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

Revisiting Friends … Burrowing Owls, that is

The burrowing owl is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State Species of Special Concern by Florida’s Endangered & Threatened Species Rule.  They are “highly vulnerable” to becoming a threatened species by loss of habitat and thus in Florida, it’s illegal to harass or harm them, their nests, or their eggs.  I’ve been told that over the past few years, the public, including some photographers, reportedly have taken perhaps a bit too much liberty with them, which resulted in these signs being displayed at most of the burrows, which happen to be in heavily used county parks.  While I applaud the attempt to educate those who might not know better, I think that these signs (which are quite small) might actually encourage people to get close … in order to read these tiny notices. In addition, they tend to flap around in the wind, which also disturbs the owls.   Is it just me or what?DSC_5728So that being said … let’s all enjoy them from afar and know that when an owl bobs its head up and down at you or lets out an alert call when you’re present, you’re obviously disturbing them and need to give them their space.  Again, whether observing or photographing the owls, the goal should be to get them acting naturally.  Enough said.  🙂

Speaking of acting naturally, please note that this owl hasn’t been fed by humans, but rather has retrieved its prey from its hunting (usually at night or before dawn or after dusk) earlier.  They kill and cache it, like other predators do, and as you can see, this frog is covered in sand._DSC9194This owl is quite the hunter too.  It tries to offer the frog to its mate, who shows no sign of interest in taking it._DSC9201So the owl begins to consume it himself._DSC9172_DSC9192Once partially torn into and consumed, the owl tries again to offer it to its mate, but again she’s not interested._DSC9198What’s an owl to do?_DSC9212Is she just playing hard to get?_DSC9205Well, let’s try a lizard … maybe that will do it.  But no, she didn’t want that either!_DSC9218Eventually, after several visits to the burrow, this years baby owls start to appear.  Usually when I first see them, they still are in that “hair plug” stage, but these guys seem to be a few weeks out of that stage.DSC_5699Even at a young age, they learn to watch the skies overhead.DSC_5725At first, I just saw one young owl, which made me flash back to that hawk Tom & I had seen a few weeks ago.  But then a second appeared.DSC_5730There’s always one that’s more curious and brave than the other.  LOLDSC_5734Eventually, they both begin to feel comfortable with my presence and the animation begins.  🙂DSC_5769I just adore the young owlets and their fluffy belly feathers and those downy looking “petticoats” are priceless.DSC_5821The sun highlights their eyes, which are so big and focused on their surroundings.  DSC_5944DSC_6012At one point, 3 owlets appeared, which makes it more fun due to the interaction between them.  This owlet decided to strike a submissive pose when playing with the others.  So darned cute!DSC_6134More overhead scanning … a never-ending activity … for those owls and owlets that want to increase their odds of survival.DSC_6154More playing … a favorite part of their day I’m sure … as well as for the observers.DSC_6316Well, go to go today, but not before I say goodbye to these 3 cuties.  As you can tell, they all have their personalities, appearances, and unique traits.  However, they are all precious.  I wish them well.  As Arnold says … “I’ll be back”.  DSC_5973

Next up:  Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

© 2016  TNWA Photography

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

All Eyes on the Burrowing Owls

For many years now, I’ve been heading out to hang out with the burrowing owls and of course, take a few images along the way.  🙂  In all honesty though, often I would just go and sit nearby them and observe them being owls … and laugh at their silly antics and expressions.  In 2016, it was no different.  Well, except for one thing.  When I arrived, I expected to see perhaps a few very young owlets.  However I was greeted by this ….

_DSC1267So the owl on the right was as full grown as the one on the left, though still had some of those “juvenile or sub-adult” feathers.  What?  This couldn’t possibly be a 2016 baby … it was too big already.  Then I remembered a very small owlet last year who possessed these lighter brown eyes.  It was the last born of his siblings and hence was quite tiny compared to the others.  Could this still be him (or her)?  Am I witnessing a “failure to launch” owlet?  The 2 parents at that burrow were definitely the same ones from last year.  One with yellow eyes, the other with brown eyes._DSC1264I was so intrigued by this finding, that I could barely pick up the camera to capture images!_DSC1289Its size was about the same as the parents, but its behavior was still playful.  As hard as I tried to get them to explain what was going on … they just stared._DSC1314_DSC1394Other owls were paired up in their burrows, as they kept a watchful eye out for overhead predators.  _DSC1474Over the first few weeks that I visited, I would find new burrows springing up that hadn’t been there in years past._DSC3186Obviously, by the look of things, “groundbreaking” and “renovating” was still quite actively going on._DSC3192This poor owl looks like it has had enough already of the flying sand being tossed about them._DSC3204_DSC3235As i mentioned earlier, these owls spend a lot of time scouting out the skies above.  They are totally fascinated by flying insects, resident parrots, flying planes, helicopters, blimps, and even balloons hold their attention for quite some time.  So cute to watch as they track the action.  Of course, they spend most of their time on the lookout for predators.  Not too far away is a family of red-tailed hawks and of course, red-shouldered hawks are always a threat.  One particular morning, Tom & I were at one of the burrows and a hawk flew right into the tree closest to the burrow we were at.  I was fearful that we would watch carnage, though once the hawks are anywhere near, those owls get into their burrows faster than you can imagine!  _DSC3139These adorable burrowing owls are predators themselves though and no frog, lizard, caterpillar or other delicacy is safe from being served up on their buffet line._DSC4927While these owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, they often recover their cache and dine during the daytime.  As you can see, this unfortunate frog is quite covered in sand after being retrieved from nearby._DSC4929It’s amazing to watch the dexterity the owls possess in handling their catch._DSC4934Sometimes they tore into them right away, other times they seemed to just toy with them a bit.  Especially now, during breeding season, they are an important part of the daily routine.  This one seems quite pleased with its catch, don’t you think?_DSC4942After posing so nicely for the camera, he took it over to the female at the burrow and offered it up to her.  In this case, she gladly accepted.  _DSC4945She then paraded around quite a bit with it, finally stashing it into the burrow for later consumption._DSC4950_DSC5001I always love it when they fly into the nearby trees for a shady break from the hot sandy burrows.  _DSC5020Getting back to my possible “Failure to launch” owl, a few weeks after my first visit, I noticed that it was no longer at its original burrow.  Oh no, I hoped that nothing had happened to it.  I waited patiently for it to emerge, but to no avail.  Then as I scanned the landscape from a low perspective, I caught a glimpse of yet another freshly dug burrow, not far away.  I went over to investigate and sure enough, there it was, with another owl.  Did it finally launch?  I mean … 3 was definitely a crowd, as they say.  I noticed that it also had tufts of feathers missing on front of its neck and a would under its eye.  Maybe the parents had to make it leave or maybe it had a close call with a predator.  Unfortunately, I will never know.  However, I was happy to see it._DSC5118Such a darn cutie with those unusual browner eyes.  This year, I noticed just a few of them with brown eyes, while last year there were several.  One even had one yellow eye and a brown eye!  Now that I mention it, I haven’t seen that one this year, but I do know that other owls have taken over that particular burrow._DSC5173I just love it when they look up a bit from the burrow and the light catches their eyes perfectly and really lights them up.  So, do you wonder why this one is looking so bright eyed and wide-eyed?_DSC5234Incoming burrowing owl! … OK, maybe not the reason for that hypnotic stare.  This owl was hysterical though in the way that its behavior was so erratic and quick.  It literally ran out from the burrow about 30 feet or so, surveyed the area left and right, turned abruptly around, and jumped!  Then it proceeded to land and run frantically the rest of the way back to the burrow.  _DSC5274Such silly owls they are … always displaying silly antics and even more silly expressions … which leave me in stitches on more than one occasion … each visit that is.  🙂_DSC5222

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the burrowing owls so far.  Rest assured, there will be more coming up in a few weeks.

Next up:  More images and stories from the rookeries.  Stay tuned.

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Life In The Rookeries

Sure south Florida gets heat and humidity most of the year, except for the occasional cold front during the winter months.  We have winter crowds that are sometimes maddening.  However, we DO have some amazing bird activity going on in the winter/spring season.

Our local rookeries of the wetlands offer the visitor a chance to be educated on courtship behaviors, mating rituals, nest building, and how birds feed and take care of their young.  I love to visit the rookeries often and watch as they progress with each of these stages.  Most times, it’s quite fascinating … though sometimes it’s a bit cruel.  Such is nature.

One of the birds which calls this place home is the great blue heron.  One of the largest birds you find in the nests located in the trees on islands surrounded by water.  They will generally raise 2-3 young, which seem to grow up quickly.  More on that later.
_DSC3902A frequent visitor, quite beautiful especially during the breeding season is the glossy ibis.  As opposed to the regular ibis, this one offers blackish feathers which in the sunlight shine with iridescence and colors._DSC3585We also have pied grebes, which are much smaller than the grebes out west.  During the breeding season, they can be quite striking, though they are always adorable._DSC3671The stealth-like least bittern can be found by the keen observer.  It’s amazing how well they can camouflage themselves in the reeds they live in.  Once in a while, one can be spotted flying in or out of the reeds or making their way from one grouping of reeds to another.  It’s always a special sighting when you’re lucky to see one._DSC3973Courtship displays abound and no bird does it more spectacularly than the great egret.  It’s breeding season plumage is fabulous, as is its dance of attraction.  Hard to see how any female can resist._DSC4321Always the sweethearts of the rookeries are the wood storks.  Easy to see how they get their name, these prehistoric looking storks always seem to be smiling and can be heard when mating from almost anywhere nearby.  They clank their beaks frantically and it sounds like some major damage is being done.  LOL.  These two were dubbed by me to be the lovebirds of Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  🙂_DSC3707Speaking of prehistoric-looking, how about these younger great blue heron siblings?  I just love their “do”… OK, tell me that they don’t look related somehow to Don King?  At least in reference to their hairdo of course.  LOL_DSC3854As I said before, they grow quite fast.  Often left alone while the parents go out for food … EVERBODY knows when the parents return for these two go frantically after them, grabbing their beaks and being quite obnoxious._DSC3881The common morhen, an often overlooked bird, gets at least some attention when their young are born.  I mean, look at those bald-headed, fuzzball little cuties!_DSC3945An invasive species to Florida, though one that is really taking over quickly, is the swamp hen.  Looking like a duller version of a purple gallinule, they still do have cute little ones.  Not everyone is happy with their presence here.  As many other invasives have done, they interfere with the natural food supply and ecosystem._DSC4047Here one of the parents is seen as it retrieves food for its mate and young.  _DSC4132Probably one of the funkiest young ones are the anhinga babies._DSC4194It’s hard to believe that the woodstorks were once threatened birds, but of recent years, they have made an amazing recovery.  Their young are also adorable, with their identifiable long beaks and relatively bald heads.  They grow up amazingly fast as well._DSC4177OK ladies, any takers for this very handsome great egret?  This dance goes on for hours and hours.  Almost makes you feel sorry for the poor guy._DSC4266So let’s hear it for the rookery birds of south Florida.  They sure put on quite the show._DSC3956Next up:  More sandhill cranes as they grow up a bit  🙂

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

More From the Matanzas Tern Colony

In mid-June, I had an itch to return back to the least tern nests of St. Augustine Beach.  So my childhood friend, Kim, and I drove up to Jacksonville to also visit my daughter for the night.  In the morning, we left for the colony.  When we arrived, it was at first much like earlier … lots of least terns bringing in, and flying around with, fish intended for the females.

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As per last week, sometimes the female still didn’t take the male up on his offer.

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“Wait … you forgot to take the fish!”!  LOL

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It wasn’t just the least terns that were calling the beach home, the Wilson’s plover also had nests and young ones in the roped off nesting areas as well.

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I did finally get to see a few of the least tern chicks as well, though they were mainly covered up or huddled next to one of the parents.

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Again, it was a bit scary when both of the parents would fly off and leave the young chick exposed.

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While some of the baby birds were out in the open, sometimes the parents strategically placed their young one in the grasses, which provided for a bit of protection for the little ones.

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During breaks in all of the action, some least tern preening was always on tap.

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When all else failed, there was a never-ending supply of males flying around with fish.  When the females would turn them down, sometimes they would just land nearby and devour it themselves.

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It’s my hope that the young ones survived their early days, when they were very vulnerable to predators and mother nature in general.

Wanted to squeeze in another trip to see them, but I had to get on the road with Tom for his cycling competitions.

Want more burrowing owls?  Well, stay tuned.   🙂

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Sunrise & Terns

I have always wanted to photograph the least terns as they nest and raise their young on the beaches in Florida.  My good friend Jess knew this so she promised to keep me in the loop when the time was right to do just that.  At the end of May, I was visiting our home in Gainesville and got up super early to meet her over in St. Augustine for not only the least terns, but early enough to try out a sunrise as well.

While I wasn’t sure what kind of sunrise we were going to get, being that the skies were threatening and rain was most definitely in the forecast, we figured that we would try anyway.  At first, the skies didn’t want to cooperate with the sunrise colors, but before long it got pretty good.

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I just love the sand dunes on the beaches in NE Florida … reminds me of my days at UF and the many weekends spent at the beaches of St. Augustine as well.

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Such a beautiful beach, complete with a bit of a rocky shoreline in certain places.  I could have stayed here longer, but that wasn’t why we were up there.  Our quest was to see the terns, so off we went.

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As excited as we were to photograph the least terns, they were quite excited seeing us as well.  OK, not quite the same thing, but we quickly settled down into our shooting spot and the birds soon calmed down knowing that we were not a threat to them nor their nests.

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There was a lot of fish offering to the female going on … and to the male’s dismay, not much taking of the fish.  There wouldn’t be much “hanky panky” going on this morning.  Perhaps we were a bit early still.

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Many of the least tern pairs were sitting on eggs … we could tell because they were fidgeting around when protecting them from the elements – heat especially, but also from the various predators whom might want to take their eggs.

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Once in a while, even though tending to the guarding of the eggs, they would get spooked and momentarily fly away.  I would always get so nervous when they did.

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Perhaps one of the most fascinating behavioral displays that I witnessed was their reaction to the resident ghost crabs in the area.  While many of the least terns were fighting amongst each other (over nest sites, a stray male offering a fish to the wrong female, some other mated pair getting too close, or a photographer moving too close or quickly), they sure knew how to unite for the cause when encountered with a potential threat to the entire colony.  Enter the ghost crab….

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Wings immediately go up in defense by the terns, as they call out incessantly to each other and I imagine scream at the crab as it makes its way.  Support comes in as they tag team against the crab, who in turn tries to defend itself as well.

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They take turns … on the ground and in the air.  LOL

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I was surprised at just how close that they get to the crab, who possesses some pinchers that I’m sure could inflict some pain.

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Every once in a while, one of the terns would get startled by the crab and would try to quickly retreat by flying away.  It’s quite entertaining to watch.

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But eventually the crab would retreat or make its way through the mine field of terns – all ready to defend their turf.  Funny because the terns are just part-time residents of the beaches, while the crab is residential to the area.  🙂

In the meanwhile, more fish are flown in to the available females, and more rejections follow.

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I visited the colony twice … once on this day and again a few weeks later.  More images will follow in the next blog post, so stay tuned!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Birds, New Learnings, New Friends

At the Alligator Farm, we spent 4 days shooting primarily the birds of the rookery as they went about all of the activities surrounding the breeding season.  I’m talking full days too – from 7:00AM until sometimes 8:00PM.  Of course, being that this was a photography workshop, we got to go inside the classrooms for educational components as well.  Yep, right in the heat of the day thankfully!

Each day, I tried to build upon the skills and tidbits that I had picked up from the previous days.  Let’s see how I’m doing …. 😉

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The great white egrets were a thrill to photograph, especially since many of them had their babies.  I was a bit taken back by some of the baby birds and the treatment of their nest mates, I’ve got to admit it.  I know that it’s natures way and it’s all about survival of the fittest, but it’s still a bit sad for me to watch.

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Not all of the birds had already nested, complete with eggs or babies.  Some were still strutting their stuff, dancing away, advertising for a willing mate.  LOL.  I found that I could watch them forever in their rhythmic dance, so purposeful and precise, though I found myself really wanting this poor guy to get taken up on his offer.

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This guy too!

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As I mentioned, many of the mated pairs already were sitting on eggs, as this heron was kind enough to display for us (as long as we were quick), before they returned to sitting on them again.

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The cattle egret were also nesting, though I don’t recall seeing any of their babies yet.  Perhaps I just missed them because there were just so many birds!

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The wood storks are quite huge, yet still very graceful as they navigated the skies, trees, and other birds, while going about their daily activities.

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It was never-ending work too.

Then there was this image, where perhaps a dozen roseate spoonbills were all lined up at the top of the trees, some of which were doing courtship maneuvers of their own.  I found them so beautiful against that blue sky.

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Many of the photographers and visitors were dodging bird poop … quite comical actually, though I was lucky enough to not be one of those christened.  Maybe if I had it wouldn’t have been so amusing.  🙂  It wasn’t just the humans though … many of the birds were targets as well.  Yes, it was tight quarters in the rookery.  Guess this one will be taking a bath soon.

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These treetop extension shots, showing off the undercarriage of the spoonbills wings, were probably some of my favorite shots.  So very graceful and quite beautiful … like pink ballerinas.

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Of course, this rookery isn’t called “Bird Farm”, but rather the Alligator Farm, so the gators were the real stars to most visitors.  They performed as well, as the males would get excited every now and then and let out their bellow sound, sink a bit into the water, and make the water surrounding them vibrate and dance.  It’s quite fascinating to see and hear!

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As the day was nearing its end, the sun would set and cast the most wonderful golden light.

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Before we said our goodbyes, that light turned a fiery orange-red and by chance, this guy graced us with his dance yet one more time.

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It was a fascinating workshop (Shoot the Light FL Bird Tech Series) with great instructors who were more than willing to assist you in your learning and shooting.  Thanks so much to Chas Glatzer for the instruction and inspiration, and to Michael and Dave for their clarification and assistance in the field.  Thanks also to my classmates, many of which are my new friends as well.  I had a blast!  🙂

Next Up:  “Hooooo” wants to spend time with some more owls?

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

Spring Is In The Air ~~~

Spring means many different things to many different people, but to the birds it’s often a time to start putting on the beautiful colors, woo their mate, have a “little fun” along the way, build their nest, attend to their eggs, and ultimately raise their young.

This spring, I spent some time photographing the birds of Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, FL.  In the beginning, it was all about the variety of birds, all beginning to sport their breeding colors and plumage … in that attempt of mating a suitable mate … or getting them “in the mood”.  🙂
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One of the birds that seems to undergo quite a dramatic change in colors and feathers is the cattle egret.  In non-breeding colors, it’s often an overlooked bird … usually just hanging out around livestock or wherever.  Enter spring, and it becomes quite the impressive suitor.

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Of course, the great white egrets are also quite showy … from their distinctive facial color changes to that amazing plumage … wispy feathers and all.

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Not only that, but it sure can “dance”!  You know, those moves that simply scream “look at me!”  So persistent too.

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Part of attracting their mate involves the building of a solid nest for them to raise their young and that nest building seems to go on and on … much to the fascination and delight of those there to photograph it.

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Theirs is a true love story … such bonding, caring, sharing, and celebration.  Aren’t they just the cutest couple?  LOL

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Of course, there’s more to it than just building a nest and doing the deed.  Now that hard part comes when they work together tending to each other, the nest, and the eggs.

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Attention to every little detail is always noted too.  Look at those amazingly beautiful plumes.  I’m quite fascinated by them.

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Then there were the least terns, the smallest of the North American terns in size, but not in their courtship ritual this time of year.  The offering of the fish is a necessary step in the process, because only when the female finally accepts it, will she be indicating that the courtship may proceed to the next level.  Terns fly around at lightning speed and their aerial dives are legendary.

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In some areas they nest on the sandy beaches, but at Wako, most of their courtship takes place on a hot tin roof!

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Enter the snowy egret (glub glub, walla walla) … you can literally hear him long before you can even see him.  These guys have such fluffy plumage which seems to get even crazier when they get excited.  They also do quite the impressive dance of love.

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They also never sit still for any length of time, darting from tree to tree, almost seemingly looking to stir up trouble or controversy at best.  LOL

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It’s not all peace, love, and happiness either.  Some species get a bit territorial during the spring season and little fights break out, as illustrated by these moorhens.

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Yes, it was totally fun watching nature unfold, thus ensuring the next generation of these wonderful birds of Wakodahatchee.

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More to come in the next blog, as the new arrivals begin to pop up everywhere.

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

The Season of Love

What better topic to highlight for this particular blog post … with Valentine’s Day fast approaching us.  🙂

There’s a lot we humans can learn about courtship, romance, and appreciating the object of our affection … and working on making that love last throughout the years.

It all starts so sudden – as the animals go about their everyday rituals – all very routine … then one day something has changed.  There’s an awareness of an attraction to another one of its kind.

That moment of discovery for these 2 juvenile moose - Denali National Park, Alaska

That moment of discovery for these 2 juvenile moose – Denali National Park, Alaska

For humans, this is usually the point where the women start making themselves more beautiful by actively prepping themselves for the occasion  :-).  However, in the animal world, nature takes care of that for us and in a strange role reversal, the males are the ones getting all decked out.

Anhinga in mating colors - Everglades National Park, Florida

Anhinga in mating colors – Everglades National Park, Florida

Even the cattle egret get in on the act - Joe Overstreet Landing, Lake Kissimmee, Florida

Even the cattle egret get in on the act – Joe Overstreet Landing, Lake Kissimmee, Florida

Then the courtship rituals begin … so natural, predictable, and beautifully executed.

A shout out to all the single ladies by this handsome green heron - Everglades National Park, Florida

A shout out to all the single ladies by this handsome green heron – Everglades National Park, Florida

Then the seductive dance begins as the green heron shows off for the female - Everglades National Park, Florida

Then the seductive dance begins as the green heron shows off for the female – Everglades National Park, Florida

He can hardly contain his excitement, as he gets all fluffed up in anticipation - Everglades National Park, Florida

He can hardly contain his excitement, as he gets all fluffed up in anticipation – Everglades National Park, Florida

Some show off for the females attention by swooning and dancing, others shake their tail feathers in an attempt to say … Hey, look at me! … Choose me!

Great white egret proudly displaying its plumage to all - Gatorland, Orlando, Florida

Great white egret proudly displaying its plumage to all – Gatorland, Orlando, Florida

"I'm in the mood for love" proclaims this gorgeous egret - Gatorland, Orlando, Florida

“I’m in the mood for love” proclaims this gorgeous egret – Gatorland, Orlando, Florida

Some simply try to mesmerize their potential mate in a dazzling display of magnificent beauty and magnitude.

Peacock proudly displays what his mama gave him - Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, Florida

Peacock proudly displays what his mama gave him – Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, Florida

Ultimately, that moment of truth arrives – will she, or will she not?  The female finally decides if the male is worthy of her time and affection.  Sorry, guys, but it is the female in nature that decides.  🙂

As she accepts his offer of courtship, then the real romance begins for this pair of terns - Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, Florida

As she accepts his offer of courtship, then the real romance begins for this pair of terns – Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, Florida

She accepted!  She loves me!  Makes a boy feel so proud!

Male great blue egret struts his stuff proudly - Viera Wetlands, Viera, Florida

Male great blue egret struts his stuff proudly – Viera Wetlands, Viera, Florida

They then begin building a life together … as their day revolves around their newfound love, and the result of it  🙂

Proud great blue heron couple preparing for their new family - Viera Wetlands, Viera, Florida

Proud great blue heron couple preparing for their new family – Viera Wetlands, Viera, Florida

Bald eagle returns to the nest with an offering of another stick to make their nest foundation a solid one - Kenansville, Florida

Bald eagle returns to the nest with an offering of another stick to make their nest foundation a solid one – Kenansville, Florida

Of course, other animals show their playfulness at this time in their lives as well, as they undergo their own version of discovery, courtship, and romance as well.

Sub-adult coastal brown bears discover each other - Katmai National Park, Alaska

Sub-adult coastal brown bears discover each other – Katmai National Park, Alaska

They begin to play as part of their courtship - Katmai National Park, Alaska

They begin to play as part of their courtship – Katmai National Park, Alaska

Ultimately, it gets a bit more serious, of course, after the female consents to the union

Ultimately, it gets a bit more serious, of course, after the female consents to the union – Katmai National Park, Alaska

Wildlife tends to appreciate and nurture the formed union by expressing attentiveness and teamwork cooperation in life.

"Let me whisper sweet nothings in your ear" - actually this red fox has just brought dinner home for its mate, which they will shortly take home to their den - Denali National Park, Alaska

“Let me whisper sweet nothings in your ear” – actually this red fox has just brought dinner home for its mate, which they will shortly take home to their den – Denali National Park, Alaska

Of course, in all species of wildlife, and even humans, the hardest part of love is finding a way to make it last.  Now some wildlife species mate for life, some just for a season, and some just for the moment.  Some species will even mate several different partners in a breeding season … OK, we won’t go into the commonalities of humans at this point … this season of love should be full of fun and playfulness …

Coastal brown bear feeling playful and joyous rolling around in the lush green grasses of Katmai National park, Alaska

Coastal brown bear feeling playful and joyous rolling around in the lush green grasses of Katmai National park, Alaska

… and defending one’s turf …

Barred owl couple stands untied in their position - Dinner Island Ranch WMA, Hendry County, Florida

Barred owl couple stands untied in their position – Dinner Island Ranch WMA, Hendry County, Florida

Burrowing owl protects its burrow from other owls or predators - Brian Piccolo Park, Cooper City, Florida

Burrowing owl protects its burrow from other owls or predators – Brian Piccolo Park, Cooper City, Florida

… but overall should leave you feeling on top of the world … flying high!

Bee Couple flying high over the Balloon Fiesta Park at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Bee Couple flying high over the Balloon Fiesta Park at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico

So, there you have it … take that chance, open your mind and your heart – to someone or something.  Life is what you make it.

Tom readies for a tandem paraglide jump - a leap of faith, if you will :-) - Alyeska Resort, Girdwood, Alaska

Tom readies for a tandem paraglide jump – a leap of faith, if you will 🙂 – Alyeska Resort, Girdwood, Alaska

Whoa ... what a feeling!

Whoa … what a feeling!

Don't ever look at life in just one way ... use your imagination.

Don’t ever look at life in just one way … use your imagination.

But most of all … appreciate what you have!  Take cues from the nature which surrounds us.

- Letchworth State Park, New York

– Letchworth State Park, New York

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY everyone!!!