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

Lending Nature A Hand

One late afternoon, one of my neighbors called Tom & I and asked us to come over.  They told us that they found a baby bird of some type and didn’t know what to do with it or how to care for it.  So we ventured over and I couldn’t believe what they showed us…..

There it was … the cutest little baby owl – an eastern screech owl to be exact.  I was so excited and remembered how 2 years ago, we had a pair of owls raise 3 babies in our backyard.  Though I had continued to see them over the last 2 years, they didn’t nest in our yard this year or last.  This little guy made my heart melt and I immediately called my friend Amy, who is a falconer and had just got an eastern screech owl of her own for advice.  Tom immediately looked around for where the nest might have been and noticed a tree cavity not far from where it was found.  He gently returned the young owlet and we kept watch on it to see if the parents would return.  (Note: the image below is not my image).FullSizeRender-1Before long, there they were … mom and dad.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw them too.  They were the same owls (no doubt about it) that raised their young with us.  I was ecstatic to say the least._DSC9055Over the few weeks or so, I visited often, from another neighbors yard who had a better view of the cavity.  Using a long lens, and often teleconverters too, I photographed both the parents and the baby.  At first, the young owlet seemed to be lost (size-wise) in the cavity._DSC9071Mom is a beautiful gray morph and she was sleeping in the cavity when Tom first reunited the owlet with her.  I guess that it must have climbed on the adult and fell out of the nest.
_DSC9108Dad is the red morph and he was almost always nearby._DSC9120The young owlet would often peek out of the cavity.
_DSC9095Mom, and Dad also, was quite accepting of my presence and I always gave them no reason to be alarmed.  Part of me wondered if they knew that we played a role in helping out their baby.  Though I’m sure they would have taken care of it otherwise, it would have been vulnerable to the many cats in the neighborhood._DSC9289Before long, the baby grew up and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before it would leave the nest.  _DSC9280It was so cool to find them everyday standing guard over their baby.  Such dedicated parents.  _DSC9254This was the last shot that I took of the owlet before it fledged.  I was so happy that it survived and hoped that it would survive being out of its nest as well.  How cool was all of that?  I’m so glad that my neighbors found it and knew to call us to assist in coming up with a plan of action to help it.  Glad to help.  Happy ending too.  🙂
_DSC9327Update:  The last of these images was taken in mid-May.  The cavity nest that the owls were using to raise their young was destroyed in a summer storm, though the young owl had already abandoned it.  We weren’t sure what happened with the owls.  However, the other night, Tom saw one of the owls fly by him.  When he called me to come see it, two more joined the first.  Though it was dark, we can only assume that it was this family.  So good to know that they were well and that the “baby” was out hunting with them.  🙂

Next up:  Osprey overload  🙂

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

If You Build It…They Will Come :-)

I think that in 2012, Tom build 2 owl boxes for me and we placed them strategically in our backyard … not too far from our giant mango tree and as far from our house as logistically possible, trying to provide an optimal location for owls or anything else that might want to occupy it.  Twice in the next year and one-half, we had honey bees call it home, which was a thrill in itself, seeing how they are so threatened.  Both times we called a local beekeeper who gladly came by to take down the boxes and harvest the honey and preserve the colony.  Quite interesting to watch, as there’s quite the science behind the entire process.  Felt good about it too.  🙂  Though we had built the boxes to attract owls, we hadn’t had any takers yet.

That all changed in January 2014.  Tom was away on a snowboarding trip and I was bringing the recycles and trash out to the alley behind our house.  As I returned to the deck out back, I sensed I was being watched.  For some strange reason, I took a look at the owl boxes…. nothing in the first one … and I didn’t think anything in the 2nd either.  But for some strange reason, I went in and grabbed the binoculars just to be sure.  Well, to my amazement, as I peered, I saw a set of big eyes looking back at me … OWL eyes.

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I might as well have seen a ghost, as I was SO excited and I checked my judgement to be sure I was seeing, what I was seeing.  You get the picture, right?

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I wasn’t crazy and within 2 days, I noticed that we had 2 owls, eastern screech owls to be exact, each occupying one of the owl boxes.  For the next 4 months, we observed them daily.  The female was a gorgeous red morph, while the male was gray.  Both were pure eye candy to me and I felt like an “owl whisperer” before long.  LOL.   One day, we were curious about their behavior, as the dad seemed to be the only one leaving the box for any extended period of time.  So, we bought a painters pole and attached a HD Contour (like a Go Pro) with a red lens covering a tiny light.  To our surprise, there were 3 tiny owlets inside!  (OK, this is not a great shot, but the best I could do from the video)

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We would find the female taking breaks in the mango tree, more frequently as the trio grew in size.

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One day, we noticed that the owlets were no longer in the box and sure enough, we found 2 of them far up in the tree.  Looking down at us I delighted in knowing that they were now big enough to fledge, at least from the box.  It was our first time seeing each other too!

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Soon they were gone from our tree, but neighbors reported seeing at least 3-4 of the owls in their yards and on their power lines at dusk and early evenings.  Once in June, I actually heard them calling out and I reasoned that they were telling me that they were fine and still around.  🙂

In late December 2014, we began hearing them calling out at night … more and more.  Before long we noticed the female returned and we got excited with the thought that we would have our guests back … and hopefully some babies again.

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We’re all but positive that they mated and the male was spotted with the female for another 4-6 weeks.

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Their behavior was quite predictable, as they would emerge from the box when the sun went down and would stand out on the perch that Tom built for them.  In March, we left for a trip out west for some winter recreation and photography with my daughter and son-in-law.

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When we returned, they were both gone.  It was so sad for us, as we had the highest of hopes for a repeat experience.  It is my hope that they nested somewhere else, hopefully in the near vicinity, and had a successful brood.  I will never forget them and hope to see them again.  It might be hard to understand, but I felt so connected with them, as I do other species of owls … especially the burrowing owls that Im fortunate to be able to follow annually.  Yes, besides bears, owls hold a special place in my heart.  ❤

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Stay tuned for more south Florida sightings!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy