I frequently assume I know what’s going to happen next, based on what has happened in the past, and I’m frequently wrong. But not this time. When I first noticed that the Sandhill cranes had taken their newly hatched chicks off the lake this morning I wasn’t surprised. Last year’s family had only spent one full day on the lake before doing the same thing. I told myself that I wasn’t going to go one block over to look for them, and then I went anyhow.And waiting for them to come ‘home’ at night is a lot like waiting for your teenagers to come home on the weekends. They show up just as you are starting to panic. They wander down from the yard across the street, heading for the lake. It was a lot later than I expected, not until 5:40, and they didn’t seem to dawdle, it was time for Dad to fly over to the nest and clear out all the interlopers.Dad then led the charge to the nest. Day two for the new family…
It’s always amazing what you notice when you sit out back for a while with your camera. Yesterday I noticed this very handsome fella out there, and Merlin said it was a juvenile Pied-billed Grebe. There were at least three of them actually, small, a duck that dives totally underwater to hunt for food.That photo is from yesterday, and this next photo is from today…I’m sure he felt as if he’d won the lottery with that bullfrog, and just as in life, his fellow juvenile Pied-billed Grebes were bearing down on him for a piece of the action. He was able to get away, not so for the frog. Grebe-1, frog-0.
The Sandhill cranes kept the babies at the lake today, although they did seem to explore the yard of the house across the street. I expect them to be gone all day tomorrow, and to return later on in the afternoon. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist watching, and for once I’d be happy to be wrong.Having read about the hunting skills of the Tri-color Heron I was surprised that this one was allowed to be in the same general area as the new family. I did see one of the adult crane lunging down into the grass pursuing something. A friend had said to watch out for snakes getting the babies, and that’s exactly what came to mind when I saw him chasing something. Then when it was time to head to the nest Dad (I think) flew over and cleared all the interlopers off the island, and he returned to the side and all four made their way home for the night.
The good thing about dragonflies is that they return to the same spot all the time. So you can get yourself ready, get the camera focused, and you’ll be ready to take your photo when he returns. The bad thing about dragonflies is that they return to the same spot all the time. And when they do come back they tend to land in the same position again, so you are ready to take the picture, but it’s the same picture every time. I wish they would do something surprising now and then. At least they are out back daily, giving me photo ops when Mama Sandhill crane sitting on her eggs becomes less than exciting.
And, speaking of taking the same picture over and over, you probably suspect that my Sandhill crane on the nest photo is the same one and I’m reusing it periodically. But I’m not. I was worried when I was away over the weekend, worried that I’d miss the new Sandhill crane chicks hatching. I was so lucky to be on the spot to watch as it happened last year, so I was happy to see her still on the nest when I got back, that I didn’t miss anything. And poor Mama has been out there through two really bad storms, and still she is out there. And her mate is there also. I love that guy. But I see that the grass surrounding the nest is longer than it was last year, I hope it will be easy to see the chicks with my big new lens. But then they didn’t spend a lot of time on the next last year anyhow, so it will be fine. She said, optimistically.
And the Little Blue Heron who is always on the post out there. I can’t help but take pictures of him almost glowing in the sun. Not the same photo all the time, it just looks like it.
The Anhinga chicks really stood out, even from across the marsh at Gatorland, because the chicks are yellow. Very different from the Great Egret and Woodstork chicks that were also there. I had to ask what those babies were because at that point the adult Anhinga that was with them was hunkered down enough that I didn’t realize there was an adult on the nest. The Anhinga is also called the water turkey, because of it’s tail, and the snake bird, because of it’s habit of swimming with only it’s head and neck out of the water. I can attest to the fact that it’s startling to see them swimming like that, at least the first time you come across them.
What you normally see is an Anhinga perched on a branch close to the water, with it’s wings outstretched to dry them. They swim completely underwater to stalk their prey, and they catch their fish for dinner by stabbing it through the side with their beak. I’ve seen them in smaller numbers at the rookery close to my house, but they keep to the low branches and I hadn’t been able to see their nests at all. But at Gatorland their nests are high in the trees, and lots easier to see. And photograph…This last was a silhouette already, so I tried one of the new profiles in this new version of Lightroom.
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.But 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.Back 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. 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.
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.
I was contemplating where I might go for photos yesterday when that elusive Tricolor Heron got me out back with the camera. From the kitchen window I saw him land on my side of the lake, just down the hill. But of course he flew all the way across the lake as soon as I got myself out there with the camera. But the light was nice as sunset approached, and the ducks were causing a ruckus out there. They were feeling frisky I think, must be that time of year. I could see something on the far bank across the lake also, but had to look through the camera lens to see that it was a turtle. I could see movement too, as if he had a creature trapped and was about to have lunch. When I saw the photos it turns out he was just waving his right front leg around. Not the photo op I thought I was getting. Even Merlin let me down by not being able to identify the pretty ducks that were swimming in a patch of perfect light out there. None of the choices suggested seemed to be the right bird. And then they all flew off in a group. After having had six days off you wouldn’t think that I’d feel the need for such a quiet night, but I did, and it was nice.