Back from extinction

     It was a very quiet day on the Broward. I watched the sunrise on the dock as spring like weather (in the south anyway) fills the air. A lone Wood Stork flew low over the Broward and turned south towards the zoo. There were very few birds this morning so I thought I would follow that Wood Stork to see what it was up to.

      The Wood Stork (Myceria Americana) is a large, long legged, white wading bird with an unfeathered grey head and a stout dark bill.  It is bit over four foot in height with a wing span of five feet or more. It is white with black primary and secondary feathers and black on the tail also. It is the only species of true stork breeding in the US. It was nearly extinct 50 years ago declining from a population of over 20,000 pairs to less than 5,000 by 1978. But they are making a comeback thanks to efforts like those of the Jacksonville Zoo which has a large successful breeding colony established there. By the number of small human children present at the zoo I would also say the local human population is in no imminent danger of extinction however. Unlike the children I doubt that only a mother Wood Stork could call it’s offspring cute. They are UGLY with a capital U.  But I love to watch them glide by the marsh anyway. They did not start out bald. These birds feed by sweeping their beaks back and forth through the muddy tidal streams at low tide and feed on fish and crustaceans. The bacteria in the mud migrate up the beak and cause the head feather to fall off as the bird gets older giving them a wrinkled grey had that gives them that unique face and character that only a mother could love (or another Wood Stork). I sit my small portable stool up near the breeding colony trees and just watch them. They are building nests right now and fly to and from the local trees and river gathering twigs and branches and bring them to the nest. As I sit under the tree they fly right at me landing just over my head. You can’t get much closer than that. In a manner of twenty minutes my disc is nearly full of flying stork photos.  The zoo is a great place to come to see many of the species of local birds. One of the storks has a radio-tracking device on its back similar to the one I saw on the Brown Pelican last month on the Broward.  I bet the zoo put the one on the pelican also. Next thing you know they are going to want to put a tracking device on me too. 

     Seems at my age a lot of things I grew up knowing are becoming extinct. Drive in movies, 45 records, and home delivery of milk (maybe the US mail will be next).  There are no more party phone lines, just cell phones and flash mobs showing up at places starting all kind of weird parties everywhere. We all have to be connected somehow by email, computers, cell phones, GPS tracking devices….Times have changed. I pray however, that the true connections that really bind us together still remain.  Things like friendship, faith, integrity, kindness, and family values and traditions. This weekend Christians around the world celebrate someone else who rose from the dead too. Someone thought He was extinct too but He came back! And I am glad He did. Be Blessed. Harry

We're back! Who says we are extinct? Wood Stork brings nesting materials.

The Jacksonville zoo has one of the most successful Wood Stork Rookeries in Florida.

And yo mother is ugly too! Bacteria in the mud cause the headfeathers to go away in adults leaving a face only a mother could love!

Down to only 5000 pair in 1978 these Wood Storks are making an amazing comeback. They are beautiful to see flying even with their not so pretty face. Beauty is only feather deep anyway.

I need a really wide lens to get this wing span that can exceed five foot across.

This once carries a radio location finder on its back. Similar to the one I saw on a Pelican last month.

Motion!... I slow the shutter speed as I pan the Wood Stork to get more motion blur in the background.

Morning has broken

     Morning has broken…these lyrics sung by Cat Stevens come to mind as I watch the dawn break over the Broward on this spring like morning. Did you hear they are trying to sue the most famous weather guesser of all? A Pox on those people in Ohio who are trying to sue Punxsutawney Phil for his winter forecast. What will they do next, sue the Easter Bunny too!

     I can’t help but wonder in amazement in the morning light as I watch the Broward come alive with winged wonders. There are fewer and fewer birds it seems this past week or so in the morning. The other day I sat and watched a young river otter sliding through the low tidal stream and then go under the dock beneath my feet in search of food. It was still too dark for a good photo. It is aware but unalarmed with my presence and just looks up at me and then continues up the stream and finally slithers into the marsh grass upstream. Now I know who is making those mud trails I saw the other day. This morning I don’t even try to hide in the blind but roll the canopy back and just sit in the seat and enjoy the morning sun. The eagles are still present and one flies up the river. There are two faithful Brown Pelicans, a Tricolored Heron, some Cormorants and several Egrets though who greet the morning today. And I cannot forget about “George” and Spunky the Kingfisher either. The pelicans seem to know I am there anyway and soar even closer. I can almost touch them at times. They are so graceful and yet comical when the suddenly seem to stop in mid air and plunge into the river. A Great Egret soars in from the west catching the morning sun on broad white wings. I know its not springtime in Ohio yet but is sure is in Florida. Keep hoping, the sun will shine soon. 

     I wonder what the first dawn looked like on earth when that first week of work was done. Can you imagine looking on a sunrise for the first time in a place where nothing was touched or tainted by man and time?  I wish it could be like that again. Maybe it will be someday soon.  I was going to get a Lawyer to sue Adam and Eve for messing things up but he said there are too many similar suits ahead of me. So I will just sit her and enjoy this morning anyway. Be Blessed. Harry

 

Morning Has Broken

As Sung by Cat Stevens

lyrics by Eleanor Farjeon

 

Morning has broken, like the first morning


Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird


Praise for the singing, praise for the morning


Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Dawn breaks as the Tricolored Heron waits.

The eagle glides over the Broward.

The Snowy Egret catches the sunrise on its wings.

A male cormorant flies overhead.

And then turns around for a closer look at the guy with the camera!

The Brown Pelican flies so close I can touch it almost, i feel the drops of water as it flies by.

Whoa, is that a fish over there?

Fish!

George reflects in the morning light.

Then does a fly by. A bit perturbed it seems. I disturbed him.

The Great Egret catches the morning sun on borad white wings.

Can you imagine the first dawn?

A river otter slithers up the tidal stream.

The egret casts a wary eye on the otter as it goes by.

Familiar Faces...George

     While enroute to the dock the other day I spooked a familiar bird we call George. We have seen one particular Yellow-crowned Night Heron on our dock since shortly after building it. One day my Editor saw George circling something on the dock in a wary dance. A closer look through the binocular revealed the thing of interest was a copperhead snake. I dispatched the snake and George has been sort of beholding to me every since and does not mind my presence.

     The Yellow-crowned (and Black-crowned) Night Herons are nocturnal feeders but can be seen in the mornings and early evenings searching for crabs and other crustaceans and fish. They grab them with their beaks, and shake them and swallow them whole most of the time. Although they are found in Florida year round George and some of the night herons near here usually go further south in the winter months. I have just begun to see the night herons in the area again only this past week. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron adults have a yellowish almost white stripe on the top of their head with long plumes on the end. The red eyes have a distinct white stripe under the eye with black head feathers.  Immature birds are brown and streaked with yellowish eyes and legs.  George has a penchant for the small fiddler crabs found at low tide. I caught him peeking up over the bank the other day and surprised him with a photo opportunity. Later that evening I found him in the outgoing tidal stream. He was unconcerned with my presence and soon I had a great sunset photograph of him standing in the mud about 10 feet from the dock. The next morning he flew up on the perch the Tricolored Heron usually lands on and did some morning poses for me before flying off and giving me some great wing shot opportunities. George loves to have his photo taken I think. Actually there is a “Georgette” with him and I find it hard to tell the difference. They are roosting in my cousins tree next door now during the day. You will probably see a lot of George pictures in the coming months. Some of the winter birds are becoming more scarce on the Broward. There are fewer pelicans and ducks each passing week. Next week I am going to visit the St Augustine Alligator farm bird rookery. Hope we have a good day there.

     Familiar faces bring smiles to my mind. Some are no longer here. Some are just far away. All it takes though is a thought and there they are again. Stop and think today about some old (or young) familiar faces you know. Next thing you know you will have a big smile on your face. Be Blessed..Harry

I surprise George , a Yellow-crowned Night Heron peeking up over the bank.

George at evening tide.

George on wing at sunset!

George up early in the morning! Got my good side there Harry?

You want me to do what?

The things I do for friends with cameras! Why don't you go fly something?

Doug said they are working on this dock wiring and to be real careful not to touch it....oooohhhh! my feathers feel funny!

TURN OFF THE JUICE!

That was close! Whew!

It is good to see ole familiar faces again! Catchin anything there ole buddy? Might help if you use a pole.

I hope you enjoyed reflections of George!

Two Black-crowned Night Herons at evening light.

Dawn's Early Light

     A golden glow spreads over the Broward as the sun begins to rise. It is a cloudless sky. As I walk down to the dock I see a familiar looking bird that I have not seen all winter. It is “George”, a Yellow Crowned Night Heron. I must have startled him as he flies off to the old pier upstream. In the past week I have now seen both the Yellow and Black Crowned Night Herons return to the area. I hope I can catch a close up of them later. 

     I scan the marsh and adjust my camera to shoot a morning panorama. As I finish I see an Eagle swoop down across the river and dive into the water. I step over to the edge of the floating dock to get a better look over the marsh grass. I see the eagle rise and start flying directly towards me carrying a fish in its grasp. Breakfast a la Broward. My camera is not set for a fast shutter speed but there is no time to adjust. I just aim and start pressing the doohickey. I can’t believe the eagle is flying directly towards me. The wings grow larger and larger with each moment as I peer through the lens finder following its flight. It soars right overhead and passes with 20 feet of my position. The golden light illuminates the massive wings as it flies by. It was just a matter of seconds but seemed like eternity peering through the lens. I have over a dozen frames to review when it is over. The wing tips blur at slow shutter speeds. I manage to catch the eagle on one frame with just a slight wing tip blur on the far wing. Yes! I note that there is a broken feather on the left wing primary. It is the same eagle I saw in January on Goose Pond. The juvenile offspring also wings over the Broward on the opposite bank. What a way to start the morning! The incoming tide begins to fill the channel. Soon a few Brown Pelicans start circling the island in search of breakfast. They approach me from the sun and dive and splash behind me but always in a position that has me looking into the sun. I wait for them to go overhead on their way around and hope they spot a fish in front of me and I can catch them in a dive in good light. Alas, today is just not the day though. One of them circles around and come towards me and nearly passes within five feet of my blind. Its eyes stare directly into mine as it passes by filling my lens with its wing.  I think they have figured me out by now. I might as well just sit in a chair and enjoy the sunshine. Elated over the eagle fly by I hurry in to share it with the Editor before she is off to work.

    “Oh Say can you see by the dawn’s early light”. These epic words penned by Francis Scott Key come to mind each time my mind plays back the eagle encounter in that early dawns light. The American Flag and the Eagle are the symbols of our nation. I am proud of both of them still. Long may it wave and forever may they both fly. Be Blessed. And may God continue to Bless America. Harry

The dawn's early light cast a golden glow over the Broward.

A Bald Eagle catches the mornings golden glow as it flies by!

Breakfast a la Broward. The eagle and fresh catch pass overhead on blurred wings.

Ibis catch the golden glow also.

Jose the sandpiper with a morning tidbit.

I think the Brown Pelicans are on to me! I need a wide angle lens too!

It's Spring!

Quote from the Farmers Amanac: “Spring begins with the vernal equinox at 7:02 A.M. (EDT) on March 20, 2013 in the Northern Hemisphere. Here’s more about the start of spring, signs of spring, and stunning spring photos!”

Well some of you are still saying this is a bunch of hooey (translate bull crap). But I have proof. Yep, a little birdie told me. :)  My tricolored Heron flies up on its favorite perch. It is sporting a new Hairdo from Janet the hairdresser. I now proclaim that today SPRING begins on the Broward it seems to say. The Bald Eagle then appears on majestic wings flying up and down the Broward and also declares, IT IS SPRING ON THE BROWARD! (If anyone does not believe in the great Bald Eagle announcement you need your beak examined). The cormorant and others agree. The Brown Pelican springs up from the Broward and proclaims, IT IS SPRING ON THE BROWARD! The Great Egret looked into its reflection on the Broward and proclaimed, IT IS SPRING ON THE BROWARD! The Snowy Egret also looked into the majic waters of the Broward and proclaimed, MY FEET ARE STILL COLD! The Pied Billed Grebe then pokes his head down and looks deep into the Broward, and proclaims, I SEE A FISH! Let’s eat! Regardless if you see the signs or not, it is officially Spring today in the Northern Hemisphere. As I pan across the bank, I see spring green sprouting in the trees and the grass and the marshlands. My Bald Cyprus is sprouting new buds of brilliant green. Hmmm, better get the lawn mower ready for another season (and check the generator too, Hurricanes are coming soon after).

As sure as the sun rises and sets on the Broward, the seasons too come and go. What will this new Spring bring us I wonder? Will we see new life and hope or more wars and rumors of wars? We have a new Pope. We also have reason to Hope! Here is wishing you a warm cup of coffee as we toast the arrival of Spring. Be especially blessed today. Cause its SPRING! Harry

The Tricolored Heron sports a new "Doo" from Janet and declares, "IT IS SPRING ON THE BROWARD".

The cormorant looks up and declares it looks like spring!

Spring is here says the IBIS!

The Great Bald Eagle declares IT IS SPRING ON THE BROWARD!

The Great Egret peers into the Broward. It is Spring it declares!

Yea, Yea, then how come my feet are still freezin?

It is SPRING declares the Brown Pelican!

The Pied Billed Grebe says lemme see!

I SEE FISH! LETS EAT!

A sunrise on the Broward. Spring is here!

The Patriarch.

     Well, I moved the clock ahead Sunday but someone forgot to tell my body to move also.  I am not a big fan of daylight savings time changes. It did allow me to get to the dock a bit earlier however. I had my thermos and camera and blind set up just as the sun began to peak over the marsh. A golden glow soon reflected off the grass. What a beautiful morning on the Broward.

     I look off to the west and see a dark silhouette with large wings flying just over the top of the marsh grass. It is Old Man River, the Great Blue Heron and Patriarch of the Broward. The low angle of the sun and golden glow reflect off Old Man River as he raises his six-foot plus wingspan and slowly heads right towards my blind. Either he is unaware or unconcerned with my presence that morning and keeps a steady course as he approaches. Talk about wings, this bird has some majestic ones. I notice more color in the golden brown patches on the edge of the wingtips as well as the shoulders. The wind and sun cause shadows on the underside of the wings feathers as they rise. I press the doohickey with each beat.  Old Man River’s left eye seems to glance and stare at me as this magnificent bird glides near. I am looking across his body at eye and wing level in awe as it swoops by. Gotcha today Old Man (from one to another)! The clear skies and rising tide are an opportune time for the local Ospreys to fish the river. A large Osprey swoops overhead and does an abrupt headfirst dive into river and emerges from the water spraying droplets everywhere. In its talons are a massive fish breakfast which the bird positions with its prehensile like claws in a fore and aft position for flight. Off it goes to enjoy its morning catch. The Brown Pelicans are soaring overhead and circle around over my little lagoon and take a dive in. I catch the take off in a series of photos. As it circles overhead again it seems to pause in midair. It looks like a priestly pelican giving a benediction over the Broward. In reality I think it was just looking for a “Fish Benedict “ breakfast. Hmm..I could use some eggs benedict myself.

     The Patriarchs of old were indeed revered. I hold a special place in my heart for Old Man River. I have watched him for years and recently he is keeping a wary eye out for me as I intrude more into his life. As I look ahead I wonder where are and who will be the Patriarchs of tomorrow. Maybe they will be wise enough to cancel daylight savings time! Be Blessed. Harry

Golden sunsrise on the Broward!

The Patriarch of the Broward, Old Man River the Great Blue Heron spreads his massive wings.

Unaware or unconcerned, he continues towards me.

I catch the upbeat of the wings, click!

And the downbeat!

The sun and wind cast shadows underneath the outspread wings.

He cast me a passing glance. Got ya old Man!

He soars on by!

An Osprey lifts its morning catch from the river.

Time series photo of Pelican lift off!

Lift off and take off time series merge.

A priestly pelican appears to be giving a benediction on the Broward! Or looking for Fish Benedict.

This Daylight Savings Time change has me bushed. Lets eat!

The Ides of March.

     'Beware the Ides of March' is the soothsayer's message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death from Shakespeare’s Julies Ceasar in 1601. Ever been at the wrong place at the wrong time? While photographing various birds on wing on the dock I just happened to glance up at the sky behind me. There overhead was a pair of eagles, an adult and a juvenile. What I observed next was jaw-dropping for me. But what one poor Osprey endured was even more harrowing.

     I see the two majestic eagles soaring overhead above me and start to focus in on them. They are pretty high and silhouetted against the blue sky as they continue over the marsh to the other side of the river. It is apparent the adult is training the juvenile in aerobatic maneuvers as they soar in tandem, flying very close together, swooping up and down along the bank and over the trees. I wish they had stayed on my side of the Broward. They fly up and alight on some branches in the pines on the opposite bank and appear to watch the other traffic on the Broward. An Osprey flies nearby and hovers over the river looking below for signs of fish. All of a sudden the pair of eagles swoop down on the bird and the chase is on. The Osprey is smaller and faster but is outnumbered two to one. The adult eagle seems to be leading the chase as they fly over the river towards me. I am pressing the doohickey like crazy trying to keep them in focus. This Osprey is banking left, then jinks right and tries to loose the two on its tail.  It appears almost out of danger from the adult when “Brutus aka Junior” swoops in and decides to give it a try. The Osprey glances back over its shoulder and seems to say “Et too Brutus”. The adult falls back in an observer mode it seems. Brutus the Juvenile does its best to keep the Osprey in its sights but this scared ole Osprey is determined not to be lunch. Again and again it out turns the eagle in its quest for survival.  All of a sudden the adult lets out a cry that must tell junior to break off the attack and they end the chase as sudden as it began. It appeared to me I was watching a training session on how to attack and tail prey from the air. Young Junior must have passed its lesson ok and the adult called it off. What about that poor Osprey? No one informed him this was just a practice session. It is probably home sitting on its nest right now with a bottle of aspirin and still trying to recover. Of course I bet its version of the story is a bit more embellished than mine as it recants to its mate the harrowing escape from the claws of two GIANT eagles!

     The next day I see three Bald Eagles doing similar maneuvers over the Broward.  It appears both adults are working with the young one. We all have lessons our parents taught us. Some we remember well, others we may have chosen to ignore at times. I bet that Osprey appreciates the evasive training it got as a young hawk. It came in handy that day on the Broward. For you adults with children, keep up the training, you younger ones remember to listen well. Avoid the aspirin later. Be thankful for the things we have been taught. Be Blessed. Harry

An adult Bald Eagle and Juvenile practice aerobatic maneuvers over the Broward.

They swoop down from the trees on an unsuspecting Osprey!

The chase is on!

The adult gives chase. The Osprey dives and swoops.

A narrow escape! For now.

Now Junior swoops in, "Et too Brutus" seems to say the Osprey!

The Osprey avoids another attack!

The adult eagle lets out a cry!

The adult appears to be telling junior job well done! In the meantime the Osprey is no where to be seen!

Eagles on the Broward!

One of two adult eagles with a Juvenile.

Train up a child...

Wings!

     I am sure some of you are shoveling snow and saying bad things about weather people and groundhog forecasts. I want you to know I do feel for you. But that is why I live in Florida. After my trip to Goose Pond I decided to visit some other local nature preserves in the area. Someone told me about one where the Black Crowned Night Herons roost. Since they are on my “list” of birds I want close ups of I decided to check it out. There were gale force cold winds blowing over the Broward that day and hardly a bird was venturing out. A few of the hardier ones did manage to take wing though.

     Birds on wing are a wonder to observe. Some of you have sent back comments that simply say, WOW! I know exactly how you feel. The cliché of “a picture is worth a thousand words” can still be summed up by just one, WOW!  Ever wonder what it would be like to fly like a bird? Pilots get close to that experience as well as Sky Divers (the latter being certified lunatics by some accounts).  My wife loves to watch the TV show Touched by an Angel. I get the feeling I have been touched by angels when watching the birds on wing and hope to share those moments with you. Photos of birds perched on limbs or floating on the water are challenging but not as much as trying to catch them doing what they do best…. fly!  While at the preserve I did see some Black Crowned Night Herons roosting but none really on wing (they sleep in the daytime).  However, I did see a few juvenile Bald Eagles winging overhead and I got one really good shot.  The shadow caused by their massive wings gliding overhead is what first caught my attention to their presence. As I look up I see the light reflect off the white feathers on the head and tail. It gives me goose bumps just watching. As a bird prepares to take off or land the motion of the wings is incredible to see.  Unlike mans attempts at flying which depend on stiff rigid wings for lift, the motion of a birds wing cannot be duplicated. Airplanes work ok but do not have the beauty seen in a Great Blue Heron as it lifts off its perch and spreads those massive wings or the grace of an eagle as it lands lightly on a nest of eaglets. The most maneuverable plane built cannot match the motion of an Osprey as it changes direction or hovers in midair.  After my visit to the preserve I got the chance to capture through the lens quite a few more photos of birds on wing from the dock. The pelicans pass so close I can almost hear their heartbeat beneath the rush of wings as they fly by.  I now have a growing library of the local marsh birds in flight that are found on the Broward in winter. The most spectacular so far I feel was yesterday when a Northern Harrier Hawk flew low over the marsh and did an abrupt wing over maneuver right in front of me as the sun illuminated the banded feathers outstretched beneath the swooping hawk. It was my shot of the day and I hope you feel like you too have been “touched by an Angel “ with some of these photos. 

    Someday I might well fly myself I believe, wings or not. Until then it’s back to walking to the dock, pressing that doohickey, and wishing you a warm cup of coffee, a wonderful day, and more WOW than you can hold. Be Blessed. Harry

A Black Crowned Night Heron takes roost at Reddi Point. This bird is on my list of desired close ups.

A Great Blue Heron takes wing and struggles against the wind.

A juvenile Bald Eagle soars overhead on wing. The gale force winds seem no problem to this majestic bird.

The mallard stays much closer to the surface.

Snowy Egret wings by, the sunlight bright on its wings.

A Great Egret greets the morning on wing.

Red Winged Blackbird flashes a warning at a rival on wing.

Brown Pelican can't get much closer!

Northern Harrier Hawk goes into a belly roll as it wings by!

The wings appear frozen in the air for a moment.

Wait till you see what happens next the Pelican seems to eye as it wings by so close I could almost hear its heartbeat.

Spunky takes a marsh side seat for the next show!

Inner Peace

     The Broward felt like winter this morning with ice on the birdbath and frost on the car windows. By noon however, it was feeling like springtime. Highs near the 60s and not a cloud in the sky. I had an early morning Doctor appointment then decided to head to Goose Pond again.  Most everyone was still there, including the four domestic geese. They seemed especially happy to see me and honk a happy greeting.

     Well maybe they were happy for the bagels too! One in particular must have gotten real friendly with the locals over the winter. It waddles up beside me in my chair and puts his head right in my lap and tried to sit with me almost. It would not leave my side and loved to have me rub its belly. As I was conversing with one of the local visitors a Bald Eagle swoops overhead and lands on the power line again.  Pretty sure it is the same one I saw there before in January. One lady said she saw it attack some young geese last week.  It didn’t stay long and scarcely gave me time to get a photo. I was glad to see it though. Not too many birds were flying. Most were just enjoying the sunshine. A few Canada geese fly in from the east and land and are greeted on arrival.  Four pairs of redhead ducks, about a dozen or so ring-necked ducks and Coots and dozens of Mallards are still on the pond.  It was a beautiful place to sit and enjoy a thermos of coffee.  Three Canada Geese swim up and get on the bank right in front of me. I give them some bagels too! Content, they sit down and soon are sleeping, quite at peace with my presence. I think I would prescribe this to anyone who needs a good dose of joy and peace. Overhead the preying eyes of an Osprey fly by as well as a male Anhinga. The latter circles a few times then lands to check out the morning menu also. A crow lands in a pine tree behind me and wakes up the sleeping geese with its raucous caw. They soon depart to the quiet side of the pond in protest. The domestic geese swim by and really wag their tails. As if in response the Canada geese tip over and show theirs too. I guess this is sorta goose talk for see ya later friend!

     I gather my things and head home. The stress of the busy weekend was relieved in these few hours. We all need this sometimes, a place to go to find inner peace. I am going to miss my winter friends on Goose Pond. Soon they will be heading north. But not till all that SNOW my friend Frenchy talks about starts to melt. In the meantime, sit down, sip some coffee and come back to Goose Pond, if only in your mind. Be Blessed. Harry

The Bald Eagle keeps an eye on Goose Pond!

The domestic goose and his three cohorts waddle up to greet me on arrival.

Completely at ease with me, this one loves to have me rub its belly.

A pair of Ring - Necked Ducks swim by!

Mallards on the pond.

The ducks and geese bask in the sun!

Two mallards take flight.

A Canada Goose naps at my feet.

Fat albert tries to lift off...but he is too Fat to fly!

The domestic geese wave their tails goodbye!

The end, see ya next time!

Anticipation.

     Still got the Mom watch this week.  She is a blessing each day though, so we are not complaining. I have often sat on my pier the past year and just watched the sun go down. It is peaceful and serene. Sometimes the sky is deep blue and then turns all the colors of the rainbow from reds to violet as the sun begins to set and the various wavelengths of light are absorbed. Some are spectacular, some are just sunsets on another day. I saw something special though last night.

After supper I decided to go sit on the dock in anticipation of the sunset. It was a near cloudless sky from the frontal passage a day ago. Cooler air was blowing over the Broward. The Woodstorks are becoming more frequent in appearance lately and I was hoping to catch an evening fly by.  The familiar honk of the Canada goose sounds on the marsh.  Soon I see a trio flying up the river towards the sunset. I had seen them earlier in the morning on the river.  Soon they will start winging their way north again. Think I will pay a visit to Goose Pond next week to see them off.  The geese are too far away for a great sunset shot but it was nice to hear them anyway. I readjust my blind in anticipation of the direction I hope to see the Woodstork appear. They are a no show this evening, but I was not left disappointed. I look up to see a beautiful white Great Egret. like an angel with its wings outstretched, winging towards the setting sun. Quickly raising my camera and focusing, I start pressing the doohickey. It is a stunning sunset fly by. The sun cuts shadows across the wings as they rise and fall with each beat. The setting sun reflects in the yellow eyes as the graceful egret flies towards its night roost upriver. The wings look like creamy white silk against an evening blue sky. In seconds the encounter is over but I was left awestruck and thankful. I hope you enjoy it.

     Anticipation is a strong emotion. Sometimes though we are disappointed when our anticipations are not fulfilled the way we planned. Tonight I was filled with awe and wonder at the beauty of God’s creation. I was anticipating a Woodstork, instead I got an angel like fly by in a stunning Great Egret. God knows our real needs. I really needed that. Hope your sunset tonight brings more than you hoped for too! Be Blessed. Harry

A trio of Canada Geese head towards the sunset.

A Great White Egret, like an angel gliding by appears from the east flying into the setting sun.

The setting sun cuts shadows on the wings.

I catch each beat of the wings as I press the doohickey again.

Again.

And again.

It soars overhead towards the sun!

It seems to catch the sun.

And then it wings home, The moment soon gone. But what a moment.

Afternoon Snack!

     Today was a beautiful clear day on the Broward.  I was unable to do my usual morning shoot due to lack of a caregiver for my Mother in Law so I just sat by the kitchen window while I fed Mom and watched the “Shirley Birds” in the tree by the back porch. The cardinals and finches kept me entertained. I watched the tide come and go. I love being retired but it about drove me nuts not being on the dock on a “work” day! Then the Editor in Chief arrives in the late afternoon and I grab the camera and head for the pier so I can go shootin!           

     I hurried down to the pier as the tide was going out. The sun was just beginning to set in the late afternoon but was not too harsh. It was perfect to catch this late afternoon snack-time.  Sorta like when the kids come home from school hungry.  During low tide the Brown Pelicans love to swim near the mouth of the channel and wait for the fish to come to them and then pounce on them and scoop them up similar to the way the white pelicans feed. Occasionally they get airborne and the antics are comical to see. Today there were several Brown pelicans at the mouth of the outgoing channel into river and feeding as the tide went out. Hoping they would venture up the channel I set up behind a piling and positioned myself for a semi-secluded shoot.  I was soon rewarded. One followed the fish up towards the dock. I was not in the blind and this wary Pelican kept one eye on me and the other eye on the fish. When it decides I am not a threat it is time to eat! It did a short hop flight over the shallow water and spots some fish. It was interesting to see the sidewise scoop and swallow. It turns it head sideways as it spots the fish and skillfully snatches them without gulping a ton of mud. I call it Flying Chopsticks. The low-lying afternoon rays illuminate the pelicans orange pouch as it begins to swallow its catch. Then it is off on wing for another snatch and grab and is rewarded with another fish. This one seems to go down sideways, in protest it appears, but soon is swallowed with a little gulp. By this time it was getting a bit too close to me for comfort and decides to reposition back to the mouth of the channel. But not before it gives me the wary eye as it flies by.

     I missed my morning coffee time with you but hope you liked our afternoon snack time also.  The Pelicans seem so content and happy. It reminds me of the verse that says the birds neither toil nor work yet the Father feeds them. It also reminds us that even though He greatly cares for them that we are more important to Him than the birds and He will care for us even more. Just like He did today with this afternoon snack for the pelican, He fed my soul too! Hope your joy is as full as the pelican’s pouch today. Be blessed. Harry

A Shirley bird, (actually a male House Finch) greets the morning sun.

The Brown Pelican keeps a wary eye on me and one on the fish.

Shallow water fishin techniques! Pelican style.

Looks like a pelican using chopsticks!

Fishin with flyin chopsticks! There is one now!

Look ma, no mud! The pelicans orange pouch illuminated by the afternoon sun.

There is another one! Gotta be quick.

Gulp!

Gettin a bit too close!

I seee you!

Spring is in the air!

     Yesterday’s frontal passage brought rain and clearing skies. The morning glow had a pink tint as the sun peaked up through a mackerel sky.  A full moon was still visible in the morning light as one heavenly luminary began to set and the other began to rise. Time to go to “work”.  Old Man River spots me coming and takes wing. I have set up a bird cam on the pier hoping to catch him unaware. Will let you know how successful we are.

     I sit up my blind on the pier and just listen to the marsh. A cool wind blows from the west and makes me thankful not only for the day but the warm taste of my coffee. The tide is still rising but nearing its peak for the morning. Few birds are about. My trusty Tricolored Heron soon lands in his favorite fishing hole only to be disturbed by the pesky Snowy Egret that seems to follow him wherever he goes. They size each other up and realizing the other is not leaving, begin to peer into the water for signs of fish. Soon they are rewarded with some small minnows and seem to tolerate each other the remainder of the morning. The dark blue heron and white egret give me opportunity to practice on my exposure controls. I hear a splash to my left. As I peer out the blind I see the inquisitive eyes of a Pied Billed Grebe emerging from the marsh grass. Unalarmed by my presence, it continues to swim by and soon dives again into the marsh. A short time later it emerges on the other end of the channel with a friend. From the looks of the two they are a mating pair. The male has a very distinctive vertical black stripe on its beak and a bright white eye ring found during the mating season. On one of these soon to come spring mornings I hope to find a pair with baby grebes nearby.  A Bald Eagle also appears in the far distance soaring high but much to far away to photograph. That is about all the close encounters to report this morning.  As I walked up the pier Old Man River, the illusive Great Blue Heron (and what appears to be a lady friend) takes wing over the marsh in a beautiful display of low level flying.

     My Editor in chief spotted a Roseatte Spoonbill right out in front of the pier yesterday also. This is one of my favorite birds and a sure sign of spring on the marsh. Although I cannot confirm her report yet I will be watching. In the meantime all you folks up north think spring. The March winds will blow it in before you know it. I would keep a watch on the eastern sky too! Be blessed today. Harry

A full moon sets in the morning sky.

Resigned toleration is on the face of the Tricolored Heron as the Snowy Egret intrudes on its morning fishing.

A Pied Billed Grebe emerges from the marsh sporting its mating beak stripe and white eye ring.

It soon emerges up the channel with a friend.

A pretty faced female friend is nearby suggesting a mating couple.

Old Man River, the great blue heron takes wing!

This bird keeps a wary eye on me. I have one waiting to catch him too!

Guardian Angels!

It was a bright sunny day as I headed to the pier. I glance up to see a juvenile Bald Eagle soaring by and circle around the neighbor’s tree. As I walk up the pier it glides by me and soars across the river out of sight. What a magnificent looking bird. Apparently it was hungry too as I would soon learn.                        

This eagle fly by is on the same morning as The Gathering I reported. As I was beginning to walk back down the pier from that event I glanced up to my right and noticed the same juvenile Bald Eagle circle over a distant tree. Suddenly a very brave or very stupid Red-Winged Blackbird starts to dive bomb and harass the eagle. The young eagle just ignores the pesky little bird. Its attention is focused elsewhere. I am also focused on trying to focus my camera on the eagle without falling off the pier and pressing the doohickey to catch the aerial feat of bravery of the blackbird (or its demise).  The eagle then circles directly over my head and seems very interested in something. I glance down at the ground. There is my little red shorthaired miniature dachshund Lucy cowering below the eagle. Holy Smokes!  She apparently crawled under the fence and was trying to find me. I started yelling at her to get back in the house but it only scares her more. She freezes. My Mother In Law’s caregiver Marleen saw what was happening and ran out and nearly fell on top of Lucy trying to protect her from the hungry eagle. She picks Lucy up in her arms.  Outnumbered now three to one the young eagle gives up the hunt and soars away. The Red Winged blackbird goes home telling a tale of how he whooped up on an Eagle today. Lucy is safe and sound! But what a scare it gave me. I don’t know if that bird could have picked her up but the look in its eyes sure seemed to me that it was about to try. We will keep an eye on the sky from now on when the dogs are out. I don’t worry about my other two dachshunds. I don’t think there is an eagle big enough to carry those two away if you know what I mean. The North Jax Monthly article didn’t call them chubby for nothing.

Lucy survived her harrowing ordeal. It taught me a lesson. Eagles and other birds might be beautiful creatures to watch but until the day comes when the “Lion lays down with the Lamb “ these birds like the eagle still have to eat. And some of them are not to particular about who or what it is as long as they can catch it. Lucy had a guardian angel watching her in our caregiver. And I sincerely believe we do too! Like they say, “Don’t drive faster than your Guardian Angel can fly “ though. Be blessed. Harry

Early morning fly by of a juvenile Bald Eagle.

A very brave (or foolhardy)  Red Winged Blackbird buzzes the eagle.

The eagle ignores the pesky bird and focuses in on a potential prey.

The eagle soars directly overhead and spots my little dachshund Lucy!

The eagle  circles around lower in an attempt to size up Lucy for breakfast but Marleen saves her!

Outnumbered three to one including one bad Red Wing, the eagle soars away. Lucy survives her ordeal.

Lucy survives, between you and me I think the Eagle thought she was too fat!

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