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Tiny Dancers and Other Birds at Orlando Wetlands

Many moons ago, Michael posted a photo of a Snowy Egret on Flickr that he entitled Tiny Dancer.  Well, thanks to that photo, I get Elton John in my head every time I see fishing Snowy Egrets!  It’s a fitting title, though.  The birds are so graceful as they do their over-water gymnastics.  At my visit to Orlando Wetlands Park last weekend, the Snowies were one of my favorite photo ops.  They are fun to photograph as they dance across the water, looking for breakfast.

Tiny Dancer - with Fish! at Orlando Wetlands

Tiny Dancer – with Fish!

Look at those yellow feet as he runs across the water!  If you peek closely, you’ll see the minnow in his mouth.

Snowy Egret Fishing Technique at Orlando Wetlands

Snowy Egret Fishing Technique

Such a splash of water as he comes up from a dive!  The water looked cool and refreshing.  Up on land, the photographer was sitting in itchy grass sweating! ;-)

Birdy Arabesque? at Orlando Wetlands

Birdy Arabesque?

This tiny dancer listened well to his ballet teacher.  He remembered to point his back toes and he dove in a form of birdy arabesque!

The egrets weren’t the only birds at Orlando Wetlands.  Shall I confess to taking pictures of anything that moved, just because I was so happy to get back out with my camera?

Red-shouldered Hawk at Orlando Wetlands

Red-shouldered Hawk

This Red-shouldered Hawk posed at the top of one of the dead trees.  He actually blended in pretty well.  Such a pretty bird in soft morning light.

Little Blue Heron at Orlando Wetlands

Little Blue Heron

This Little Blue Heron sat calmly on a lower branch.  He seemed to agree with me – it was hot out that morning!

Black-bellied Whistling Duck in Flight

Black-bellied Whistling Duck in Flight

The skies were full of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, whose cheerful calls echoed throughout the marsh.  Mostly they stayed behind me, where I would have had to shoot into the sun to photograph them.  Maybe one of these days I’ll return in the afternoon.

Juvie Grackle at Orlando Wetlands

Juvie Grackle

A pair of juvie grackles was preening in the reeds.  They made such a fuss!  I was a little surprised not to see more little birds in these reeds.  I guess I have to wait a few more weeks for some of the winter migrants to arrive.

Speaking of winter migrants, the Belted Kingfishers are back already.  A pair of them were engaged in a vigorous chasing match.  Every time one would land, the other would chase him off.  They flew left. They flew right.  Up. Down. No branch was a permissible resting place.  They chased each other almost the whole time that I photographed the tiny dancers!

Belted Kingfisher in Flight at Orlando Wetlands

Belted Kingfisher in Flight

As I walked back, I spotted a Common Gallinule with her young chick.  The gallinules raise several clutches in a summer.  It’s always fun to come across the babies.  They look like little black aliens!

Common Gallinule and Baby at Orlando Wetlands

Common Gallinule and Baby

Orlando Wetlands is one place where I can reliably find Purple Gallinules, and this day was no exception.  I spotted a family of two adults and three juveniles hopping through the vegetation. One juvenile in particular seemed to love to flap his wings.  “Look out, world, I’m growing up!” he seemed to say.  Maybe next time I’m there I’ll photograph him in his full purple plumage.

Juvenile Purple Gallinule at Orlando Wetlands

Juvenile Purple Gallinule

I’ll close with another shot of a whistling duck, one of my favorite birds.  They nest in cavities in trees, and I suspect this bird had a small family calling to him from the way that he kept guard over this tree.  But if you didn’t know that, you might think he was looking for something that he lost – kinda like me when I can’t find my phone!

Did I lose something? at Orlando Wetlands

Did I lose something?

I’m looking forward to cooler weather and more opportunities to photograph our wonderful winter birds.  Stay tuned!

 

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park

Finally!  A day off when it wasn’t raining!  So I dusted off my cameras and headed to photograph sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park.  I got there just as the gate was being opened – perfect timing!  The sky was already lightening as I headed to one of my favorite sunrise spots.

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands

It never fails.  We get beautiful wispy clouds every morning as the sun rises on the way to work.  But on the weekend when I’m in a pretty location, the sunrise never is as good!  On this morning, the clouds caught some of the sun’s fire, but the thick clouds on the horizon hid most of the actual sunrise.

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands

I wasn’t the only one watching the sunrise.  The park was full of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, whose cheerful calls echoed throughout the wetlands.  They flew around in small flocks as the light got stronger.  Many of them were perched in the trees backlit by the rising sun.  I put a 2x teleconverter on The Beast  and got some silhouette shots.  At one point these two birds started to fuss, and one started to bite the other bird’s foot!  It reminded me of my cats when Whiskey sneaks in to steal Squirt’s breakfast.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

When the sun filled peeked out, it bathed the marsh in beautiful golden light.

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands

Then I found a spot where I could position the sun behind a clump of trees.  I used a high f-stop number to make the sun’s beams render in a starburst pattern.  Then it started to get hot.  Very hot.  Did I mention that I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures? :)  and winter birds!

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands

After the sun came up, I switched into bird photography mode.  You’ll see some of those photos in an upcoming blog post.  But a few minutes later, I turned around and saw all the marsh grasses bathed in beautiful golden light.  It was so pretty that I had to pull out the wide-angle one more time…

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands

Up next – birds! :)

Summertime Birds in the Backyard

It felt great to get out in the backyard with my camera a few days ago.  The backyard has been very active this summer, more active than usual.  At least two pairs of Northern Cardinals nested nearby – and spent hours chasing each other out of the backyard!  Two pairs of Brown Thrashers nested nearby also, and had a late second clutch.  Often by now the yard is rather empty, with the birds off taking care of themselves (being “real birds”, as my mom likes to say).  But this year, we still have birds.  In the case of the Brown Thrashers, it’s probably because of the mealworms that I offer at the feeders! :)

Juvenile Northern Cardinal

Juvenile Northern Cardinal

Meet one of this year’s juvenile cardinals.  He’s been very adventurous in the backyard, hopping from bush to feeder to find himself food.  I haven’t seen his parents feed him in a quite a while.  He loves to hang out in the big hummingbird bush.  It’s turned out to be a wonderful cover for all the birds, as well as a great nectar plant for the hummingbirds that visit occasionally.

House Finch

House Finch

This House Finch thought he’d sit next to the fake bird on the top of the pole.  We’ve had a family of House Finches in the yard lately, with the juveniles making quite a racket as they beg for food from their parents.  I think they nest in the oak trees around the neighborhood.

Mourning Dove with Juvenile

Mourning Dove with Juvenile

The Mourning Doves have certainly been the most numerous species this summer.  I walk out in the middle of the afternoon and startle 6-8 of them from their napping places in the shade.  In the evening, they fly in to the feeders and throw all the sunflower on the ground.  I liked how this mom brought her juvenile in to the feeder.  He didn’t seem quite sure about the sunflower-throwing business.  He’ll learn!

American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry

The American Beautyberry is starting to ripen now.  The birds love it.  I see everybody coming in to feed – cardinals, mockingbirds, finches, thrashers.  It’s amazing how they only take what they need.  One berry, chewed daintily, and then they are off.  My bushes have lots of berries and will feed them for a long time.  On this particular afternoon, I positioned myself to photograph birds feasting on berries…and alas, they went to other bushes!  Next time…

Scruffy Northern Cardinal

Scruffy Northern Cardinal

Yep, much more photogenic…a bird on a feeder! (haha)  This scruffy looking cardinal is molting.  He enjoyed the safflower seeds from my feeder as he watched me watching him.  Lots of birds are wary of me looking at them through my big lens.  He wasn’t.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yay!  Bow Tie is back!  Bow Tie is the name we gave to our little Yellow-throated Warbler that visits every winter.  His black and white feathers are all fancy like a tuxedo, with a yellow bow tie under his chin.  I was very happy to see him return to the backyard.  He doesn’t often come to my feeders, but I know he’s around because I hear his chip! call note.

Jess Needs to Cut the Grass

Jess Needs to Cut the Grass

One last cardinal shot for my dad (cardinals are his favorite bird).  The little juvie was hopping around in the grass, pulling sunflower seeds that had fallen from the feeders.  He looks pretty happy as he eats his dinner.  He also shows how much I needed to mow the grass!