Feather Mob?

     Spring is indeed in the air in Northern Florida. March is just around the corner.  Will it blow in like a lion or arrive on the gentle breeze like a lamb? The Eaglets that hatched in late December are now fledging and will soon take wing. I am hoping to capture some of these moments as I watch the river. This week the Editor pulls into the drive and calls me on the phone and says “Quick, grab your camera and get out here.” All I could think of was “why?” but did not hesitate as I check my settings and head out the door.

     Across the street a few houses down is a flock of over a hundred immature White Ibis feeding in the grass on one of the neighbor’s lawns. I introduced you to these birds back in October of last year (see Second Chances blog). Not wanting to spook them,  I tell the Editor to get in the car and we will slowly drive by. Birds often ignore passing vehicles and it provides a great opportunity for photographs out of the car window. My doohickey clicks away as we slowly drive by the flock. The neighbors are standing in the drive and exclaim, "we have been here over 30 years and have never seen anything like this". Why are they suddenly here? Friends and neighbors call and report sightings of Ibis all over the neighborhood over the course of the week.

     The “Sacred Bird of the Nile”, the White Ibis, is commonly found in the Americas from Venezuela and on up the Eastern seaboard of the US and Gulf of Mexico. They are not often sighted north of the Carolinas though. I see them fly over the river going “somewhere” but rarely see them land. So why did they choose now to invade the neighborhood? It looks like a bird version of a “flash mob” event in the subdivision. I call it a “Feather Mob”. I later approach them on foot as they continue to feed. A lawn care truck slows down as a small flock works from yard to yard, first on this side of the street then crossing to the other.  So just why did the Ibis cross the road?  A) To avoid the truck? B) To get to the other side?  C) Because the light was green?  D) None of the above.

     I make some framed photos of the event and share them with the neighbors as a memento of our 2014 Invasion of the Ibis.  I also send some to the local newspaper. Everyone it seems today is on social media  and this is perhaps just a Feather Mob event. As to “Why did the Ibis cross the road?” I will let you ponder that one. But I know the true answer in my heart I believe. Just so I could share these photos with you! Ibye for now. Be Blessed. Harry

Dawns early light spreads over the Broward with Spring-like temperatures.

House Finch enjoys a Spring bud.

Chipping Sparrow peeks over its shoulder at the sound of the doohickey.

A "Feather Mob" of immature White Ibis descends on the neighborhood lawns. Some flocks number over a hundred.

Immature White Ibis poses for a moment.

These Brown and White young Ibis will turn white as adults.

Got an itch...

This young Ibis is nearly an adult with the white feather color.

So why did the Ibis cross the road?    To see you of course! 

How does any Ibis say so long……Ibye!

 

Moments..

     When the sun rises on a Florida morning after a frontal passage you can see some beautiful images. Such a moment was before my eyes this past week. The various hues of pink in a Florida sky are hard to duplicate with a paintbrush though many an artist has tried.  The temperature has dipped down to create frosty mornings and cool nights but nothing compared to the recent ice and snow up the eastern seaboard and mid Atlantic States. Its moments like this I am glad I live in Florida.

     I take my camera out to practice with the fill flash this week. In the predawn light you can find a variety of songbirds in the trees and near the neighbor’s birdfeeders.  I capture some more Robins passing thru, Chipping Sparrows feeding, beautiful House Finches and some Goldfinches in winter colors. I call these little songbirds “Shirley birds” after the Editor. This morning as I scan one of the trees a rather large bird catches my eye. A Brown Pelican is sitting high up in one of the trees by the river. I didn’t even see it the first time I walked by. It rather nonchalantly peers down its long beak, seemingly undisturbed by my presence. I began to ponder how to get a good takeoff shot of those massive wings. Turning on the fill flash so as not to get a shadow under the wings, I wait. After a while the pelican begins to realize that I am not going away and starts to fidget and flap a bit. Finally it raises those massive wings and takes flight. Click goes the doohickey. I thought that would be it, but it glides over to the dock a short distance away and gently lands on the copula railing.

     I slowly walk up the pier towards the pelican expecting it to fly. Instead, it hops down on the dock in front of me at a safe distance. We both sit down and look at each other.  Moving as slowly and gently as a feather floating on the water, I begin to speak to the timid visitor to calm and reassure it that I mean no harm. I beckon the pelican closer and to my surprise it gets up and begins to saunter towards me, perhaps expecting some sort of handout. The doohickey is clicking away. Then I had my other moment. As the bird moves out of the shadows, I realize that the sun is shining bright, way too bright for my exposure settings. I adjust them but not before I also realize I had not turned off the flash..  AHHG! Not a pleasant moment to be sure. Most of the close up photos were overexposed but I got a few keepers to share anyway.

     Oh those moments. We want to have the beautiful ones, the awe inspiring ones like the pink sunrise. We can also get the unexpected moments like a wild pelican cautiously coming within mere feet of the lens while we drink in the experience. And then we have the not so great moments when we forget to do something right….like turn off the flash. A moment like that may never come again. But who knows what is coming next? Might be even better, but remember to always check your settings. Be Blessed. Harry

Beautiful pink Florida sunrise. What a serene moment. 

Tricolored Heron reflects in the predawn light. 

Chipping Sparrow flutters down to feed while friends look up.

House Finch catches the morning light.

Goldfinch in winter garb.

Goldfinch in winter garb.

Brown Pelican rests high in a tree near the lagoon. 

Hey, see that fat pelican up there…bet the branch breaks..!

Who you calling fat!

I'll teach you two to call me names…lookout!      Need a frame stretcher there fella? 

The pelican stretches its broad wings and glides to the pier nearby.

Cautious eyes glance at me as I approach.

I move slowly and gently like a feather floating on a river.

Beckoning it closer, to my surprise it gets up and saunters towards me!

Close enough for government work?

Turn off that darn flash!

I can see again! Thanks.

Am I cute or what!

And then the moment was gone…but what a moment.

Let there be light..

   

“Quick, grab your camera and get that cloud” the Editor exclaims. By the time I change lenses and get my gear ready the moment is gone. Or so I thought. The light had indeed faded on the southern exposure but when I turn around and look west into the setting sun, it was as if there was a fireball in the clouds above the river. The image is still etched in my mind. It reminds me of the iconic clouds that the great painter, Michelangelo, created on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with the mighty hand of God reaching out. In my mind I can hear a voice crying out of the darkness, “Let there be light!”

    Sunshine has been a scarce commodity since Punxsutawney Phil declared six more weeks of winter. The week’s weather brings dark cloudy mornings, and cold misty rain. The familiar honk of Canada geese is heard as a pair head upriver. Although the marsh is alive with gulls, pelicans, egrets, grebes, eagles and occasional flocks of shorebirds winging by, few have been close. Seems all I see on most days is clouds, rain, and buzzards.

A few bright hours did provide some passing opportunities however. A Brown Pelican sweeps low and disappears behind the bend in the island emerging in front of me as the wings flare to land. A click on the doohickey captures the touch and goes action in the fading light. Then I see him. Old Man River, the venerable Great Blue Heron, rounds the bend and flies right towards me. Holding my breath he continues seemingly unaware of my presence. Suddenly spotting me he banks right reversing course so quickly I am amazed. Then he lets out a loud cry I am sure was a foul fowl word. Gotcha though! Almost. At such a close range only a wide-angle lens can capture that wingspan.

     I have been learning some new “photartistry” tricks recently. Unlike the account in Genesis, I can’t just declare, “Let there be light”. But if there isn’t good light we have ways to generate some now in the photo editing software available.  All I have to do is take a bird image and mask it, enhance the light with software, and then change the sky, and “Voilà”, we have light! The “photartistry” comes in making it look real. I will let you be the final judge but you can expect to seem some different images from time to time that make you wonder “is it real?” What I saw painted by the hand of God in the clouds though was real and you just can’t beat that feeling of awe. Be blessed. Harry

"Let there be light!"

Fire in the sky...and on the river..

All I see is Buzzards! (original photo)

This Buzz is (lookin) for you!...and let there be more "light!"..and it was good!

Flaps Down original..

Flaps down at sunset with new background.. IE "Photartistry"

Touchdown,  Brown Pellican touches down in the channel

Takeoff..

Here I come...!

Glide by...

and...liftoff again...

Wood Stork fly by 

Soggy Racoon begins his daily nest raids for eggs.

Old Man River's wingspan won't fit in the frame anymore!

Well, like this Snowy Egret, time for me to fly! (time series takeoff)

Beyond the Broward February Edition

     A layer of altocumulus clouds covers the early morning sky. As the sun began to rise, the scattering rays of spectral light reflect off the base of the clouds in hues of red, orange, indigo, and violet before turning a deep blue grey. It is a textbook “mackerel” sky reflecting in the small channel heading into the Broward. I wait all day Friday for the Editor to return home from work and have us all packed in no time. We get in my new Ford Transit truck and head off beyond the Broward for a weekend encounter with Extreme Raptors, a workshop I had signed up for at the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville, arriving late that evening. 

     They say never invite a weatherman to your picnic. At 0430 I was wide awake and looking at the predawn sky. No rain was in the local forecast but sure enough it was raining with overcast skies. Not the picture perfect morning I had hoped for. By the time I find the campus and register, the rain had ceased and the sun was trying to peek out between the clouds. A dozen anxious photographers gather round the two instructors as they unload several crates of raptors. The first one is an Eastern Screech Owl who did not seem quite as enthused about the morning event as we are and fussed, flapped, and loudly carried on before assuming a nice owl like pose in its makeshift “home” (a piece of tree trunk erected for the event). I marvel at the camouflage colors and texture of its feathers, perfectly matching the rough bark of its photo studio imitation home. If those big yellow green eyes were not so wide you could easily miss seeing this bird from only a few feet away.

     A Great Horned Owl, a Barn Owl, a male American Kestrel (smallest of the falcons), a Merlin, and a rare, but beautiful, Alpomado Falcon were next. Each took pose in turn on various makeshift branch perches as the sound of doohickeys click and click away. I am spellbound and in awe at the beauty of these birds as I move from perch to perch capturing the moment as best I can in the available light. Thankfully I brought a fill flash to use also. Then came the larger birds of prey. A Crested Caracara emerges from its cage. Also called a Mexican Eagle, it is the national bird of Mexico. I have only seen one of these long legged falconidae once before at a distance. Its large eagle like beak and red face and dark crest make it a striking bird to behold. A carrion eater, this bird has reportedly been observed dropping meat on busy highways to attract its competition, the bald eagle, to a “last supper” event. Finally the sun begins to shine as the sky begins to clear. The last bird to emerge was a beautiful Harris Hawk. This rufous colored raptor was untethered and we got some flight action photo opportunities. Suddenly a wild Crested Caracara swoops low overhead. The hawk becomes very alert and watches as the Caracara circles overhead several times giving me my first close up view of one of these beautiful birds of prey in the wild.

     When I made my 2014 wish list of birds I omitted the Caracara because they are not seen locally and did not think I would get such an opportunity. I was so happy to be wrong. Thank you Lord! I took the Editor for a quick tour of the Viera Wetlands before we began our journey home from beyond the Broward. We captured a moment with a huge Mute Swan I want to share with you as well. These European swans are rarely sited in Florida. It probably “escaped” from some park  way up north. Must have been talking to that Snowy Owl about the nice weather in Florida. Hope you are blessed with this first Beyond the Broward edition. Harry

A red Mackerel sky over the Broward.

The red quickly begins to fade to orange and blues...

Eastern Skreech Owl. Perfect natural camouflage.

Great Horned Owl.

Barn Owl. Who Dat?

American Kestrel (male).

Merlin falcon.

Rare Alpomado Falcon.

Crested Caracara, the national bird of Mexico.

Wild Caracara circles the field above us.

Harris Hawk comes in for a landing!

Mute Swan make rare appearance in Florida's Viera Wetlands.

See you at the next edition of Beyond the Broward!

email: selsorhd@me.com

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