I don’t usually like photographing captive animals, but Homosassa Springs State Park in Florida has birds in an outdoor exhibit without obstructing bars or mesh. That gives a more intimate experience, and most of them are native species. Some of these birds have been injured in some way, so they cannot fly. Others, like the brown pelicans, are completely wild and have chosen to make nests and raise a family amid the non-native flamingos and the native ibis, egrets, herons, ducks.
It’s hard to find a captive bald eagle exhibit that doesn’t have an American flag draped in the background. Read the rest of this entry »
I do love that alliterative title… The roseate spoonbill possesses not only a unique snout and “bald” head, it also has a gorgeous outfit. Even the Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses the word “bizarre” to describe this large wading bird, commonly seen along the southern U.S. coasts.
Many non-birders mistake the spoonbill for a flamingo solely because of its size and color. Read the rest of this entry »
The Great Backyard Bird Count has expanded beyond backyards into anywhere birders wish to pursue their avian quarry as citizen scientists. Birder friend Marilyn and I joined Lydia Thompson’s group on Jekyll Island, Georgia, after photographing the combined sunrise/moonset on the north beach that you might have seen in my previous post.
We split into three groups, with ours led by a very good birder Mike Chapman. I’m usually not the first to spot a bird, although I can still hear the very high notes of the cedar waxwings – which many people my age can’t register anymore. But I did find the black-and-white warbler scouring the oaks for insects. Read the rest of this entry »
We had the beach to ourselves this winter morning, before the sun crested the horizon, watching the vivid sky. A few photographers came along later, when the best light was gone. Marilyn and I were piggybacking this sunrise photo session with a morning of counting birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count on Jekyll Island, GA. We were going to do light painting after sunset, but we were too tired. This boneyard – which is what they call a beach strewn with skeleton trees – will be a perfect place for that. Another time. Read the rest of this entry »
Swimming with the manatees is one of the peak experiences of my life. These sweet, gentle creatures come to Florida’s warm springs when their feeding areas in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean are too cold. They may huddle there for several days during cold snaps, but often travel back and forth to feed and rest. Since the springs are 72 degrees, they provide the warmth they need to avoid hypothermia.
Of course, this migration sparked an amazing tourist migration as well. Tour boat companies know where the manatees are, and do their best to teach visitors good manatee manners to avoid harassing or disturbing them. I realize that, as a former U.S. Fish & Wildlife employee, protecting the wildlife is the priority, and there are some who say any human interaction with the manatees is bad. However, I believe that when you give people an emotional connection to the resource (thanks Freeman Tilden) they are more likely to “take ownership” and want to protect it. Read the rest of this entry »
It was my first trip back to Okefenokee after my job ended. I was to meet friend Marilyn, who volunteers there, to watch the sunset from the boardwalk and share dinner afterwards. I also had to send my best Nikon for a sensor cleaning, and I was happy to know my big telephoto would work with my older Nikon D80. Of course, that overall quality isn’t as good due to much lower resolution, but I was happy to give it a road test. Read the rest of this entry »
I was hooked on birds at age 9, thanks to Mr. Percy O. Turner of Harahan, Louisiana. He and his gray-haired wife lived across the street, and as kids did in those days, I went over to say hello. I think I wanted to know about the noisy guinea hens caged in the front yard, and somehow we got to talking about birds. You see, Mr. Turner was a hunter, of which I did not approve, but he had many beautiful feathers – iridescent greens and blues of mallards, a mourning dove’s soft browns, even the cerulean of a blue jay tail feather that he found in the yard. He also had some bird calls he used for hunting, and he told me that instead of being “horse crazy” (aren’t all little girls?) I should learn to like birds.
You never know what kind of influence for good or evil you will have on a young child, but that one encounter changed my life. Even though we moved away soon after, I had tried several times as I grew up to let him know how much I appreciated that advice. My nickname in school was “Birdbrain” because I studied birds, brought bird books to school, drew birds, and watched them in the schoolyard. It was a moniker I wore with pride. Read the rest of this entry »