2019: Photographic Year in Review


2019 was my thirteenth year of regular blogging on catandturtle.net. It’s amazing at how much the blog has grown – it started out as a record of my gardening and backyard wildlife, long before I even knew of such a thing as a Beast! This year marked 2000 posts as I mostly enjoyed birding in my local patches around Lake Apopka. Rich and I got to take a couple of much-anticipated trips to Cape Coral for Burrowing Owls and the beaches for nesting birds and turtles.

I am so lucky to live close to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and the surrounding birding hotspots. It’s almost impossible to head out there and not find a great bird or a great photography opportunity. My favorite time of the year is springtime, when the birds are mating and migrating and taking care of their babies. From the tall Black-necked Stilts to the camera-evading warblers, the fast-flying Barn Swallows and the big-footed baby Purple Gallinules, it was a year full of avian opportunity. I also re-discovered the fun of chasing little birds at Oakland Nature Preserve, made my first trip to Newton Park, and enjoyed more than a few sunsets at Magnolia Park.

Around Lake Apopka: House Wren, Black-and-white Warbler, Blue-winged Teals mating, Black-necked Stilt, Sunset, Pied-billed Grebe with Chicks, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Least Bittern, Fulvous Whistling-duck, Barn Swallow, Black-necked Stilt chick, Purple Gallinule chick

I made it over to Fort De Soto during spring migration and was rewarded with a rainbow of color. Those special days at the end of April are a Floridian’s best way to see Neotropical migrants decked out in their prettiest breeding colors. I was big on yellow birds this year – orioles and vireos and especially Black-throated Green Warblers.

Migrant birds at Fort De Soto: Indigo Bunting, Baltimore Oriole, Yellow-throated Vireo, Black-throated Green Warbler

Then as the weather warmed, I spent several happy weekend mornings crouched in the sand and water, photographing beach birds. A flock of Red Knots in breeding plumage was a fun surprise, along with the Black-bellied Plover in crisp black colors. The terns are always fun to watch as they court, with the male presenting a fish to his prospective bride.

Beach photography at Fort De Soto: Black-bellied Plover in flight, Red Knot, Royal Tern courtship, Least Tern courtship, Black Skimmers, Black-bellied Plover in breeding plumage

For years I’ve read about the famous Cape Coral Burrowing Owls, and this year we finally made the trip down there. Wow, there were literally nests on almost every city block! We happened upon a nest with small babies still covered in downy feathers, then watched mesmerized as the babies explored the world outside their nesting burrows. Apparently poking Mom in the eye is an acceptable way to ask for dinner…

Not the Nicest Little Owlet
Not the Nicest Little Owlet

The other trip that we took this spring was to Fort Meyers to photograph Snowy Plovers. While I’d seen a small handful of Snowy Plovers at Fort De Soto over the years, I’d never seen their nesting habits or their tiny babies – until this year. Rich read patiently on his Kindle while I photographed several nests, watched the parents pick up eggshells, and tried to keep up with the fast-running babies who are so small and white that they are hard to see on the big wide beach. Rich says I didn’t stop grinning for days.

Snowy Plover nesting and baby

Then there were the nesting Least Terns. I’ve always loved watching these birds, from their courtship fish rituals to the tiny blond babies that spend their first few days in a tiny indentation in the sand. Rich helped me find a new colony this year, and my favorite memory was the “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” family. Mom and Dad spent the afternoon taking care of their day-old chick (Yesterday), the chick that was just hours old and still wet from the egg (Today), and incubating one remaining egg (Tomorrow). The family interactions were precious.

Least Tern courtship and babies

In the midst of early summer photography, I got to do some upgrades to my website, enhancing the Central Florida Bird Photography Locations pages and cross-linking birds to locations. I had a blast writing the code and learned a lot about custom WordPress plugins.

While I’m not a big lister, my Life List grew some this year. Most of the birds are from Central Florida, including the surprise Pine Siskin in my own backyard! Christmas brought the Western Tanager and Hooded Oriole.

2019 Life Birds: Western Tanager, Purple Swamphen, Common Tern, Hooded Oriole, Pine Siskin, Bank Swallow, Bronzed Cowbird

I didn’t do as much macro stuff in 2019 as in years past. I did succeed in creating an image that had been in my mind’s eye for some years. This is a Ruby-throated Hummingbird photograph of mine, posed upside down behind a plumago flower and water droplet. The image of the bird is refracted in the water. I was really pleased with how this one turned out.

Suspended Animation
Suspended Animation

Like every year, I enjoyed time in my wonderful backyard, where our wintering Painted Buntings are such a joy every time we look out the back windows. :)

Painted Bunting (Male)
Painted Bunting (Male)

2019 wasn’t all about the birds. It was a high-count year for the nesting Green Sea Turtles on Florida’s East Coast, and Rich made the sacrifice of waking up early multiple times to go and see his favorite turtles. Sunrises with turtles are always spectacular. The high point of this turtle season was seeing our first hatchling emergence, where Loggerhead babies dug themselves out of the sand and crawled quickly down the beach to meet the great ocean.

It’s hard to believe we’re on the eve of 2020. I’m looking forward to a new year of discovery as the Beast and I explore natural Florida! Happy New Year!