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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!)
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!
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. :-)
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!! :-)