birds, eagles, Florida landmarks, Florida wildlife, go with the flow, Jenkin's Creek, perseverance, photography, sunrise, unintended images

Lost opportunities…

I told myself to go out for the sunrise.  I had finished the coffee, caught up with Facebook, and there was still time to head out.  I had seen stars out there when I let the dogs out, so it wasn’t overcast.  But as I made my first turn I spotted the moon, big and round but very low in the sky, with wispy clouds over the face.  Now I had a different plan, skipped the turn to Bayport and headed for Hammonds Creek bridge, simply because it was closer.  I felt like I was racing to get there before the moment had passed.  And I thought it had because I hadn’t seen the moon again, so I made the turn to Jenkin’s Creek, just a little further.  And in the last stretch of road I saw the moon again, just as it sank into the low clouds.  They talk about lost opportunities at work, but they are talking about sales of products, but these are the lost opportunities that drive me nuts.

The colors of the sky were pretty, but the sunrise would have been prettier at either of my other options this morning, and I was mad at myself.  And then I noticed two shapes in the dead tree across the inlet.  I didn’t even hurry, sure they would turn out to be vultures.  It wasn’t until I moved the car across the parking lot, set up the tripod, and finally looked through the zoom lens that I saw they were eagles.  I took pictures as they looked left, then right, in unison, and just as I was about to leave I thought I saw one ‘defecate’.  That was the polite term that Jeff, guru of the photo group, used when he said that you must know bird behavior.  They lighten the load just before they fly, he said.  So I backed the zoom off a little bit to give myself some room, and off he took!  3-1eagle83-1eagle73-1eagle53-1eagle43-1eagle33-1eagle23-1eagle1I’ll be looking for that moon tomorrow…

 

birds, dogs, eagles, Florida wildlife, life, life goes on, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, nesting, Osprey, pelicans, photography, pond creatures

Beyond the nest…

When I left the nest, having heard the sad news about the eaglets, I went to Anclote River Park.  I had been there before with my son and his family, and what I remember was that the water was red.  I don’t remember the explanation.  It was very odd, and it stuck in my mind.  What I found this time was a lovely park, and I would think it might be yet another great spot for the sunset.  I was directed there by another photographer, who told me to look to my right once I got there and I’d see the Osprey nest.  He wasn’t sure if there were eggs, but as you see the Ospreys were on hand.

Then I wandered along the walkway and what I couldn’t help but notice were the pelicans.  Certainly the most up close photo opportunity with them that I’ve seen so far.3-2pelican2Day 6 PelicanBut still the eagles were on my mind.  I saw the one in the dead tree when I first got to the nest, and the other one when I stopped on my way home.  So they are still in the vicinity of the nest, a nest of very long standing.  I spoke to my eagle watching friends and there is speculation that the eagles may mate again and lay more eggs this season.  I hope so, at least I think I hope so.  It’s hard not to get too attached.3-2eagle3-2eagle2Back home the Sandhill Cranes continue to tease us.  They are on the lake daily, on the old nest and also visiting the new nest they built.  They don’t spend the night, or I don’t think that they do.  So whether or not there will be new babies on the lake is still an unknown.3-2cranes.jpg  I counted on the sunset for a Day 7 of the 10 day photo challenge, but it was too overcast.  Sunsets are funny that way.  Which left me with only one solution.Day7Zoe

I suppose this is Zoe’s ‘before’ picture because she needs a haircut.  She was gorgeous when she was young, long-legged and slim.  I joked that I got her because people grow to look like their dogs, and I wanted to be taller and thinner.  Well, what’s happened is that Zoe has gotten thicker through the middle, and I’ve got grayer… and hair on my chin.

birds, eagles, Florida wildlife, life, natural wonders, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, nesting, on closer examination, photography

Eaglets…

I asked Siri what baby eagles are called, and eaglets was the answer.  I was afraid I’d made that word up when I considered using it.  One of my fellow stalkers of the nest, and I say that with all respect, happened to speak with an official from Pasco County yesterday.  When asked if he would like to receive photos from the photographers who have been concentrating on the nest the official said yes.  And that is what made me go back to my last visit and look, really look, at my photos from that day.  Sometimes after being out for quite a while taking the photos, and then coming home and writing a blog post, I tend to narrow my vision to what fits the subject I’m writing about.  Telling the story of the day as it happened, and not posting a ridiculous number of photos.  In looking back at the photos for Pasco County I realized that what I’d most like to see is the eaglets, as clearly as possible.  And when you consider the distance involved, the size of the eaglets, and the angle from which you are forced to take the photos, it is amazing that these photos are even possible.  That’s technology for you, not necessarily the photographer.  So the post for the 3rd of February is probably outdated since those little guys change so rapidly.  All the more reason to post them now, because the next time I manage to make it to the nest they’ll probably look entirely different.1-29onthenest11-29onthenest21-29onthenest31-29onthenest41-29onthenest51-29onthenest61-29onthenest7The images of them being fed are the most frustrating to get.  In person you can see what’s going on.  The parent shreds a morsel from whatever unfortunate creature has found itself as dinner, and then turns it’s head and the eaglet takes the morsel from it’s beak.  I’m not sure I’d have imagined that activity from a still photograph.  And I’m finding myself making the same assumptions that I did last year over the Sandhill cranes.  One baby seemed more adventurous and the other more quiet and subdued.  That’s how I’m seeing the eaglets, one is easy to spot, but the other doesn’t seem to lift it’s head up to check out the world nearly as often.  Patience is a virtue, especially for a nature photographer, or so it seems to me…

I wrote this this morning (Friday), and then my plans for the day changed so I went to the nest.  I was surprised that I saw no eagles, babies or parents.  After a while I took my phone out of my pocket and was dismayed to see a message from a friend that it is suspected that the babies have died.  Heartbreaking news, I felt guilty just walking away. I drove to a nearby park, and on my way home I saw photographer friends all set up at the nest.  They were aware of the possible problem, but they were planning to stay anyhow.  The eagles were in the area, but not on the nest…

birds, eagles, Florida wildlife, nature, nesting, photography

A long day…

I joined a 10-day photo challenge on my photo group.  As an exercise it’s meant to get you out and taking pictures.  You may have figured out that I don’t need a whole lot of encouragement to do exactly that.  ‘Choose your best picture of the day and post it’, but just one, was the instruction.  I thought that sounded like fun so I signed on for the challenge, even though I’m easily intimidated and have only posted one photo on that group so far.  Then I read someone’s helpful hints about things to keep in mind for your photo and editing for the challenge, and it took on a whole different, and not so much fun, sort of aspect.   So I went out for the sunrise at Bayport yesterday, but it didn’t happen.  There was a misty rain, and I thought a red glow in the mist might be nice, but instead of a glow the fog rolled in while I was waiting.  But I did get this photo, which I captioned, “Quoth the Grackle, Nevermore”.  Day TwoThe dogs and I found this visitor out on the lake when we got home from our walk…1-29newneighborA Wood Stork!  It wasn’t so long ago that I saw my first one in person at Jenkin’s Creek, which isn’t all that far away, but I’ve never seen one out back before.  So even though I wanted to go check on the eagles again I stopped to take his picture first.  1-29twolittle ones1-29twochowdownFinally, I was at the eagle’s nest, and the misty rain had cleared, and nothing was going on.  There was one eagle only, guarding the nest from the branch above. I did notice a lot of vultures in the immediate area and they seemed to be concentrating on the nest.  I saw her calling, but her mate didn’t come right away.  She stood her ground at that point, but did chase off one vulture a bit later.  When she came back she landed on the nest and was tending it again.

Right about then I heard someone say hello, and I discovered, to my surprise, that there was another photographer standing beside me, with his tripod and camera all decked out in camouflage trimmings.  He was from Connecticut and just visiting down here, he said.  He saw me with my camera and stopped, and was hoping that I wasn’t watching an Osprey since they have plenty of them to photograph in Connecticut.  He was quite happy when I pointed out the eagle and the nest, and shortly after that we saw one baby pop it’s head up.  When I told him that there were two of them, but one still didn’t appear, he told me that they can be aggressive, the babies can, and that if there isn’t enough food then one baby might devour it’s sibling. Now I knew I wasn’t leaving unless I saw two babies, and thankfully that happened, but not until shortly after he left.  I took 250 pictures yesterday, but the only ones that really mattered were the couple that showed the two chicks.  I still had a class to go to in Clearwater last night.  It was a long day…

 

 

eagles, Florida wildlife, life, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, nesting, photography

Nature and nurture…

It was domestic bliss at the nest today.  As one parent watched from the branch above the other parent was tending the young.  Two of them for sure, and I saw a comment that there could be another one.  I had a perfect view through the lens as one baby was fed, and I clicked away, but every single one of those pictures turned out blurry.  Darn it.

I looked up the life cycle of the eagle today and learned that they are nomads for their first four years of life.  This is when they are most vulnerable, and I saw an estimate that only 1 in 10 makes it to adulthood.  They mate at 5 years old, mating for life, and building a nest that they return to year after year.  They ado thenest every year, which is how the nests can become such architectural marvels.  The nest is always high in the tallest tree around, and close to water so they can fish.  The eggs hatch in about 35 days, and it’s 10 to 12 weeks until they fledge (fly).  They will spend several more months in the area perfecting their skills before they are on their own.  In the wild they live 20 to 30 years.

But for the time being I want to simply enjoy the little ones as they grow.  And while we wait for the Sandhill Cranes to get down to business…

 

1-27feadingfeature1-27chicks11-27chicks21-27chicks31-27chicks41-27chicks51-27chicks61-27chicks71-27chicks81-27chicks91-27chicks101-27chicks121-27chicks13

birds, eagles, Florida wildlife, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, nesting, photography, sky

Defending the nest…

My fellow photographers inspired a trip back to the eagle nest today.  One photographer has been getting shots of baby eagles at a nest she visits, and it made me wonder how ‘our’ eagles are doing.  And beyond that, I heard that the eagles have been being harassed by vultures, and that they had to drive the vultures off several times yesterday.

I got there today about 2 PM and the eagle was tending the nest as you see it above, not in the nest but above it.  There have always been vultures in the air when I’ve ben there, but they have been off in the distance.  Today I counted 12 at one time in the air, and the eagle was constantly scanning the sky as I watched.1-24nesteagle1You can see a bit of a vulture flying over in this picture.  I don’t know if that bird is what inspired the eagle to take off and give chase, but it was amazing to watch them swoop, and reverse direction at top speed.  They disappeared behind the trees, and the eagle was still in pursuit when they reappeared.  I tried to catch the chase in pictures but it was impossible.  1-24nesteagle21-24nesteagle31-24nesteagle4 copyWhen she returned she landed on the nest.  She was still scanning the sky, but also looking down into the nest, at her chick maybe?  While she was gone I concentrated on looking at the nest in case I might spot a little head pop up to look for Mom, but that didn’t happen.  1-24nesteagle51-24nesteagle6Her mate did come back, I saw him flying in and zoomed onto the nest thinking that he’d land there, but I was surprised to see Mom take off and both of the eagles were now in pursuit of at least two vultures.  Again, amazing to see but not so easy to photograph.  When I left there was one eagle on the nest and one in the trees nearby.     Keeping watch, defending the nest.