unmistakable sound.dsc_0078dsc_0220As much as I believe that she was asking for it and I was channeling some Barry White music their way, they did not mate while I was cheering them on.  I guess maybe they didn’t want an audience.  🙂dsc_0948It’s not just the mature eagles that pass by, but rather juvenile ones as well.  They have totally a different appearance than the mature ones, most notably the lack of the telltale white head and tail feathers, which they generally don’t possess until 4-5 years old.  There’s something special about them though that intrigues me.  I love their mottled look.dsc_0536dsc_0550One bird that is generally found across the US is the great blue heron.  These birds are large, extremely patient hunters, and very beautiful in flight, courtship, and nest building.  They are year-round residents as well.dsc_0731As the sun goes down, the eagles perched on a sign with the sunset colors in the background, makes a nice photo op.We also have our share of owls.  Here is the great horned owl, which is one of the largest and powerful owls here, but we also have barred, burrowing, and barn as well.  I’m quite an owl fanatic so all owls get photographed.  Have I told you before how obsessed I am with talons?dsc_1155

As the sun begins to set in the distance, it becomes the perfect setting for a silhouette shot of the bald eagle._dsc7988Speaking of colors, this particular night was an explosion of colors … which kept changing as the sun went down.  img_2261As hard as it was to say goodnight on this fabulous shooting location, of course, it was a must eventually.  So yes, Florida is an incredible location, especially in the winter to find birds galore.  Winter is also, my favorite time in Florida.img_2255Next Up:  More Colorado touring

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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