Beyond the Backyard

Spring Morning at Orlando Wetlands Park

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Snowy Egret Courtship

On the morning that Deb and I saw Rich’s awesome turtle, we also saw a bunch of fun birds.  Springtime is the best time of year for Central Florida nature photography.  Some of our winter visitors are still hanging around, the migrants start to move through, and the local birds get all spiffy-looking for courtship and breeding.  So I was excited to get out and see what we could find on a nice spring morning at Orlando Wetlands Park. There are so many Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Orlando Wetlands Park right now!  Deb and I were greeted with their happy, cheerful whistling calls.  The whistling ducks are my favorite ducks.  The large flocks were on the wrong side of the light, but we found a small group of them in a shaded spot.  As we watched, one reached up to nibble on some flowers.  It was really cute. The wading birds are all ready for springtime in their bright pretty breeding colors.  We saw Great Egrets with green lores, a Tricolored Heron with a nice white plume, Snowy Egrets with lacy plumes and red lores, and this Glossy Ibis with his blue face.  I like how the vegetation at Orlando […]

Beyond the Backyard

More Birding Fun at Viera

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A Bite to Eat

In my last post I wrote about the Roseate Spoonbills roosting at Viera Wetlands in the Click Ponds.  Well, there are a bunch of other fun birds there too.  Especially during the early golden light, when the spoonies weren’t cooperating for photography, it was amazing to be surrounded by pink and yet I was photographing other subjects.  Like this Snowy Egret, who proudly strutted around with his white feathers fluffed in the gorgeous light.  He wasn’t so happy later when a spoonbill reached out and bit his leg! Viera’s not one of my favorite places for sunrise – there are too many power lines in the way.  But the sunrise and clouds did throw some gorgeous light on the water of the Click Ponds, where dozens of Great Blue Herons and Sandhill Cranes stood in the shallow water.  I really liked the colors in this silhouette: The Wood Storks were having a good morning last Saturday.  They kept pulling big fish out of the water.  One stood working his catch down his throat for at least twenty minutes.  I suspect the fish weren’t very healthy in that low water, so it was probably easy to grab them for breakfast.  At […]

Beyond the Backyard

Hot Summer Days at Orlando Wetlands Park

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Snail Kite

It’s been quite a while since I last visited Orlando Wetlands Park, so when my friend Michael Libbe suggested that we go there for sunrise, I was excited to go back.  Summer days at Orlando Wetlands Park are very hot, but there was a nice breeze to keep us comfortable.  We arrived a good half hour before sunrise, and we found fog and clouds to obscure the horizon.  So we had some time to catch up on our recent trips to Oregon and Maine as we waited for the light to illuminate the swamps. When the sun finally came up, it was a bright yellow orb behind the fog.  I thought it was pretty with the silhouettes of the distant trees underneath.  There were also a lot of grasses in the foreground which blurred and obscured the horizon.  I played with this image some in Nik Color Efex to add a vignette and a slight film grain.  I liked the mood of the resulting picture. Michael told me that a Snail Kite had been seen recently at Orlando Wetlands, so we headed off to find her.  We found her pretty easily, perched in some trees at the back of the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Fort De Soto with My Dad

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Juvenile Loggerhead Shrike

After visiting the Black Skimmer colony with my dad on Father’s Day, we decided to head to Fort De Soto to explore.  It was mid-day, and we knew we’d see more people than birds.  Still, it’s hard to be half an hour away from Bird Photography Paradise and not at least stop by!  I’m glad we did, because we had a great time.  I think I got some decent pictures, too. We started on North Beach, where we hiked the length of the beach.  I had the Beast attached to my Black Rapid strap, and I found it surprisingly comfortable to carry that way!  We got lots of comments about our cameras from the people enjoying the beach.  Photographers are practically the only ones on the beach at 7am, but by 10am we’re certainly outnumbered, and I guess we do look a little out of place! Snowy Egrets are common birds in Florida, but this one was so pretty against the ocean waves.  I loved watching him walk through the surf.  His feet are so long and his toenails are huge!  I kneeled to photograph him, but the waves kept breaking right behind his head.  So I settled back in […]

Beyond the Backyard

Gorgeous Birds at Gatorland

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My last Gatorland post focused on the Snowy Egret that I saw hatch, but I saw lots of other birds last Saturday morning also.  It was a cloudy morning, with a good chance of rain, so I didn’t want to drive for hours and then take a long walk with my Beast.  So I opted for Gatorland, which is closer to home and has rain shelter if required.  I was surprised to find that lots of other photographers had the same idea as me!  The rookery was packed.  There were several photo workshops going on, lots of long lenses, and after 10:00, tons of tourists.  But the clouds diffused the sun, letting us shoot much longer than usual.  Activity at the rookery has picked up considerably in the past two weeks.  When I was there with Debbie, the Great Egrets were the primary nesters.  Now the Snowies and Tricolored and especially the Cattle Egrets have moved in. My goal for the morning was a Cattle Egret in full breeding colors.  I got it!  (Now I want one in sunlight.  Photographers are so picky!) I was surprised to find Gray Catbirds everywhere.  They hopped onto the fenceposts of the boardwalk, not […]

Beyond the Backyard

Tiny Miracles at the Gatorland Rookery

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This morning I had the privilege of watching a baby bird hatch at the Gatorland Rookery.  It was incredible.  Watching the little bird break out of the egg and enter the world was an amazing experience.  And a long one!  The last time I watched an egg hatch, it was a Double-Crested Cormorant, and it happened really fast.  First I was looking at an egg, then the mother was poking at it and ruffling her wings, and then a baby was peeking out of the shell.  It happened so fast that I wasn’t even sure I’d seen the hatch moment until I got home and saw my pictures.  Well, today was different.  I sat watching this nest for three hours as the baby worked his way out of the egg.  It was a very fun morning! Early on in the morning, I noticed the cute pair of Snowy Egret babies that would peek out when their mom stood up.  There was still an egg in the nest, and I thought to myself that it would be fun to watch the egg hatch.  But no way, I didn’t expect it would actually happen!  I passed by the nest several times throughout […]

Beyond the Backyard

Tiny Dancer

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A few weeks ago I had fun visiting the Orlando Wetlands Park for the first time with friends.  We were searching for the Vermillion Flycatcher.  But when we came across this stretch of water with lots of fishing Snowy Egrets, it was impossible to pass them by.  They’d fly in front of us and dive for fish.  It made me realize I’m a little out of practice for flight shot focusing!  But the winter migrants have promised to help me practice. :)