Everglades NP Fun

Often in south Florida, you have to dodge raindrops … or should I say weather system storms.  See, we were scheduled to attend a sunset photography workshop, involving boats and I was so looking forward to attending and learning.  Unfortunately a tropical weather storm was scheduled to “attend” that day as well and therefore our afternoon of fun was cancelled with a days notice.  Torrential rain, high winds, and rough seas were forecast over most of south Florida.  However, it didn’t look too bad in Everglades NP, so my friend Claudia and I decided to give it a try.  In the early morning rain, I picked her up and off we went.

Sunrise photography at the lake, which has been popularized by Claudia, appeared at first to not be very cooperative to us.  Already there, and packing much hope with us, we waited … and waited …_dsc1884 … eventually the clouds and colors cooperated for us.  It was weird too because there were fast moving clouds on the low horizon, which made the captures even more challenging._dsc1941-hdr Once the colors began to wane, we decided to leave the area, only to find these magnificent clouds all around us.  It was the type of sighting where you didn’t know where to photograph first or even how to get it all in.  I chose to grab this one … looking a bit up to the clouds, but including that crow on top of the pine tree near the right … as the sun began to peek through._dsc1983 Not long ago, the white-crowned pigeons were listed on the threatened list of birds within Florida, so I was quite excited when we came across these beauties.  In the past, my images of them were rare sightings, canopied by tree branches, with them looking down at me in the relative low light.  On this day, they were out in the beautiful sunlight and out in the open.  So very beautiful was this mature one taking a peek at me as well.dsc_3785 I’m certainly no expert on these birds, but this one might have been more of a juvenile, as its crown was still mottled and nowhere near as brightly colored.  However, it exhibited those beautiful iridescent colors around its neck.  dsc_3699 Nearby were a group of red-bellied woodpeckers who also cooperated quite nicely.dsc_1905 I was lucky enough to time this one to the second before it flew off from its perch.dsc_3744 Again, always present hawks and other predator birds circle overhead.dsc_2639 Of course, when I photograph any birds or wildlife, I tend to get distracted by birds flying in and out of my line of sight.  I usually don’t photograph them because … 1. I have difficulty chasing them in and out of the tree branches and  2. I don’t usually even know what I’m photographing!  LOL.  After consultation with bird ID and photographer extraordinaire, Michael Libbe, my gut ID was correct … Savannah sparrow.  Thanks Michael!dsc_2562 It’s always a treat to encounter a bald eagle in the area, as I saw this one fly by and then perch itself on a bare snag.dsc_4199 Imagine my surprise when the one eagle turned out to be two bald eagles that eventually mated in the very far distance!  dsc_3010 After they tried to assure the next generation of eagles, they settled down and looked out over their landscape.  It was a fascinating experience that I had never witnessed before.dsc_3081 Iconic landscape shots abound in the Everglades, and the famous “Z Tree” is one of them.  Had to capture one more image of it.  The Everglades NP is a place near and dear to me and I worry about its preservation.  I encourage everyone to activate themselves, in whatever way possible, to assure all of our national parks, monuments, and recreational lands are protected for all to enjoy.  🙂_dsc2014Next Up:  Life In The Rookery

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

My Local Everglades National Park

There’s been a lot of talk about #mypark … indicating what national park is your favorite.  Sometimes people choose the park that they find most beautiful … or perhaps the one that they can relate to the most … or even the one geographically closest to them.  It’s a very individual perception and designation.  For me, I would have to say that Katmai NP is “my park”, though I certainly don’t live anywhere near it, though I do absolutely adore the wildlife and landscape of Katmai.  For me, another NP, which is actually closest to me, is Everglades NP.  It’s a place of diverse beauty and landscape … and depending on the season and other environmental factors, its presentation is very different.  Like all of the national parks though, its a fragile habitat and environment, and we need to protect them and the wildlife living in them.  In the case of the Everglades, it’s also critical to our water supply in Florida.  Enough said ….

Usually in the summer, our visits to the Everglades are fairly sparse.  It’s hot, humid, and buggy during the summer.  Sometimes those conditions extend into the other seasons as well.  We did make a few visits in the beginning of winter and found it pleasant … well except for those mosquitoes.

One can find white pelicans there, as this duo shown feeding on the surface of the water near Flamingo.  Brown pelicans can also be found year-round, but these white pelicans are more winter residents.dsc_2003 American avocets are a favorite of mine, especially when they’re in their winter plumage, as this adult female is.  Love their grace as they swim or walk around the shallow water foraging for food.dsc_2760 You can almost always count on the American kettle to make an appearance when visiting, though sometimes they’re more cooperative than others.dsc_3535 Such graceful beauty in flight as they patrol the area for a meal.dsc_2580 Another common resident year-round is the red-shouldered hawk.  They’re quite smart predators too, as we watched this one tagging alongside the riding lawnmower man, taking advantage of the grasses being stirred up, making insects much more accessible.dsc_3324 A variety of hawks, as well as turkey and black vultures, are a sure thing, especially when warm and windy, as they seek out thermals to circle in flight.  dsc_2841 In the Flamingo area of Everglades NP, there are always many osprey found and in the winter, they are generally pairing up through courtship behaviors and nest building.  The adults are always easily identifiable due to their yellow eyes, versus the orange eyes of juveniles.  The female adult also generally adorns a “necklace” across their upper chest.dsc_4173 It’s a blast to watch and photograph them as they fly around … leaving and returning to the nest … as they bring in food and nesting material, as well as defend their nest.  We watched one day as a vulture tried to land in the nest.  Well, that didn’t go over too well, as the occupant of the nest and its mate (from a destination in the distance unknown) went into aggressive modes to defend their nest.dsc_2091 It’s fun to watch as the female gets excited when she sees the male coming in with some dinner.  (Note: the dark mottled “necklace” feathers indicates this one is a female).dsc_2213 What this female didn’t count on was her mate being very defensive with the fresh fish he brought in.  It reminded me of a dog being teased with a toy, as he jumped around and around, keeping an easy pick of the fish away from its mate.  Eventually, it flew off with the fish, which he devoured a bit, then returned with it … finally surrendering it to its mate.dsc_2306 I don’t think that she liked that initial “hoarding” of the food and she screamed at him when he left with it.  LOL
dsc_2120 After she got her share of the meal, I guess that he was forgiven, since they worked on the next generation of osprey.  😉dsc_2481On this particular day, we encountered a bit of a rain shower.  I just loved the way that this male osprey perched itself near the nest, dropped its wing and bowed its head, in an attempt to speed off drying its wings.
dsc_3206 An appropriate end of the day … and the blog … is the appearance of a rainbow, as seen right over the nest of the osprey couple.  I think rainbows are a lucky sign of what’s to come.  Wishing them the best in their nesting endeavors.  🙂_dsc1881Next Up:  More from Everglades NP

© 2017  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

#FindYourPark … Everglades-style

In 2016, the National Park Service will be celebrating its centennial birthday!  Leading up to that event, they have launched a “Find Your Park” campaign, where visitors tell stories about “their” park.  Recently I launched a 9-day series of #FindYourPark images and stories on my flickr page (if you haven’t seen it yet and are interested, click on the flickr link, scan down several weeks of images, and give it a look).  I found it difficult to designate “my park” … should it be the one I visit most often, the one my soul calls to the most, the one I find most beautiful, or perhaps the one geographically closest?

Geographically, “my park” would then be Everglades National Park.  🙂  Now the Everglades NP is an amazing place to visit, has so much beauty to explore, and holds such an environmental significance to Florida and worldwide as well.  So, let’s visit there virtually together in this blog post.  Ready?

Now this is what I’m talking about … pure iconic Everglades … an early morning sunrise often is accompanied by mist and low profile fog … so very beautiful.  Water levels change drastically depending on the season and recent rainfall in the Everglades.  The Everglades represents such change that you can only be guaranteed that each day will have a look all its own – very different than the day before or even the day after.  It’s totally amazing!

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Having grown up in South Florida and visiting the Everglades more that I can easily count, on one recent very foggy morning, I was treated to a new phenomenon for me … a fog bow.  Similar to a rainbow, but it lacks color, due to the small size of the water droplets, it was fabulous to see.  Immediately I pulled off the road to try to document what I saw.  Have to say that it was a fairly close rendition of the moment.  🙂

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Being that these images were from February, much of the wildlife encountered revolved around the birds.  See, the Everglades are an important part of many species of birds and their migratory paths.  I joke too because once the warmer weather comes, as well as the skeeters, even the birds don’t want to hang around (OK, they probably leave for other reasons ;-), and good thing because you’ve got to really want to hang out in the heat and humidity and get totally bit up to come in the height of the summer).

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Roseate spoonbills arrive to various ponds and waters to do some feeding and begin looking for their mate.  About this time, they begin to get those fabulous breeding colors that make them irresistible to all who catch a glimpse of them.  So bizarre looking for sure, but gorgeous!

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The pileated woodpeckers are just one of the birds which call the area their local hangout.

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Most times they’re quite cooperative, but eventually they launch for destinations unknown.

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Of course, the Flamingo area of the Everglades most dominant resident bird is the osprey. In the winter they build their nests, mate, sit on their eggs, and eventually raise their young.  It’s always fascinating to watch dad bring in a fresh catch for mom as she tends to the nest.  Yum!

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Black necked stilts, as in the image below, as well as avocets and yellowlegs, etc, also join in on the fun at Eco Pond.

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Red shouldered hawks are seemingly plentiful as well.  Sometimes you see them … sometimes you don’t … until off they fly with a quick launch.  So very beautiful.  American kestrels and northern harriers often make themselves visible as well.

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Probably one of the most animated of all birds to visit is the reddish egret.  They always make a grand entrance as they fly low just above the waters surface, allowing their reflection to be seen.  They fly with such grace and beauty … such sophistication.  But don’t let that fool you, for they look more like drunken sailors as they run around doing silly antics as they fish for food.  I dare you to watch them for more than 5 minutes without getting a huge grin on your face, or if you’re like me … busting out in laughter.

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While the Everglades always has its fair share of brown pelicans, they also get white pelicans too.  Again, they also have quite the splashdown landing, which commands your attention when they fly in.

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I’m continually amazed at how they go about catching their food.  They seemingly eye it with their heads on a sideways angle, then slam their head and beak into the water and go for it!  You know that they’ve hit pay dirt when they then sit up and swallow.  So fascinating to watch.

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Probably one of my favorite wading birds are the lovely and delicate-looking black-necked stilts.  So very beautiful and skilled at catching the tiniest of minnows, they get quite beautiful this time of year with those bright legs and big red eye.  Soon they will begin their courtship and mating.

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Before long the osprey babies get big enough to make their presence known.  Not only do they offer the photographer a nice glimpse at their big orange eyes, but they also sure learn quick how to scream at dad to bring them some dinner.  🙂

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Yes, the landscapes of the Everglades are iconic and second to none.  Case in point it this view of what’s affectionately known as the “Z” tree.  Nature is quite amazing, don’t you agree?

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Now no trip to the Everglades is ever complete, at least not for Tom & I, without a stop at the famous “Robert’s” on your way out.  The best key lime milkshakes in town (as well as many other exotic flavors) and much more for the tourists.  For me, I always appreciate it when they grow the sunflowers along the roadside … which is Florida-unique when coupled with the palm trees in the background!

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Hope that gave you an idea about Everglades NP.  That being said, take a moment to ponder and ask yourself … where is your park? … then participate in the #FindYourPark movement in celebration of the NPS.

Stay tuned for more …

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

All’s Clear for Everglades National Park

During the winter months, Everglades National Park becomes a mecca for bird watching and photography.  Not only that, but the weather is simply gorgeous … sunny skies, cooler temperatures, spectacular sunrises, and most importantly … a noticeable decrease in the number of mosquitoes.  So, each winter, we begin our own migration of photography trips to the Everglades.

This particular year, the water levels remained so elevated and because of that, many of the usual birding spots were affected and we saw much less activity and nesting going on.  In fact, on one trip through the Anhinga Trail boardwalk, we saw only a few great blue herons, purple gallinules, tri-colored herons, cormorants, and anhingas.  Oh, but there never was a shortage of vultures.

Great blue heron almost had the place to himself at the Anhinga Trail.

Great blue heron almost had the place to himself at the Anhinga Trail.

 

It was a good winter for red shouldered hawks as well.  Often, in the early morning hours, they seemed to be everywhere along the park road.  Sometimes they would even pose for the camera …

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… and sometimes they were looking quite tropical themselves.

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This year at Eco Pond, we were treated to a reddish egret … aka “the entertainer”.  I just love to watch and photograph them as they glide over the surface of the water so gracefully and preen themselves when they take a break from their fishing endeavors.

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As they run around like drunken sailors, I just find myself laughing to myself and sometimes to photography complete strangers.  LOL.  When they fish, they canopy feed to shade the surface of the water for easier pickings.  They’re quite quick too!

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After they’ve had enough, or if they get chased off, they elevate from the water’s surface and take flight … usually to simply return without being gone too long.

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The roseate spoonbills were also present in numbers, especially in the early light, but don’t stay too long.  No worries, they’ll be back later.  Of course, the black necked stilts provide endless entertainment as well.

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This year, there was a pair of avocets that hung out with them as well.

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Osprey are present in big numbers, especially in the Flamingo area.  Why not?  The canals and the bay are ready sources of food for them and they are quite efficient and skilled fishermen.  There are many nests in the area too.  Most nests are higher in trees, but there’s one nest by the marina where you can literally almost look into the nest!

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We watched this pair of osprey parents over February and March raise their two young ospreys.  It’s amazing how fast they grow up.  This particular mama osprey is quite demanding of her mate and she seems to always be calling for something … food, nesting material, a break …. whatever.

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Often, when he goes out to catch dinner, he’ll come back to the nest with it, but then will almost instantaneously depart – with the dinner!   He’ll take it to a nearby tree, post, or stump and eat about 1/3 to 1/2 of it, then return to the nest with it.  Mama will then take the remnants and tear into it and feed her babies – one at a time.  Many baby birds in a nest will fight violently for their fair share of the food, but not these osprey.  So patient, so peaceful, and yes, so adorable!

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Another big star of Flamingo are the American Crocodiles.  The Everglades are one of only a few places that they can be found in the U.S.  My favorite thing to watch is the tourists that go out in rented canoes and kayaks when they arrive back at the marina docks, only to find several crocodiles in the water right next to them.  It’s quite intimidating to them and the look on their faces can be priceless.

"My what beautiful teeth you have!"

“My what beautiful teeth you have!”

Perhaps my favorite sighting each winter and early spring is the arrival of the swallowtail kites, which to me is about as iconic of a symbol of the Everglades as there can be … well maybe except for the alligators.  Oh, that and the mandatory stop at “Roberts is Here” fruit stand for an amazing key lime (or many other flavors) milkshake.  Tom won’t let a trip go by without one.  Yum Yum!

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Hope that you enjoyed the Everglades sights as much as I did photographing them.  🙂