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

Spring Is In The Air

Spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 20th … or so the calendar say.  Try telling that in the midst of winter to the birds of Florida.  They’re already out and about in the Florida sunshine!DSC_0061Whether it be the beautifully irridescent purple gallinule foraging about in the flowering plants or the yellow-rumped warbler darting in and out of the trees, there’s always something going on.  _DSC9057-2While some of the birding activity involves migratory birds just passing through or here for a brief stay, many of them are residents.  Such is the case of the great egret, seen here in full courtship display.  That plumage is amazing to witness that’s for sure.  Like it placed a foot on a magnetic ball and static electricity resulted … plumage standing up in every conceivable direction._DSC5262-EditSome birds, such as the double-crested cormorant, while they sport colors that pop out during breeding season, their display is one more in the dance or rhythmic movement.  It’s truly hard to miss._DSC8767One of the more popular birds to observe during this time is the great blue heron.  Probably due to its beauty, grace in flight, and dedication they possess and exhibit.  Of course, their size makes them an easy target for your eyes as well.  Standing high on the tops of the pine trees, this guy prepares for flight in search of more nesting material._DSC8349_DSC8350After some preliminary flapping, we have lift-off!  No other bird in my opinion executes such full extension of its body as the great blue heron.
_DSC8377Before long, it returns with the perfect stick._DSC8453As it prepares for its landing, I get a topside (or is it backside?) view … love the variety of feathers it possess, each with a role in the perfect landing.  🙂DSC_0115Landing light as a feather at the nest, it greets its mate with the presentation of the chosen stick for the job.  She examines it and accepts it from her mate and they together place it in the nest._DSC8416I think that she liked it!  They celebrate their union and their love, as well as their young ones to come soon._DSC8566Other birds of the rookery are doing the same thing as well, such as the ever-present wood storks.DSC_0083-Edit-EditSome birds do it quite quickly, while others seem to use the task time to take a break along the way.  Isn’t that just like a man?  LOL, sorry guys, couldn’t let that one pass by.  This anhinga rests for a moment before it grabs a sprig of pine needles to return with.  I just love their breeding colors and plumage as well.  Like a skilled make-up artist and hair stylist just paid a visit.  🙂DSC_0180-EditWhile some birds, even of the same breed are still preparing their nests and choosing their mates, some got an earlier start and are already raising their young.  This great blue heron parent returned to the nest, with fish dinner in tow (stored in its throat), to an anxious young one._DSC8865At first, the young one just makes their “request” (i.e. FEED ME!) known politely.  If the parent doesn’t oblige in a timely manner, the young one takes matters in its own hands, or should I say beak!  If you look closely, you can see the parent trying to share that fresh catch._DSC8916As often as I’ve seen this rough feeding routine play out before my eyes, I always wonder if the parents absolutely dread coming back to hte nest to take this kind of abuse!  Haha.  Sometimes, the parents walk away, almost as if to teach their young a lesson.  As you can see, the young one uses that moment to throw an utter temper tantrum … yet learns to use their wings a bit in the process._DSC9016Of course, nothing sounds as sweet as the flocks of black-bellied whistling ducks as they fly overhead.  Love their calling out melody.DSC_0063Next up:  Let’s all go to the Everglades!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Driving Through Rural Florida

Don’t ever be mislead into thinking that Florida is entirely a “concrete jungle”.  While that may be more of a reality on the Florida’s coastline, especially in the south, there are certainly areas that offer a much more rural feel.  On days that Tom & I both have some free time together, we take drives into such areas.  Why don’t you come along for the journey?  🙂

Along the shores of one of the many lakes in Florida, we came across some horses, albeit not wild, but they still made for a peaceful looking image.  DSC_9042That was until we heard and saw a bunch of action going on.  Seems like a crested caracara joined a party of two crows and was far from welcome there.  They both ganged up on the caracara with some ferocity, which I always find so fascinating.DSC_8992DSC_8993After a chase ensued, the caracara finally got the message and took flight over the landscape.DSC_9005The crested caracara is normally found dining roadside with some of our vultures (black and turkey) … feasting on some recent road kill or some other type of carrion.  They are referred to as “Mexican eagles” since they have so many of them there and are found in areas like Florida, Texas, and perhaps other gulf states.  They are actually in the falcon family.  I have always found them to be quite beautiful and interesting.DSC_8211Speaking of the oddly intriguing … we also find many wood storks along the way.  It’s easy to see how they got their name.  They’ve made quite a comeback too and can be found bullying over the nests of other birds in our Florida rookeries.DSC_8310More elegant are the common great blue herons.  They have got to be the most patient birds when it comes to feeding, as they will stand there motionless for what seems to be an eternity (at least while you’re photographing them) waiting for the precise moment of opportunity to strike.DSC_8290DSC_8255Feelings of pride and patriotism rush over me whenever I spot our U.S. national bird, the bald eagle.DSC_9107DSC_9223DSC_9171Such a symbol of freedom are they.  I remember that when I was growing up, I never saw them, but they are many out there now in numbers.  Such an amazing comeback story of how the Endangered Species Act, as well as environmental protections, work together to ensure that they thrive again.DSC_9542Always searching for hikes to take out in wilderness and this one yielded this juvenile black-crowned night heron, who incidentally, wasn’t bashful at all.DSC_9378Sandhill cranes, always a favorite of mine whever I can find them, are a thrill to see.  These two are a mated pair and exhibit such dedication to each other.DSC_8512When they start unison calling, I just stop in my tracks.  Much like the sound of elk bugling or a bear cub purring, I can’t get myself to myself to even flinch a muscle when I hear it.DSC_8534Only to be outdone is when they begin their dance of love and celebration.DSC_8521This pair was drinking water in the field, exhibiting a behavior that I had never seen before.DSC_8568The whooping crane can sometimes be found hanging out with the sandhill cranes.  It is primarily white feathered, with black tips and a red crown, it’s much larger than its cousins.  I hope that they will rebound like the bald eagles did.  While sandhill cranes are sometimes hunted (why?) over migration states, the whooping crane is protected.  Sadly though, they are sometimes “mistaken” for a sandhill crane.  When you see a whooper, it’s hard to understand how  they could possibly be mistaken as adults.DSC_9526The great egret, sporting its white lacey breeding plumage backlit by the sun, is a fabulous sight to see as well.DSC_9708Of course, the trip-colored heron is a show to watch as it hunts as well.DSC_9759Towards the end of the day, the sandhill cranes begin to return to roost for the night.  In the beginning, they fly a few at a time….DSC_9859… eventually numerous constructions of cranes soar overhead … all generally calling out their impending arrival.DSC_8838Their silhouettes against the setting sun, which has highlighted the atmosphere, is nothing short of wonderful.  When they drop their legs, as they ready to execute their landing, reminds me of paratroopers as they find their way back to earth.DSC_8856Yep, we may not have mountains and varied mammal wildlife in Florida, but we do have much to be thankful for.  🙂
FullSizeRenderNex Up:  Wonder of the wetlands

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A Day To Remember ;-)

I’ve often wondered if I take living in Florida for granted.  While my friends from other areas of the country are dodging snowstorms and bitter cold, I’m basking in temperatures ranging from a cold of 50’s to a warm of 80’s.  It’s totally no problem for me to drive out in search of wildlife or natural landscapes in just my light pants and top … maybe a fleece for the early pre-dawn hours.  I laugh because when I wear long sleeves and pants … it’s to keep the sun or mosquitoes away.

Nonetheless, in the midst of “winter”, I venture out and see sights such as the juvenile bald eagles circling around known nests, probably looking for mom/dad to give them a once willing handout.  No more … they are on their own for food.
DSC_4455The mature eagles are too busy guarding their nests from intruders, which include past years broods.  I find it strange when I visit out west and see this nesting and courtship period much later in the season … often at least spring.  Makes sense, as these eagles don’t have to worry about snow or migration.DSC_4713Once I’m away from the hustle and bustle of coastal south Florida, eagle fly freely as they go about their day.  They often call out to one another as they soar over the landscape, with a call that’s quite distinctive and always summons me to stop and look for their presence.  Sometimes I get a up close fly by that would be hard to miss … sometimes I can simply detect a tiny white head in the faraway trees.
DSC_4761DSC_4760Other predators lurk nearby as well, such as our ever-prevalent red-shouldered hawk.DSC_4737But by far, the eagles are mst prevalent and busy with their nest building, courtship, and hunting.  I’m always so fascinated by their feather patterns and love it when I get a topside view.DSC_5054Beside predator birds, there are also a wide variety of “little birds” migrating through.  Most times I’m struggling to isolate them in the trees as they dart in and out, but this one was quite curious about me and came over for a closer look.  Reward:  picture taken.  🙂DSC_4813While bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and a wide variety of “little birds” can be found in other places besides Florida, the Everglades snail kite is endemic to Florida in the US.  Endangered in the Florida, it feeds primarily on pond apple snails, though Florida now has some invasive snails that it will feed upon, though with some difficulty.  See, the other snails are invasive and quite a bit larger, so the Everglades snail kite has to work harder with its beak to get the snail inside.  They are quite fascinating hunters and always a thrill to encounter.DSC_4930The belted kingfisher is also a treat to see and photograph … for when it’s hunting for fish, you can capture them in their notorious hovering position … much like a hummingbird.
DSC_5424Limpkin, a noisy wading bird found regularly in Florida, also eats the snails, but with their long straight beaks, they effectively crack open the invasive snails and pull their snail out of its shell much more efficiently than the Everglades snail kite.DSC_5211Even when birds are scarce, you can almost always count on the great blue heron to be somewhere about the wetlands.  The most patient hunters I’ve ever seen, they will eat just about anything!DSC_5404Of course, when the sun begins to set, the party really begins._DSC5159_DSC5179Just when you think your day is over, here comes the owls … count them … 1 … 2 … 3 … great horned owls getting ready for the evening hunting ritual.  Of course, though not an esthetically pleasing location, it’s always a thrill when you can find 3 together!DSC_5685On this evening, I had the pleasure of encountering something that I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing before.  As I was winding down my pole shots of the owls, one flew away to a location unknown.  The other two remained behind until I could see one getting ready to fly as well.  It flew down to a post nearby to where I was shooting from.  I was photographing it, figuring that it would fly off to begin its hunting.  Then before I knew it, the other remaining owl flew down.  I wondered where it was going to land because unlike the burrowing owls who jockey for position on the posts nearby, there really wasn’t room for two.  Was I way off!  This guy was jockeying for position all right … on the backside of the female.  As they say, the rest was history.DSC_5835-EditDSC_5841-EditDSC_5847-EditI clicked away furiously trying to capture what I could of the rendezvous … dark or not … I mean it was literally right before my eyes!  When he was finished, he flew off right over my head, but I was so stunned that I didn’t capture any more.  I looked at Tom, who was sitting in the running car (remember I was just ready to call it a night).  We were both speechless.  Note:  Pardon the grainy/soft images, but I just had to share the experience.

Yep you could say we had a great time that night, though maybe not as much fun as that great horned owl couple.  😉_DSC5189Next up:  A date with a king … fisher, that is  🙂

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Wildlife Photography “From My Kayak”

So, I’ve watched the photography of Jay Stotts, for quite some time.  Some know him on flickr as “Walk in the Woods Photography” … others simply know him as the “from my kayak” guy.  See, he photographs a lot of his wildlife from … you guessed it … his kayak.  Yep, he gets a wide variety of birds (eagles, herons, grebes & loons – with babies on their backs) and also moose feeding on the vegetation, etc.  Well Tom & I love to kayak and have often photographed while kayaking in Alaska and Florida, so when we were visiting up in his neck of the woods, we knew what we would be doing at least one of the days.  Jay was gracious enough to meet up with us to show us his “playground”.

fullsizerender-11On this particular day, it was a bit cold and overcast, but that didn’t matter to us.  We paddled out through the vegetation in hopes of some moose in the water action shots as well as grebes.  It was so fabulous to be back in a kayak where we didn’t have to worry about alligators or venomous snakes.  😉fullsizerender-10Tom was in his element for sure and ready for the adventure.DSC_5187We all followed Jay’s lead, as he skillfully paddled out to his secret spots.  That’s when it hit me … oh no, usually Tom is paddling while I photograph, but this time I have to do double duty.DSC_5213Before long, we paddled past some beautiful yellow-headed blackbird, a species I had become familiar with earlier this year.  In south Florida, we mainly have red-winged black birds.  Their behaviors, at least to my unscientific eye, was quite similiar between the two species.  Their song was equally distinctive and beautiful.DSC_5159DSC_5162As fascinated as i was to see them, I had my sights on a moose!  The image below was unknowingly taken by Jay.  I think that I was trying to figure out where the moose were and where they might emerge into the water from.  LOL13323212_10208407841527207_2413208333219283595_oAs the day progressed, it became windier, though we had no idea of just how windy it would get.  I found it nice to hang out in the vegetation, which provided a bit more stability._DSC5039So we waited … and waited, while having lots of fun and laughs about being out there.fullsizerender-9OK, the red-necked grebe was spotted on the horizon and off we went to photograph it and those babies that would of course be on their backs just waiting for me to shoot.DSC_5069But unfortunately nature has its own timetable and we found ourselves a bit too early in the season.  We did get to see the nest, but no babies yet.  Not wanting to disturb or distress the couple, we decided to leave the area.  Next time.DSC_5080A great blue heron was visiting the lake as well.  Patience in stalking their prey is their middle name.  DSC_5237Seemed that we watched this one forever while it pursued its hunt.  Before long, we noticed Jay scoping in on something.DSC_5208On an higher ground island in the middle of the lake, he found a bunch of gulls congregating about.  One looked quite different of course, a caspian tern.  Known for being quite aggressive when defending its colony and nest, this one was quite docile to us.DSC_5259DSC_5309Before long, we noticed a few more were flying overhead.  I just love terns … whether it be these caspian or others such as forster’s, arctic, common, or least terns.  They are so acrobatic in their flight and angelic as they hover overhead preparing for a dive._DSC5053Guess this guy has hung out on this log before by the look of things.  LOLDSC_5365fullsizerender-8After some more paddling about, we came across the delightful, though quite loud, killdeer.  We didn’t see any nests, though mating season was clearly upon them.DSC_5373DSC_5376Paddling through the thick vegetation became a challenge at times (at least for Rebecca and I), but we all managed just fine overall.  A storm started brewing off in the distance and was clearly targeting us, so we had to call our time a bit short.fullsizerender-7One more look at that magnificent great blue heron.  Not sure if it finally got some dinner or not.DSC_5380Yes, we had some fun times out on the water.  As my friend Michael Libbe can attest to, sometimes I get a bit preoccupied on the water when there’s a lull in the action.  This time though it was apparently only Tom’s ears that I was caught checking out.  LOL.  Thanks to Jay for capturing this moment on the water of me actually using my lens as my impromptu binoculars.
13329431_10208407844367278_2416008689066263302_oSafely back on the dock, we took one last shot (iphone of course) of the fun times of the day.  We couldn’t thank Jay enough or Rebecca’s friend Donnette who loaned us her kayaks for the adventure.  Next time, we’ll bring ours with us Jay!  Check out his incredible wildlife photography on flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jays_wildlife).  We’ll be back next year!fullsizerender-6

Next Up:  More from Steptoe Butte in the Palouse

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / 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

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

It’s All About the Sandhill Cranes

Back to being a CRANIAC!

Off to another pair of sandhill cranes which I have observed earlier this year.  This is a pair of repeat nesters in a local preserve in south Florida.  During February I observed them as they appeared to be tending to a nest in the wetlands.  I could only hope that I was correct in my guess, since if there was a nest, it was fairly well hidden in the marshy landscape._DSC4875-2Sure enough … I visited one early morning, unaware of any new arrivals, and was pleasantly surprised to see the proud parents tending to a newly hatched sandhill crane colt.  I was quite excited._DSC8354-2This adorable little colt was actually about 3 days old when I first found it and almost immediately it begins to follow its mom and dad all over the wetlands, staying close by for protection, and of course, for a readily available source of food …provided by the parents._DSC8574-2When mom and dad are busy foraging for tasty morsels, they often hide the young colt in the brush near them.  Instinctively the young colt knows that it must remain there until called for._DSC8621-2Once it knows that the coast is clear and the parents are summoning it, the colt emerges from the grasses and heads up the embankment towards them (and me)._DSC8636-2It’s so fun to observe them as they “high step” through its version of the jungle on there way.  Sometimes, their proportionately large feet get tangled up in the grasses and vegetation and over they go.  To the casual observer, it’s quite entertaining.  To them, they just learn to go with the flow._DSC8639-2When they’re not making their way through the brush, they have to navigate through the thick, sticky muck, which makes it hard to get around.  Often, in their struggle, their still developing wings come into play to help them in their balancing._DSC8879-2This young one reminds me of when I’m in super strong winds and have to lean into the wind to make progress.  On this day though, it was probably more like .. whoops, I almost fell over.  LOL_DSC8919-2This little colt had a younger sibling that I wasn’t even aware of until the parents finally coaxed it into making the treacherous journey from the nest to where they were feeding, under one of the parents watchful eye of course.  The older colt, 1 day older and wiser in its navigation, watches as its younger sibling gets really muddy from the muck-filled waters._DSC9214-2Once on a bit harder surface of muck, the colts sink less, while the parents sink a bit being heavier.  No problems for them though and the walk is fruitful with lots of bugs and small aquatic life being plucked out of the muck._DSC0064-2Fat juicy worms seemed to be the favorite of this colt.  Sometimes refusing harder shelled insects, they would run when the parent offered up this worm delicacy._DSC0215-2They would patiently wait for the mom or dad to mash it up a bit and get it to the proper placement in their beak before offering it up to the young._DSC9820-2Often, the colt would grab it, but then drop it.  They are still learning how to eat and manipulate their food after all.  Such patience by the parents was observed as they would offer the prize over and over, until consumed._DSC9838-2Now with two of them competing for food, there always seemed to be some sibling rivalry going on.  One would expect that the older colt would pick on the younger one, since it had the size advantage.  No harm was ever done to its sibling though._DSC9955-2Just loved it when this young one turned and gave us its own version of the “vogue” look.  LOL_DSC0023-2Being low to the landscape, they often were a bit dirty with muck and cling-ons from the grasses.  I think that made them look even cuter!_DSC0034-2What was quite interesting to me was how often the little colt was actually the aggressor.  I guess it learned quickly how to stick up for itself.  _DSC9573-2While out there photographing the sandhill cranes, there were of course other birds living within the sanctuary.  Such was the case of this great blue heron, who was quite the fisherman too.  Oh, not just fish on this ones diet either … snakes, frogs, turtles … you name it.

It was so fascinating to see this heron catch 3 snakes in a row.  This beautiful snake (which is actually hard for me to say, seeing I’m not a big fan of snakes, but even I have to admit to its beauty) tried its best to not be taken, as it wrapped itself around the bill of the heron and even tried to double back at the heron so that it could bite it._DSC0234-2Another snake, which was already bitten in half at this point, tried desperately to wrap itself around the entire head of the heron in an attempt to not become the herons dinner._DSC0297-2_DSC0304-2Didn’t seem to be effective though, as one by one, they all succumbed to the same fate.  Down the hatch they all went.  Gross, if you ask me.  I imagined that those snake were wiggling around even after being swallowed!_DSC0346-2The next day, I returned to the sandhill cranes and their beautiful colts.  From pre-dawn, they were already out and about … babies staying close to the parents._DSC0463-2Yes, they were still getting muddy and wet as they navigated through the muck, but they sure looked beautiful when they rested on the grasses and weeds._DSC0559-2Still the smaller colt of the two kept the larger one in line.  🙂_DSC0593-2Well, look at what mom (or dad, can’t remember which) is catching for us now … a frog!_DSC0733-2After being mushed quite a bit in the beak of the adult, the frog was finally ready for the offering.  To my surprise, the younger colt took center stage for this treat._DSC0747-2While its sibling looked on, the tiny colt tugged and tore bits of the frog.  Quite the tasty breakfast._DSC0756-2These adorable colts seemed to be always pushing each others buttons and asking for a “fight” or at least a confrontation between them.  Of course, I didn’t want to see anything mean like birds are so notorious for, but it was fun to anticipate their actions and playful interactions._DSC0696-2Over time, they got used to each other and became quite great friends.  I have a tendency to squeal with delight when photographing such cuties and these early days in the lives of these young colts were no exception.  No worries, more images and stories about these cuties to come in a future blog post, so stay tuned.  🙂_DSC0963-2Next up:  How about some natural rookery action?  Courtship, mating, nest tending, and rearing of the young ones featured.

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

2012 Review: PART 7 – Back in the FLA

The remainder of 2012 was spent with family, friends, and of course, with nature – the ever-present beauty that surrounds us.

Parent killdeer with its newborn chick
Parent killdeer with its newborn chick
Crested caracara surveys its surroundings during a rain shower - Kenansville, FL
Crested caracara surveys its surroundings during a rain shower – Kenansville, FL
Wild horses of Paynes Prairie State Park, Gainesville, FL
Wild horses of Paynes Prairie State Park, Gainesville, FL
Fox squirrel at Joe Overstreet Landing
Fox squirrel at Joe Overstreet Landing
The sandhill crane pair that sings together .... stays together
The sandhill crane pair that sings together …. stays together
Juvenile bald eagle at Lake Marion, Kenansville, FL
Juvenile bald eagle at Lake Marion, Kenansville, FL
Lake Newnan, Alachua County, FL
Lake Newnan, Alachua County, FL
Great Blue Heron, Wakodahatchee Wetlands
Great Blue Heron, Wakodahatchee Wetlands
West Palm Beach night scene, FL
West Palm Beach night scene, FL
Barred owl pair perched in tree, Dinner Island Ranch WMA, FL
Barred owl pair perched in tree, Dinner Island Ranch WMA, FL
Northern harrier soaring, Green Cay Wetlands, FL
Northern harrier soaring, Green Cay Wetlands, FL

I want to be sure to thank those of you who shared our year’s experiences with us, somewhere along the way…. you know who you are.  It’s always good to see old friends, and of course, make new ones along the way.  Oh, and a special shout out to all who helped out immensely in Georgia – again, you know who you are!  Your friendship means the world to us!  One last person to thank for my 2012 – that’s a great BIG THANK YOU to my best friend, husband, adventure traveler, and sherpa – Tom.  Not sure what I would do without you.

Sherpa Tom
Sherpa Tom

So what’s on the burner for 2013?  Who knows really … but a sneak peek does involve another return trip to AK, visit with the kids in NY or wherever they land, and wherever else makes sense or my hearts tells me to go.  Life is an adventure that one must live to appreciate.  My favorite saying, which guides me in my life and provides me with much inspiration is:  “Life in not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.  Here’s to 2013 – BRING IT ON!

Hope that you’ve enjoyed a look back at my personal 2012.  I really welcome any and all comments and advice on this blog.  Here’s hoping I can keep this 2013 Resolution – a post a month or so (I give myself permission to “go with the flow”).  I wish you all a year full of life’s wonderful moments, great health, life-altering opportunities, and of course, adventure!  Life is only as good as the effort you put forth into it.

Take off from Beluga Lake, Homer, AK
Take off from Beluga Lake, Homer, AK
Thanks for hanging in as I looked back at 2012.  Now on to 2013!