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

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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

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