Crab! Where?

      It is early evening and the tide is going out. I head to the dock in hopes of catching the spoonbill. The Roseate is a no show this evening. Standing on the opposite bank though is “George”, the Yellow Crowned Night Heron intently staring into the water. I walk on down to the floating dock directly across from George and begin to watch him hunt for crabs.

     Night Herons get fixated when they hunt. Many of us are the same way when we get involved in an activity. Fortunately for me, George seems comfortable with my close proximity and continues to hunt. Before long I see him pick a good size crab out of the stream and begin to peck on it, drop it, pick it up and eventually swallow it. I spot some crabs closer to my position and point them out to George and tell him there is another one over here. To my surprise, George appears to look at me and then proceed a few feet closer in my direction and stop and peer into the water with those intense red eyes. I see his head lower, pause and then in a quick movement his head disappears below the surface. By this time I am already on my belly with the camera just above the water pressing the doohickey. George has another crab, or the crab has him, hard to tell. He shakes his head rapidly and I see claws fly off the crab from the intense shaking. He then brings it up out of the water and begins to rotate and squeeze it, drop it, peck it and pick it up again. Flipping the crab around in the air, the heron deftly positions it in its beak and swallows it whole. Gulp! A look of pure satisfaction is on his face. Crab doesn’t get any fresher than this. George takes a few more steps towards me and gives me a look like thanks for the help. Then he saunters away looking for another, and another, and then another. I think George is starting to develop a little crab belly haunch there. By the time the “session” is over I have taken about 150 shots of George hunting crabs. As I examine them I think my camera has malfunctioned. I knew I had the focus on the eyes and thought the eyes were out of focus in some of the shots. Then I realize this is a special membrane the heron has that it pulls over and covers the eyes when the head is submerged. Birds have a special "third eyelid" in the corner of each eye close to the beak. This extra eyelid is called the nictitating (NICK-tih-tate-ing) membrane. According to one on line source “When a bird blinks, this thin sheet of skin slides across the eyeball, wiping it clean. The membranes also act as goggles to protect the bird's eyes when if flies fast or dives into water, and during fights with prey. The membranes are clear, so the bird can still see where it is going. Birds also have top and bottom eyelids. But most birds close their regular eyelids only when they go to sleep”.

     Ever get so fixated on what you are doing you don’t notice or hear anything or anyone around you. Seems like George did too. But once I got his attention he seemed OK with my presence, went to where I pointing and was rewarded again. Next time your spouse tries to get your attention, just stop what you are doing and listen. Who knows, you might get a free crab sandwich too. Be Blessed. Harry

George, the Yellow Crowned Night Heron hunts for crabs.

His head snaps foarward as I press the doohickey!

Something pulls his head down further!

Something has George!

"Take that" yells the crab in a last act of defiance!

George shakes the crab!

Gotcha, George wins the battle!

Watch this trick.

FLIP!

Gulp!

Ahhh!..fresh crab..George is showing a little crab belly there too!

Thanks, see any more crab around ole buddy?

Oh boy, another one!

I can do this on one foot, watch...

First you position it just right.

Get ready now!

Flip!

Gulp!

Yea baby, that's what I'm talking about..fresh crab!

George sees a handsome face in the water as he looks for another crab!

And one last crab sandwhich for the road!

See ya!

Scars

     The still silent night is awakened as the predawn light creeps into the dark blue sky. Sunrise begins to break over the Broward. A cool refreshing wind blows over the marsh. A wispy layer of smoke like vapor swirls a few inches over the surface of the water. I wish this weather could remain forever. There are no meat eating gnats to contend with today (so far). I gratefully acknowledge The Creator of all things and sip my warm thermos of coffee. And wait for the stirring to begin. The first one I see is a Bald Eagle as it flies high over the river winging towards the sun (someday I may find the nest it just left I hope). The tide is just turning as the birds begin their morning foreys into the marsh in search of food for the day.

     Checking and adjusting my camera settings for light conditions is now part of my morning routine. I see the sun-glint from a bank of mud and focus in there to adjust exposure. Then the mud begins to move! It is a huge manatee foraging on the marsh grass in the channel. It slips into the middle of the channel and heads directly towards me, only the nostrils break the surface of the water. It slowly swims by the dock I am standing on. It must be well over eight foot in length. The head remains submerged but its broad back is exposed and covered with tell tale scars of many encounters with boat propellers. Yet this gentle giant would hurt no one. It turns around and slowly swims back up the channel towards the main river. A flash of pink catches my eye as I spot “Rosie” the spoonbill flying towards me. The autofocus is slow and I only catch it winging by the blind before it lands on the other side of me and begins to feed in the shallow stream. It sweeps its spatulate bill back and forth in the mud and quickly rounds the bend and flies off again. It is becoming a regular visitor to the dock area and I hope to catch it landing or taking off at my feet one of these days. I catch it winging up and down the river several times but not close enough yet. AND IT IS RED HAWKS- 3, SNAKES- ZERO..got another one! One less slithering snake to worry about. And check out the Red-winged Blackbird escort on the hawk's wing! Those are brave little fellows. I have seen them “escort” eagles, hawks, large herons, and any other bird that passes too close for comfort. A pair of Mallards and Canada Geese check in enroute to somewhere. A Great Egret glides by and does a slow circle with “landing gear” down. The wings on this bird are broad and beautiful as it glides overhead. Takes your breath away sometimes watching them. As I observe more closely I have determined some routine patterns with the local Clapper Rail as it ventures across the channel each morning and evening. I have some more “time lapse” take off and landing shots to share. They don’t fly far or fast but quickly sneak into the cover of the marsh grass as soon as they get to the other side.  Not as fast as the editor though when she hits the couch after coming home from work.

     I can’t get the scars out of my mind on the back of that gentle manatee. Reminds of another scarred back. He didn’t deserve them either but took them for me. My wish for you is to have a wonderful week. When I process the photos from my trip I will hopefully be able to share some more great adventures. Be Blessed. Harry

It isn't a mud bank, its a manatee!

Only the nostrils break the surface as it swims towards me.

This gentle giant is covered with scars from encounters with propellers.

The manatee's back is exposed beneath my feet at the dock. Some of the scars are old, some are still healing.

A flash of pink catches my eye as "Rosie" the spoonbill flies up the channel.

The spoonbill eyes me as it swoops past my blind.

The spoonbill sweeps its spatualate shaped bill in the stream.

Red Shouldered Hawk - 3Snakes - 0

A brave Red-winged Blackbird flies escort above the Hawk.

A pair of mallards greet the morning.

A pair of Canada Geese head for Goose Pond.

A Great Egrest soars overhead with broad beutiful wings

You can count the feathers on the wing!

The Egret gently touches down.

The Egret is still showing breeding colors as the broad wings reflect in the Broward.

In the morning the Clapper Rail leaves its nest to feed on the island.

In the evening the Clapper returns to its night time roost and nest.

The Clapper sneaks into the grass almost as fast as my Editor slips onto the couch after work.

See ya next week.

Travling Man

     This past weekend I had the pleasure of co-hosting a local “meet-up” for bird photography at a local beach park area just upstream of the Broward. I got to meet some neighbors and photo friends whom I have been corresponding with.  One of them is Angie. You all have seen “Angie’s List” in TV commercials. Well I have “Angie’s Birds” to go to when I need help or advice in identification of some of our local birds. She, like several other folks I know have been watching birds for a while. If she doesn’t know what it is, well, it probably isn’t a bird. Her husband Karl is her “spotter” and he can spot a flea on a tick I think with his scope. Grab your coffee cup, as I share some of these feathered friends with you, some of which I see for the first time also.

     It is overcast with threats of afternoon thunderstorms on the horizon. Routine Florida weather in other words. Huguenot Park is located on the north side of the mouth of the St. Johns River and is one of the few remaining local beaches where one can still drive onto the beach. The Laughing Gulls were nesting in the dunes there as well as the Royal Terns.  After meeting Angie and Karl, we head towards the dunes where we are joined by another professional photographer and meet up coordinator and Host Wayne Mann and Robert.  There are also several migrating species on the beach. Angie quickly spots a Black Bellied Plover in breeding colors. Although a bit illusive, we do manage a few shots of this migratory fowl, which ranges from South and Middle America to Alaska and the North Eastern Canadian Provinces. Traveling even further than the plover is a large sandpiper called a Red Knot. This bird travels from the tundra on the Arctic circle to the southern tip of South America, a distance of over 15,000 km (9,320 miles) on its annual migration route. The reddish orange chest and belly feathers are normally grey in the non- breeding season. They love horseshoe crab eggs and small mollusks and mussels and their numbers are reported in decline. I mount my camera on a skimmer pad (looks like a Frisbee upside down) for a birds-eye level view of some of the smaller wading birds. The Ruddy Turnstone is another arctic tundra breeding bird that migrates as far as Tierra Del Fuego in South America. It uses its beak to turn over stones and debris in the sand in search of insects or small crustaceans thus the name “turnstone”.  Its breeding colors of reddish brown give it the name “ruddy”. The most hilarious bird I see is a Reddish Egret. This is my first sighting. This tall dark grey Egret (most egrets are white) has a reddish brown neck. It hunts for small fish in the surf zone on the beach. It must be real happy to spot a fish because it begins to dance and jump like crazy when it sees one and pounces on it. The dancing antics are sure to make one smile. As I drive past a group of Royal Terns I spot a pair in courting behavior all puffed up circling as if square dancing together. Black Skimmers and Sanderlings, a rare pair of American Oystercatchers, and a few other shorebirds are also present.  The park is an excellent place for bird photography presenting nesting, wading and in flight opportunities and challenges.

     Can you imagine traveling 9000+ miles one way on a round trip every year of your life. Talk about life on the wing. I used to be a traveling man and frequent flier but nothing I ever did compares to the travels some of these birds make on an annual basis. They no sooner arrive in the arctic and get settled, have babies and get them out of the nest when it is time to pack up and head south again. After a brief rest it is time to head north. Yet these amazing birds do it year after year (without GPS even). Heck I don’t like to travel to the other side of town much anymore. Unless of course it is to take some more bird photos. I am off on another birding adventure. You be blessed this week. Harry

Royal Terns, Black Skimmers and others at Huguenot Park. Can you spot the Gull Billed Tern? Me neither but Karl and Angie can!

Laughing Gull hovers over the dunes protecting the nest from predators.

A Migratory bird, the Black Bellied Plover in breeding colors.

A large sandpiper called the Red Knot stops in Jacksonville enroute to arctic summer breeding grounds. This bird travels as much as 15,000 km (9,320 miles) one way twice a year.

Another arctic bound traveler in breeding colors, the Ruddy Turnstone stops at Huguenot Park.

Ruddy Turnstone flips sand and debris looking for food.

Sanderling scans the sand.

A Reddish Egret prowls the beach. My first sighting!

I see a FISH! WOW!, Oh Joy! Woopee!

Oh my gosh, another one. Yahooo!

A pair of courting Royal Terns eye each other up! Wanna dance cutie?

American Oystercatcher. Only about 10000 birds are estimated to remain in North America.

Those who wait!

     The morning light creeps into the marsh as the sun begins its daily climb. Clear blue azure hues fill the sky. There is a hint of pink and gray on the western horizon. A Clapper Rail cautiously slips out of cover of the thick green grasses to bath in the channel as the tide rises in the early dawn light. It spots me watching and quickly disappears. A fin breaks the surface followed by the broad red back of a huge Redfish cruising along the edge of the channel searching for crabs in the shallow mud banks of the marsh. It is a beautiful May morning on the Broward. It has been a great week too. Grab a cup of coffee and let me share some of my adventures with you.

     I finally have the pleasure of meeting some of my photo friends on the Broward. Miss Donna (an award winning local photographer) and her husband invite me over to share some time and discuss our favorite hobby as we vainly try to figure out why a new lens is not working properly on her camera. She takes me to her dock and I see what a beautiful view she enjoys. The ospreys and herons are fishing nearby. A few cormorants are sunning on the neighbors dock, one in the classic wings stretched out pose I hope to catch close up someday. We begin to walk over and down on that dock and are greeted by about a dozen small Least Terns who sit and look curiously at our approach. A Black Skimmer is also spotted among them. As we slowly approach, the terns relent and fly off one by one. The Black Skimmer stays put and warily watches us with what seems like the same curiosity that we have with it. We sit down for a birds-eye view of our feathered friend. Finally we reach a distance that seems “close enough” and it slowly takes wing and circles around only to land a bit further away as I push the doohickey again and again. Also later met met Angie and husband Karl and the bug Macro-photo guy Jim and Mr. Wayne, a professional photographer.  I had wonderful visits and now a face to put with my neighbors and photo friends.

     Back on my dock I have good news to report. While a relative is visiting, we retreat to the back porch to watch the sunset over the marsh. The golden light bathes the marsh grass as the sun peeks through a low deck of clouds on its way to the horizon to bid us goodnight. An owl silently swoops by and lands in the tree next to the porch and is shortly joined by another. A mocking bird is highly disturbed by their presence but the owls hiss and ignore the pesky bird and it finally gives up its attempt to scare the owls off. I do believe this is Fuzzy and Wuzzy, the young Barred Owls, now hunting on their own. The owls appear smaller than the two adults I recall seeing a few weeks ago. After a few mishaps, I manage to catch a few dark photos before the on camera flash causes them to move. One owl flies back towards the tree where I first saw them in April. On another afternoon I also spot my favorite bird, a Roseate Spoonbill in the channel near my dock. I get only a few quick photos before it flies off. In the future I hope I will get many more opportunities to share this beautiful bird with you. On another day a small Cattle Egret walks into the back yard and thru the fenced area to within a few feet of me. It was in post breeding plumage with a tawny crown still visible. Without even a hint of notice of me, it hops the fence and flies off. A similar looking bird, often confused with the cattle egret, is the juvenile Little Blue Heron. Both birds are born all white but the Little Blue slowly begins to change to spotted blue and white and then to all blue with a maroon neck and head. Now photos of both types of these herons add to my album collections.  

      Another treat was an afternoon spent watching a small Tricolored Heron. It is decked out with a breeding blue beak and crown plumes as it chases minnows in the rising tide. This small heron is not alarmed at my presence and allows me to sit on the dock as it hunts only a few feet away.  As I lower myself low on the dock, I get a birds-eye view of this beautiful little heron. The little tricolored bird stalks the shallows and holds its head at various angles to see the minnows. It stops, appears to cock its neck back like a hunter about to draw a bow and arrow, then lunges forward as its beak strikes the water with lightning speed. A wriggling minnow is soon swallowed with glee and off it goes again in search of another. 

     Good things do come to those who wait. And wait. And wait. Seems like it was a long dry spell, then a flood, and now good things have arrived with the spring. I have a face with a friends name now and opportunity for future photos. It is nice to have hope and something to look forward to. Hope you enjoy the photos. They were worth the wait. Be Blessed. Harry

Sunrise creeps over the marsh.

A huge redfish searches for crabs in the rising tide.

A cormorant, Black Skimmer and Least Terns on the dock greet our approach.

Black Skimmer as curious about us as we are it.

The small Least Tern is identified by the two black primary feathers on the wing.

Ok, I give up!

I am outta here!

A pair of Barred Owls (Fuzzy and Wuzzy?) at dusk.

Who dat with the light thingy?

Small Cattle Egret in post breeding plumage walks up to me in our yard.

Juvenile Little Blue Heron, born all white at birth, it becomes spotted with blue and finally all blue with maroon head feathers.

Young Roseate Spoonbill reflects on the Broward.

TriColored Heron in breeding colors watches and waits.

Hmmm..looks like fish! Here fishy fishy!

Can you do this with your neck?

Birds-eye view of the hunt!

With one beak, Lock and Load!

Fire!

Gotcha!

Yum Yum, my favorite too! Good things do come to those who wait!

Can't wait to see you again!

Keepers!

     As it was in the days of Noah... I don’t know about you but we have had a lot of rain this week. The Spring tides have also been high. We had water over the bank and halfway up the back yard. I feel like Noah after the flood. I had the opportunity to give a presentation on Reflections with the Mayflower Society this past weekend.  It went well and might lead to more. Small beginnings are a start. Wish I had better luck with photographs. Monday I had a few good shots but after that is was rain, rain, rain. So I asked for a little help from some of my local photo friends. Thanks for your help! There are still very few birds moving about the marsh.  Surprisingly, during the rain I saw a number of local marsh birds in the flooded yard enjoying new treats in the grass. Spring also brings out the “Shirley Birds” and bees. Flowers are starting to bloom. Birds, Bees, Flowers and Trees! I got a few new “toys” and will try to set up opportunity to catch a photo of a hummingbird. Wish me luck! Grab some waders with your coffee cup.

     The hickory trees are green again and their pollen fills the air from now through June. AHHHCHOO! Although I don’t enjoy the pollen, the squirrels and “Shirley Birds” are enjoying the new greenery. A “Shirley bird” can be defined as those little singing birds of various shapes and colors that frequent the trees and bird houses in the area. You know, the kind the Audubon Society “birders” spend hours looking for and say things like “Was that a Wilsons?” I still don’t know what a Wilson’s is but it was yellow and black, furtive and quick and darn near impossible to see with the naked eye. One bird I could not miss though was a bright red cardinal sitting in the hickory tree. It was feathered in breeding shades of bright red! You could see it from far away, especially when the sun caught the bird’s feathers. No wonder it is the Ohio State Bird, a real beauty to observe. My good neighbor is an avid bird feeder. Their feeders attract lots of Shirley Birds and doves. Some days it seems the squirrels and raccoons outnumber the birds though. A few mallard hens have discovered the bird feeder spillage also and fly hop the fence and warily waddle their way to the feeder area now. I hope the hawks don’t get them. Speaking of hawks, I catch our local Red Shouldered Hawk on a fly by with another snake sandwich. Good for you! One less snake in the world makes it a better place in my opinion. Shortly after that I spot an Osprey winging my way carrying some fresh “Sushi”. It is hanging on to a fish carcass with one leg vice the normal two-legged carry. Sushi doesn’t wiggle much. As it flies by it gives me “the look”! Those huge yellow eyes are all I remember seeing in the viewfinder as I track it going overhead and press the doohickey. The overcast skies make a great photo opportunity for the Sushi express. This one is a keeper.

So what exactly is a “keeper”? For me it refers to photos I enjoy so much I just have to keep them. They bring me a sense of satisfaction for capturing a moment and an opportunity to share it with you. There are all kinds of keepers though in life. Good friends are keepers. Snakes are not! Some memories are keepers. Thankfully they seem to become so deeply embedded in our brain that any time we want to we can recall it we just reach inside and there it is again. Just like the day it became a keeper! As we get older it might get harder to recall some of them, but rest assured, they are still there. Here is wishing you lots of Keepers! Also remember that after the flood came the rainbow and a promise. Be Blessed. Harry

Backyard view of the neigbhors after the deluge! As it was in the days of Noah...

Spring time colors on a Cardinal!

Chipping Sparrow

Curious Gold Finch!

Raindrops are fallin on my head!

George hunts in rain for tidbits

Clapper Rail enjoys the rains new harvest ground.

Snake sandwich anyone?

Sushi anyone? Osprey with fresh snack. I get "The Look"!

Well we had some of the Birds. Here is the Trees! A Bald Cyprus we call "The General" planted as a young sapling has grown into a tree. Sporting new Spring Green.

And Flowers! Anapantha bud peeks out!

First Bloom on the Anapanthas.

No flower is complete without a bee! Photo courtesy of my photo friend Jim! He is going to teach me how to take these kinds of photos I hope.

Here is my Buzzzy little fellow!

Regal Eagle on the Dock. Taken on the other side of the Broward. Photo courtesy of and by another Photo friend, Donna Yost-Williams with permission.

The Promise: "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth."

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.