Errands brought me to Main Street, New Port Richey the other day. Much to my surprise I noticed a lovely little park there, but couldn’t stop to investigate that day. So today I made it a point to go back and check it out. It was a quiet little spot, in that there were not many people walking, but a nearby playground supplied all the happy kid noises you could ever want. This weather is my very favorite time in Florida. By our standards it was almost sweater weather, though my Northern friends would think we were nuts.I walked around the lake, mostly because I saw all the birds across the way. But before I had gotten to taking pictures another walker stopped me to ask if I’d seen the duck on a nest. I hadn’t, I had walked right past it. He said there were four eggs there, and he and his daughters had just seen her rearrange the eggs and settle back down on them. I thought her nest was not very protected, even if getting a photo was a challenge.I did get around to taking pictures of the birds, but it was the flowers and the bees that got me in trouble. I walked across the grass to get close enough to the flowers, but when I turned to go back to the car I found myself walking through wetness in the grass. In my flip flops. Mud. I’ve insisted that there is no mud in Florida, but I was wrong. This wasn’t just mud, it was more like tar, and it ended my travels for the day. I think I’m glad I didn’t have my hiking shoes on after all, they wouldn’t have survived. Flip flops, however, have at least nine lives.
This photo walk out of the Chinsegut Conservation Center was a bit of a back to the beginnings trip for me. Early one morning I saw a Facebook post about a bird photography class that was happening at the center, and I wanted to go. I had a new digital camera at the time, and was barely functional with it, so I called to see if they had room for one more. Not only did I begin to learn the camera, but I found friends, and I probably would never have begun blogging without another class that I took at the center later on. Yes, a coming home of sorts,
But I’m not the nature photographer that my friends are. Not every walk in the woods leads to great photos, and I confess that the description of this trip left me skeptical about the photos I might get. So to hedge my bets a bit I got to the center early in hopes of seeing birds at the many feeders there. And they were there. A Downey woodpecker, a red-headed (but not cockaded) woodpecker, a summer tanager, and a tufted titmouse pair that entertained me for quite a while. That meant I could relax and just enjoy the field trip and not worry about the pictures we’d get.
Off we went into the woods, and 20 miles in we found the banded trees that indicated the habitat of the red-cockaded family in question. It was then that I discovered that we weren’t waiting for a flock of these birds to arrive en masse, but just one family. And the banded trees each had the little holes where nesting activity was potentially happening. Young males stay with the family helping to raise the young and doing the necessary tending to the nests which keeps the sap running. The sap is their defense against their nests being raided by snakes. Clever, don’t you think?And it was a successful trip. Yes, one of the birds in question did show up and zoom into the hole in the tree and disappeared. Not one of us got a shot of that. The leader of the trip said that he felt that that was it, the event was over. But he had one trick up his sleeve. He used his phone to play the call of the red-cockaded woodpecker, rather quietly I thought, but it was enough to get this little guy to stick his head out of the nest to see what was going on.
No, it wasn’t a dramatic story. But these are the dramas that are happening all around us everyday, and we are too busy with out own lives to notice. But when we do take time to notice it doesn’t disappoint.
It’s the little ones you have to watch out for, isn’t that what they say? Like this little bird in the tree just above Mama Owl. He was hard to spot and harder to capture in a photo. But that little guy was harassing Mama owl to the point of dive-bombing her and making contact. There was a group of us below, way below, all amazed at his daring, and our cameras were clicking. I for one had forgotten all about the fact that Mama should have been my subject. And she was paying absolutely no attention to that little bird. She just sat in the sun and napped. We thought for a second that once Mama turned around and possibly wasn’t facing his nest the bird would give up his assault, but we were wrong. The dramas of nature are going on every day, imagine how many more dramas are unfolding all around us and we have no clue.
That’s the bird making contact on her head! That’s it, a blur with a little bit of feathers or beak. You have no idea how many photos I had to scour to find even this bit of that little bird’s assault. We photographers had fun watching this all happening. If not for the mosquitos I’d have stayed until it got dark, but I had to call it a day soon after this. Nature never disappoints.
Mama finally looked around and we got her face rather than her back.
Such a sweet face on this baby owl.
Then someone showed up with a dog and this one looked very interested, and a little bit fierce.Dad was there but too sheltered in the trees for a good photo. So no one was on the nest while I was there, but one of the gals said that the babies had cuddled together in the nest the night before. Cuddling, that sounds like a good idea.
I feel as if I’ve emerged from my cocoon of ‘settling in’ just in time to have my first snowbird season looming. Suddenly I’m rushing to catch up on some online classes with my photo club, the FCCP, and the one I watched yesterday morning led to an a-ha moment. My new camera and lens are wonderful, and I could get along using them exclusively with no problem. Less to carry also. But one of the first things I did with my new camera was attach it to my ‘big’ lens, the 150-600, and headed to the rookery to practice, and didn’t get a single really good image. How disappointing. But the class I watched yesterday made me realize that my problem with blurry pictures may have been my shutter speed, and I was out the door in a flash, this time in search of the eagles. I parked and began to walk over to see if I saw them at the nest when I saw this; I haven’t seen Great Blue Herons in the tree tops in a very long time. There was an eagle nearby also, but he flew away too quickly for me to get his photo. So I moved on and found this;I had seen lots of pelicans in this spot before, almost looking like a rookery that day, but not yesterday. I decided to swing past the eagle nest on my way home again, and that proved to be the photo op I was looking for;Mom and Dad were in the tree just above the nest. The Princess, as she is known, was in a tree not far away and even closer to the road. She is looking regal isn’t she? But what I hadn’t counted on was a dead armadillo in the road very close to where I had parked. By the time I returned to the car there were vultures on both sides of the road and in the trees, and I had to get past them to get to the car. They are creepy. But then once I was at the car I couldn’t help myself, and so we have these last photos of the day.Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.
You probably have said it yourself, “How did my kids grow up so fast? Now it’s the grandchildren I say that about. I wonder if wood storks have any conception of time. They hatch the chicks and they grow up and leave home all in one season on the nest. Now that’s fast.
Haven’t I always claimed that photographers are a remarkably helpful and friendly group? In general I mean. Yesterday I made a stop at the rookery since I was shopping at that shopping center anyhow, and when I went to take my step stool out of the car it wast was, sob, missing! I had taken it inside and dragged it all over the house in my curtain hanging frenzy. Even though I still have a couple of windows to go I put the step stool back in the car as soon as I got home, because I was determined to head over there today. I did take pictures yesterday, and they weren’t all that bad considering that I was shooting through the openings in the chain link fence. But they weren’t what I wanted. When I arrived at the rookery this morning there were photographers already there. Short people like me! So I offered to let them shoot from the ladder before I got up there, and they were amazed at how nice it is to shoot over the fence. Then someone said, “Oh look, the alligator is out!” Now I had seen the alligator there in a friend’s photo once, and in person once, but wasn’t able to get a photo. You can imagine me peering through the fence and asking where it was, and saying that I’ve always wanted to get a picture of it. So whoever it was who was on the ladder hurried down so I could get some shots, then he got back up again. I made some new Facebook friends today, and had such a nice time talking about photography and places to shoot. And I did get a couple of pictures too.
I call this one The Nanny, because those are Great White Egret chicks who appear to be being watched over by a wood stork. I could spin a heart warming tale about egret chicks having been abandoned and then adopted by this wood stork, but truth isn’t quite so dramatic. That wood stork is actually standing at his or her own nest directly behind the egret nest. I didn’t see any adult egrets come to that nest while I was there though. So maybe truth really is stranger than fiction…And the real wood stork chicks are growing fast. I have to wonder if there is a safety in numbers factor to why these birds choose to nest in colonies like this. It sure makes for nice photo ops.