A Place In The Sun...

     How many of you remember the lyrics of the epic 1966 Stevie Wonder hit, “A Place In The Sun”?  Ok, give up? Here is the first two stanzas:

 “Like a long lonely stream

I keep runnin' towards a dream

Movin' on, movin' on

Like a branch on a tree

I keep reachin' to be free

Movin' on, movin' on

 

'Cause there's a place in the sun

Where there's hope for ev'ryone

Where my poor restless heart's gotta run

There's a place in the sun

And before my life is done

Got to find me a place in the sun”

     Blue Cypress Lake is such a place for the Osprey population of southern Florida.  It is located about 23 miles west of Vero Beach in Indian River County Florida. This 6,555-acre pristine lake marks the headwaters of the St Johns River, which flows north all the way to Jacksonville and Mayport Florida before entering the Atlantic Ocean. There is only one commercial venture on the lake, the infamous Middleton’s Fish Camp, where I stayed and met some great folks and fellow photographers from North Carolina. There are no locks on the doors there either. Local Fish and Wildlife personnel have counted over 220 mating pair of Osprey on the lake this year. It seemed every other tree on the shoreline had an Osprey nest in it. My photographer instructor and boat guide is a well-known professional wildlife biologist by the name of Ron Bielefeld who runs Whistling Wings Photography workshops and tours. 

      This time of year the female Osprey are mainly sitting on the eggs incubating them while the male stands guard close by and brings an occasional fish snack to share with her (often minus the head).  The Ospreys were also observed bringing fresh moss and sticks to the nest sites. Ron showed me the western side of the lake in his well-equipped photographers pontoon boat. It was a beautiful morning with a slight breeze that kept the mosquitos at bay. Ron is very careful not to disturb the nesting Ospreys.  I had a magical morning trying to capture the beauty of these magnificent raptors as they proudly guarded and nurtured their future generation. We did see one nest with chicks already hatched. Soon there will be hundreds more.

      I apologize for the quality of some of the photos, I was trying out one of Canon’s larger prime lenses (500mm F4 Mk II). It was heavy and difficult to hand hold and track the Osprey but I managed to capture a few keepers. Hope you enjoy this “Place in the Sun”. Can’t wait to see my "Place in the Son" someday. Be Blessed. Harry

In nearly every other tree we saw an Osprey nest. Photo from "Bing" Blue Cyprus Photo workshop. Photographer unknown, not listed. (yes I "borrowed" it)!

This nesting pair indeed have found a "Place in the Sun"..typical of what we saw in nearly every tree. Note the size and construction of the nest. 

Fresh nesting material being brought to the nest

A strong nest is built one stick at a time..some larger than others..some smaller..

Here is another one coming in..

Fresh Black Crappie is what is for breakfast…the look says don't touch it though! Mine!

Mine, Mine Mine..This female is not about to share her tidbits with the neighbors..

This couple fought hard for their place in the sun ..the male on the left has nearly lost an eye it appears.

You looking at me or my fish?

Dang photographers! Can't a bird have a fish sandwich without a photo op? 

What? Leftovers again?

Highly cropped image of a female feeding three young ones!

An Osprey in flight turning into "Final Approach"

Landing tree in sight….making final approach...

Air Brakes applied...

Landing…Nailed it!

Blue Cypress Lake…A Place in the Sun for sure..Photo courtesy of Bing Blue Cypress Photo workshop..photographer unknown..

Marsh Madness...

     Yes folks, it is that time of year. Marsh Madness is gripping the Broward. Who will make it to the Final Fowl? Many of the marshes finest avian teams have gathered to compete in this epic battle for survival. Who will be the ultimate winner? Only Broward Bob knows for sure. And he isn’t saying much just yet.

     Here is a rundown of some key players. This time of year birds by the thousands gather in various places along marshes, lakes and rivers to be the first to welcome a new generation. It takes skill and teamwork to build a nest for this new generation. Location is everything.  If you look in the air and see a bird carrying some grass or sticks, a nest in progress is not far away. The nest must be protected at all times from predators that lurk from below and above. Snakes, predatory hawks, raccoons, even ants and other fowl then prey upon the newly laid eggs of others for nourishment. Some just savor the flesh of a new hatchling. A word to the wise to those hatchlings, “Don’t trust your own kind”. Many a young bird has been pushed right out of the nest by their stronger (or sneakier) siblings. Only the strong and well protected will survive. Nearly 50 percent or more of this year’s new generation will not make to the second year.  Still they come and we rejoice.

     The Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons have begun nesting at the various local rookeries along with some Roseate Spoonbills.  Reports of recent hatchlings are starting to flood the social media circuits. The Wood Storks are also beginning to gather but I have seen only a few at the local zoo rookery. Mating pairs of ducks are looking for secluded nest sites (except the pair of mottled ducks on the neighbors dock just looking for free corn). With this new life though comes new danger. Everyone wants a piece of the action. That is why we call it marsh madness. Some are mad for the future, some for just plain mad for the now.

     What about you? Are you “mad” for the future or the now? Here is my advice. Don’t live for the now. Because much better things are coming! Be Blessed. Harry

On the Ides of March I found the three Snowy Stooges, Larry, Curly feathers and "Can't see me no Moe"

Had a first sighting of a Cedar Waxwing in the Yard this month when a small flock stopped by.

This male Osprey thinks if found a great nest site..

The spouse comes flying in for a look see sporting a nice necklace (Females have the brown necklace feathers)

They build a nest right on top of a light pole in the middle of the local High School Athletic Field, Is that madness or what? Watch out for that fly ball!

Great news! George, the Yellow Crowned Night Heron has returned and is waiting for Georgia to show up too! Time to start building that nest for George Jr. 

Even though it is officially spring we still have some Blowing Snowy (Egrets) around.

The Tricolored Heron stretches its leg…still waiting for its mate..

And then a wing streeeeetch too!

The Purple Martins don't have to look for a nesting site…they are all ready to settle in to. 

Red Winged Blackbird attacks a crow coming too near the Red Winged's marsh nesting sites.

The Great Egrets in breeding plumage are busy building nests at the Alligator farm.

Better get another stick…looks like triplets!

This is what the Marsh Madness is all about..the start of a new Generation of Great Blue Herons..Photo by and with permission of Tresa Marie Joseph of Joseph's Art Visuals

Here comes Mom..I'm telling her you pushed poor little Ernie out of the nest! She is gonna be MAD!

Mallard Drake at a nearby retention pond putting his best web foot forward. 

Did someone say free corn? Pair of Mottled Ducks hang out by the dock recently. 

Profiles in courage..

     Profiles in Courage is a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of short biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators throughout the Senate's history. The author was none other than the late John F Kennedy. The book was turned into a TV series of the same name after Kennedy’s assassination. This past week I got to see some other profiles that also took a lot of courage. Perhaps not as notable to history but in the grand scheme of life they too have a story.

      Per their website “The Avian Reconditioning Center, or ARC, is a bird of prey rehabilitation and education facility located in Apopka, Florida, just outside of Orlando. ARC was started in 2001, and opened to the public in 2004. ARC is dedicated to raptor rehabilitation, education and research, thereby increasing public awareness, knowledge and appreciation of Florida’s magnificent raptors and the natural habitats in which they live.” I recently visited ARC as part of a workshop lead by my friend and acclaimed photographer, Mr. Jack Rogers.

      The real stars are the birds themselves. Each one has a profile in courage, a story to tell. Some were shot, some were run over by cars, some were just involved in a natural calamity of some sort, but they all have found a home at ARC. To me the real heroes here though are the volunteers, caretakers, and trainers who selfishly give of their time and talent to hopefully rehabilitate these birds back to the wild. If unable to be released, the birds become educational ambassadors of the center.

      I hope you enjoy the “profiles” of some of these raptors. Time was too short and I was too busy pushing the doohickey to remember each of their stories but their stories will still be told regardless of my ability to recall them. Check out their profiles on the ARC website. Can the same be said of each of us someday? Be Blessed. Harry

Profiles of some of the stars of the Avian Reconditioning Center for Birds of Prey, Apopka, Fl

Miko, a dark phase Short-tailed Hawk suffered a gunshot wound to the left wing

Henry, a European Barn Owl was captive bred and is a rehabilitated flight capable barn owl. 

Whisper, a Common Barn Owl was transferred from another facility and making a better adjustment.

Lucy, an Eastern Screech Owl lost eyesight in the left eye due to an automobile collision

Mrs P, a Barred Owl, found as a pre-fledgling on the ground and imprinted with people instead.

Sparky, the male Peregrine Falcon suffered a wing injury in migration. 

Sparky, like most of the birds is available for adoption..check it out!

Izzy is a Red Tailed Hawk. Izzy injured a foot while hunting in the wild and can no longer hunt on her own.

Callie, an American Kestrel female, found in a storm and imprinted by human contact.

Scooter, Swallow Tailed Kite separated at an early age from parents and imprinted with humans.

Archer, a Red Shouldered Hawk, injured when their nest was cut down, able to do short flight demos.

Ike, the iconic Bald Eagle, suffered a wing injury as a nestling.

Gordon, the Great Horned Owl was my favorite bird..handsome fellow and wise too!

The real heroes are the volunteers, caretakers and handlers who give of their time and talent and heart.

Don't mess with me, I am wise to you!

Morning dance….evening delight

     Are you a morning person? Or do you have to be dragged from the bed kicking and screaming? Does the aroma of a freshly brewed cup of coffee stir you in the early predawn hours? Or do you grumble when someone says..”Honey, it’s time to get up”? I can guarantee you the birds of the Broward are morning folks. They are up before the sun, ready to dance the morning away.

     The Snowy Egrets, some Little Blue Herons and a pair of Tricolored Herons are here nearly every morning lately depending on the tides just waiting to greet the sun and have some fresh minnows. Perhaps minnows are not as tasty as fresh homemade pastry, but for birds that don’t do much cooking, it serves them fine. And then there is grumpy Old Man River, the Great Blue Heron, who a lets out a loud croak as soon as I step out of the house and flies away to his secluded fishing holes. He is definitely not a happy morning person.

     I had the fortunate opportunity to spend a morning all by myself with another well-known local photographer by the name of Maria Struss recently. The other workshop participants were down with the flu or didn’t want to brave the cold Florida morning. (That was the weekend we had winter here (smile)). Her landscapes and bird and nature photography are breathtaking. She has been doing this for over 30 years and her eye for photos and composition and skill is evident in all her work. I can only hope to aspire to that kind of work someday. She gave me some valuable lessons and I hope you enjoy the resulting Cedar Point photo. The morning light was not as vivid as we had hoped for but I did the best I could with what we had. Flight after flight of Ibis were winging overhead while I was trying to concentrate on the marsh view landscape composition. I was almost tempted to change lenses and shoot birds instead. I plan to return to the places she showed me and try to capture some morning dances with the light on the marsh as soon as I can.

     That night the sky turned firey red as stratiform clouds covered the evening sky. “Red sky at night..sailor’s delight”….Or if you a Florida Seminole fan, "Red sky at night, Seminole’s delight". Grab a cup of coffee this morning, and let’s dance because “Joy comes in the morning”! Be Blessed. Harry

Graceful wings flare over the marsh as the Snowy Egret begins its morning dance

The wings gently slow the snowy bound flier

Touchdown in the golden morning light!

Morning minnows, my favorite!

Snowy's don't share, you will have to get your own!

Down the hatch!

Got any coffee?

Broward Bob, the Little Blue Heron is one of the early risers. Enjoying a nice crab bite here.

Cedar Point sunrise golden marsh view

Later that night we celebrated the Editor's birthday with a Fire Red Sunset over the Broward!

Working on the river...

     It is dawn and the sky is ice blue with no hint of clouds on the horizon. A passing frontal system has cleared out the moisture and cold northerly winds blow over the land and streams. Temperatures have dipped near freezing and below. For those working on the river though it is just another day. That is how it is with my friend Tommy. He makes his living crabbing on the river just like his father did before him. And the Brown Pelicans waiting by the boat launch can’t wait for Tommy to get going.

     The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has this to say of the Brown Pelican. “The Brown Pelican is a comically elegant bird with an oversized bill, sinuous neck, and big, dark body. Squadrons glide above the surf along southern and western coasts, rising and falling in a graceful echo of the waves. They feed by plunge-diving from high up, using the force of impact to stun small fish before scooping them up.” They also feed by following Tommy’s crab boat and snatching the bait fish remains out of the traps as Tommy hauls them up to empty the dwindling catch of delicious blue crabs. They gather around the gunnel snapping their beaks and fighting to get at that small two inch opening in the crab trap with the swift finesse, deftness and dexterity of a hungry mob schooled in the art of chopsticks. One such fortunate fowl snatches the bait remains and flies off with a half dozen cohorts trying desperately to pluck it out of his beak pouch.

     As Tommy guns the boat’s motor and heads upriver a flight of four pelicans glide over the peaks of the wake in perfect formation. As he slows the boat to approach another trap they quickly swoop in and swarm the boat anxious to get whatever morsels remain. Whether desperate for food and hungry, or just opportune and wise birds who changed with the times, is a matter of opinion. For them it is just another day working on the river. And I love to watch them glide by. The Brown Pelican is the smallest of the eight species of pelicans. Even so, their wings can stretch over a span of 8 foot on an adult.  It is no wonder that I struggle with my lens composition to get them within my frame at times as I press the doohickey time and time again.

     Many a nation's lifeblood of commerce run on the rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans of this blue planet we call home. Water is precious to life and living. Just ask the pelicans. I love living on the river and watching them. Thank you Tommy for sharing a day with me.  Someday we all can hopefully live on the river of life. Can’t wait to see the birds there too. Until then..Be Blessed.

Meet my friend Tommy. He has invited me to ride along while he works on river crabbing like his father before him.

Meet the Brown Pelican anxiously waiting for Tommy to get started working on the river today too! 

It isn't the delicious blue crabs the Pelicans want, it is the bait fish in the crab traps!

Come on gang, it is time to go to work on the river! The Brown Pelican raises its mighty wings and lifts off!

Here they come!

They pass so close I struggle to keep them in the frame!

Too much Pelican, too little frame space..:(

After snatching the bait remains it is a food fight for remaining morsels. 

With a wing span that can exceed 8 foot this juvenile Brown  Pelican has no problem keeping up with the crab boat.

Gliding over the wake, a formation of four follow the boat. At times we had about 18 pelicans following us.

Soaring high!

Swooping low ...

Whee..watch me fly by..look ma, no hands!

With wingtip control they eye the boat waiting to be the first to get the bait..

I hope the water is not too cold..a toe test for temperature!

Flaps up, landing gear down..

A perfect three wire landing...

Got any fish?

Thanks Tommy..see you next time…working on the river..Yeah!

email: selsorhd@me.com

All photographs and materials copyrighted and possession of Harry D Selsor. All rights reserved.

Photos are avail for purchase framed or unframed.