Showing posts from July, 2013

Marl Bed Flats, 7/30/2013

Yesterday I drove out to Marl Bed Flats, though my time there was cut short by the fact that I slipped into mud deep enough to get muddy water into my boots.  I was hoping to confirm breeding of Least Bitterns, but I never made it to where they are.  These hibiscus-like flowers were blooming; they look to me like Saltmarsh Mallow, even though I wasn't in a salt marsh.  I can't find a better match, though, and I've read that these flowers sometimes grow inland. There were many dragonflies there, and I photographed a Four-spotted Pennant and a Regal Darner.  Unfortunately the darner wouldn't perch where I could get a good photograph.

On the way out, I came across this Muscovy Duck perched on the utility wires.  This one is nearly all black, except for a little bit of white visible on the wing. We don't get wild Muscovy Ducks here, but this one looks similar to photos of those you can find in the wild in Mexico.

Sandwich Tern

Last Saturday I went with a couple of friends to North Lido Beach in Sarasota (after finding the Tropical Kingbirds nearby).  We found a couple Sandwich Terns along the shore.  This is one of my favorite species of tern, partly because the pale tip of their bills makes them so easy to identify, and partly because their slender wings and long bills give them an elegant appearance.  They also seem to make me hungry, so after returning to the parking lot, we ate--you guessed it--sandwiches. I thought it would be fun to collect some of my favorite Sandwich Tern photos into a gallery. Only the image above comes from North Lido Beach.

Hal Scott Preserve, 7/27/2013

This morning I drove out to Hal Scott Preserve.  We saw all the usual suspects: Northern Bobwhite, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern TowIhee, Bachman's Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, and Pine Warblers.  But wildlife other than birds captured my attention more.  I'm really thankful that the first one did, too.  I was looking for a way to cross some standing water in the path without getting wet, and I saw a flash of white--the threat display of a Florida Cottonmouth.  I've never seen one in the wild before, but one more step and I may have had a bad experience.  Cottonmouths are not aggressive snakes, but I don't want to tempt one either. I also found a large crayfish (compared to the ones I used to find in VA) on the path.  It was out of the water perhaps about 50 yards from the nearby pond. I've never seen a crayfish out of the water before, and this one was clearly alive and well.  I found out that they can live outside of water for a while if their gills are wet.

I als…

Best Canon Lenses for Bird and Wildlife Photography

For bird wildlife photography, having a long telephoto lens is a tremendous advantage.  It allows you to you to have your subject large in your frame while keeping your distance. Most wildlife photographers occasionally crop their images significantly, since wildlife usually stays pretty far away. So sharp lenses also give you a huge advantage. There are basically three classes of Canon lenses that are available to you. Consumer Grade telephoto zoom lenses are the most affordable, but unfortunately, consumer grade telephoto zooms are often pretty soft at the telephoto end of the zoom.  I have friends that shoot with these lenses, and I often hear them express frustration that they aren't able to come home with sharp pictures.  Part of the reason for this is simple lens quality  On the other end of the spectrum are what we might call High End Professional Grade telephoto prime lenses.  These lenses are extremely sharp and fast, and they are also large, bulky, and wildly expensive …

Lake Apopka, 7/24/2013

Yesterday I drove back to the Lake Apopka Restoration Area where the Fork-tailed Flycatcher had been seen last week.  It had not been seen yesterday morning, but I thought I'd see if I could find it again.  It was a no show.  But there were about 30 or so Swallow-tailed Kites around, and they were having a literal field day with the dragonflies and grasshoppers that were there.  I found one kite that must have grabbed a blade of grass with its prey (it looks like a grasshopper but I can't be sure). I did take a few minutes to photograph the dragonflies as well.  I think I found both Red and Carolina Saddlebags, but I'm very new to identifying dragonflies, so I'm not confident in my ID yet.  On the way back to the car, I dropped by the ponds by the parking area on Canal St.  I found two Black-bellied Whistling Ducks with six little ducklings.  They stayed very close to their parents, tucked between mom and dad.  These little ducklings are massively cute.

Reddish Egret at North Lido Beach Park

On Saturday, after visiting a couple Tropical Kingbirds in Sarasota, FL, we went over to North Lido Beach Park, just to see what we might find.  A Reddish Egret was there, and since this is one of my favorite birds, I figured this bird deserves its own post. This one was feeding by the shore, and gave a couple nice poses. When doing its characteristic "canopy feeding", for some reason it always turned away from me, so I missed out on those shots. But I liked the way it posed in these shots too.

Western Maryland in Fall

Back in October 2005 I was living in Maryland, and my father and I drove out to Western Maryland for some fall color photography. This was the view outside of the place we stayed. We spent a pretty good amount of time right here in this grove of trees, and we took a few closeup shots of the leaf "litter" on the ground. It's kind of amazing sometimes how nature can be beautiful at every level, from the scenic view to the close up.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Yesterday we visited a bridge in Clearwater to do some birding, and we found three Black-crowned Night Herons under the brdige.  I was completely surprised by how tame they seemed.  I walked right by one, and it made no move.  I was able to get some of my best photos of these wonderful birds.

Once I noticed that there were several fisherman there, all this made sense. I suspect that they've been fed, which is why they're so tame. I don't feed or bait birds to get photographs; I don't even have feeders at my house.  But I suppose in these photos I've benefited by what others have done; so I figured I should say so in the interest of full disclosure.


This morning a couple friends and I drove to a parking lot in Sarasota to find a Tropical Kingbird.  We found two there, and we had a lot of fun watching two of them flying from tree to tree and hawking insects.  At one point both of them looked like they were playing with their catch.  They'd toss the insect they caught into the air and then fly to catch it again.  They often did this a couple times before finally swallowing them. These were the first Tropical Kingbirds I've ever seen.

After this, we drove up to Clearwater to find a Common Eider that had been seen there recently. Unfortunately, we didn't find it, but we did see a couple Gray Kingbirds. So with two more fun kingbirds to add to our lists, we had a pretty good day.

A Guide to the Econ River Wilderness Area

Trails The Econ River Wilderness Area is another of my favorite places ot visit in Seminole County.  It's only about 10 minutes from my home, so I can visit there on a whim, which is nice.  The wilderness area covers about  240 acres that extends from Old Lockwood Rd to the Econ River just north of UCF.  There are approximately 3 miles of trails that will take you from pine flatwoods and and sandhill habitats into hard wood and river swamp environments closer to the river. The trails are pretty poorly marked, but if you know your east from the west, it's not much of a problem.  The area is very long from east to west and narrow from north to south, so as long as you know you're heading east, you're going to make it to the river, and as long as you're heading west, you're going to make it to the parking lot. There's one little pond on the property that is visible from Old Lockwood Rd.  There's a trail that will take you right past the pond on its way to …