Whole Lot Of Babies Going On

Springtime in the south Florida wetlands mean lots of activity in the natural rookeries.  Of course some bird unions happen earlier than others, so while some of the this year’s young is older than others … and some are still waiting for their new arrivals.DSC_3414But before long, even this green heron couple sees the fruits of their efforts in courtship, nest building, mating, incubating and protecting … as finally their babies hatch successfully and emerge for all of us to see.DSC_5167OK, so most birds are quite ugly (by normal standards) when they’re first emerged and yes, they go through that awkward stage as they grow up.  However, these little ones are so absolutely adorable (at least to me).DSC_5248All of those downy feathers, peach fuzz, and those faces … LOLDSC_5172Before long however, they will become competitive for their parents attention and more importantly their food.  Such cuteness though.  DSC_5168This parent-to-be black-necked stilt sits down on 4 eggs which are just waiting their own special introduction to the world.DSC_1047It must not be far away either … judging with how many times the parents got up and turned those speckled eggs frantically.  Such amazing parents, the black-necked stilts take turns tending to the nest, which is out in the open and made up of twigs, sticks, and small branches on the ground.DSC_1032They are such protective parents when before and after their young are born … always patrolling the shoreline for potential threats like alligators.DSC_2578Alas, the four little ones are introduced to the world, or more specifically the wetlands.  From birth, the little ones are expected to forage for themselves, so off they go.DSC_2631DSC_2768DSC_2516For protection, and I would expect for companionship, they tend to congregate together.DSC_1923When threats enter the area, they get a quick escort out of harms way.  I find it so funny how such a small, dainty-like bird can command so much respect to make a great blue heron fly away.DSC_2598After a few days, they begin to venture further away in their search for food.  They also have almost doubled their size.  Their cuteness factor doubled too.  🙂DSC_5588DSC_5652When they are ready for a rest, they run over to their mom and insert themselves into her underbelly feathers.  It’s funny to look at because all that you can see is their little legs hanging down.DSC_3336Looks like this “teenager” tri-colored heron just noticed its parent flying in nearby.  That usually means food.DSC_5999I give all of the credit in the world to these poor parents when it comes to feeding their offspring.  They run over and literally grab the parents beak … and neck … and face … in their attempt to get food NOW!  DSC_6024It’s not just the tri-colored herons, it’s almost all of the birds too, as evidenced by this great egret.  If I was a bird parent and my “children” treated me like that, I’m not sure I could keep going back!  LOLDSC_2737Of course when they return without food, the young ones just become loud and very alert … like these young cattle egret.DSC_6076Then there’s the sweet ducklings and this parent looks to have more than she can handle.  They’re generally community nesters, so perhaps she’s taking others out for a swim as well.  DSC_4812Such is the life in the wetlands during breeding season.  Another year, another brood.  Lots of memories and of course … lots of babies.

Next Up:  Back in Colorado

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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Nothing Like Young Burrowing Owls

Having a feeling that we might not be living full time in Florida next year, I made sure that I had “quality time” with my burrowing friends … the owls.  Each year, the burrows and owls are often different and this year, nothing could have been more true.  Like all wildlife, some owls are more “social” and required more personal space than others.  In Florida, they are protected and the state mandates a safe viewing distance … that being said, the best rule of thumb after that is careful observation of the owl and watching for signs of distress or changes in behavior.

Other differences easily noted are the varied eye colors.  Usually I see the normal yellow and some with darker brownish eyes, but this year it seemed that there were all the colors in between as well.  This adult had those greenish brown eyes and his mate had yellow eyes.DSC_0120This little owlet was one of their babies (of 2) and as you can clearly see, it possessed those traditional yellow eyes, as did its sibling.  These owls run a tidy ship and are frequently clearing out the opening to the burrow … sending lots of sand into the face and eyes of an onlooker.DSC_0147Even with just 2 babies, one is almost always clearly braver, or more inquisitive, than the other.  Before long, you know exactly which one you’re dealing with.DSC_0253Owls are predators and possess sharp pointed beaks and claws, along with feet that are quite strong.  Some are better hunters than others and it isn’t long before the little ones try to join in one the fun.DSC_0301The first feathers of the young owlets begin to be overtaken by more mature ones.DSC_0413While the feathers change, those big bright eyes never do.  🙂  Wonder what it’s so intent on spying in the air?  Let’s see….DSC_0454So it’s a hawk flying overhead and I as well get nervous.  Though I’ve seen it (and hope that I never will), they have been known to swoop on it and grab young birds, including these owlets.  Usually the parents are quite aware and send an instantaneous alert for everyone to go into the burrow.DSC_2254Owls can be fascinating to observe and I’ve spent many mornings or afternoons (or both) with them.  I just love it when the ruffle up their feathers … usually preceded or proceeded by a bow and a poop.DSC_0781By far, a favorite time of mine is when the little ones first discover their feet and claws.  You can literally see their wheels turning as they investigate them … they pick them up, open them, close them, sometimes even turn them upside down and eventually put them down again.  Often, they do it repeatedly.  Reminds me of our own young when they discover their toes.  🙂DSC_0472Feeding ones mate and the hungry family is a never-ending task.  Crickets or beetles are often consumed.DSC_1071Sometimes frogs are on the daily assortment and this one was obviously caught earlier and cached for the right moment.DSC_0854Lizards aren’t safe from them either.  Often the male will taken them into the burrow for its mate, even if there are no babies apparent yet.  Young ones don’t emerge from the burrow for at least 10 days, so it might be that she’s attending to them … or the eggs.DSC_1107Super special is when they’re both up and they transfer the delicacy from one to the other.  It reminds me of a Lady and the Tramp moment … only with a frog instead of a strand of spaghetti.  🙂DSC_2506I think that owls get bored easily … for sometimes they just declare “war” on anything they can get their claws on.DSC_0621At this particular site, there are others present, like these resident monk parakeets.  They’re quite beautiful and noisy when they fly by.  This one was busy grabbing twigs to reinforce or build its nest.DSC_2907Sometimes people want to know which are the babies versus the adults.  Of course, when they’re both out, it’s generally easy to ID them by size.  However, there’s another dead giveaway … well except for those “hair plug” head feathers.  If you notice the adult (in the back) had a pattern to its feathers throughout its belly, while the baby doesn’t have the striations yet.  I call this the Kahlua look (OK, maybe that’s too much info … LOL).DSC_1301These young owlets are nothing if not curious … and they display all sorts of head angles when they’re trying to figure something out.DSC_3132Of course, the family unit shot is highly desired, but just like our own group shots, it’s difficult to get them all cooperate at the same time … let alone smile.  🙂DSC_1348When the kids are safe in the burrow, the parents take a few moments for themselves with some mutual grooming and “canoodling”  (OK, so I guess that’s a made up word).DSC_2673Not sure what was going on here, but this male must have been in trouble and offering some sort of peace offering to its mate.  “OK, will you forgive me if I share this mouse with you?”DSC_3858“If not, I’ll just eat it myself”.DSC_3979From an early age the owlets learn to recognize threats from above.DSC_0214This time, a red-tailed hawk.  DSC_3370No worry though from this parent … no alarm call for cover … just a stare down.  I wonder why?DSC_1266Owls have much better eyesight than humans and upon careful inspection in the viewfinder, I see why.  See, this red-tailed hawk already has snatched a poor unfortunate baby bird for its dinner.  (OK, I secretly hate this side of nature, but hawks have to eat too.)DSC_3370-2So the socializing above the burrow continues.  Dad soon takes flight not far from where I was photographing and I wondered why.DSC_3243I noticed that before long it flew, with great difficulty, back to the burrow.  Then I saw it … it had a bird of its own.  To this day, I’ve never seen one with a bird before.   I guess owls have to eat too. (no, not again) DSC_3566So my next favorite time with these young owlets is when they learn to use their wings to make short flights around the burrow.  This one was quite happy and worked hard to impress its sibling and dad.DSC_3686-Edit“Look what I can do!”DSC_3685-EditDSC_3687-EditDSC_3692Meanwhile at another burrow, the youngs ones were just beginning to emerge.  This time, both parents were yellow-eyed and the babies ran the gambit of eye color.  There was some discrepancy about this burrow too, as some say the pair might have changed after the new ones were hatched.DSC_2602DSC_4079So, that’s this installment of the burrowing owls of south Florida for 2017.  Lots more images to share, so stay tuned.  I mean, how could you not with these eyes?  🙂DSC_2756Next up:  A return to the wetlands

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Mesa County Exploring

As many of you know, we recently bought a home in Colorado.  So, it’s only fitting to share some images from some of our early days in town … whether still scoping a home  or after we moved out.

No one can talk about western slope and forgo the mentioning of the Colorado National Monument.   “The Monument” is a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) made up of canyons  etched in the sandstone and granite red rock formations.   One enters the park either through the east (Grand Junction) or the west (Fruita) and drives along the 14-mile high desert road, which features amazing landscapes like these._DSC2900-EditWhile some of the views overlook the valley floor below, some illustrate the grandeur of the landscape and the unique formations it possesses._DSC2905-Edit_DSC2237The Monument is home to a variety of trees, plants, insects, reptiles, birds and of course mammal wildlife, such as my favorite desert bighorn sheep.  We often find them grazing on the landscape and have even seen them congregating together and participating in some early sparing.  Believe it or not, when they ram heads, it echoes throughout the canyon.DSC_9501-EditViews from the pullouts are varied by the turn, by the season, by the time of day, and the weather.  So far, no day has been the same as another._DSC2156Even the birds have been different for me.  DSC_4436Of course, familiar bird “friends” also have shown up … like the osprey and bald eagles.DSC_4331A bit more surprising for me to see is the great blue herons also flying around.  They’re not on every corner like they are in Florida, but they’re also not unusual to see.  DSC_4357While out and about one morning, I heard a familiar sound … a meadowlark … but a western meadowlark.DSC_0416-Edit-EditNot to be confused with the horned lark, which was a new bird for me.DSC_0431Often seen are the rabbits which roam about and the prairie dogs which are seemingly everywhere.DSC_0403Yep, this is my new home … somewhere … out there … under that rainbow._DSC2201Next up:  More burrowing owls … so cute I can’t stay away (or forget)  🙂

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

It’s Owl Time Again!

One of my favorite times of the year in south Florida was always the spring for numerous reasons.  One of the main reasons though is the activity of the burrows.  I begin to check the landscape for locating burrows for some of south Florida’s famous residents … the burrowing owls. DSC_6149-2 Of course, I anxiously await the arrival of the the year’s newest batch of adorable owlets, but in the meanwhile there’s always lots of feeding going on, since the owl moms spend lots of time in the burrows at this time, taking care of the eggs or newly hatched babies.  That means “special delivery” of food by the male parent.  DSC_6790-2Dining options vary from mice, rats, frogs, lizards, caterpillars, beetles, worms, and even baby birds.  DSC_6138-Edit-Edit-2These burrowing owls possess powerful feet, sharp claws, and piercing beaks that all prove useful in securing and devouring their prey.DSC_6257-Edit-2After some time, the days of “on patrol” visiting prove worth it, as we get our first glimpse of one of the newborn owlets.  Actually, at this point the owlets are about 10-14 days old when they first emerge out of the burrow.  As much of a thrill it is for me to see them, can you imagine how amazed they are when they get their first glimpse of their new world outside the confines of the burrow?  The word bewildered comes to mind when I observe their expressions.DSC_6282-2Whenever one of the owlets are near the entrance to the burrow, the parents are on patrol and ready to send out an alarm when needed in order to insure their safety.DSC_7421-2They remain on duty no matter the weather … sunshine or rain … and they stay vigilent.DSC_7468-2As fascinating as the owls are in general, I find them most interesting when they’re wet … the textures of their feathers are so interesting to me.  One of the most intriguing things I find with these owls, as with all species of owls, are their eyes.  Whether yellow, brown, or believe it or not even a mix of the two (yes, I have seen that!), their eyes captivate me and I find it hard to disengage my stare.DSC_7818-Edit-2Of course, there’s more feeding going on all of the time.  This year, one particular burrow male was quite the productive hunter.  During dusk and dawn, as well as the darkness of the night, this little guy was relentless in his stalking of its prey.  Most times, he would cache his food for the next day and methodically retrieve it as needed.DSC_7650-2Little bugs go down easy, but sometimes dinner is more of a challenge to get down the hatch.  I suppose he knows nothing about the whereabouts of that frog.  Nothing like a “frog leg mustache”.  LOLDSC_7943-2Once he would get his fill, he would then march on over to his mate, in the burrow.  Sometimes, she would meet him at the entrance and grab the delicacy and return to the burrow … other times he would descend into the burrow with it … and even other times they would dine together above ground.DSC_8206-Edit-2In the spring, rain showers are often present in the afternoons, and I would get lots of rained upon owls (to my delight … though I don’t think this owl was too pleased).DSC_8057-2Often they would shake off the excess water from their feathers which was always fun to photograph them get all fluffed up.DSC_8088-2They would then try to dry off their feathers as well by grooming … showing off their ability to twist their neck into many directions and angles.DSC_8091-2The loving burrowing owls often exhibit their love via mutual grooming and what I can only describe as “canoodling”.DSC_8392-2Eventually 2 very young owlets emerged … both in their “hair plug” stage … so very curious about EVERYTHING in their new world and soaking it all up.DSC_8666-2When there are owlets, there must be food provided to them … this time some grubs for the young ….DSC_8974-2…. while the parents would share an unfortunate frog.DSC_9235-2Of course, the affection was also shared with the baby owls as well.  That being said, this little owlet couldn’t take his eyes off the lens of the camera.  LOLDSC_9345-2Well, that is until it was being offered some food.  It’s amazing how they get around on their wobbly legs.  Such a thrill to witness them growing up before your eyes.DSC_9368-2Like I said … there was never a shortage of food this year.  This owl had a worm longer than he was!
DSC_0038-2The relationship between the adults and their babies are close knit, loving, and patient, and the young owlets love nothing more than to be in the shadow of one of their parents, knowing full well they would be protected from harm.DSC_0074-2I spent a lot of time with the burrowing owls in 2017, so be prepared for lots of images shared.  I mean, how could I not with adorable looks like this one?  Come on now … doesn’t it look like it’s smiling?  ❤DSC_9160-2Next up:  Let’s not forget about Colorado  🙂

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Expected & Unexpected Adventures

We interrupt the regularly scheduled blog posts with an important message …. we just bought a house in Colorado!  Yep, that’s right, this Florida girl will now be following her heart and spending some more time out west.  ❤

To say that it has been a wild adventure is a massive understatement.  I’ve learned so much along the way and at times, have wanted to pull my hair out and scream, but it will all eventually sort itself out and be just fine (or so I keep telling myself – LOL).

It started out almost 2 months ago, when Tom, his son Tyler, and his good friend Todd, along with the help of another good friend Dana, loaded up a 26-foot Penske (OK, maybe there were 2 Penskes involved) and prepared for the long drive out to Colorado.  Yep, 2 Penske 26-foot trucks, a tow behind with one vehicle, and another being driven out there by itself.  Yep we traveled light, as evidenced by the fact that Tom’s van and other things were still remaining in Hollywood.
IMG_4276-2As they pulled out to start their journey, I had no idea of what would lie ahead, but I knew that it would be an adventure of a lifetime.  :-OIMG_4281-3See, though many thought that Tom had the hard job, with the drive and all, but I had the task of flying out with my mom and step-dad … oh, and an outdoor cat we inherited years before whom had never been put in any situation close to this one.  The only thing is that the veteranian gave me tranquilizers for him … but what would keep me sane, I wondered.IMG_4341-3Alas though, we all made it out there and the reward were things like this view out of our backyard in Fruita.IMG_4361-3Fruita, CO is a small town, outside of Grand Junction, CO, which in itself is a small town.  Fruita has an avid cyclist community, so it’s easy to see why Tom was rooting for settling down there.  It wasn’t long before Tom set out on his inaugural ride, with mountain biking being the most popular, but also lots of safe roads for road cycling as well.
IMG_4367-3Of course, for me, I just couldn’t wait to get myself up on the Monument, though to my surprise, it POURED when we visited for our first trip up.  It was fascinating to see the usually dry and arid landscape, all washed up in a heavy downpour, with the resulting “mud falls”.IMG_4404-3This home is set on an acre of land and irrigation waters, so that meant a lot of yard for Tom to mow.  It wasn’t long before he found himself a new toy … the riding lawn mower.IMG_4441-3After which he wasted no time catching a quick snooze in his hammock (a Father’s Day gift from Kelli and Mitchell) set up under the shade of the pergola.IMG_4413-3For the first few weeks, I struggled immensely with the lack of office furniture out here, so after an eternity of complaining, Tom improvised one for me.  LOL   Actually, it did the trick!IMG_4417-2More trips to the Colorado National Monument followed every so often, to break up the monotony of the endless unpacking.  I mean, with views like this, how could you get sick of it … or not feel rejuvenated.IMG_4434-3IMG_4433-2IMG_4405-3Our first visitor to Fruita was our son-in-law, Mitchell, who was nearby in Denver for a work seminar on the business of making spirits and distilleries.  Tough, huh?IMG_4475-3They were able to get some mountain biking in on some of the amazing trails nearby.  I on the other hand, got a break from unpacking, though shhhh … don’t tell Tom.  😉IMG_4461-3YIKES!  If I didn’t know better, I would swear that gremlins would come in at night and regenerate boxes and boxes to unpack!  I’m not sure we’ll ever get through all of them.IMG_4454-2My mom and her husband just love being outdoors in the sunshine and adore the views of the mountains and Monument in the distance.  Not sure how my step-dad will enjoy it when the winter rolls in though.  I guess we’ll find out soon enough.IMG_4446-3I celebrated my birthday since I last blogged … and it was a bittersweet one.  My daughter brightened my day though with these fabulous flowers.IMG_4600-3After about a month or so, it was time to head back to Florida.  First though, we had some unfinished business with some mountain goats on Mt. Evans.  See, 2 years ago when I visited the road was closed due to road repairs and I couldn’t see the mountain goats I had yearned after for so long.  This time, I conquered that item off my Bucket List.  More on that to come.IMG_4623-2Once home, we were taking care of business, as they say, when all of a sudden we learned of an unexpected, and uninvited visitor.  Her name was Irma and she was packing quite the fury.  Of course, I’m referring to Hurricane Irma, a Cat 5 hurricane that had it’s sights on south Florida … and the entire state of Florida.  Before long, I boarded a flight on out of there and Tom loaded up yet another Penske (16 footer this time) and began to head out as well.IMG_4808Tom’s journey back to Colorado was supposed to be a “solo” affair, but it seemed like 6.3 million other Floridians were on an evacuation plan of their own.  If anyone knows Florida well, you know that there are generally only 3 ways out … I-95, the Florida Turnpike, or I-75.  Everyone was in “frenzy” mode too and supplies and gas was getting short in supply.  Then, the unthinkable happened … I got a call at 2:30 am in the morning, that the Penske had broken down in the middle of BFE.  The differential had froze, pieces  flew out, and by the time Tom got the truck pulled over and stopped, the drive train was hanging on and dragging on the ground!  Thankfully no one was struck by the flying shards of metal … and that Tom was safe as well.  Tom had to sit on the side of a highway, in the middle of the night, and wait almost 8 hours until he was on the road again.  What an ordeal!

2.5 days later, Tom made it back and all was good again.  🙂IMG_4863-3So that’s what my life has been like lately … and why the blog is so late … and why it wasn’t about burrowing owls, as indicated earlier.  Rest assured, burrowing owls (lots of them) will be coming to the blog … and lots more too, so stay tuned.  As I said, it’s been a crazy ride and quite the adventure.  But then again … isn’t that what makes life so interesting?  LOLIMG_4857-2Next Up:  Let’s try again for some Burrowing Owls

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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

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