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

The Monument & Grand Mesa

Much of our free time towards the end of 2016 was spent in Colorado … for numeorus reasons.  Part of it is the efficient flights between Ft. Lauderdale to Denver … inexpensive (if timed just right) and nonstop is possible (always a bonus).  A big part of it is the beauty of Colorado … that great mix of wildlife and natural outdoor recreation and gorgeous landscapes.  It’s a state that I feel I have only recently touched the surface of, though I have visited numerous times.

There’s something really special about Colorado National Monument, a frequent location to visit when we’ve been out there.  The most prominent resident on the Monument is the desert bighorn sheep … a smaller version of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.  We were so excited to see a family of sheep.  The females have horns, though not the curls like the males possess.
dsc_1217 A young one was following not far behind, with the male close behind.dsc_1215 The male bighorn totally fascinates me … their magnificent stance, their penetrating stare, their stillness, except for the chewing that seems to be ever-present.  The curls of the bighorn “talks” to the experiences and encounters that they have seen.  So fascinating!dsc_1231 Of course, Colorado has lots more than bighorns.  In the fall, mule deer can be spotted sporting their antlers.  Most of the time, they’re a bit shy, but once in a while, you get a cooperative subject.dsc_1292 dsc_1306 Birds are also out and about there, like this beautiful white-crowned sparrow, who was conveniently perched on the vegetation.dsc_1390 Some of the cutest, most curious chipmunks can be found atop of the Grand Mesa in western Colorado too.  So very cute … and so very fast!dsc_1432I believe that this is a female house finch … but don’t hold me to it.  LOL.  I’m far from the best bird identifier … even in my home area.
dsc_1487 Almost every day ends back up on the Monument … can’t get enough of these desert bighorn sheep.  Who could?dsc_1673 And the views ain’t too bad either!_dsc1836Then when the sun sets, it lights up the Bookcliffs across the valley.  A perfect way to end the day … and the blog post.  🙂
_dsc1866Next Up:  Back to the reality of home … more birding

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

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

Lemonade Never Tasted So Good

In October, we really don’t as a rule worry too much about tropical storms or hurricanes in Florida.  Sure, it’s still technically hurricane season until the end of November, but our peak is usually July, August, and September … at least according to this “almost native Floridian”‘s recollection.  So, when we realized that a potential Cat.4-5 hurricane by the name of Matthew was lurking around Florida a few days earlier, we became concerned.  We were thankful that south Florida was pretty much spared from the wrath of the storm, so when our flight allowed us to check in, we thought we were in the clear.  WRONG … by the time we checked in online to the time we checked into our hotel, a few short hours from Denver, we received the text message … FLIGHT CANCELLED.  Yep, lemons thrown our way.

I felt especially terrible because my daughter and her husband had just left for backpacking in Europe and we were charged with taking care of our grandchildren … doggy ones.  🙂  Luckily, we were in the midst also of sights like these …dsc_7985dsc_7997So with those lemons, we decided to make the proverbial “lemonade”.  We altered our plans (after all, a friend of theirs was battening down the hatches until we got home and all flights into Florida were cancelled) and chose to not sweat it out and swing by Rocky Mountain NP with our newly gained freedom.  OK, truth be told, it probably did involve some “sweating it out”, but you get the gist, right?

I hadn’t been to Estes Park in probably 2 years and this was pretty crowded for me.img_2151After we left the hustle and bustle of town and got into the park itself, it was much better.  Right off the bat, we came across a gang of wild turkey.  I believe that there were mature and juveniles within the group.dsc_8005Of course, everyone knows that October in RMNP is synonymous with the elk rut, so my hopes were high.  Can you imagine how excited I was when I came across this handsome bull down by the lakeside … keeping a keen eye on his harem.dsc_8218It was really cool to get images of him standing almost chest deep in the water.  Of course, when he bugled from there as well, it was well over the top for me.  NOTHING compares to the sound of a bull elk’s bugle!dsc_8342He really was quite the handsome lad and quite cooperative with his poses.  I have a feeling that he’s used to the camera lens.  🙂dsc_8404Of course, during the rut, the bull elk have more on their minds than eating, but that didn’t stop the ladies from getting their fill on the nearby vegetation.dsc_8432A very tender moment to me was when he went nose to nose with one of his gals.  I wondered if she was his favorite … only just kidding.  LOLdsc_8556Instead of eating the vegetation, he would use the bushes to scratch himself.dsc_8593The girls in his harem were about 15, which I thought was a pretty good size.  While most of the rut was over, the mating had yet to begin.dsc_8715Yep, this bull sure knew how to work the camera.  Never have I gotten them in the water during rut like that.  I was thrilled.dsc_8795Sunsets are always a thrill and this place didn’t disappoint.  I just loved how the colors were so mixed, yet oh so beautiful._dsc1775Out at dinner one night, I happened to notice this sign … it warmed my heart to know that some people and places do everything in their ability to protect the bears from being labelled as a “problem bear” secondary to actually “problem people” who don’t exercise common sense.  (I’ll now exit my soapbox)img_2159This time of the year, the mule deer were also out in force and sporting nice racks too.  Such sweet, sweet faces.dsc_9030dsc_9331These guys were out for a little bit of jostling around as well.dsc_9191Now this bull elk, shown from afar so that you can actually see how many gals he had in his harem … 24 in all!!!  Crazy to imagine how busy he was going to be in the near future.  LOL.  We even saw one of them actually try to mate him!  Guess she was getting close to being ready.  😉_dsc1818So in the end, we got home a night later, got to go the Rocky Mountain NP, arrived to Jacksonville to pick up the grand doggies, and safely drove home.  Yep, lemonade never tasted so good!_dsc1813Next Up:  How about some birding?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Proud As A Peacock

Photography is, by itself, an adventure.  It’s all about learning … sharing … educating … at least for me it is.  It’s an expressive art form, where the beauty of the image is held within and varies from observer to observer.  For me, it’s hard to separate the emotion out of certain images or to quantify the blood, sweat, and tears that went into an image.  It’s an art form where one has to have tough skin … in processing, in observing, and often in critiquing.  It’s the ultimate journey.  In 2016, I planned for some potential bumps in the road along the way by putting some of my stuff “out there”.  Everything is a learning experience … and it’s all good.

Early in 2016, I was approached by the California Science Center Foundation in Los Angeles, CA about incorporating 2 of our images into the Ecosystems Exhibit in the Children’s Museum.  I was quite honored by the request knowing that I could indirectly contribute to the education of our youth on the concept of adaptation and conservation.  Below are the two images that I granted them access to:

Polar bear adult, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska ©2015
_DSC6749                      Arctic ground squirrel, Denali National Park, Alaska ©2015_DSC3578I can’t wait to one day see it for myself in person.

April 30th, the Juried Best In Nature 2016 Exhibit opened at the Ordover Museum of the San Diego Natural History Museum @ Balboa Park, San Diego, California.  Approximately 70 images were juried in to hang as part of the exhibit through August 2016.  One of those images was mine.  It was quite an honor to be amongst some of the best nature images featured.

“The Awakening”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015
_DSC9817Defenders of Wildlife, an amazing advocate group for the protection and preservation of           wildlife, as well as advancing the cause of many wildlife issues, selected one of my images as the Grand Prize Winner for 2016.  I was humbled beyond words and so proud that this image helps in their work, as well as “speaks” to the public in a way that words can’t.  I     believe that photography can be a powerful tool in enlisting the support and understanding of many viewers.  I hope that it motivates others, like me, to join the cause.

“When I Grow Up”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015_dsc2247-2That image was also honored by NANPA as a Top 250 image.  The Audubon Society of Greater Denver’s Share the View Competition also honored it among the Top 250 images, as well as the image below.

“Chasing the Adrenaline”;  Katmai National Park & Preserve, Alaska  © 2014DSC_8370To say that I was stunned is an understatement, when one of my images was selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice Competition.  That was an honor awarded to approximately 300 of the 20,000 images received for review.

“The Polar Bear Pledge”;  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska  © 2015
debbietubridy_polarbearpledge_polarpassion-1-of-1-2Lastly, 4 of my images were used by the Wyoming Outdoor Council, an advocacy group based out of Lander, Wyoming for their 50th Anniversary 2017 Calendar, celebrating 50 years of conservation.

“Skills Test”;  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming  © 201520150322-DSC_1653                       “Lazy Day Fox”;  Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming  © 201520150321-DSC_0885                  “Struggle for Survival”;  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  ©2016_DSC6231                          “Passing the Day Away”;  Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming  © 2016_DSC9668-2While photography endeavor successes make me feel quite proud, it pales by comparison to the pride I felt when my daughter, Kelli, walked in her Hooding Ceremony in advance of her then upcoming graduation from her Physician Assistant Program.img_1508Shortly thereafter, she formally graduated with Highest Honors from Nova Southeastern University.img_1722It was a long 27-month haul for her, but it was done finally!  She then successfully passed her credential examination and is now a proud owner of some new initials … PA-C … which she adds to her BS and MS in Exercise Physiology from the University of Florida.  She celebrated with a few shorter US trips for fun, then backpacked through Europe with one of her classmates (and part-time with her hubby).  Yep, that’s my Unicorn!  (don’t ask … it’s a long story).  🙂img_1734Finally, another accomplishment that I’m quite proud of is the progress that my stepfather has made in his recovery.  As many of you know, our Alaska trip for 2016 was cancelled at the last minute due to his hospitalization.  While it was sad at the moment, it was necessary, and to see him finally leave the hospital walking with the assitance of his walker … was nothing short of a miracle.  He’s never looked back either and is walker free.  Physical therapy and rehabilitative services ROCK and I can’t say enough good things about the care he received at Memorial South Rehab Hospital!  img_1812What does the future hold in 2017?  Who knows, but I can promise you that Alaska is back on the table!  I have many goals, or should I say learning directions, for me to pursue … and of course, places to go.  🙂

This blog has been an important part of that growth & sharing and an expression that I find particularly rewarding.  Please let me know what you think.  I can say that as of the end of 2016, the blog has reached 87 countries … making it feel like quite a bit smaller of a world, which of course, we all share.  I have a personal goal to add another 11 countries in 2017, bringing the blog’s reach to 1/2 of the world’s countries!

My wish for photography to bring us all closer, educate us to important issues that surround us, and most importantly, to bring joy to all those who view the images.  There’s no greater compliment to me than when friends/contacts appreciate what they see or tell me that somehow the images or stories moved them.  Happy 2017 everyone … it’s ours to write … let’s make it a great one!!_DSC0298-2Next Up:  Who wants to go to Colorado?

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

2016 Review… The “Far”

As with most years, many photographic opportunities presented themselves, not just in my home state of Florida, but the west was well represented in 2016.  Like the previous year end review post, I will focus primarily on the “new”.

Of course, there are a few images that never grow old, such as the frosty face of a bison fighting for survival in the harsh winters of the west.

_DSC6231-2Though I tend to forget sometimes the landscapes that lay before me, I tried to focus on them a bit in 2016._DSC4055There’s something magical about the iconic image of a beautiful red fox making its way across the snowy landscape …_DSC5569… though unique fox sightings such as this are quite beautiful and intriguing as well.  Never have I seen a setting like this one before._DSC5495It’s always fun to find a couple of coyotes in the snow as well, but it’s not everyday that you see this.  I know that to the casual viewer this looks like 2 coyotes standing there looking at us, which I suppose it was, but what makes this one so special is that they weren’t standing there being cooperative subjects by chance … they were tied after mating.  Once again, I’ve never seen anything like that before … and believe it or not, it was captured on Valentine’s Day.  🙂_DSC6495Another lifer for me was the elusive saw whet owl.  It had long been a dream of mine and I felt like I was floating on a cloud of joy when I got this one._DSC6977Sporting some nice red earrings and a necklace (i.e. tag and collar), my first mountain goats in the snow images were thrilling and a great bar to capture more natural ones in the future, though I do love the fluffy snow in this one._DSC7104This snowy day made photography a bit difficult, but I like most, still tried.  This group of elk in winter were getting tight as a group of either coyote or wolves were moving in on them. _dsc4122Speaking of wolves, I haven’t gotten a great shot of any wolves, outside of Denali NP in Alaska, before and still haven’t, but this is my first of that black wolf that calls Yellowstone home._DSC9812While I have lots of bison shots, this was the first year that I got out in the spring to capture those “red dogs”, who couldn’t be any cuter._DSC0192_DSC9570-2Predators can come in different forms and species, but the instinct to seek refuge is all the same.  Here I photographed a black bear cub who obediently climbed high (really high) to the top of a tree, while mom spotted a boar in the area.DSC_2910Speaking of things that I’ve NEVER experienced before was this aggressive protective behavior exhibited by this dusky grouse.  Though it played coy allowing images, it clearly felt threatened by some (especially women) and it ended with an entertaining, yet scary, encounter with Mr. Flashy Eyebrows, which incidentally change colors too.  LOL_DSC9981Usual sightings of beavers for me have been swimming around in the ponds, usually in the dusk hours, affording little opportunity for me to capture a great shot.  That changed in 2016 when this cooperative beaver exited the pond and sat, in the midst of flowers, on the bank and groomed itself for quite some time.  I was thrilled.DSC_4173-2Who wouldn’t want to have a lunch date with an incredible golden eagle? … Well, except the one being served as dinner.  I sat in awe as it devoured its dinner on the banks of the river, not far from where I was sitting.DSC_4697-2A first for me too was this ADORABLE little pronghorn antelope, that had to be less than one day old.  Nature is an amazing thing because this baby was so skilled at running and kept up with mom right from the get-go.DSC_2714In Florida, we have red-winged blackbirds, but out west they have these beautiful yellow-headed blackbirds.  Though a different species, their song is equally as distinct and lovely.
DSC_1400A definite goal of mine for 2016 was to get that iconic shot of the red-necked grebes swimming with their babies on their backs.  While I didn’t get that, I did manage to get not only the Western grebes, but an image of them offering the fish as part of their courtship behavior.DSC_1726Cuteness alert!  2015 I may have gotten my very first long-eared owls, but how about this?  It’s a long-eared baby owlet!  My heart melted the instant that our eyes met.DSC_21972016 was spent also on some landscape shooting … here from Steptoe Butte in the iconic Palouse …_DSC0513-HDR… and also from the Colorado National Monument, which overlooks the town of Grand Junction, CO._dsc1370-hdrIn what had to be one of the craziest shoots of 2016, was that very, very early morning at Maroon Bells in Colorado.  It was freezing when we started shooting some astro images in the wee hours, but continued to get colder as the sun began to rise.  That was my first time there … crazy, crazy, crazy the number of photographers congregating there!_dsc1135Fall in Colorado is a special treat.  The clouds, the mountains, the leaves … all jaw-dropping._dsc1577-hdrOf course, the golden leaf dropping aspens are always a favorite of mine, both on the ground …_dsc1160… as well as looking up towards the heavens._dsc7922Courtesy of Hurricane Matthew, which re-routed us from our return home, this bull elk chest deep in the lake was a new one for me too.dsc_8342The mule deer, also sporting their racks, were organizing as well.dsc_8998Yes, our time spent out west in 2016 was fascinating and full of firsts and new behavioral images.  Noticeably absent, in both this blog and in my heart, was Alaska.  It would have been our 10th consecutive year, but it wasn’t to be in 2016.  That only means that something super special must be in store for us there in 2017.  Can’t wait to find out!dsc_1673Thanks so much for our friends who participated in the fun during the year, including Jen & Travis, Amy & Scott, Rebecca, Jay, Phil, and Rick … we really appreciated sharing the good times with you guys.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed the trip down 2016 memory lane.  There’s one more segment to 2016 left though … hmm, what could it be?

Next Up:  Proud as a peacock moments

© 2016 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

Sometimes Dreams Do Come True

Happy Holidays everyone!

It seems appropriate that having spent 5 days amongst the polar bears that I would have not 1 or 2 blog posts from that fabulous adventure … but 5!  I mean, there was just so much to experience there, so many new friends (both polar bears and human), and my goodness, so many photographs to share.  If you haven’t seen the previous posts, take a few moments (OK, it may actually take a few moments longer) to get yourself caught up.  I’ll include the links at the end of this post … #5 of 5.

I had always dreamed of seeing real live polar bears when I was very young.  Over time of course, I was fortunate enough to see them in zoos, but that wasn’t enough for me.  Little did I know then, that decades later, I would become addicted to BEARS … all kinds.  Maybe it was already in my DNA, who knows.  LOL.

I, as in solo, flew off to Alaska in late September of 2015 … just 2 weeks after returning home from there from an adventure out there with Tom.  It was crazy and I was feeling a bit crazier.  How could I do that without Tom?  My trusted adventure partner and personal sherpa … OK, any that knows me knows that I’m not joking.  However, I did, and I never looked back, then or now, and have the time of my life.  Five days in Kaktovik, Alaska … 8 trips out in the Beaufort Sea of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, photographing polar bears, from a relatively small boat.  They were everything that I hoped … and more!_DSC2594 We observed lone polar bears as they roamed the arctic landscape.  We also were treated to sows with their young cubs.  I found it fascinating when they would encounter other bears.  In this instance, I believe that the bear in the water was familiar with the sow …perhaps an older offspring from the past.  The cub was quite interested in playing with it, but mom would always place herself in between the cub and other bear._DSC2673 _DSC2679 _DSC2701A few times the encounter seemed like it was becoming a bit tense.  I was so engaged in the interaction, but make no mistake about it, I didn’t want to see any fights.  Yes, I’m that one.  Haha._DSC2712 Mom and the bear would wrestle around in the water, while the young cub obediently waited on the shore._DSC2738 They reminded me of dogs playing in the surf or anywhere else for that matter.  There was a lot of snarling, teeth flossing, claws bared …_DSC2861… but like most brawls, there wasn’t much else but playful fighting … or perhaps a play for dominance and lesson teaching.
_DSC2859 All the while, the cub observed from afar and would call out to its mom.  Of course, she ignored its calls._DSC3054 Eventually, she would exit the water and join her cub.  Before long though, the other bear would come close to shore and off the cub would go to play or defend its mom, we really couldn’t tell._DSC2946 Once again, mom would escort the bear back into the water._DSC0642When it was safe to proceed, she began to travel the landscape again, with her cub along her side.  Seems like the cub wanted to still interact with the other bear though._DSC3311Just as any good mom would do, she them gave the cub a little nibble in the backside to teach it a lesson.  LOL
_DSC3142 These bears would find just about anything they could to play with, eat, or entertain themselves.  _DSC3682 While we were positioned in an open boat, the bears would share the waters with us.  Though they are excellent swimmers, we were quite safe and always kept a respectable distance.  I just loved how entertaining they were and how many positions that they could get themselves in.  Look at the size of those pads!_DSC2130 _DSC2106Whale blubber made an excellent toy to play with … the nastier, the better.
_DSC2304
As always, I became obsessed by the size of their feet and the beauty of their pads.  As opposed to brown bears, these bears had more distinct pads … better for photography even._DSC2072 The real beauty of them though was their movement on the land.  So determined in their walk._DSC3395 Again, the interactions with other bears that they encountered seemed to be calm and even at times playful.  _DSC3338 When I was told that we had to get back to shore on our last trip, I felt that old familar feeling that I can only describe as only ….. NOOOOOO! …. followed by incessant shutter clicking.  As if the thousands I had already taken weren’t enough.  😦_DSC2758 Once we waited for our van to take us from the shore to the inn for the last time, I saw something that was so incredibly appropriate.  A rainbow positioned just perfectly behind a whale bone on the snowy landscape.  It was a sign … our trip was over … but to me also was a sign to me that I would return one day.  🙂IMG_0156 Even our departure was exciting.  Though I had secretly (OK, maybe not so secretly) hoped that our flight would be unable to make it in to pick us up, there it was taxiing down the runway, which double as the road, to pick us up.  Dang! IMG_0045 As were were loading up for our return flight to Fairbanks, I still didn’t want to leave.  But ultimately we had to … the 4 of us and 4 more Canadian photographers shared a pleasant flight back to the big city.  See, it’s all relative in Alaska.IMG_0092 Yes, it was a fabulous trip to the arctic … the literal end of the land … for these amazing polar bears.  Our group was fantastic and I still keep in touch with each of them, as well as several of my new friends from Canada.  Amazing how photography bonds people and makes the world a much smaller place.  It is my hope that my photographs and stories shared in this and the other 4 blog posts from this amazing adventure serve to keep others informed about the polar bears and their fight for survival.  It’s up to us to insure that our children, grandchildren, and for many more generations have the opportunity to know the joys of polar bears … yes, up close and personal like I did.  🙂harshaj_20151005_191-31-100As promised, here are the links for the other blog posts shared:

Part 1:     http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/im-dreaming-of-a-white-bear-polar-bear-that-is/

Part 2:     http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/sun-rays-water-play/

Part 3:     http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/adding-a-dash-of-snow/

Part 4:     http://www.tnwaphotography.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/an-arctic-celebration/

© 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