A Day To Remember ;-)

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

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

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

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Florida Birding

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

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

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Always Expect the Unexpected

Yellowstone NP in the winter is a fabulous place … so vast, so snowy, so quiet.  The freshly fallen snow makes wildlife spotting easier and tracks in the snow provides clues as to what might be where.  Bring in the sun, patchy white clouds, and blue sky, and it all seems so perfect.IMG_0571 2As we leave the wintery roads of Lamar Valley, the scenery beckons me and makes it hard to drive away.  We are off to the West Yellowstone entrance of Yellowstone NP, which is closed to most traffic during the winter, except for the organized snowmobile and snow coach tours.  Numerous years ago, Tom & I engaged in one of the snowmobile tours, but quickly realized that they are not the preferred route for photographers.  Two years ago, I experienced a Yellowstone in Winter photography tour, with Daniel Cox of Natural Exposures.  It was amazing and I highly recommend it for anyone that might be interested.IMG_0572 2This year however, I had arranged a small snow coach to take Tom and I, as well as some friends into the park … in search of the notorious bobcat(s) that had been spotted regularly for about a month, but not for the last week or two before we got there.IMG_0604 2Though Yellowstone, for me, is primarily about the wildlife … it also has some gorgeous landscape views._DSC4063_DSC4055Before long, a lone coyote was spotted along one of the rivers.  We jumped out and began to photograph it as it made its way quickly, stopping to check us out along the way._DSC6287At one point it stopped at something that was somewhat buried in the snow.  After closer observation, we noticed that it was an elk carcass, specifically the head and antlers.  It was a very strange sighting, especially with what appeared to be wires wrapped in its tines.  To this day I wonder what the story was behind that sighting, though it did seem a bit eerie._DSC6382On the lighter side of our sightings, the trumpeter swans were out in force … some in mated pairs, some with juveniles still with them, and some were solo.  All were beautiful.  🙂_DSC6170As were the falls, with the crashing of the waters as it made its way along._DSC4086We had some bald eagle sightings as well, including this one towards the end of our day.  It was finishing off a meal of fresh fish as we caught up with it.  We watched patiently as it devoured it … one piece at a time._DSC6397Suddenly it lifted up and flew off, but not too far.  It was then that I noticed that this bald eagle had been banded.  I researched the internet and found that many years ago, researchers had banded bald eagles in that area, and perhaps this was one of them.  If anyone out there knows more on this, please reach out and/or comment, so that I can learn more.  Thanks!_DSC6405It finally landed in the river, but in a location which was even better for us to photograph it.  I thought that was pretty nice of it to do that for us, don’t you?_DSC6434Well, in case you’re wondering, we never did find that bobcat, though there was reportedly a possible sighting that day.  Of course when we heard the call, off we went to the exact location where it was spotted.  Nada!  Perhaps it was an erroneous report … or it wandered off.  Dang!

What we encountered though was quite remarkable and could never have been expected … never have I seen this before.  We came across an area where we had earlier seen a coyote (one of many sightings that day).  So we slowed down just a bit to check out if we could find it again.

Well, all of a sudden we see not one, but two coyotes together … and close.  It was odd in that they just stood there and didn’t try to run.  That’s when Jen realized and called out “they’re mating … they’re tied”.  Of course, now it made sense … they couldn’t run.  Poor things just stood there, taking turns on who was going to have to look our way.  Once and awhile, they both looked our way.  Such indignant looks too.  LOL.  I know that it doesn’t look like anything, but these two lovebirds were in fact … tied._DSC6495After several minutes and hundreds of collective clicks of the camera later, they “untied” and parted.  The female walked away, followed by the male who sniffed her for a bit, then they had an affectionate moment of nose to nose action and a bit of rubbing.  It was after all, Valentine’s Day.  No joke!_DSC6526Being that we didn’t have any moose sightings, I had to find one on my own.  OK, maybe this was just a moose carving in town.IMG_0606 2When we left West Yellowstone … on our way towards Grand Teton NP … we came across more bighorn sheep rams.  Not before we got our AWD car stuck in an unplowed pull-off (yes, I just had to have that landscape shot … which ironically I never got since we were stuck and all)._DSC6486No matter how many of these guys we come across, I can’t help but stop for more images._DSC6490Finally we had a group of trumpeter swans bid us adieu as we made our way into Idaho._DSC6761So all in all, I learned that when in Yellowstone during the winter … Always EXPECT the UNEXPECTED!

Thanks Jen, Travis, Debby, and Jessica for sharing in our snow coach day in Yellowstone.  We had a blast and were quite entertained.  😉  Good times.

Next Up:  Back to some springtime action in Florida … Sandhill crane-style.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Soaring With Eagles

Taking a break from the polar bears … well pardon the pun, to a “polar” opposite subject … from bears to birds, of Florida, no less.

Am I the only one out there that has difficulty getting the camera in gear after a big photo trip?  Seems like every year after I return from Alaska, I cull and process my images for endless hours.  Combine that task with the holiday events that seem endless as well, once the last quarter of the year arrives and I guess it’s a bit overwhelming.  So this year in early January, I made it a priority to get out and see what my home state had to offer.

This little loggerhead shrike might look all sweet and fluffy, but it’s actually a fierce predator that has been known for executing its unfortunate prey by peircing them on the barb wire that often is readily available in its environment.  I remember one year we found one in the middle of a dirt road that we were driving on, dazed but alive, Tom rescued it from a certain untimely death.  I was a bit concerned that it would use its sharp beak to impale Tom’s hand, but it didn’t as Tom gently placed it in a bushy tree nearby, where its partner came over to it.  What an awesome feeling to know that we (actually Tom) did something good.  Yes, he’s always the one placing the crossing turtle on the side of the road it was traveling to … giving it a hand as well._DSC4199-2Many of our sightings were of Florida’s resident bald eagles, hence the “Soaring with Eagles” blog post title._DSC4215-2We photograph lots of bald eagles in Alaska during our travels, so I’m always quite a bit fascinated by them.  Everyone expects bald eagles in Alaska, or migratory ones in eastern Washington state or other known migratory paths.  Few know that Florida actually has the most bald eagles in the lower 48 states.  On top of that … ours are primarily residents, not just migratory. _DSC4438-2Whenever I’m traveling in my car from south Florida to the north, I can almost always count on spotting on them along the way, to which a “BALDIES!” scream comes out of me.  LOL._DSC4219-2Hard to believe that these iconic birds, our national bird and symbol, were once so endangered and their numbers were so few.  It’s an incredible story about recovery once restrictions and protections are implemented.  It makes the “doubters” of recovery efforts have difficulty defending that stance.  _DSC4366-2The earlier images were all adult bald eagles, which sport that iconic white head and white tail feathers.  The next two images show the bald eagles in their sub-adult phase, clearly lacking that fully white head and fully white tail.  In Florida, if someone tells you that they saw a golden eagle, it was probably a sub-adult baldie.

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I don’t know why, but I always find the sub-adult feathers quite fascinating and beautiful.  Of course, whether fully adult, sub-adult, or even young eaglets, their talons are always amazing and mesmerizing to me._DSC4394-2Probably my favorite thing about bald eagles is their call.  Once you hear it once, you’ll never forget it.  _DSC4266-2Of course, our time in the wilderness wasn’t just about the eagles … but also other birds, such as another favorite of mine, the sandhill cranes.  Flying over in (a sort of) V-formation is a thrill to witness and of course their bugling when in flight, in landing, in take-off, or in dance, sends a big smile across my face._DSC4207-2_DSC4243-2Sightings of eastern phoebe are also common along the way.  So cute, aren’t they?  They are also quite fascinating too.  Did you know that an eastern phoebe sings a perfect song without having to “practice” it?  Also, what was the first bird ever to be banded well over a century ago?  Yep, the eastern phoebe._DSC4392-2Now, how could a day be complete with a “coot convention” sighting?  LOL_DSC4345-2So overall, it was a fun weekend of birding in central Florida and of course, soaring with the eagles.  One more beauty to share._DSC4367-2Hope that everyone enjoyed the blog post.

Next up:  More local birding adventures … from Florida … it’s what’s for winter, after all.

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography