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

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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

A Wing & A Prayer

One last blog post from Homer, AK … where we always seem to spend some time on each and every trip to Alaska.  They say that Homer is “A Drinking Town, With A Fishing Problem” … LOL … see, everyone knows that Homer is quite a laid back type community.  That being said, it is also well known that Homer is the place to be for fishing … for it’s the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World” and it ain’t too bad for many other types of fishing as well.  Fishermen come from all over the world to fish in the waters off Homer, Kachemak Bay, and the Cook Inlet.  I’m not just talking about the human kind.  🙂

One morning, after our “must stop” at Two Sisters Bakery for some drinks and a few baked goods or even their amazing sandwiches, we took off on a long hike along the shoreline north of Bishop’s Beach.  Being from south Florida, I feel very familiar walking along the sand, knowing that you never know what you’ll find.

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As we hiked along, we could hear all of the familiar sounds … the crashing of the waves, the whistling of the wind, and the seabirds calling out along the shore.  What we didn’t expect was the tsunami sirens going off loudly and alerting everyone to what to do if this had been “an actual emergency” and a tsunami was imminent.  Of course, seeing the tall cliffs around us that we would have to somehow scale … I knew we, or I should say I, would probably be screwed!  Yikes.

Tsunami Warning Sirens all along the beach and town

Tsunami Warning Sirens all along the beach and town

Before long, we could hear the unmistakable calling out of bald eagles.  So shrill, yet so beautiful.  Our ears tried to determine their exact location.  It was like a game of “Marco … Polo”.  Soon, we saw where it was … that being not far in front of us, perched on one of the  beach rocks on the sand.  At that time, Tom had the long lens … I had the landscape lens. We were quite a bit apart and I knew that Tom had to act quickly to ensure that at least one of us got the shot.  From here on in through this post, these images were taken by Tom alone.

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I told him to approach carefully, with respectful, yet not too quick of pace, being ready to push the shutter at any moment.  I sat down where I was, so as not to disturb his shooting. It was admittedly, one of the hardest things I could do … just sit.  I mean this juvenile bald eagle was perched so beautifully, calling out to what I would imagine where his nearby parents or siblings.

After some time, I guess that one of the gulls wasn’t too happy with his location and it began to harass him.  It dove at him, screaming all the time, coming from the right …

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… then from the left, as the eagle turned around to defend itself.  Funny how even the feared bald eagles get the “Rodney Dangerfield” treatment, i.e. “no respect”, every now and again.   LOL.

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I was hoping and praying that Tom was taking advantage of the gift of this sighting and having the right gear, at the right place, and the right time.  It was however, the equivalent of the perfect storm … the trifecta, if you will.

Finally, the juvenile prepped for its take-off.  “Be sure to get it Tom” I shouted.  I REALLY wanted my wildlife lens right about that point.  I could hear Tom clicking away on the shutter in a very purposeful manner … not your “spray & pray” fashion.

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Off went the eagle, flying low to the sand, over the landscape towards Tom and eventually past him.  We watched where he landed and headed in the general direction.  This young eagle didn’t even mind when we got pretty close to his perched position, as he continued to call out.

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We eventually decided that it had gotten as good as it was going to get, so we continued on our walk back to the RV.  It wasn’t until later that I saw what Tom had captured and I have to admit, I was quite impressed!  What do you think?  Yes, grasshopper learned very well.  🙂

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Next:  All Aboard in Talkeetna!

2012 Review: PART 7 – Back in the FLA

The remainder of 2012 was spent with family, friends, and of course, with nature – the ever-present beauty that surrounds us.

Parent killdeer with its newborn chick
Parent killdeer with its newborn chick
Crested caracara surveys its surroundings during a rain shower - Kenansville, FL
Crested caracara surveys its surroundings during a rain shower – Kenansville, FL
Wild horses of Paynes Prairie State Park, Gainesville, FL
Wild horses of Paynes Prairie State Park, Gainesville, FL
Fox squirrel at Joe Overstreet Landing
Fox squirrel at Joe Overstreet Landing
The sandhill crane pair that sings together .... stays together
The sandhill crane pair that sings together …. stays together
Juvenile bald eagle at Lake Marion, Kenansville, FL
Juvenile bald eagle at Lake Marion, Kenansville, FL
Lake Newnan, Alachua County, FL
Lake Newnan, Alachua County, FL
Great Blue Heron, Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Great Blue Heron, Wakodahatchee Wetlands
West Palm Beach night scene, FL
West Palm Beach night scene, FL
Barred owl pair perched in tree, Dinner Island Ranch WMA, FL
Barred owl pair perched in tree, Dinner Island Ranch WMA, FL
Northern harrier soaring, Green Cay Wetlands, FL
Northern harrier soaring, Green Cay Wetlands, FL

I want to be sure to thank those of you who shared our year’s experiences with us, somewhere along the way…. you know who you are.  It’s always good to see old friends, and of course, make new ones along the way.  Oh, and a special shout out to all who helped out immensely in Georgia – again, you know who you are!  Your friendship means the world to us!  One last person to thank for my 2012 – that’s a great BIG THANK YOU to my best friend, husband, adventure traveler, and sherpa – Tom.  Not sure what I would do without you.

Sherpa Tom
Sherpa Tom

So what’s on the burner for 2013?  Who knows really … but a sneak peek does involve another return trip to AK, visit with the kids in NY or wherever they land, and wherever else makes sense or my hearts tells me to go.  Life is an adventure that one must live to appreciate.  My favorite saying, which guides me in my life and provides me with much inspiration is:  “Life in not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.  Here’s to 2013 – BRING IT ON!

Hope that you’ve enjoyed a look back at my personal 2012.  I really welcome any and all comments and advice on this blog.  Here’s hoping I can keep this 2013 Resolution – a post a month or so (I give myself permission to “go with the flow”).  I wish you all a year full of life’s wonderful moments, great health, life-altering opportunities, and of course, adventure!  Life is only as good as the effort you put forth into it.

Take off from Beluga Lake, Homer, AK
Take off from Beluga Lake, Homer, AK
Thanks for hanging in as I looked back at 2012.  Now on to 2013!