Whole Lot Of Babies Going On

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

Next Up:  Back in Colorado

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

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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

Spring Transformations

Florida has many natural rookeries and they get quite active in the spring for the breeding season.  Generally speaking, I spend several months visiting them on a regular basis and it’s amazing to watch their colors emerge, their courtship dances, their cooperative nest building, and raising of their young.

The tri-colored heron undergoes quite the transformation with regards to their breeding plumage.
_DSC4346Talk about having a bit of spunk ….  🙂_DSC4766Their young are quite silly looking too … but so ugly, they’re cute.DSC_0425Probably the most prolific of all of the birds breeding in the rookery are the wood storks.  Funny, but not that long ago they were considered to be somewhat threatened as a species, however, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage now._DSC4796_DSC4369As the babies grow older, they get larger quite fast as well._DSC4615_DSC4635Such white fluff balls, they are also so adorable, with their big beaks.  Only when they’re fully grown will they get their trademark wood-like neck and hairless head and dark beak. I have always been fascinated by wood storks.DSC_0063Cattle egret, any other season, are often referred to as “white birds”, but during breeding season, their turn so beautiful … and colorful too._DSC4502Some young birds get fed scraps of food into their nest or fed directly from their parents piece by piece.  Others, like the anhinga, feed their young partially digested food.  As often as I have seen this, it never ceases to amaze me._DSC4527Great blue heron chicks grow into little “mini-me”s.  Love their crazy looking hair.  LOL_DSC4834These sibling are quite animated with each other and also quite aggressive with the parent that comes back to feed them._DSC4788Though I never got to see the chicks from the little blue herons hatch, it was exciting to see them mating, nest building, and tending to their eggs._DSC4696Swamphen are an invasive species, but nonetheless have been increasing in numbers in recent years.  This year I was able to see them raise a few chicks.DSC_0206DSC_0368Black-necked stilts are amazingly beautiful birds.  In breeding plumage they get very red eyes and legs as well.  Courtship and mating are fascinating to observe._DSC4720_DSC4739After mating, the male will drape his wing over the female and they cross bills.  Is that not amazing?  Such rituals … so sweet._DSC4745They together build a nest in the water and when the eggs are laid, they take turns sitting on them, turning them frequently.DSC_0563Yes, the rookery is always a fun and interesting place to spend time.  You never know that you’re going to get.  Though sometimes nature can be tough, when it’s going well, it sure is beautiful to observe and of course, photograph.  🙂DSC_0610

Next up:  Some old friends return … eastern screech owls  🙂

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Sandhill Crane Colts & More

Sandhill cranes, their young colts, and the sanctuary wetlands were a favorite subject for me to photograph earlier this year.  While there were many different species of birds transitioning through the area, my all-time favorite had to be the sandhill cranes.

Each time, I would arrive before sunrise and watch the first emerging into the wetlands … both colts in tow, sticking close to both of their parents._DSC2288-2Most days it continued to be a struggle for the young colts to get through the mucky muddy waters, but gosh darned, didn’t they just look so cute all wet and mucky?  LOL
_DSC2452-2I have always gravitated towards textures, especially in an animals fur, so these colts made it fun to photograph them._DSC2514-2Another feature of these birds that always fascinates me is the enormity of those feet that they possess!  Often they get them tangled up in the roots and grasses along the landscape and they would topple over.  No worries, they always would bounce back up and continue on.

Of course, their ability to just fall asleep anywhere and in any position was quite remarkable.  By the way, this image also gives a great illustration of those feet!!_DSC2610-2Mom and dad would continue to forage for food, not just for themselves, but also for their young.  Everyday they seemed to get better at accepting the food and improved the number of “dropsies”, as they continued to thrive._DSC2626-2Now at the wetlands, there were more than just sandhill cranes who frequented or called the sanctuary home.  Always flying around and quite vocal were the red-winged blackbirds.  This guy was quite skilled in grabbing dragonflies on the go._DSC2792-2The white pelicans would gather in the waters as well.  Sometimes just a few … sometimes hundreds.  Always fascinating to watch them depart, fly overhead, or come in for a landing._DSC2856-2Perhaps though the most entertaining of all, and quite vocal as well, were the snowy egrets.  Such boisterous birds, they always seemed ready and willing to start a confrontation with whatever happened to be nearby or looking at it.  LOL.  Never a dull moment!  Such beautiful and graceful birds too._DSC3482-2_DSC3511-2The black-necked stilts congregated here in pretty good numbers as well, though they never seemed to want to nest there.  Such beautiful and dainty looking birds, I’m always fascinated by them._DSC3529-2But of course, the real draw for me to this area was the sandhill cranes.  Such amazing and patient parents these cranes are too.  It’s like the endless buffet line of tasty morsels all being served up by the parents, who did their best to evenly distribute the “wealth” of food._DSC3016-2Whenever the colts seemed satiated, they would tend to find each other and interact.  I can only imagine what the conversation is about._DSC1537-2In the midst of it all, one of them happens to notice that mom has laid down on the grass and off they run to join her.  Of course, that means climbing into her wings for a nap.  This little colt looks like its figuring out where the other colt went and if there was any space left for him._DSC1580-2Finding a great spot to bury itself in, it begins its attempt._DSC1590-2Success achieved by both of the colts and off to a nice warm and dry siesta they go.  Funny how by just looking at this crane, you have no idea that there’s a baby or two settled into and underneath its wings._DSC1616-2Being colts they are obviously curios about what’s going on around them, so they both take a peek to investigate.  As you can see, as they’ve grown, there’s not a whole lot of room under there anymore._DSC1807-2They settle in again, that is until mom decided siesta is over and she abruptly stands up.  It’s quite fascinating to watch as they two colts come tumbling down._DSC1827-2As they do they clumsily fall all over each other … and try not to get stepped on by moms long legs.  I think that I heard one of them say “get off of me, bro” … j/k of course.  🙂_DSC1828-2More feeding ensues and this little colts set a huge worm!  Funny too how once they get a good hold of it, they slurp it down like spaghetti.  🙂_DSC1952-2Much like photographing the burrowing owls, these colts have their own repertoire of silly antics and poses.  I have to laugh at this one and secretly get upset at its flexibility.  I think it’s doing some type of “colt yoga”.  LOL_DSC2985-2Yes the two colts have learned to get along and take turns with the delicacies being served up._DSC2120-2They do however lose a bit of interest as mom does her version of an ostrich … boy, she really digs deep for those worms._DSC2147-2One of the most beautiful sights (other than when they perform “the dance”) is when the adults begin to preen themselves._DSC2196-2More interactions continue for these colts, as the younger one (almost always the instigator) issues a call to action!_DSC2661-2Soon its older sibling comes to its side and is greeted by the younger one grabbing onto its beak.  Over time, they really learned to love and watch over each other.  So very endearing to observe._DSC2692-2Can you guess which one was a day older?  It’s amazing to me to see the difference that just one day older makes._DSC2725-2The last day that I visited with them, they sure had grown up and were roaming large areas of landscape and were difficult to find.  As you can see, they still were developing their wings but were well on their way._DSC3567-2What used to be colts that you could barely see in the grasses were now getting bigger and stronger and starting to do a lot of foraging on their own._DSC3560-2Of course, they were still quite close.  Not sure what ever happened to them, but I was quite thankful for spending the time that I did together with them.  They were precious.  Can’t wait until next year!_DSC3550-2Hope that everyone enjoyed the sandhill cranes as much as I did.

Next Up:  Who wants some burrowing owls?

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com