Winter in the Wetlands

Let me paint the scene for you … it’s a beautiful winter day in Florida … the air is cool (by Florida standards) and the birds are getting frisky.  Florida has many wetland areas with quite the variety of birds congregate for the breeding season in the rookeries.  There’s always action of some type going on.

One of my favorite wading birds ever is the snowy egret.  From the time that I first heard them calling out … to witnessing their spunky attitude around others … I was hooked.  So if I know they’re around, I visit with them first.  On this day, this lone snowy egret was flying about as it fished in what was obviously its favorite spot, since it did a great job of chasing all other birds away from that area.DSC_0496With their angelic white feathers, they seem to have every single one in place as they gracefully fly by … and execute the perfect drag of the feet along the surface of the water while fishing.  On this day, the wind was calm, so it was double beauty to me.DSC_0311Speaking of doubles … check out these two cuties.  A pair of pied-billed grebes, sporting breeding fashion, swam nearby … also providing for reflective images.  I guess this would be a quad sighting then, right?  LOLDSC_0525The red-winged blackbirds make their presence known by their song first, then they come over to check us out, with this male showing off the gorgeous red-toned shoulder decorations.  Always a joy to encounter.DSC_0685-EditTrying to be inconspicuous, but discovered anyways, is the black-crowned night heron.  Hard to miss with that fabulous red eye they obtain at maturity.DSC_0466The green heron scouts out the waters edge along the vegetation also looking for dinner.  They are extremely patient hunters and quite beautiful when in full breeding colors, which this one has not yet obtained.DSC_0921-EditWhile some birds are looking to settle down, some are simply migrating through, like this beautiful black & white warbler.  I normally don’t photograph warblers (they’re way too fast for me), this one gave me a chance by being out in the open.DSC_0800-EditAnother fun sighting was the always beautiful downy woodpecker, the smallest of the woodpeckers in North America.DSC_0765However, most of the birds are effectively utilizing the resources of the rookery by gathering up nesting material for their homes where they will take care of their young.  The most elegant nesters of the wetland rookeries is hands down the great blue herons.  They execute their flight patterns with grace and beauty and seem to always return with just the right stick for the lady of the nest.DSC_1827-EditFeathers are amazing at this time of year … like a well conducted orchestra, each does its designed job in flight with precision.DSC_1808-EditWhen the snowy egret aren’t around, the cattle egret take over the feisty behavior on the islands.  Since they usually take the interior real estate of the trees, they get into many confrontations with the other birds, on their way to and from their nests.  Normally seen as “just a white bird” any other time of year, with their breeding plumage and colors, they are quite impressive during breeding season.DSC_1372They are also quite beautiful inflight as they preform their nest building and reinforcement duties as well.DSC_1425How fun they are too.  I mean, look at the attitude exuding from this one?  LOLDSC_1767-Edit-EditOf course, the best dancer of the lot is the great egret.  His dance is so rhythmic and flowing, I don’t see how any female great egret lady can resist his flirtations.  😉DSC_2046-EditYep, he certainly knows how to “work it” for sure.DSC_2024-EditWhile the previous great egret was still searching for his perfect someone, this one was working on keeping his lady happy with new sticks for its nest.DSC_1210-EditYep, I think she approved, as they began to preen each other at the nest.DSC_1178Well, I hope that I provided everyone with a bit of a snapshot of what the Florida wetlands rookeries are like in the winter … full of color, action, displays, and lots of beautiful plumage.

This last parting shot was actually taken by Tom, my hubby and normally my sherpa and wildlife spotter.  Wish that he would take more images as well routinely … I think he does a great job as well.  What do you think?_DSC5330-EditNext Up:  Sunrise photography and a bit more  🙂

© 2017  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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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