Posted on March 29, 2021
Welcome back to another 30 Minutes in the Life. February was a difficult month for our family and heading into March I just really needed to get out and do some walking.
It’s late winter, the beginning of spring and the wetlands is slowly coming alive with birds. Mating is happening, nests are being built, in some cases eggs have been laid and in other, the chicks have hatched and are demanding food. What I love about this time of the year is the beautiful feather displays and the gorgeous mating colors that you see. The Snowy Egret develops these beautiful wispy trailing feathers that are used to attract the attention of the males. The coloring around the eyes is just beautiful.
As per the last number of years, the Woodstork fly in and take over all of the mating areas. I used to love it when I first saw them, and the chicks are really cute. However, they arrive in droves and take over the area that the Great Blue Heron would use, and by the end of the season, it is really smelly.
The male Anhinga develops this beautiful coloring around their eyes, and this almost mohawk like feather display on the back of their neck.
If course the result of the mating is typically 2-3 chicks that totally harrass the mom for food. The first time I saw an Anhinga chick feeding from the mom, I almost gagged. Seriously that head goes right down the mom’s throat while the other two are trying their hardest to get in there as well. It really does not look like a pleasant experience at all for the mom.
Quite often you will find the Woodstork pairs hanging out together, but this time of the year, the male will head off to the trees to find sticks to bring back to the nest.
Anhinga love fishing for food. However, once they have fished, they have to hang out in the trees to dry off their wings. Neither the Anhinga or Cormorant seems to fly far before they need to stop and spread their wings.
Lurking, and I say lurking because that is what they do in season, is the Alligators. You tend to find them hanging out below the nesting areas in case a chick falls out. If the birds are stupid enough to hang out on the lower branches they could easily become food for the gators.
This gorgeous Snowy Egret is in its mating finery. I love the wispy feathers and the lime green eye make up that they sport.
This is often why you hear of so many kills by an Alligator. They hide in the reedy water so that you can barely see them. The Moorhens are a common food source for the Alligator, as are turtles. Even so, you will see them take out bigger birds as well.
I am with this Black Bellied Whistling Duck. All it’s buddies were in the water. This one not so much. I can hear him thinking “I am not putting my feet into that water, who knows what lurks below”.
Sunning itself in the trees is the Green Iguana. The Green Iguana is not native to South Florida, but they sure do love the climate. Typically they are found in South America. Somehow they made their way to the States. While I love Iguana, many do not. People find them invasive and they breed like crazy. A really cold winter will affect the Iguana populations, with many of them dying. Other times, crazy as it sounds, the Iguana goes into a frozen state and will fall out of the trees. As the weather warms up so does the Iguana. During mating season the male Iguana can turn a bright orange.
I happened to capture this beautiful display of feathers by the Snowy Egret. It flew into the trees and tried to balance itself in the wind.
Last but not least is the litte Cattle Egret in it’s mating colors. I love the orange mohawk, and the fluffy tail feathers. He had a mate sitting higher up in the branches on her nest.
There is such beauty in nature that always amazes me and with all the chicks about to hatch I can’t wait to take another walk in the wetlands.
Thank you for joining me for another 30 Minutes in the Life.
This is a circle blog. I would encourage you to take some time to visit my very talented friend Meagan Dwyer Photography, she is about to get the party started. You will definitely love what she shares.
Posted on January 31, 2021
When I first started walking in the wetlands, many years ago, I loved to see the Great Blue Heron’s nesting at Wakadohatchee Wetlands. You got really close up to the nests in spring when the babies were being born. Fast forward some years and the Woodstork started coming in. The Great Blue Heron struggled to maintain their nesting areas against this colony of birds. They came in droves and took over. At first I was impressed with the Woodstork. They are definitely interesting to look at, but over the years I’ve kind of got annoyed with their take over routine. The Great Egrets used to nest in the trees as you first entered the wetlands and now the Woodstork have taken over that area as well. The Great Blue Heron’s have moved to trees at the back of the park which are much further away. The amount of Woodstork that move in means by the end of the season the area is super smelly and I am so over them.
My first sighting beyond these smelly, take over birds, was one of the resident Alligators who is probably looking forward to Spring as well. They tend to lurk below the nesting trees, when they aren’t sunning themselves out of the water.
Holding tight onto their spots in the trees the Woodstork have taken over is the Anhinga. Towards the end of winter the birds fly in and start to build their nests. Mating season is happening and one of the most incredible birds during mating season is the Male Anhinga. The eye color of this bird is stunning and it develops a very fluffy neck. The female however, does not change color. When the chicks are born they are the cutest things. The have these tiny bodies and these long necks. They feed like scavengers and it is incredible to watch them doing they. The chick puts it’s whole head down the mothers throat. The first time I witnessed I had a gag reflex. Yikes the poor mom.
As I continued along the walkway I spotted this Great Blue Heron wading in the water looking for lunch. I love them, To me they are majestic birds. We used to have one come to our back garden. Clearly someone had been feeding him and he was looking for that. I did not want to have him become dependent on me feeding him, but I would throw bread out for the fish in the canal so that he could go fishing. He would come by every day for the the summer and then he just disappeared. I used to call him Big Blue. Hanging out in the same waters sunning itself in the sun, fortunately for the Great Blue Heron, was another of the parks Alligator.
On the opposite side of the walkway there were a few Great Blue Heron, and surprisingly early, were two Great Blue Heron chicks. I am not sure if the first bird was protecting eggs or just trying to cool down. We have had interesting days down south right now that are sometimes warm and sometimes cold. This particular day was warm. The second photo is the chicks. When they are born they looks so cool. All head and beak with a mohawk. I am so disappointed that the Woodstork took over their nesting place.
And then I come to the walkway. I have committed to taking 1 image a week using my different lensbaby optics and so today I had the sweet 35 and I created a portal through the walk way. So come and join me with the second half of my walk.
Hanging out in the walkway trees are typically the tiny birds and this Palm Warbler was so challenging to catch. I probably took about 15 photographs just to get this one. The flit from tree to tree.
The Swamp Hen fascinate me. They are so rich in color and very similar to the Purple Gallinule. What fascinates me with these birds is their feet. They have the longest, possibly ugliest toes that I have seen on birds. They utilize them like fingers holding on to the reeds that they pull out of the ground to eat. Normally you will see a group of them wading around.
The glossy Ibis is another beautiful bird that hangs out in a group as a rule. This one had moved away from the group and started digging for food in a slightly different area. They are named glossy Ibis because of their stunning feathers. In normal light they look brownish but when the sunlight catches them their feathers become glossy and a different array of colors.
In the last stretch of my walk I spotted this Little Green Heron in the reeds also looking for food. This is a small bird of incredible colors and I love to watch them look for food. They are patient and they will wait probably longer than I am willing to watch them to catch their food.
Of course, I could not resist the tiny bit of fall colors in the wetland. When I spotted this leaf lying on the railing, I had to capture it. This is one of my favorite ways of shooting leaves.
Always a favorite for me is the Iguana that we find in South Florida. Not native to this region, they are often unpopular with local inhabitants. However, I think they are pretty cool. They are so unique in their markings and as seen below, quite vibrant in their mating colors. Of course, the are prolific in repopulating the area which leads to them being disliked. These Iguana live in the southern states due to the climate. During cold spells in winter, the Iguana freeze and will often fall from trees. Sadly some of them fall into water and drown or become gator bites. Others, surprisingly enough, seem to thaw and get up and start moving again.
And with that I am back to the smelly Woodstorks again, and heading back out of the park. I always enjoy this mile long walk out in the fresh air. I am going to need to get back out again soon.
Thank you for joining me this month. This is a small group of bloggers so when one or two are out it seems like it is a quiet month for blogs however, this is a circle blog. Take some time to view what the other artist has for you this month. My friend Lupji Photography is up next. I look forward to reading what he has to share.
Posted on November 30, 2020
For the longest time I have felt like my 70-300mm is just not enough when I walk in the wetlands. However, when I came to replace my existing zoom lens, I was facing bills for my Sims and his lung issues. I was very reluctant to spend over a $1000-00 on a lens. So I bought the cheaper replacement lens. But it bugged me. I still could not get what I wanted
I, by chance, was looking at a lens group on Facebook and decided to search the lens I had been looking at. It is always a risk to do that as you never know what you are going to get. However, this person was living in the same town as my son. My son also had a Canon camera, so I asked him set up to meet the photographer and check out the lens. If he thought the lens was in good condition, and worth purchasing then to go ahead and get it. The upside it cost half the price of a brand new one.
He liked the lens. In fact he liked it so much he informed me that he may have to keep it. Mmmm … no!
He bought the lens. I had to wait. We were meeting up in Georgia, and I would only be able to get it from him then. He gave me the box and it was like Christmas. I opened up the box, was super excited, and then realized Sigma has different terminology to Canon. That meant I had to do some reading, which I only did when I got back home.
Of course, we did not go straight home. Nope we went to Charleston. You can imagine my patience level. I really wanted to figure this out. Finally we are back home and I can to my reading, do my testing and then I am ready to hit the road this this beaut.
I have named the lens “The Beast”. Why? Because it is pretty darn heavy. It weighs 4.3 pounds. You are dragging this baby around for 2 miles. Not sure if that is what is giving me a sore shoulder but I am going to suck it up and figure out how to make the should area stronger.
The first time I walked out, I found a comfortable position to hold the camera. However, what I found is that this lens is heavy and stabilizing the movement was not as easy as I thought. I found myself having to rest my arms on the boardwalk to give some level of stability. It will get better with time I am sure.
When I got home I found that my fingers were sore. Obviously I was clutching at the lens.
I can tell you that I am very happy with the lens. I love the images and the ability to get so much closer to the critters just makes me happy.
I am have been out a couple of times since then, lugging the beast. I am excited. I just want to see everything in close up these days. What I will say is this lens will not be doing street photography, or travel photography, unless I am hunting wild horses to photograph. I will take this lens to the wetlands and places that I feel will be suitable for it’s use.
Please continue to stay safe, wherever you are in the world. Thank you for joining me for 30 Minutes in the Life. I would encourage you to take some time to visit my very talented friend Ceri of Ceri Herd Photography. You will definitely love what she shares. I am always inspired with what she has to offer.
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