Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Live Oaks at Circle B Bar

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Trees at Circle B Bar
This past weekend I spent two mornings at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  As I was returning to my car from a morning a bird photography, I found myself walking through many Live Oaks.  These are absolutely beautiful trees.  I don't often photograph them because I frequently only take with me my 400mm lens.  But more and more I've been bringing a long my 10mm-22mm lens and 17mm-85mm lenses just so that I can be ready for more wide angle photographic moments.  These trees captured my attention so much that I decided it was worth changing lenses to spend time photographing the trees.

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Trees at Circle B Bar
For these photos, I simulated a "slide montage" in my image editing software.  I duplicated the image as a separate layer, applied a Gaussian blur to the bottom layer (set to 45) and then set the layering mode to "multiply."  This effect blurs the colors while still maintaining detail, and it creates a sort of dreamy effect with lots of saturation.  This effect also tends to increase your contrast, so it is most easily applied to low contrast images.  For higher contrast images, applying this effect may blow out your highlights or cause you to lose all detail in your shadows.  You can apply local lightening and darkening to the blurred "color layer" to compensate for this.

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Trees at Circle B Bar
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Trees at Circle B Bar
For comparison purposes, the image above and the image below are similar compositions, but the image below is presented without the "montage" effect.  I think it makes a pretty big difference.

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Trees at Circle B Bar

Monday, February 27, 2012

Boyd Hill Park, 2/25/2012

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Osprey
On Saturday morning we decided to visit Boyd Hill Park.  I had read that the park was designed to support multiple habitats, and we had heard that there was good birding there.  Now I have to say that I love the idea of the park.  The path leads you to different sections that highlight different Florida ecosystems.  There's a Sand Scrub area, a Pine Flatwoods area, and an Oak Pine Hammock area, as well as Swamp, Marsh, and Lake areas.  There were covered pavilions and water stations at the trail heads for each of these habitats with informative signage to describe what you're about to see.  I loved that.

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Royal Tern
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Common Moorhen

Unfortunately, the birds were not there in any great numbers.  I was surprised by how little I heard or saw.  I stayed there from about 7:30 to about noon, just waiting for things to pick up, but they never did.  There were some highlights, though.  We saw an Osprey nest, and one of the pair was building or repairing the nest.  A Green Heron and a Little Blue Heron were both out fishing.  A Bald Eagle, Royal Tern and a Belted Kingfisher were doing their best to keep things interesting, and there were more than enough White Pelicans, Cormorants and Anhingas for everyone to enjoy.  But I didn't see a single warbler or sparrow; I heard two Carolina wren, but didn't see any wrens at all.  So late morning I turned my attention to butterflies, and there were many in the two butterfly gardens.  So the butterflies saved the day for the birds.  Interestingly, I also saw a River Otter and a Gopher Tortoise, though I wasn't able to get any photographs of them.

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Queen
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Spicebush Swallowtail
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Duskywing Skipper
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Whirlabout Skipper
Here's list of species we saw at Boyd Hill Park:

Non-Birds
Gopher Tortoise
River Otter
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly
White Peacock Butterfly
Queen Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly
Duskywing Skipper
Whirlabout Skipper

Birds
Pied-billed Grebe 2
Double-crested Cormorant 9
Anhinga 5
American White Pelican 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 3
Little Blue Heron 1
Green Heron 1
White Ibis 3
Roseate Spoonbill 1
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey 3
Bald Eagle 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Common Gallinule X
American Coot X
Limpkin 2
Laughing Gull 2
Ring-billed Gull 1
Royal Tern 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 2
Fish Crow 5
Carolina Wren 2
Northern Mockingbird 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Boat-tailed Grackle X

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Circle B Bar, 2/26/2012

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Cattle Egret
This morning on the way back from St. Petersburg we dropped by Circle B Bar Reserve one more time.  The weather wasn't cooperative; it was cloudy and even a little chilly, but we had fun spending the morning at Circle B Bar. Highlights from the morning were seeing two Sandhill Cranes by their nest, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that posed for me, and an Anhinga prepare a fish for consumption. It was also very nice to see my first Black-bellied Whistling Ducks of the  year. On the way back to the car, a couple Giant Swallowtail butterflies came out to play with us as well.

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Sandhill Cranes
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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
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Anhinga with Fish
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Great Blue Heron
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Giant Swallowtail
Here's a list of species we saw this morning at Circle B Bar from about 9am to 12pm.Black-bellied Whistling-Duck 15
Blue-winged Teal 20
Pied-billed Grebe 5
Wood Stork 3
Double-crested Cormorant 10
Anhinga 10
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 10
Snowy Egret 12
Little Blue Heron 9
Tricolored Heron 3
Cattle Egret 17
White Ibis 50
Glossy Ibis 5
Roseate Spoonbill 10
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 3
Common Gallinule 15
American Coot 25
Limpkin 1
Sandhill Crane 3
Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove X
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
White-eyed Vireo 1
Tree Swallow X
Carolina Wren 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 5
Gray Catbird 2
Northern Mockingbird 1
Common Yellowthroat 3
Palm Warbler 10
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Savannah Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird X
Boat-tailed Grackle X

Reddish Egrets at Fort De Soto

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Reddish Egret
Shortly after arriving at North Beach in Fort De Soto on Friday, we were met by a white morph Reddish Egret.  As we were photographing it, a dark morph came by and began interacting with the white morph.  They put on quite a display for each other, in beautiful breading plumage.  I sat in awe of these birds for perhaps an hour, and here are a few of my photos from that time--I'm afraid the photos don't do justice to the beautiful sight we were able to experience that afternoon.  These are the reasons why I never tire of photographing nature.

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Reddish Egret
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Reddish Egret
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Reddish Egret
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Reddish Egret

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Reddish Egret
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Reddish Egret

Fort De Soto, 2/25/2012

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Fort De Soto
On the second day of our birding weekend, we returned to Fort De Soto this afternoon.  It was a very different  but equally enjoyable experience.  We first went to the Egmont Key Ferry.  While we didn't ride on the ferry, we walked out on the pier, and were met by three dolphins, including one young dolphin.  They were right by the pier, so I had to change lenses to get photographs of them.  We also saw a Brown Thrasher, a few Forster's Terns, and two Red-breasted Mergansers.

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Dophin
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Red-breasted Merganser
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Snowy Egret
From there we went back to North Beach, where we saw many of the same species we saw yesterday.  We entered the beach area on the south side of the parking lot this time in search of warblers, and we found many, though most were Palm and Yellow-Rumped.  We did find 2 Pine Warblers there.  On the beach we saw about 50 Royal Terns and lots of shorebirds including Wilson's Plover, Sanderling, and Willet.  Two of the Willets got into a pretty good fight--that was amazing to watch.  As we were leaving, we came across a bunch of photographers with their long lenses pointed up into the trees, so we went to see what was there--there was a Great Horned Owl  nesting in a tree.

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Pine Warbler
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Royal Tern
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Willet Fight
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Great Horned Owl
Below is a list of the species we saw at For De Soto from about 2pm to 6pm.

Northern Shoveler X
Redhead X
Lesser Scaup X
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Pied-billed Grebe 5
Wood Stork 1
Double-crested Cormorant X
Anhinga X
Brown Pelican 15
Great Egret 5
Snowy Egret 1
Tricolored Heron 1
Reddish Egret 1
White Ibis 5
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey 8
Bald Eagle 1
American Kestrel 1
Wilson's Plover 3
American Oystercatcher 2
Willet 35
Ruddy Turnstone 5
Sanderling 15
Dunlin 10
Laughing Gull X
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull 1
Forster's Tern 3
Royal Tern 51
Mourning Dove 10
Common Ground-Dove 5
Great Horned Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Loggerhead Shrike 1
Fish Crow X
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling X
Palm Warbler X
Pine Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Northern Cardinal 3
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Boat-tailed Grackle X

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Circle B Bar, 2/24/2012

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Great Blue Heron
Yesterday morning a friend and I headed out towards St. Petersburg, FL.  We got a late start, but we decided to go to Circle B Bar on the way to see what we might find. It was a pretty good morning, though not as fantastic as it was when I was here last in November. Highlights for me were seeing several Limpkin, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Roseate Spoonbills. We saw a Sandhill Crane sitting on a nest, but we didn't want to watch it for very long.  I saw very few ducks; in fact, I only saw Blue-winged Teal, and the American Bitterns we were hoping to see eluded us.Others there told us that there was a Bobcat that was chased off by several River Otters before we were able to see the Bobcat.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
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Roseate Spoonbill
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Common Gallinule or Moorhen
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Anhinga
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Red-bellied Woodpecker
Here is a list of species I found between about 9:30am and 12:15pm yesterday morning.

Blue-winged Teal X
Pied-billed Grebe 5
Double-crested Cormorant 11
Anhinga 8
Great Blue Heron 8
Great Egret 5
Snowy Egret 7
Little Blue Heron 1
Tricolored Heron 11
Cattle Egret 3
White Ibis X
Glossy Ibis 5
Roseate Spoonbill 3
Black Vulture X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey 5
Bald Eagle 3
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Common Gallinule X
American Coot X
Limpkin 12
Sandhill Crane 1
Mourning Dove 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
Fish Crow X
Tree Swallow 2
Carolina Wren 2
House Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 5
Northern Mockingbird 1
Palm Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Savannah Sparrow 5
Red-winged Blackbird X
Eastern Meadowlark 3
Common Grackle X
Boat-tailed Grackle X

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fort De Soto, 2/24/2012

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Palm Warbler
This afternoon I went to Fort De Soto with a friend, and we had a fantastic time.  We only saw a total of 30 species of birds from about 3:30pm to 6:00pm, but the lighting was wonderful and the birds put on quite a show.  To start the afternoon off, we went to East Beach and there was a very nice Willett among some Laughing Gulls.  Some Palm and Yellow-Rumped Warblers were in the trees, and a beautiful Palm Warbler put on a show for me.  We also saw one Prairie Warbler.

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Willet
From there we went to North Beach, and here things really were fun.  The first thing we saw once walking to the beach was a white morph Reddish Egret, and then a dark morph came by and they put on quite a display.  In fact, I took so many pictures of these two birds that I'll include them in a later post.  We saw five American Oystercatchers, lots of Willett, Dunlin, and other shorebirds.   One of my favorite moments was seeing a Great Blue Heron fly up into a tree with a Belted Kingfisher.  I thought for sure the kingfisher would have been intimidated into flying away, but he held his ground.  I also saw my first of the year Marbled Godwit as he flew by me.  I even caught a glimpse of a dolphin--pretty fun.

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American Oystercatcher
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Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher
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Sanderling
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Dunlin
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Snowy Egret

Here's a list of species that I saw this afternoon a Fort De Soto:

Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron 5
Great Egret 11
Snowy Egret 3
Tricolored Heron 1
Reddish Egret 2
White Ibis X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey 5
Black-bellied Plover 5
American Oystercatcher 5
Willet 25
Marbled Godwit 1
Ruddy Turnstone 2
Sanderling 5
Dunlin 20
Short-billed Dowitcher 2
Laughing Gull X
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull 2
Royal Tern 1
Eurasian Collared-Dove 1
Mourning Dove 6
Belted Kingfisher 5
Fish Crow X
European Starling 1
Palm Warbler X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Prairie Warbler 1
Boat-tailed Grackle X

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Photographing Birds with Reflections

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White Ibis
One of the biggest challenges to bird photography is that you can never seem to be close enough to the birds to suit your lens.  I use a 400mm lens, but even if I owned an 800mm lens, I would frequently wish I could make the bird larger in the frame.  While cropping is almost always needed, you don't have to crop as much if you include more of the bird's environment.  If you can ever shoot birds with their reflection included, though, you can have your cake and eat it too.  You don't have to crop as much, and in most situations, your composition will likely be improved by including the bird's reflection.  Whether the reflection is a crystal clear and perfectly formed or wavy and deformed, they add a sense of tranquility and beauty that I think benefits most images.

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White Ibis
(pristine reflection.  This is the same bird in the same position as in the first
photo, but I moved closer and changed the angle of view to exclude the
mangrove in the background.)
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Tricolored Heron
(some waviness caused by the ripples made by the heron)
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American Avocet
(distortion caused by wind)
The only exception to this that I can think of is when there's muck on the top of the water.  Whether it be pollution, floating debris (litter or otherwise) or the tops of plants, sometimes the muck detracts from the attractiveness of the reflection.

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Tricolored Heron
(I'd prefer this image without surface clutter on the water, but still like it)
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Great Egret
(here the reflection doesn't look attractive to me, so with this photo I'd probably crop
it out.  But since I have many photos of Great Egrets in flight that are
better than this, I probably won't use it other than to illustrate this point.)
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