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

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Wetlands, Preserves, & Yards … Oh My!

Taking a break from the snowy conditions of the Alaskan arctic, let’s return to the warmer, more humid climate of southern Florida.  Sure we have beaches, sand, and sun … but we also have winter visitors … not just of the human kind, but also our bird friends come to visit for a bit.  Some also court, mate, and raise their young too.

When they arrive, they do so in their Sunday finest … all dolled up and ready to impress.  No other time do they possess such beautiful breeding colors and perform such elegant ways, designed to tantalize the ladies.  One of the best examples of undergoing a metamorphis as such are the cattle egret.  Once an “ordinary white bird”, they become striking with that red eye, multi-colored bright beak, exaggerated coloration, and that fabulous breeding plumage._DSC4777Not native to Florida, though becoming quite popular, is the swamp hen.  A bit similar in appearance to the purple gallinule, though its colors are muted and beak consists of less colors too.  Still they possess a bit of that iridescence in those feathers when the sun hits it just right._DSC4824Still one of the most elegant is the great egret._DSC4912Though not as entertaining, the grebes also possess that cuteness factor … especially when they’re all fluffed up._DSC4957In Florida, it’s not all birds that hang out in the wetlands and preserves.  Again, though not native, we get our fair share of iguanas.  I used to get quite upset seeing them, especially when they would hang out near the birds, but in reality, they’re more vegetarians and not necessarily after wildlife.  Also, look at how amazingly photogenic they are … so prehistoric-looking, so full of details and features that could be the subject of a macro lens setup as well.  We even get them in our yard!_DSC4937Other reptiles live in the wetlands too.  This poor snake, fighting for its life, after being snatched from the grasses by the great blue heron … one of the most skillful hunters of frogs, snakes, and fish alike._DSC0234It’s hard to miss the red cardinals when they’re around.  On this particular day, there was one female, as shown below ….._DSC2027… flying around with not just one, but two, male cardinals chasing it.  Clearly one of them was her favorite beau too.  Look at how rich this guys coloring is!  This was not enhanced via any processing color, but rather straight out of the camera._DSC2051It’s always a thrill to find the sora out and about looking for something to eat along the soggy landscape.  Usually the sighting doesn’t last too long, as it generally returns into the plants rather quickly._DSC2082Though I’m not much of a “small bird”er, even I can’t resist the pretty little ones when they finally stand still, in the open, and pose for me.  🙂_DSC8644The tri-colored herons are one of the most striking birds when in their breeding plumage.  That bright red eye, deep blue bill, the beautiful tuft of white feathers out the back of their head, and their beautiful body feathers make the photographer or observer stop and look. _DSC8563The dance of courtship that they, and other birds, perform is a treat to watch as well.  Preening one’s feathers, poking around at the tidy nest, and rhythmically moving up skyward, then down repeatedly … so amazing to watch!_DSC8568Speaking of beautiful show-offs, what better example of that is the peacock, with their extremely long feathers, all patterned with designs that look like eyes, as they drag them behind them like a bride with her wedding dress train.  Though this guys not quite excited enough to lift them in a display fashion, it’s still quite beautiful.  This guy was photographed while making his way through my friends front yard.  I have some chickens down the block who wander through my yard … this guy can come visit me too if he wants._DSC2255So these were just a few of the many avian visitors to south Florida.  As the breeding season is over, not all, but many leave the area.  Don’t blame them … it gets way too hot down here … I sometimes leave too.  🙂

Next Up:  Anyone want to go to Yellowstone NP in the winter?

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

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

A New Bird Generation At Work :-)

Returning to the habitat known as Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, the birds continually evolve in their spring behavior of courting, mating, nesting, and rearing of their young ones.

Not all babies have been born yet at this time, as this black-neck stilt can attest to … though it shouldn’t be long for they have been at it for some time already.

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Other birds, such as the black-bellied whistling ducks, pass over the wetlands repeatedly, each time making their presence known.  They usually fly in flocks in varying numbers, but no matter the number, the listener can understand quickly how they got their name.  They have the distinctive sound of very loud whistling as they are within the area.  I personally can’t stop laughing when I hear it.

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Of course, they’re just as silly looking when they tidy up a bit with a nice refreshing bath.

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Yes, the birds are seemingly everywhere and it never ceases to amaze how incredibly protective and possessive they get in the spring.

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I think that every time I visited to Wako, I witnessed an attack of a red-shouldered hawk who was either innocently passing through or looking for a quick delicacy.  This one got double-teamed – a stilt and red-winged backbird were both on its tail … literally!

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The babies that were first born grew up so fast too and have their own version of sibling squabbles going on.

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I have to say that these great blue heron parents are quite patient with their attention-needy, beak-grabbing, little ones.  LOL

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The tri-colored herons always remind me of little prehistoric guys with those faces that only a mother can love.  Look how excited they get when she returns!  LOL

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Now we all know how baby birds often get fed, but come on, this looks quite painful!  How they manage to stay upright in the trees as they jerk around, almost violently, being fed.  It’s really amazing to watch.

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Probably the most fascinating to watch as they grew up were the wood storks.  Speaking of prehistoric looking, these birds take the prize in that category.  I personally though find them beautiful … I know, in their own way.  They start off so tiny, but before long, grew up quite fast.

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Are they just not the cutest????

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So goes it at the natural rookery of Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  Like most places in nature, you just never know what you’re going to get when you go there, but it’s always something interesting and often, heart-warming.

Next up on the blog:  Speaking of the unexpected … check out who spent some time for a visit!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography