Auld Lang Syne

     Should auld acquaintance be forgot? And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days of o’ Lang Syne! This timeless chorus will be sang in many homes and hearths this week as we bid goodbye to another year of Reflections on Broward. I hope you have enjoyed it half as much as I enjoy sharing these precious auld moments with you while I sit on the Broward, coffee cup in one hand and a camera (new one :) ) in the other.

     I close this year’s Reflections with a trip Beyond the Broward. As governor of one of the Mayflower descendant colonies, I had to travel to the Sarasota area for our Fall Meeting. Sarasota is a wonderful place for birding and has several of Florida’s Great Birding Trail sites nearby. I had asked a Facebook friend who lives there where to visit if one only had an afternoon to look. She told me of two locations on the Great Birding trail. One is a place called Celery Fields, and the other is the Venice Audubon Bird Rookery. On the night I checked in a juvenile Bald Eagle flew by my window. As I was leaving the hotel the following day, a pair of Sandhill Cranes landed by the lake situated just behind the hotel. Celery Fields was only two miles south of the exit where I was staying. It used to be actual farmlands of celery fields, which were later flooded and converted to a water management area. It is well maintained by the local Audubon volunteers and has observation gazebos situated on some of the ponds (Thanks Margie for the recommendations). Although the weather was uncooperative, the birds were certainly not. I captured my second photo of a Limpkin and watched as hawks, eagles, spoonbills,ibis, swallows, anhinga, cormorants and grackles and ducks and others fed in the various ponds. I visit the Ringling Brothers Circus Museum in Sarasota at the request of the Editor to get some information for her class. I take a few bird photos while there also. Continuing further south to Venice Florida, is a small but well maintained pond and surrounding field used as a rookery for migrating fowl. A small island in the middle of the pond has some trees and shrubs,  just perfect for a small colony of Great Blue Herons to gather and raise up a new generation. 

     The real highlight of my trip though was a visit with some of my cousins who live just a bit further south. Bill and Margaret Selsor hosted me for two wonderful nights while cousin Bill took me around the area. We visited Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on historic Sanibel Island, where I had the opportunity to capture a few more bird photos, and meet some other photographers. One of them gave me an opportunity to try some of their long lenses on my new camera. So in closing I ask you to take a true cup of kindness and share it with a loved one, a relative, or friend as we once again bid the old year good by and sing of Auld Lang Syne. The Editor and I wish you a very Happy New Year. Be Blessed. 

The first bird I see is a juvenile Bald Eagle flying by my window…a good omen of Auld Lang Syne..

A migrating pair of Sandhill cranes rest by the lake behind the hotel…I try not to disturb them..

I leave them as I found them,.one keeping vigil..

The other resting peaceably with the occasional eye open...

My next encounter is a Limpkin in Celery Fields as it hops up on the railing

Limpkin in flight..

Female Anhinga at the Ringling Brothers Circus Museum in Sarasota..

Brown Pelican demonstrates its own aerobatic prowess at the Ringling Brothers mansion.

Male Anhinga in classic pose drying its wings, Venice Bird Rookery

Numerous White Ibis stroll the grass fields around the rookery.

A Great Blue Heron prepares its nest for a new generation soon to be hatched.

This Great Blue Heron looks a lot like Santa..

Cormorants fly by as we enter Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island

I get to use another photographers 600mm lens to capture this distant White Pelican resting at low tide

A Reddish Egret equipped with a radio tracking device dances in the low tide looking for minnows among the other marsh birds.

The blue green eyes of the cormorant sparkle in the morning light.

A Yellow Crowned Night Heron spots a crab with its keen red eyes

It's fresh crab for breakfast..

Cousin Bill at the Sanibel  lighthouse….there were "snowbirds" at the beach swimming!

Time to reflect back on the year…Should Auld Acquaintance be forgot?

They say it isn't over until the "Fat Lady" sings…this old Ringling Circus Sideshow Billboard seems to indicate she is singing the end of 2014

We bid 2014 goodbye..And we will take a cup of kindness yet For times gone by! Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year..

Waiting and Watching...

     In the cold dark morning hours the Tricolored Heron sits and waits and watches. “I just know He is coming”, quips the shivering Heron. The frost is as thick as snow on the dock this morning. The Heron’s toes feel like they are frozen solid as it sits on the frost covered dock and waits and silently watches. Perhaps if I go up on my perch I can see him coming says the freezing little bird. So up he goes.

     The sun has not yet fully risen but the warm golden rays are beginning to light up the morning sky like fire. With frozen wings the poor bird is hopeful that soon, yes soon he will see the coming of the one he is anticipating. His toes and wings feel like frozen lead weights. As the suns rays begin to penetrate the marsh, warmth starts to fill the air spaces between the feathers. Stretching out its left wing the little Heron stands on one frozen leg and lets its feathers warm to the sun. Then with aching toes it switches balance to the other leg and slowly stretches the other leg and wing. As it peers into the morning sky there is nothing but emptiness. The little bird just knows he is coming. Perhaps if I fly down and wait on the dock I will catch him sneaking in the back way.  So I will just sit there and wait and watch some more. After what seems like an eternity, the Tricolored Heron flies over to my dock and peers into the marsh. The bird impatiently stands, waiting and watching for the expected arrival. The vigil is taking its toll on legs and wings. Time to take another stretch. Ohhh that feels better now. Suddenly the sky is filled with wings of white. The Great Egret announces the coming…He is here, Santa Blue is here!

     Like little children anxious to see the arrival of Santa Clause, the birds of the Broward are awaiting the arrival of their own Blue feathered Santa arriving with a sack full of marsh goodies. As for me, I pause to give thanks this week in celebration of a different arrival. This arrival happened about two thousand years ago in the birth of a child.  A child named Wonderful, Counselor, the Prince of Peace, who will soon come again I believe. In the meantime I will be the one just sitting on the dock and waiting and watching. Until then, you have a Blessed and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Reflections on Broward

Red Sky in Morning, Sailor take warning..Sunrise on the Broward.

The Tricolored Heron has been up waiting and watching long before dawn ..it hops down onto the floating dock as I approach..

The frosty boards look like they are covered in snow. The heron's toes are frozen in a matter of moments..yet it watches and waits.

I can't feel my toes…better get back on the perch to see if I can see him coming..

The cold wind blows through the birds feathers..the sun begins to rise..

Ohhh that feels better,,,,the heron stretches its left leg and wing..

Now the other one…oh yeah..better

He has to be coming soon..I will wait near the dock. Perhaps I will catch him there..

I just don't see him yet? 

Maybe I will catch him coming up the dock..brrr..water sure is cold..

Maybe he is on the other dock…oohhhh that feels good..

Oh my goodness…what is that sound I hear..?

The sky is filled with wings of white…He is coming..He is coming shouts the Great Egret..

Santa Blue has arrived…The Editor and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year..

Raptors over the Broward

     The Editor recently absconded all my raptor photos from my bird wall. She is teaching with a small group at her school and the subject of Raptors was the lesson of the day. Talk about tailor made visual aides! She really had those students attention and they loved passing the raptor photos around and telling stories about the various birds and what makes a raptor. Thought I would share the lesson with you too.

     I recently attended an Eagle Watcher training session sponsored by the Audubon Society Center for Birds of Prey where they rehabilitate injured raptors. Matt Smith brought Francis (a male Bald Eagle) to the lesson and talked about raptors. A raptor is a bird of prey. The word raptor comes from the Latin root that means ‘to seize and carry away’ and is assigned to any bird that kills with its feet. Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, Osprey, Kites, and Owls are all raptors. A Bird of Prey is a predatory bird, distinguished by a hooked bill and sharp claws (talons) and belonging to the order Falconiformes (diurnal birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, kites, vultures, and osprey) or Strigiformes (nocturnal birds of prey such as owls) that capture, kill, and eat other animals or feed chiefly on carrion. The third common characteristic is the eyes. Raptors have incredible eyesight and can spot prey from a mile or more away. You know, sort of like when a policeman on patrol can smell a hot donut from 10 blocks away. I digress. The hooked beak can tear through tough fish scales and animal hide. The talons have incredible strength, up to several hundred pounds of force can be exerted by the talons. They can literally squeeze a small animal to death. The sharp curved talons ensure there is little chance of escape. They can dive at speeds over 100 miles per hour to quickly capture a fish or bird or small animal. And are they ever so graceful and majestic in flight.

     Of all the local raptors, the Eagles are my favorite. It is the only bird mentioned that flies before the throne of God. Hope you enjoy the raptors of the Broward. Now smell the aroma of that coffee, grasp the handle with your talons and see the steamy brew and indulge the raptor in you over a nice donut. Be blessed today. Harry

Predawn on the Broward..

Meet Matt Smith (left) and Francis, a male Bald Eagle at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. Note the large talons of the feet on Francis. 

These sharp eyes can spot prey from miles away. Raptors have a sharp hooked beak for tearing fish scales and animal flesh.

The Red Tailed Hawk is a common raptor found on the Broward.

Red Shouldered Hawk over the marsh.

Osprey with fish snack carried in its talon.

Mating pair of Bald Eagles soar over the Broward near my home. The female is the larger of the pair.

Female Bald Eagle soaring overhead..

The Male Bald Eagle of the pair flies over me in my kayak and keeps an eye on its mate nearby.

Northern Harrier female in recent fly by.

Dive Dive Dive!

     As a young midshipman I did a summer patrol on a “Boomer”, aka a Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine.  Just like in the classic WWII Pacific submarine films, the Officer of the Deck would give the order DIVE DIVE DIVE! The Diving Officer of the Watch would then give orders to the plane and helmsmen and Ballast Control Panel Operators to submerge the boat to the appropriate operating depth.  I qualified as the Diving Officer of the Watch during the patrol. On my first independent watch the Officer of the Deck (OOD) gave the order to come to periscope depth, which I smartly executed. The OOD raised the periscope, swung it around and said something I can’t repeat, then said, EMERGENCY DIVE, DIVE DIVE DIVE! Take her down fast and deep! Needless to say this got my attention really quick and in turn I got the Commanding Officer's attention as I took the submarine down like a rock and then gave orders to pull the boat out of the dive and level off (just in the nick of time). A strong thermocline had masked the noise of an approaching freighter that almost ran us over. 

     Why do I tell this sea story? Because on the Broward we now have a bird called the Pied Bill Grebe (one of the Editors favorites) that is half bird and half submarine. These little diving birds submerge just like a submarine, swim long distances chasing fish and then surface with only its eyes above the water like a periscope to see if there is any danger before coming up to the surface. When they spot me they dive again. Often all I see is the top of the head pop up with those little eyes peering up to see if I am still there. Unlike ducks, they do not have webbed feet but instead have paddle like appendages on the toes that aid in swimming. Although they are very apt swimmers they are very awkward on land. This is because their legs are located way back under the rear of the bird. The Latin word for Grebe literally means “feet at the buttocks”.  Their aquatic prowess though is second to none on the Broward. In mating season the dark banded vertical stripe on the beak is very pronounced on the males.

     It pays to have a periscope in life. Before exposing ones “boat” to danger, it is wise to peer quickly and quietly around with just a little snorkel sticking above the surface. You never know what may be lurking up there just waiting to run you over.  And always have a lid on your coffee cup in case you have to do an emergency dive.  Be Blessed. Harry

Full Moon over the Broward 6 Dec 14

One never knows what may be flying overhead looking for a meal. A juvenile Bale Eagle surveys the marsh for something to eat..These eagles are known to eat other birds like Pied Billed Grebes.

Two Pied Bill Grebes swim by the dock and spot me, one takes flight, the other quickly dives like a submarine.

This young grebe swims warily by and keeping one eye on me at all times..

The grebe begins to submerge like a submarine..the neck is the first to disappear..

Next the head and front of the body sink lower until it almost is gone..

With a quick nose down entry…the next thing you know..

All that remains momentarily is a tail feather and ripples as it dives dives dives..!

Up Periscope…the Grebe pokes only  its head up to see if I am still around...

Yep, Mr Doohickey is still there, dive dive dive!.

This brave little grebe decides to swim by me on the surface..

During the breeding season the vertical stripe on the male's bill becomes more pronounced.

We leave you this frosty morning with a bit of a tail feather wag. Hang on to your coffee cup, we are about to DIVE DIVE DIVE!

High Tide

     It is high tide on the Broward. Most of the marsh birds are resting and waiting for the tide to turn to hunt. The sun glistens like diamonds in the ripples on the water. The sky is blue and there is not a cloud to be seen. A crisp cool breeze blows and refreshes the air. It is a picture perfect fall afternoon on the river. I look up river and see the sea gulls and terns swooping down like rockets to catch fish. I have a tough choice, clean my desk or grab my paddle and launch my Wavewalk into river. What is another day of a messy desk?

     The pull of the kayak through the water is effortless as I lift one side of the paddle and then dip the other. Soon I am out in the channel with Royal Terns and Sea Gulls sweeping by, their eyes glued on the waters below. I pull over to the opposite bank to get the sun at my back and watch and wait. A Royal Tern abruptly turns, its eyes locked on the prize below. My new 7D Mk II captures the dive sequence almost perfectly. Too bad the poor Tern missed the fish or it would have been a real Kodak moment.

     As I turn into the channel to the Secret Broward Hideout, white feathered fowl begin to glance in my direction. A low hanging branch blocks a bend before I can get a good shot. The branch snags the kayak and swings me around. Taken by surprise, a flock of Hooded Merganser ducks hiding in the marsh take off like a heard of frightened horses. I had no idea they were there. That is all it took for the hideout gang to take wing. Drats! So much for my quiet approach. I push the doohickey as fast as I can. A few birds circle back and land again in the hideout. Not wishing to disturb them, I leave. While gliding back towards the dock a pair of Great Egrets rise from the marsh and alight in the tree next to my landing. A slight turn of the paddle guides the Wavewalk into my landing by the tree and lets me capture the Egret's liftoff as I dock the kayak. There to greet me is my faithful Tricolored Heron friend waiting patiently by the landing. It jumps up on the stump by my landing giving me a nod as if he is glad to see me.

     It felt good to have a "High Tide" afternoon. I need to get back on the river more often. I have spent enough time in the muck at low tide lately waiting for the marsh birds. Time to get out and explore the river a bit more while the weather is nice. Who knows, I might just catch that Kodak moment with my new camera too. Hope to see those ducks again too, only this time I will be ready. Be Blessed. Harry

A Royal Tern spies a fish below and does a Royal Tern turn..

Got my eye on you fishy!

The tern goes into a fast dive..

The tern misses and I miss my Kodak moment too!

The Secret Broward Hideout is full of white feathered fowl, they scatter when I snag a branch on my approach and spook a flock of Merganser ducks hidden in the marsh.

The wood stork grudgingly  gives up its roost

A Black Vulture lands and then quickly decides to leave also.

The Snowy Egret takes flight then quickly returns to the hideout..

A tricolored Heron also glides back to the tree..I decide to return to the dock and leave them in peace

A pair of Great Egrets land in the tree by my dock…I have to swing the bow in their direction to land..

A pair of Great Egrets land in the tree by my dock…I have to swing the bow in their direction to land..

With angel like wings the Egret gently rises..

Graceful wings reach forward as it clears the branches...

Then the Egret puts the pedal to the metal..

It heads back to the hideout..after giving me "the look"

My Tricolored Heron friend greets me on my return with a nod of its beak..

email: selsorhd@me.com

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