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Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek!  (Sandhill Crane with Young)

Hide and Seek! (Sandhill Crane with Young)

This is a “digital art” version of a photo from last March.  The two Sandhill Crane colts were just a few days old.  The day was windy and cold, and Mom would occasionally sit down and create an “insta-nest” for her two tired colts.  The babies would scurry behind her back and crawl into her warm feathers.

That’s the realistic story behind this photo.  After staring at it on our calendar for this month of January, however, Rich had a better interpretation.  Rich says it’s a game of Hide and Seek!  The colt on the right is hiding his eyes and counting down.  The colt on the left…well, we’re not sure if he’s hiding under Mom’s head, or asking for suggestions about where to go.  Better hurry up and decide!  10…9…8…

I can’t wait to get out and photograph these beautiful birds again this spring!

Year in Review: Photographic Memories of 2015

As I think back over 2015, I’m reminded how blessed I’ve been to live in Florida where my camera and I are surrounded by awesome nature.  Even though this year has been dominated by my day job, and I haven’t been doing photography as much as I’d like, I’m amazed when I look over my favorite photographic memories of 2015.  Each is special and unique, just like the birds! :)

The year started out with a series of lifers.  My first Groove-billed Ani, Long-tailed Duck, Clapper Rail, and Common Goldeneye.  Not bad for just a few weeks of birding!  I saw my first male Bufflehead, too.

Groove-billed Ani

Groove-billed Ani

I was so excited when I finally got the time to check out the Venice Rookery in early January.  I’d read about the place for years.  I enjoyed photographing the Great Blue Herons against the pretty green background of the distant trees.  But my favorite shot turned out to be a digital art version of a heron courtship shot.  I love how the filter accentuates the bird’s feathers as he throws his head back in a courtship display.

Great Blue Heron Courtship Display

Great Blue Heron Courtship Display

February was a hard month marked by Goldy’s pancreatitis and Peter’s heart surgery.  On the first weekend that I could get back out, I celebrated the miracle of life with a pair of newly-hatched Sandhill Cranes and their parents.  I’m constantly amazed at the gentleness of these giant birds and these tiny chicks.  They graced me with “insta-nest” and gave me a chuckle as they scrambled under the protection of Mom’s wing.

Heading for Cover

Heading for Cover

April brought the joy of birding at Fort De Soto, one of my favorite places to hang out with my camera.  I spent over an hour photographing this Ruby-throated Hummingbird as he returned time and time again to nectar from a clump of flowers.  This tiny bird was probably hundreds of miles away in Mexico the day before I saw him.  He makes an annual migratory journey over the Gulf of Mexico twice each year.  Pretty cool for such a tiny bird!

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

I lucked out and visited Gatorland on a day when breeding Cattle Egrets were in full color.  Who can resist the bright pink, orange, and purple lores?

Cattle Egret in Breeding Colors

Cattle Egret in Breeding Colors

My friend Debbie and I enjoyed a great afternoon with a nesting Osprey and her small chick.  This nest is downtown on top of a street light.  You can drive to the top of a parking garage opposite the nest and photograph the birds nice and close, without disturbing them.  The highlights are always when Dad brings in a big fish for dinner.  At this age, it takes Junior about a half an hour to eat his small portion.  Then Mom gets the rest.  (If you’re squeamish like my mom, don’t spent too much time staring under the Osprey’s foot!)

Don't Talk with Your Mouth Full

Don’t Talk with Your Mouth Full

This year was spectacular at the Least Tern Colony in St. Augustine.  I photographed the terns mating at the colony in early May, then I returned week after week to enjoy the magical sunrises at Marineland beach and check for Least Tern chicks.  The terns entertained me with their ghost crab skirmishes until finally one day Michael and I found a tiny baby with Mom.  That was the single best morning of photography this year!

Sunburst Sunrise

Sunburst Sunrise

Runaway!

Runaway!

Defending the Colony

Defending the Colony

Least Tern Mother and Baby

Least Tern Mother and Baby

Another trip to Fort De Soto yielded some fun shorebirds, especially this little Ruddy Turnstone, who spent several minute playing with what looked like a roach for breakfast.  Later that morning I found a Snowy Plover!  The calm blue waters are a reflection of the peaceful mornings spent with my toes in the ocean and camera in my hand. :-)

Ruddy Turnstone with Cockroach (?)

Ruddy Turnstone with Cockroach (?)

My dad and I made it over to Black Skimmer colony once this year, to find that the colony had hatched early this year and most of the chicks were well into their “tween” period between tiny chicks and awkward juveniles.  I did find one or two small chicks in the crowd, and this one was just precious with his mouthful of fish!

Gulp!

Gulp!

Michael invited Joshua, my dad, and me on a fun “monkey cruise” at Silver Springs.  A morning boat ride sounded great even though I didn’t quite know what to expect when it came to the monkeys.  I was pleasantly surprised.  We found a small group of monkeys at the edge of the river, and several monkeys had young babies.  Watching them and trying to photograph them as they hopped from tree to tree was such fun!

Mom and Baby Rhesus Monkey

Mom and Baby Rhesus Monkey

Summer yielded a great new shooting location, the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  Even thought it was scorching hot outside, I could photograph from my cool air-conditioned car.  I forsee many happy hours spent on the 11 mile drive.  Maybe next year I’ll find more than a mother Red-Winged Blackbird with nesting material – maybe I’ll find her with a baby in the nest like Wally did!

Female Red-Winged Blackbird Carrying Food to her Young

Female Red-Winged Blackbird Carrying Food to her Young

What better place to go in the summer than the beach?  Especially for a warm sunrise!  Rich questioned my sanity when I suggested we visit the Archie Carr Wildlife Refuge to look for baby turtles, but he agreed to join me and we were rewarded with two tiny baby turtles.  That’s a moment I’ve wanted to share with my turtle-loving hubby since we got married 11 years ago.  That was a good morning!

Turtle Tracks

Turtle Tracks

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatchling

Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatchling

My next opportunity with my camera was in early October, when Rich and I went down south for my grandfather’s 90th birthday.  Our friend Robert had just been killed in a senseless shooting, and we were numb as we photographed sunrise at my favorite childhood beach not 15 minutes from where Robert had grown up.  The ocean’s crashing waves broke on the rocks and the sun rose steadily on, a reminder that God has a purpose for us all.

Shell Beach Sunrise

Shell Beach Sunrise

Don’t even ask how many hours of overtime I’ve worked this year, hence the lack of blog posts this fall and winter.  My last 2015 photography outing was last week, when I spent Christmas Eve morning at Viera Wetlands.  Again I was a bit sad, as my mom’s cousin Ruthie had just lost her battle with cancer.  I felt her gentle spirit with me that morning as the billowing pink clouds reminded me of the Roseate Spoonbills that she also enjoyed photographing at Viera.  So I’ll close this year in review with my favorite “angel wing” spoonie shot.  May 2016 be filled with love, birds, and more free time to spend with my camera!! :-)

"Angel Wings" - Roseate Spoonbill in Flight

Angel Wings

Christmas Coot!

The weather forecast this morning was a little frightful (mostly cloudy), but the prospect of birding was delightful, so I headed to Viera Wetlands to celebrate a wonderful day off from work!  It was great seeing Michael, Donna, and Mike as the Belted Kingfisher “Miss Viera Sushi” mocked us and evaded her favorite perch.

Christmas Eve Sunrise at Viera Wetlands

Christmas Eve Sunrise at Viera Wetlands

We’ve having record hot temperatures in Central Florida – it’s expected to hit 87 tomorrow on Christmas Day!  Usually Viera mornings of watching the nesting Great Blue Herons involve extra layers, a hat, and a scarf.  Today the pale skies added to the tropical feeling as I wished I had worn shorts!

The light wasn’t awesome, but the birds were fun.  I loved the nesting herons with their courtship behaviors at sunrise.  Immediately behind them was the famous Belted Kingfisher who likes to pose for photographers.  Today, though, one of the Great Blue Herons kept coming to that perch to sit.  So the Belted Kingfisher stayed farther out in the marsh.  So I trained my camera on some of the little birds in front of me…

Male Common Yellowthroat

Male Common Yellowthroat

I’m out of practice with my camera!  My focusing times were pretty bad today.  So it was nice of the little birds to sit still occasionally to give me time to get them into my frame.  Maybe it was their Christmas gift to me. :)

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Speaking of Christmas, everybody laughed at me when I started photographing the coots…but this one was a Christmas coot!  His red eye and his green vegetation were all ready for the holiday. :)

Christmas Coot!

Christmas Coot!

Who can resist taking a few photos of the Great Blue Herons as they bring nesting material into their trees?  I love this time of year, when the tall, lanky wading birds turn into beauties and strut their breeding feathers.   The Great Blues are so graceful as they stand together in their nest and carefully place each twig.

Nesting Great Blue Herons

Nesting Great Blue Herons

Thanks to Michael’s good eye, we turned around and got a few shots of a pair of Pine Warblers in the — you guessed it — pine trees.  They were joined by a couple of Yellow-Rumped Warblers also.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

I was on my way out when Donna spotted the best bird of the day.  A Horned Grebe!  Silly bird, he posed up close for Donna and Mike, then headed far away behind the reeds before Michael and I could get there.  But he did do some struts for the camera, so we forgave him for trying to evade our cameras.  A Horned Grebe is a good bird for Viera Wetlands.  Another Christmas present!

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

It was so great to get out with my camera again.  I’m looking forward to work slowing down in a few months, just in time for nesting season.  In the meantime, though, a very Merry Christmas to all my blog readers!  May your visions tonight dance with sugarplums and Christmas Coots! :-)