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

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They’re Everywhere!

So much of what I photograph is actually far from my home state of Florida.  Sort of ironic I think.  Very often I get asked for advice for shooting locations in Florida … when I myself am on a photography adventure in another area of the country.  LOL.  Having grown up the vast majority of my life in south Florida, I have learned to appreciate other areas of the country, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t truly love what Florida has to offer.  Usually that means birds, which Florida is known for.  On this particular day, we were IN FLORIDA and shooting BIRDS.

Nothing says springtime in Florida to me than my first sighting of swallow-tailed kites.  It’s usually on a trip down to the Everglades.  To say that I’m excited by the sighting of a dozen of them is an understatement.  So you can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to photograph them as they roosted in the trees … getting some much needed rest before their migration out of the area.  The beautiful day started out early and very quiet.
stkOnce the sun rose, we could see them sleeping in the trees.  At first, just a few, but as our eyes adjusted, we could see hundreds!  It reminded me of one particular year in Alaska when we followed some bald eagles to their roosting grounds and found ourselves in what had to be the mecca of them … all little white dots in the trees … with the screechy call of the eagle coming from just about everywhere.

As the kites began to awaken, a few began testing their wings and the wind about them.  Before long, they were soaring about.  Of course, we were waiting for more than just soaring.dsc_6601We were waiting for the moment that they would come down to the water before us and complete fly-bys along the way.  I was so fascinated by their beauty.dsc_6680Once flying over the surface of the water, they would descend and grab a drink of water, as their image was mirrored on the lake.dsc_6481How could they hit the water at such a high speed and not endo?  dsc_6569But rather, they would do a “drink, drag, and fly away” maneuver.  dsc_6567Then back off to soaring they would go.  Swallow-tailed kites are the largest of the North American kites.  They are easily identified by their deeply forked tail, white head and body, and black topside wings.dsc_6571If you have never had the opportunity to observe one of these in real life, you’re missing a fascinating acrobatic show.  Their inflight maneuvers are simply stunning.  Tracking with the lens is often a challenge.  Though on this morning, we didn’t observe them directly feeding around us, that’s another amazing feat … they eat their prey on the fly!  Impressive!dsc_6674It seemed that they were coming and hitting the surface of the water regularly.  Over and over.  Sometimes their purpose of hitting the water was to clean off their bottoms.dsc_6784Of course, when they did that, a bit of extra effort was needed to pull themselves back out of the water and take flight again.dsc_6785As if the action of the swallow-tailed kites wasn’t enough, I just loved the way that the light danced on the underside of their wings.dsc_6786After grabbing a sip of water, they would always spit some leftover out as they flew off and prepared for another go around._dsc5077dsc_6790Sometimes as they flew off, they would almost collide with one another.  Clearly there were favorite areas to dip into and the “runway” would get a bit congested.  🙂dsc_6825That’s when we looked overhead … OMG, look at them all … catching thermals right over our heads.  Hundreds at a time.dsc_6713But the action continued right before our eyes … for a few hours.dsc_7140dsc_6912_dsc7770I felt a bit in heaven and now I’m curious if the dozen sighting of the past would even phase me anymore.  LOL.  OK, maybe this spoiled me.dsc_7010Such grace, beauty, agility, and poise.  I could sit there forever and watch.  Sometimes, like other wildlife opportunities, I found myself lost in the moment … just observing and soaking it all in … rather than shooting.dsc_6979dsc_6980It was a fabulous experience that I won’t soon forget.  I look forward to another day out on the lake again in 2017.  Can’t get enough of these swallow-tailed kites.  Until then, I wish them the best and safe migratory travels.  Thanks so much to Scott Helfrich for sharing this experience with us.  Fun times.  🙂dsc_6841Thanks to my better half, Tom Tubridy, who photographed alongside me this day.  Hey, got to give him sherpa duty break ever now and then.  LOL.  Good thing too, as when we compared shots on this day … his limited shots yielded many more keepers than mine. He needs to do this more often, I say.  What do you think?

Next Up:  More exploring in Florida

© 2016  TNWA Photography / Debbie Tubridy & Tom Tubridy

http://www.tnwaphotography.com