The Gathering.

     This morning was the coldest day of the year in Florida so far. We had another deep freeze on the birdbath and points south were affected in the fruit farms. It was a cold bright sunny morning none-the-less. Did you ever see and hear things that just make the hair (or feathers) on your head stand straight up? I am sure you heard about the recent meteor crashed in Russia with hundreds injured. Last night my Editor in Chief saw a news-clip today about a sighting in the Pacific off San Diego of over 100,000 dolphins gathering in a pod that measured seven miles long and five miles wide. That video got my attention! Well I have seen some gatherings on the Broward lately also. These were not quite as large as the dolphins gathering.  Not sure just what to make of it. I saw more than usual today, just about every bird on the Broward came today. I think they heard about me in the North Jax Monthly.

     The Osprey has the ability to view things from various perspectives. I thought I would share a few of the observations noted as it flew over. The Osprey is one of two hawks that hover (according to my friend Frenchy, the other being one called a Ruff legged Hawk). It is reported they are one of the most agile birds of flight known. This Osprey hovered directly overhead and bent its head about every way possible. I must be photogenic or interesting to it. The eagle with the broken feather on the left wing flew over again. It gave me a real sideways glance. Then the Turkey Vulture and Red Shouldered Hawk soared overhead to see what they could see. Just me. The cormorants are becoming a common daily gathering. However, it seems that today they don’t know which way to go. A large flight swims down the Broward, then one seems to indicate they were going the wrong way and they did a 180 degree turn and head up the Broward. The Ladies of the Club, those gossiping mallard hens also stopped by. One looked at me real funny. I wonder what gossip it spread about me.  The other big gathering lately is the Snowy Egrets.  One flew by and sat up on the pole at the dock and its eyes seemed to peer right into my soul.  It was having trouble perching there in the wind. A strong westerly one was blowing by the looks of it. Later I caught a large gathering on the neighbor’s pier. They fly to the old pier and then they all flew off to the river. They are a pretty sight to see, like white angels (the good ones I hope).  The Brown Pelican flew by but just kept its head down. Then out of the morning mist came a gathering too incredible to describe. They look like huge white ships sailing up through the sunlit fog on the Broward, seven ghost like figures in a row. These white pelicans move as if spirits on the water. They gather together and begin fishing. Soon though it looks like they were at peace and just resting.

     I don’t know why the birds and other mammals are gathering. It is not just because of the sudden change of weather or mating season.  Winds of change are blowing all over. A gathering of Cardinals of another sort is about to take place also. Will there be more gatherings of other types? Time will tell.  All I can tell you is not to let your hair feathers get too out of place like the Tricolored Heron. Be at peace like the White Pelicans. Psalms 91 tells us “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust” Be Blessed. Harry

The Osprey is one of two hovering hawks. This one begins to observe me from overhead.

It peers sideways!

It peers upside down.

Then right side up!

The Osprey confirms it has sighted the crazy bird photographer of Broward!

The Eagle with the broken feather on the left wing gives a sideways glance.

The red head Turkey Vulture and Red Shouldered Hawk peer down.

A flight of cormorants head down the Broward. One seems to say stop, we are going the wrong way!

They do an about face and head up the river (in search of a photographer?)

One of the Ladies of the Club give me a look. Wonder what gossip it spreads!

A Snowy Egret peers down from above.

The wind nearly blows it off the pole.

The Snowy Egrets take flight from one pier to another.

They look like white angels in flight (the good ones I hope).

Shall we gather at the River?

Seven White Pelicans appear like ghosts in the sunlit fog, gliding by like white spirits on the water.

They stop and rest.

Don't let your hair feathers go astray!

I hear Janet the hair lady can do wonders for hair feathers! Don't worry.

Then you too can have Peace like a River!

Raindrops keep falling on my head!

     The phone rang as I prepared for my morning shoot. My Editor in Chief was crossing the river on the way to work and said to be sure to catch the sunrise. Corpuscular rays were peeking through and It was pretty she said. But by the time I got out to the dock they had pretty much dissipated. A layer of thick grey stratocumulus hung over the marsh darkening the sky. I wondered what I would see today in this weather.

     As I walk to the pier a large black vulture circles overhead. Just what I need, an omen of some sort. I sit in my blind and sip some coffee and situate myself looking towards the sun, what little there was that is.  This is where the action would come from I thought. Soon two white pelicans begin to swim up the channel. These are indeed large graceful birds and very beautiful with broad pink beaks. White pelicans do not dive from the air like the brown ones. They prefer to land on the water and scoop up the fish with their large pouched beaks. They look at each other as if to say, “see that guy in the blind there, he ain’t foolin me” as they turn and head back out the channel. Oh well. Suddenly, an orange beak pops up out of the water in front of me. It is a cormorant on a morning fishing expedition. I am careful not to make any sudden movement, and it does not even seem to notice me. It dives and surfaces even closer. Thankfully a small ray of sun was still out and I get a few good pictures as it heads up the channel and surfaces again with a fish. Another bird lands with a belly flop and swims towards me. It is a pretty faced Pied Billed Grebe. Soon I hear a rushing sound in the distance that begins to crescendo in volume and with a rush of wind, a squall of rain blows through the channel and begins to pelt the blind.  I zip up my portholes and inspect my quaint abode and sip my coffee. There are a few leaks at the seams but overall I am sitting pretty comfortable and dry. The grebe and cormorant are happy as a duck in the rain. The plunking sound on the blind is soothing but begins to subside a bit. Then it is over nearly as fast as it started. The sun peaks through the clouds again as it climbs higher in the sky. Then the sky begins to darken again. The cormorant is right in front of me. A single drop of rain falls nearby. Then another and another as the rain begins again. The latter rain is much stronger than the former. I zip up most of my portholes and listen to the sound as I sip my warm coffee and give thanks for the opportunity I have had so far. The rain again begins to subside and the sun tries to peak out again. Unzipping the rear porthole I see a stilted sandpiper in the marsh on muddy legs. The cormorant swims out in the deep water and casts a look over his back towards me. It then lifts up on its wings and begins to walk on water and is airborne in a few beats. It flies off into a ray of sun streaming down through the clouds. It is time to go.

     Perhaps to those in the north it does not seem like spring is near with the blizzard snow still on the ground. But Punxsutawney Phil is never wrong. The latter rains have begun in more ways than one. Change is in the air. The birds are sporting their mating colors more each passing day. New birth will soon follow. I hope we can share it too. Be blessed. Harry

Rainclouds gather on the Broward.

See that guy in the blind over there?

A cormorant pops up.

Pied Billed Grebe does a belly flop landing.

A bright eyed Pied Billed Grebe swims by.

The clouds darken the sky. A drop of rain falls.

Then another and another falls. Soon the soft rain fills the sky and marsh

The latter rains begin.

A stilted Sandpiper appears. Jose?

The cormorant glances back.

It lifts its wings to go.

With three flaps of the wings, the cormorant walks, then begins to fly.

It flies upward into the fleeting sunbeam.

Big Bird is Watching You!

     I know it is Saturday and most of you are sleeping in. Not me, gotta have some COFFEEEE! I have been reading and seeing a lot of news lately about the increasing use by the Government of unmanned (remote controlled) air vehicles for domestic surveillance use. The Air Force is miniaturizing them to look like bugs. One demonstration recently had one the size and shape of a humming bird. Well as a child I always enjoyed flying paper airplanes and those little wooden ones you get from the Five and Dime stores (I know, showing my age again). Then they came out with model planes with real engines you could fly. Trouble was they usually crash landed and the fun was over.

I decided to try a new tactic. What if I could remote control a bird. That would be really cool. So I have been working on a design of my own. It is not that hard, most of the parts are readily available at a hobby store. You just have to know where to place the little electrodes to make the wings flap but I found that information in some on line books. We have an injured bird place nearby. I went there and got a Pelican they had recently nursed back to health. They agreed to let me try it out on the bird. As you can see from these pictures it really worked well. Now the next thing I am going to do is try to outfit it with a small camera too! That is if I can find it. Darn thing flew off when it saw a pretty female fly by.

 Big Brother is not the only one watching you. Big Father has been doing it for years and has it all recorded. Every thing you ever said, did, thought of or wished you did. I wonder how He did it. In the meantime if you see my bird flying by let me know.  Be Blessed. Harry

Looks like a normal pelican just flying by!

The antenna is barely noticeable unless you look real close.

My first test run fly by.

Wow, if I had a camera also I could get some close ups of the gals on the beach this summer..hmmm

Wonder if I can land this thing ok in the water. Better give it another go around.

That was easy, now let's take off again.

Wings out, feet up, gain a little airspeed.

Yep, we are airborne again!

And we have liftoff! That wasn't so hard now.

This is fun. Hey see that Pelican with the pretty beak over there. Gotta check her out.

See ya later pal. Trust me. I'll be back, with a camera!

And I will be watching everything you do!

Birthday Girl!

     The sky looked like it was on fire this morning, beautiful way for my Editor in Chief to start another milestone. (the big six zero)!. Many of you sent birthday wishes, just want you to know they were much appreciated. News of the big day seemed to all over the marsh. Thought I would share the day with you from their perspective of course.

     With coffee and camera in hand, I head for the dock as usual. The morning view was a golden glow that turned into a fiery orange explosion as the sun rose through the clouds. Soon the sky turned blue as the marsh awoke.  If some of you have followed this blog you are familiar with a Tricolored Heron that sits on one of the boat hoist poles. It flies up to its perch on my arrival this morning as if to greet me. It then peers down with his inquisitive eyes.  I say hello and let it be known the news about this morning’s special day as I give thanks. I have to wait several hours for my Editor in Chief to come back from Janet’s, her hairdresser before we begin our luncheon date so I just enjoy the view. A pair of Hooded Merganser ducks fly up the channel and slowly swim towards me as they look for goodies in the mud. The light is perfect. As they swim by the female puffs up her hair feathered crown as if to say see what Janet did for my “Doo”!. It was my shot of the day and I call it Birthday girl!  Then a gathering began. I never saw so many birds converge on one spot so quickly. As I was watching some pelicans through the viewfinder, dozens of cormorant heads started popping up all around them like surfacing snorkels from a submarine. Egrets and herons of every kind were winging overhead and coming right towards me. I couldn’t focus and push the doohickey fast enough.  Old Man River, the illusive Great Blue Heron is just to my left cavorting it seems with a group of four beautiful white Great Egrets. He sees me looking at him and takes off as usual. Party Pooper! A huge Brown Pelican flies by and plops down right in front of me nearly soaking me with the splash. It just seemed to laugh as it took off again. The shrill Kee-yaw of the Red Shouldered Hawks fill the air. A pair are hiding in the trees and watching. They look like the duo of death and destruction just waiting to crash the party on an unsuspecting guest. My Editor loves fresh fish and that was what we planned to have for lunch. The local Osprey seemed to have the same craving as it flies by with a wiggling fresh fish on wing. A bright white Snowy Egret lands if front of me along with the Tricolored Heron, they are hungry for fish also as they pause to reflect on the day. But alas, soon the party is over and it is time for me to get my lunch date with the Birthday Girl. The mergansers swim away and turn as if to wish the Editor in Chief a wonderful Birthday.  

     Oh ancient of days. The sun sets as fiery as it began. I hope you enjoyed the day even more than we did. Be Blessed. Harry

The fiery sunrise of 20 Feb 2013.

The Tricolored Heron peers down with inquisitive eyes.

The Birthday Girl with her new "Doo", courtesy of Janet, swims by with her Hooded escort Harry.

A surprise marsh gathering begins, birds of every feather begin to fly in.

Old Man River is caught cavorting with some Great Egrets and flies off in protest.

A brown pelican plops in with a splash!

It gives me a fishy grin as it leaves.

Did someone order fresh fish for lunch? Yes the Osprey did!

The duo of death and destruction, the Red Shouldered Hawks, sit and watch the gathering, waiting.

A Snowy Egret reflects on the day!

As does the Tricolored Heron. Wow 60! That is older than OLD MAN RIVER!

Toodles, gotta go!

A fiery sunset for the ancient of days!

KISS

     After yesterday’s extended pelican encounter I was hyped with anticipation on what the new day would bring. A cool westerly breeze was blowing up the Broward. It was high tide and there was a low deck of scattered stratocumulus blocking most of the sun. Occasionally it would peek through and brighten the marsh. As I walked to the pier I heard the familiar Keee-yaw of our neighborhood Red Shouldered Hawk. Its piercing cry echoed through the marsh as if to put the world on notice it was hunting and you better lie low.

     I search the trees and sky for the hawk. I hear it screech again. Kee-Yaw, Kee-Yaw. Then I see it silhouetted against the sky as it flies up the marsh. It takes a perch in a far tree, but the ominous shape is scarcely defined in the dark barren branches. A ray of sun illuminates it as if to say, I see you! I go to my blind and take a warm sip of coffee from my thermos. I give thanks for the day and just have a little conversation. The words "Fear Not for I have conquered the world" ring in my mind. No need to fear the preying eyes of the hawk. That is unless of course you are a poor hapless bird on the marsh. I see the hawk swoop down about a quarter of a mile away low over the marsh and scare up a group of Red-Winged blackbirds. It rises up then swoops down for a strike. I press the doohickey even though it is too far too see. As I process this photo I can see seven or eight birds fleeing the hawk and one poor bird directly in the diving path of the beak and claws of the hawk. Life once again plays on the stage before me. I ponder the meaning and watch the sky. A few Royal Terns (remember Ralph and Rhonda?) sweep high over the marsh and look for breakfast. They hover gracefully over my blind as if obliging my efforts to practice my birds in flight techniques on them. I just knew there had to be more today as I patiently wait over an hour. A group of four pelicans begin an aerial reconnaissance of the deep channel. I hope they turn towards me in anticipation of another day like yesterday. But alas, they just keep going. Suddenly, I hear a loud splash to my right and look up to see a Pied Billed Grebe rushing out of the march with a fish nearly half its size hanging from its mouth. It leaps out into the deeper water right in front of me. I start pressing the doohickey. The fish is hanging from its mouth and flipping its tail up and down in useless protest. It reminds me of the KISS musician Gene Simmons and his big tongue hanging out and wagging. The grebe certainly has a bountiful breakfast in its beak but can’t seem to swallow the whale of a catch. Then it does something I observed last week in a similar situation and submerges with the fish in its mouth. A moment later it surfaces with a satisfied smile on its beak. It must be easier to swallow whole underwater. A gust of wind nearly lifts the blind from the dock. I head for the shed as the pelicans finally comes over my lagoon. Oh well, I got my grebe shot and it was great! I think I will have a fish sandwich for lunch today too!

     Fear not. Each day the spirit of fear goes forth from the heavens to earth and puts all on notice just like the hawk. We can become its victim or we can choose to ignore it. Sometimes that is hard, just like the poor blackbirds discovered. But they had plenty of warning. FDR’s timeless words remind us “The Only thing we have to Fear is Fear itself”. And we are also told, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. Which sounds more comforting to you? Fear not! Be Blessed. Harry

Thick stratocumulus clouds over the Broward.

The shrill morning cry of a Red Shouldered Hawk spreads fear over the marsh.

A ray of sun exposes the hawks perch.

A Red-Winged sentinel sounds the alarm over the marsh, beware, the hawk is hunting!

The hawk zeroes in on its prey as the other birds scatter!

A Pied Billed Grebe emerges from the marsh with a fresh catch. Burger King isn't the only home of the whopper!

The fish continues to struggle in vain.

Once again I see the grebe submerge with the fish. It swallows the fish underwater.

Now that was a nice fish sandwich. Note the grebe's beak beginning to sport a black vertical stripe for mating season.

See ya!

Camera Full!

     I awake this morning with a feeling of anticipation that is difficult to describe. Grabbing my camera and most important, my coffee, I head for the neighbors pier. A pink sky greets me as I take my blind and set up for the day. The serene lavender pink light reflects in the marsh. After giving thanks for the day I ask for a blessing and peer out of my blind. A flight of swimming Cormorants appear from around the far corner of the island.  Their bobbing heads, long necks, and flashes of reddish orange beaks are about all you can see. What a sight!

     Cormorants are one of several diving and underwater swimming birds in the area. Often confused with the Anhinga, Cormorants have a pronounced curve at the end of the beak. The Anhinga, though similar in size and appearance has a long pointed straight beak.  Hoping that the Cormorants will continue towards me, they suddenly reverse course and go around the other side of the small island out of view.  Rats! As the sun begins to rise higher, a corpuscular ray shoots through the clouds. These rays are also known as God’s rays and make for stunning photographs in the right light as they radiate from behind the clouds. In the footprint of the ray’s light in the water is a very soggy raccoon taking a morning swim towards the island, no doubt in search of unguarded eggs to raid for breakfast.  An Anhinga flies by silhouetted by the sun. Suddenly, a large Brown Pelican appears gliding up the channel towards me. My heart begins to race. It is like I am seeing a slow motion movie.  I press the doohickey again and again.  This magnificent bird continues directly towards my blind.  The pelican suddenly pulls up and seems to hang in mid air in front of me (click) and then heels over and goes into a dive. Splash! It takes off and does a small circle and lands just up stream from me. The pelican then looks right at me as if to say, “You better get the camera ready again, because HERE I COME! In apparent slow motion, the pelican begins to flap those huge brown wings as it lifts off the water. One beat, two beats. I catch each one.  Continuing straight towards my blind, the bird’s massive wings fill my lens and viewfinder.  The face looks almost prehistoric as it goes by and peers into my eyes, missing my blind by mere inches.  The Pelican lands once more in the same spot and again looks at me. Adjusting the lens to capture the entire view this time I press the doohickey once more. The bird begins to lift off. Click. CAMERA FULL! AHHHHGGG!! I don’t know which had more in it, my full memory card or my veins with adrenaline pumping in them. My spare card is in the house. Done for the day, I gather my things and give thanks for the show as the pelican wings by once again.

     As I process the morning photos one striking image catches my eye. It is the pelican just beginning to go into the first dive. The bird’s outstretched wings fill the frame.  My shot of the day! I know now why I had such a feeling of anticipation.  I was blessed indeed. That is how our Father is with His children. He won’t give you a stone when you ask for a loaf of bread. And He always gives you more than you can hold. Just like my memory card! Be Blessed. Harry

A pink light fills the morning sky.

A hungry group of Cormorants, their beaks catch the rising sun.

A Cormorant silhouetted in the morning sun.

Anhinga fly by, note the straight beak.

A Brief Pelican, the sequel, begins.

The Pelican spots a fish and prepares to dive! My shot of the day!

Hey you, keep up will ya! Ouch!, the water is shallow!

Hope you got that one, here we go again!

Ok, get ready.

HERE I COME!

OK, a little to the left now.

Right on course now!

You really need that wide angle lens there Harry!

Cheese! I mean FISH!

Whatta ya mean CARD FULL! I am just getting started here!

The Three Marshketeers

     It is “Red sky in morning. Sailor take warning”! Well I am warning you know. The Editor in Chief isn’t going to like this story. But I have to tell it anyway. It happened on the marsh today.  A brutal crime occurred but the perpetrators were apprehended. For a while that is. It is the saga of The Three Marshketeers.

     They are an unlikely trio. They come from vastly different backgrounds.  Tito the Tricolored Heron is a doubtful drifter of sorts. Enrico the Snowy Egret is the one with a temper. Angry, brash and compulsive. Unlike the three “Musketeers”, his motto is not “One for all and all for one”, but “One for all and all for me”. But the real brains of these three desperados is Jose. He has a stilted background but is clever in all his deceitful ways. Although short in stature compared to his friends, this Sandpiper stands tall in his own mind and stilted legs. Together they are the notorious Three Marshketeers. Armed with three sharp tongues and beaks, no traveler is safe on the marsh with these feathered fiends around.  Very few have ever seen their faces before.  If you see them they would look like normal birds. They gather in silence this morning on the marsh as they plan their evil deed. An unsuspecting grebe just out for breakfast swims by. Tito strikes up a friendly conversation with the grebe while Enrico circles around for an ambush. And then they strike. Enrico is relentless. In a matter of seconds it is all over. The grebe escapes with his feathers, barely. But the Three Marshketeers have struck again. Suddenly the long arm of the law is seen in the distance. Well more like the long beak of the law. Sheriff Ibis and his posse arrive and apprehend the trio. Mug shots are taken. Then Enrico makes a dash for freedom. Jose slips out the back unnoticed. In the commotion Tito also escapes. But thanks to Sheriff Ibis and his posse we now have good mugshots of the three bandits.  Soon the whole marsh will be looking out for them. In the meantime, walk softly and quite in the marsh. The Three Marshketeers are still on the loose, waiting.

We have all seen them before. Doubt, Anger and Deceit. Doubt can fool you. Anger can cause you and others harm. But Deceit is the worst of all. It is written “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”. Faith overcomes doubt. Patience conquers anger. A deceitful heart can ruin you. But what can heal the heart? They say love conquers all. I believe that is true. But a little bit of forgiveness goes a long way to heal a deceitful heart. Love can’t fully work its wonders until we forgive. Watch out for those Three Marshketeers. We have their pictures on Wanted Posters now so you can recognize them. Be Blessed. Harry

Red Sky in Morning, Sailor take warning!

A shadow of doubt appears on the marsh.

An angry cloud also appears!

Don't be deceived by innocent looks.

Three feathered fiends appear!

An unlikely trio, they are the Three Marshketeers!, Tito the Tricolored Heron, Jose the Stilted Sandpiper and Enrico the Snowy Egret. Beware!

An unsuspecting Grebe swims by. Tito strikes up a conversation.

Enrico attacks !

The Grebe dives and escapes with his feathers, barely. But Enrico has done his dastardly deed.

The long beak of the law appears. Sheriff Ibis and his posse round up the Three Marshketeers and get their mugshots taken.

Enrico makes a dash for freedom! Tito flies off in the confusion and Jose sneaks out the back unnoticed.

Wanted! Tito the Tricolored Heron. Crime: DOUBT

Wanted! Enrico the Snowy Egret. Crime: ANGER

Wanted! Jose the Stilted Sandpiper. Crime: DECEIPT

Raptors!

     The moon was half gone but bright in the rising sun. High cirrus clouds were blowing from the southwest against a sky blue canopy. Familiar birds greet me as I walk up the neighbor’s pier, waiting on the tide. They fly off towards the abandoned pier as I get closer, all except the Tricolored Heron. It just flies up to its perch on the pole and seems to eye me a hello as I stop and greet it.  Only then did it fly off to join the others. A beautiful Broward morning.

     I sit down, thankful for the day and get comfortable in the blind. The warm coffee tastes good on this cool morning. Not a blade of grass in the marsh is moving. No other birds appear except for a Red-Winged Blackbird trying to ride the wild dolphin wind-vane. Closing my eyes, the sounds of the marsh fill my mind as I wait and ponder. The response to the North Jax Monthly article has been great, giving me contact with several more local bird photographers. We have been sharing stories and wonderful photographs. Suddenly, a brown streak flies low over the marsh (a familiar large Red Shouldered Hawk!). The raptor is too fast to get a good focus. A verse comes to mind. “They that wait upon the Lord….”  I decide to wait, just a bit longer. A white speck of an Osprey appears in the distance with another larger dark raptor shape. This gives a great opportunity to focus in on them and test the lens. A quick glance up from the viewfinder shows there are now three large raptors. Two with white-feathered heads join the darker one. It is a family of Bald Eagles with a juvenile! The two adults begin a slow flying circle in unison like a choreographed dance as they observe their young eagle. Their bright white feathers gleam in the sun against a sky blue backdrop. Breathtaking. Yes indeed, the eagle still flies. Three of them! One continues flying up the marsh towards my position. Just a little bit closer. Wait… Now press the doohickey!  Got it! The eagle soars by and crosses the river and lands in a tree on the opposite bank. The other two are gone. Where? And how do I share this moment with you? In the darkroom. Today the computer has replaced the darkroom where film photographers once created (and some still do) their wonders. The distant pictures when processed are not as good as I hope. The eagles are too far away in all but a few. Cropping them allows details to emerge. In the photo of the adult pair, the bottom bird is missing half a feather on the left wing primary feathers. Primary feathers cover wing bones that are similar to our fingers. I think back to the eagle on Goose Pond. It too had a broken primary feather on the left wing. Hmmm, same bird? The Broward now has a mating pair with a nearly grown juvenile and one adult I think we can identify. Hopefully other Broward photographers can catch some even better shots. I’ll be waiting. 

     What a day! Five raptors, three of which were Great Bald Eagles. It was worth the wait. We all need to slow down sometimes and just wait. You will be surprised at what happens when you just give it time. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles;..”. I am certainly renewed as I mount up my gear and head for the house. But I am still walking, for now that is. Be Blessed. Harry

Half moon on a blue sky!

A beautiful Broward morning

A Red-Winged Blackbird rides the wild dolphin wind vane.

A juvenile Bald Eagle appears.

Two adult eagles soar over the Browad. The bottom eagle is missing half a feather of one of the left wing primaries. Same eagle I saw on Goose Pond?

One of the adult Great Bald Eagles flies overhead and lands in a tree on the opposite bank.

Same eagle as above photo about a week later.

Let it snow!

     A dear friend, a former Commanding Officer I served under while in Spain, now lives in his home state in Brillion, Wisconsin. He goes by “Frenchy”. It was his weekly news article that he writes called Glimpses of Brillion that inspired me to begin this effort. He writes about his daily walks through the meadows and woods while reminiscing with his dog Boomer, his faithful lab. Recently he was letting me know it was 10 degrees outside with blowing snow and he was considering a second pair of overalls for his daily walk in the wintry weather. Cold is just a relative term, even among us weather-guessers. It is cold here in Northern Florida this week. It is in the low 40s now at night. And it is snowing!

     I have been plagued by blowing snow lately too. The kind that come with Snowy Egrets. Lots of them. They are hard for me to photograph. Basic photography teaches you about exposure settings, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, etc. Me, I just press the doohickey right now. But I am learning a bit as I go on. One technical issue I have wasted hundreds of photographs on is in laymans terms called “Blow out”. Basically a white bird against a dark background is difficult for cameras to evaluate for proper exposure. Most cameras average colors out over a specified area and picks a setting that often for white birds make them appear super bright white in the picture. So bright in fact all the feather details are gone. This is called "Blow Out or "Blinkies". So I try to compensate and usually end up with pictures underexposed or too dark. I just can’t seem to get the settings and buttons right. I went on line, read my manual, tried to repeat what they said to do but was not having much luck. Then the North Jax Monthly article put me in contact with a neighbor named Jim. He knows a lot about cameras (He is a little buggy though, takes lots of pictures of giant flies). But Jim is a good fellow. He gave me some tips and I tried them. Well it is still snowing outside with this Egret but guess what? It is not that bright blowing snow anymore. It is picture post card pretty kind of snow now. The kind I remember from Ohio winters (and why I live in Florida now). 

     Having friends is part of what life is all about. I have friends now I have never met but feel real close to them. Met quite a few doing my family genealogy research. It would be nice to put a face to them. Now I am making new friends in photography. Some of them I may never meet either. But if we never meet this side of life, I know we will on the other side I pray. In the meantime. Let it Snow! Thank you Frenchy and thank you Jim. And all my friends.  Enjoy. Be blessed

Snowy Egret looks for food.

Frenchy, it may not be Wisconsin but this water is cold enough to freeze the you know whats off a brass monkey!

I knew I should have wore my big bird undies. Appears I have been exposed now in more ways than one!

Hey you in the duck blind! I seeee you.

Don't think of me as just another pretty feathered face. I have a bird brain too you know!

Let it snow let it snow let it snow!

Here's lookin at you Jim! Thanks again.

Catch of the day!

     Reactions come quickly sometimes. It might be to correct our car from going into the opposite lane. It might be to pull our hand away from a burning flame. Sometimes we have just a moment to catch that fleeting sunset or sunrise in a light that we cannot describe. The kind painters strive all their lives to capture. When it is over we give a sigh of relief. Whew! Well, I have been striving to catch Old Man River up close and in motion for some time. I had such a moment this weekend.

     A patch of white catches my eye as I glance out the back door towards my dock while enroute to a cup of coffee. I look closer and see that Old Man River, the venerable Great Blue Heron of Broward River, is standing in the grass straight out in front of my dock. But what is that patch of white? Grabbing the binocular, there indeed are some old white neck feathers sticking through the grey, but the big white patch is a huge fish he has just pulled out of the marsh. He is just standing there holding it. Amazed at his catch it appears. I think, hold that moment Old Man (the bird that is, not me). I grab my camera, switching it on as I raise it up to focus. He’s gone already! Zooming to the left I see him flying off down the Broward to enjoy his dinner in peace. I only get two clicks of the doohickey off. But it’s just enough. Whew! 

     In the book of Genesis account of creation, we are told that on the fifth day God filled the seas and skies with the fish and the fowl and said it was good. Specifically, verse 21 says: “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that [it was] good.” Old Man River and his whale of a catch certainly made a believer out of me today. And it was good. Whew! Be blessed. Harry

Catch of the day. Old Man River heads upriver to dine in peace.

And it was good. Whew!

A Brief Pelican

     Knock Knock. Who’s there? Oppor. Oppor Who? Oppor Winfrey? No. Oppor -Tunity. I was getting ready to go grab a bite on this sunny Superbowl Sunday. It was mid afternoon and the sky was blue and the sun shining very bright. These are usually harsh times as far as sunlight goes for photography. But opportunity knocked. I just had to grab that camera. You probably have seen John Grisham’s movie “The Pelican Brief” or read the book. Well my little photo novel is called “A Brief Pelican”.

     I see it glide up the channel. It is a huge majestic bird. The Brown Pelican is a year round resident of Northern Florida but we usually only see them on this part of the Broward during the winter months. They mostly stay out in the main channel but once in a while they come looking for opportunity. The overhead sun made fishing conditions great from its birds-eye view above. However, its location to the right of the pier made photographing this pelican difficult as I am looking into the sun for the most part. Silhouette type photography is an art unto itself but I really want some shots with the sun on my back. I watch as this aerial acrobat glides by and suddenly dive bombs into the water with a huge splash.  With a flip of the bill the snack is gone. It lifts its wings and in a few short flaps is airborne again. Spotting  a fish, it takes a sharp right turn over the old abandoned pier and quickly dive bombs again into the water. The water is shallow so it is careful not to dive too sharply but I have seen them plunge nearly vertical into deep water. I often wonder if they have neck problems in their old age like me. The pelican seems to pay me no attention at all as it drifts by in search of a Superbowl Sunday Brunch. Round and round it circles always into the sun. Then opportunity knocks. It glides towards me and crosses over the pier behind me and starts a long slow turn to the right over my lagoon. Pivoting with my camera, my lens  follows its path. The light is great and catches his wonderful broad brown wings as it banks over and glides by so close it fills my lens. I only got about a hundred shots but since this is a short novel I can share but a few from this brief Brown Pelican encounter.

      Opportunity comes in many ways. It may be a knock on our door. It might be an outstretched hand from a woman crying for her child and asking for money. Did you open the door? Did you stop and give without hesitation or drive away, too preoccupied with life or think it a rouse.   You never know. Someday we will though. In the meantime, I pray you an opportunity today! Be Blessed. Harry

A Brown Pelican glides up the channel looking for a Superbowl sized brunch.

Plunging from above, the pelican spots some food and dives! Splash!

With two flaps of those huge wings it is airborne again.

Hmm, is that a fish over there?

Better check that out!..SHRIMP! YUMMY!

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Let's go look for more!

You want a photo op? You got it.

How is this? Nice Pecks huh?

Here I come!

Close enough yet? Brought a tear to my beak.

Can you get a bigger lens? This one cramps my style.

If you liked the book, you will love the movie. See Ya!

Ladies of the Club

     The moon was bright and magnified in the predawn light and just beginning to wane. I tried my new “1.4x extender” on my lens to see what it would do on that moon. Us photographers just have to have a few more millimeters. I also wanted to see how it would do on more distant birds. The tide was rising and with it came the punctual Pied-Billed Grebes. I got some good reflection shots of a few of them. One surfaced with a fish but dove immediately to swallow it. And then they came.

     Flying low in from the west I hear, then see them, a small group of mallard hens. They fly over the little channel then circle around just overhead, just checking things out it seems. Then they circle again. They slow down. I think they are going to land, but they go around again. Then once more they circle and head back in the direction they came from. Fickle these mallards. Spunky the Kingfisher’s distinctive chitter fills the marsh. Sure enough, there she is on top of the neighbor’s gourd birdhouse pole. She flies off to the old dock before I can focus and lands on a piling. Good time to see how far this lens combo will reach. When I look at the display Spunky is recognizable, but barely. I know the limit of the lens combo now. Then I look up. There they are again. That little group of mallard hens, the “Ladies of the Club” as I call them. They hang around under the dock, as if gossiping about some goose and spreading malicious mud lies about another mallard. You can still see the “dirt” on one of the Ladies’ beak. They spot me and turn tailfeathers and head the other way toward Spunky’s perch. The morning sun begins to turn golden. I spot a grebe approaching the Ladies. She tries to join them it seems but they just ignore her and keep swimming away. It’s true. Birds of a feather do flock together. The Ladies of the Club make sure no other feathers can flock with them though. They leave Spunky and the little grebe alone and dejected and head back towards me. They pause at the dock separating us and with a quick leap they are airborne and fly away.  The Ladies of the Club have adjourned their little “morning” soiree on the Broward. 

     We have all seen them, those gossiping little groups. It’s not just the Ladies though. We want to join them in the fun but they will have no part of it. Alone again. We go our separate ways. Well, I don’t want to leave you out on the dock all by yourself today. Come on, let’s go have a cup of coffee. Be Blessed. Harry

* "And Ladies of the Club" a book by Helen Hooven Santmyer

 

 

The moon is just beginning to wane in the predawn sky.

Pied Billed Grebe surfaces after a dive.

Pied-Billed Grebe reflecting in the morning sun.

Spunky perches on a piling (trust me).

The Ladies of the Club, four mallard hens arrive.

They gossip under the dock, spreading dirt on other birds of the marsh.

They spot me and turn tail-feathers.

A small Grebe tries to join the Ladies.

The "Ladies" ignore the grebe and swim away. Spunky looks on from above, her reflection showing.

The ladies prepare to leave, but not before spreading some fresh mud around.

The Snowy calls out, Hey Tri, did you hear what that mallard hen said about you?

Hi Snowy, No, what did they say? I am going to keep my eye on them.

Embarrassed, the tricolored heron leaves. See Ya!

Abundance

     You will never guess what I found on the neighbor’s dock this morning. There was a blind just exactly like the one I “lost” last week (Ahh, senior moments). The waning moon was nearly half gone and beginning to fade in the dawn as I walked to the end of the dock and sat down in my slightly soggy seat. A frontal system had blown thru last night and the skies were clear and much colder. The temperature had dropped nearly 35 degrees and was in the 40s. I spot Old Man River just around the bend at one of his favorite spots. He didn’t fly off as I was far enough away not to intrude in his “space”. The tide was just beginning to fill the marsh, bringing with it a morning smorgasbord. I see a large group of Snowy Egrets descend upstream. Then I saw them.

     Three Hoodies! No, not the suspicious character kind, Mergansers. A male and two females swim into view, heads bobbing up and down in the muck and having a feast. Hooded mergansers are one of the prettiest ducks on the Broward in my opinion. The male has a broad white hood trimmed in black on the crown, the females hood is reddish brown. When they alert and fluff it up it’s a stunning headdress. One that “Fergie” is envious of for sure. They only come thru in the winter months. I have been waiting for weeks for a close up. The water is still only about 3 to 5 inches deep in the small mud channel but it was just enough for three hungry mergansers. But not for the twelve Snowy Egrets that suddenly arrive jumping right on top of them, looking to snatch whatever delicacies the mergansers stir up. They remain a bit further away than I hope for but I nearly wear the doohickey out. It was a smorgasbord of opportunity for me. Something spooks the egrets and they take off like a rocket but the three mergansers, although alarmed, remain yet a while. Lucky me. I had hoped to get a shot of the male as he sits up and flaps his wings, but miss it when I let the heavy camera down for just a moment. Suddenly they start running to get airborne and are gone. But I catch the take off. The wind nearly picks up my blind also. Time to go for me too it seems. I can’t walk on water like they can so I pick up my blind and trudge down the pier to stow it away in the shed (none of those “memory-hoodies” going to get my blind again) and head for the house. 

     Abundance. That is what comes each day like the tides. There is always more than enough. But sometimes doubt, like the egrets, tries to snatch away our abundance and peace. They can’t take it all though. Just seems that way sometimes. Faith scares them away. And we have abundance and peace again. Enjoy yours today! Be blessed. Harry

The waning moon in the morning sky.

Old Man River, the Great Blue Heron waits for the morning tide.

Three Hooded Mergansers begin to feast on the morning tide

A hungry group of Snowy Egrets emerge from the shadows.

The Egrets pounce on the Mergansers tidal banquet

Something alerts the Mergansers.

The Egrets flee leaving the three Merganser at Alert!

The male Hoodie remains alert. Something is amiss.

The Hoodies decide to beat feet too!

And we have lift off!

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