Roseate Spoonbill and Great Egrets

Roseate-Spoonbill-in-Flight-wL

Last night, while reviewing recent images, I stopped when I came to the above image of a Roseate Spoonbill in flight. I stopped because the spoonbill’s eye was  brightly lit, sharply focused, and looking at me when I shot the image. One of the essential goals of wildlife photography is focusing on the eye and, ideally, capturing the image with a catchlight in the wildlife’s eye. A catchlight is a reflection/small white dot caused by the sun’s light or the camera’s flash, when one is used. The wildlife’s eye is what most people immediately focus on. If the eye is not sharp or covered in shadow and not clearly visible, the image is not a “keeper.” This image was photographed with a Nikon D800 and a 80-400mm lens at 370mm, f/8, 1/800 sec. at 400 ISO.

I also discovered the following two images of Great Egrets. The first image is the same egret that I posted in my previous blog article, but taken on the following day. The egret was in the same general area and was putting on a dramatic mating show, standing and stretching its neck straight up in the air and then falling back down into a crouching position. (Nikon D700 and 600mm lens at f/5.0, 1/400 sec. at 800 ISO)

Great-Egret-Mating-Show-wL

Below is another image of a Great Egret that was returning to its nest with nesting material. The sunlight was brightly glowing through the egret’s wings, making its wing feathers clearly visible. I used a flash (Nikon SB-910) to light up the egret’s underside, which otherwise would have been dark and shadowed. (Nikon D800 and 80-400mm lens at 180mm, f/5.6, 1/2000 sec. at 280 ISO.)

Great-Egret-Flying-with-Nesting-Material-wL

If you haven’t already done so, I suggest clicking on the images to see them in more detail.

I have hundreds of images from this spring and summer that I have not reviewed or processed, but expect to get caught up shortly and will post more to my blog as I proceed. Like most nature photographers, I love being outdoors shooting images more than being indoors processing them.

Posted in Bird Photographs, Nature | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Great Egret in Mating Plumage

Great-Egret-ShowingThe other day, I was reviewing images from a trip to Florida in May and came across the above image that caught my attention. The Great Egret was in the shade so I used a speedlight (Nikon SB-910–flash) with a Better Beamer (flash extender) to capture this image. The egret was showing off its mating plumage to attract a mate. It is a common pose during spring mating season, when egrets grow long plumes from their backs and the skin between their beaks and eyes turns bright green. It is the male that typically does the posing to attract a mate.

Later, the sun broke through the clouds and trees, illuminating the egret (below image). Its mating feathers glistened brillantly in the bright morning light. I no longer needed the speedlight to get the shot.

Did you know that egrets can live over 20 years and can fly 25 mph with only two flaps of their powerful wings?

Sunlit-Great-Egret-Showing

The above images were taken with a Nikon D800 and 80-400mm lens at 230mm.

Below are a couple of favorite Great Egrets images from other trips to Florida.

Egret

Great Egret 2

I have taken a summer “vacation” from blog writing, but not from photography. I will be posting new articles and images over the next few weeks.

A couple of upcoming photography trips include Bulls Island off the coast of South Carolina next month and a 12 day trip to Iceland in the spring. On both trips, I will be traveling with two good friends and photographers (Ceasar Sharper and Ernie Sears). In Iceland, we will be joining a professional landscape photographer and resident of Iceland, Páll Jökull Pétursson. Click on his name to see his amazing Iceland landscape images. I plan to return with many similar photographs.

Another item of interest is that my blog is quickly approaching 100,000 views. It is rewarding knowing others are enjoying my photography. To all those reading this article and following my blog, thank you!

Posted in Bird Photographs, Nature, Wildlife | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Recent Favorite Images

Sunset-at-MINWR(Sunset at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, FL)

It has been over a month since I posted an article to my blog. I have been photographing landscapes and wildlife this summer, but not nearly enough for a number of reasons to include the summer heat. However, there is fall in the air here in northern Virginia, and I am excited about the cooler temperatures, autumn colors, bird migration, and shorter days, all of which have started.

In addition to recent photographs, I have a lot of images to finish reviewing and processing from trips to Florida in January, May, and June.

To make up for the lack of blog articles and to share some of my recent favorite images, this article will contain less words (story) and more photographs.

Paynes-Prairie-Sunset(Sunset at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, FL )

I love sunrises and sunsets, some are better than others, and some will take your breath away. They remind me of how great it is to be alive and how fortunate I am to witness such beauty.

Sunset-at-Ravens-Roost-on-Blue-Ridge-Parkway-2

(Sunset from Ravens Roost in the Blue Ridge Mountains, VA)

Cloudy-Day-in-Shenandoah-Mountains-2

 

(Layers at the the Shenandoah Mountains, VA)

Leesylvania-Sunrise-Bass-Boat-1 Leesylvania-Sunrise-Bass-Boat-2

(Sunrise at Leesylvania State Park, VA)

Green-Heron-wLogo Green-Heron-at-Huntley-Meadows-wLogoAbove are Green Herons at Paynes Prairie and at Huntley Meadows.

Male-Summer-Tanager-2Female-Summer-TanagerAbove are male and female, respectively, Summer Tanagers at Prairie Creek Preserve, FL.

Northern-Parula

(Norther Parula at Prairie Creek Preserve, FL)

Pair-of-Rosate-Spoonbills Rosate-Spoonbill-Preening-Its-Tail-Feathers(Rosate Spoonbills, St. Augustine, FL)

Wood-Stork

(Either Waving or Scratching Wood Stork, St. Augustine, FL)

Lately, I have been photographing Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. They have started to migrate. The males leave first, working their way to Central America.

Female-Ruby-throated-Hummingbird Female-Ruby-throated-Hummingbird-2

The above hummingbirds are female, and the below hummingbirds are males.

Male-Ruby-throated-Hummingbird-2-wLGo Male-Ruby-throated-Hummingbird Ruby-throated-Hummingbird-3 Ruby-throated-Hummingbird

I will share more of my favorite recent images later this week.

Posted in Bird Photographs, Huntley Meadows, Landscape Photographs, Nature, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Shenandoah National Park, Sunset, Wildlife | 8 Comments

Pied-billed Grebe with an Amphiuma at Paynes Prairie

Grebe-with-Snake-7While on La Chua Trail at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Gainesville,  Florida, in late December, there were several Pied-billed Grebes in the canal that drains into Alachua Sink. The grebes were diving and hunting for prey in the murky water. It is not unusual to see them surface with small fish and crayfish. However, as I was watching, one of the grebes surfaced with an Amphiuma (an aquatic salamander). I usually do not photograph grebes, but this was an exception, because the grebe was struggling with the Amphiuma as it was trying to position it for eating/swallowing. That behavior was worth capturing.

Grebe-with-Swamp-EelGrebes are very common at the Prairie and throughout South, Central, and North America, living on lakes, ponds, and marshes. They are medium sized, short-necked water birds, feeding on aquatic vegetation, insects, fish, amphibians, and crustaceans. Although they live on the water and appear to swim like ducks, they do not have webbed feet, but rather have lobes on their toes that aid in paddling.

Grebe-with-Swamp-EelAbove, the Amphiuma is putting up a good fight, while trying to escape. Below, the grebe has positioned the Amphiuma’s head at the tip of its bill, getting ready to work it down its throat.

Grebe-with-Snake

Pied-billed Grebes rarely fly. They migrate at night, and therefore, most people never see them flying. When danger is near, they dive below the surface of the water and can stay underwater for 30 seconds.

Pied-billed Grebes may breed and nest twice per year, laying between three to ten bluish white eggs. Young grebes may leave their nest within one day of hatching. Both parents participate in raising the young. Their numbers are declining in New England for unknown reasons, and some northern states have designated them as either endangered or threatened.

Grebe-with-Snake-5-wLogo

After “wrestling” with the Amphiuma for about ten minutes and tiring it out, the grebe was able to flip it into position (head-first) in order to swallow it (above image). It is hard to imagine that the Amphiuma tasted good, but it most likely filled the grebe’s stomach.

Pied-billed-Grebe

The images in this article were photographed with a Nikon D800 in Manual Mode, 600mm lens with a TC14 Teleconverter (equaling 850mm) at f/6.3 – f/8.0, 1/250 – 1/500 sec, and varying ISOs from 160 to 1600.

Note:  Thanks to Tara Tanaka, I corrected this blog article. I had misidentified the Amphiuma as a swamp eel. Based on my research, the Amphiuma looked very much like a swamp eel, but after further research, Tara is certainly correct. If you would like information on Amphiumas, you can read about them at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphiuma. One amazing fact about Amphiumas is that they have 25 times more DNA than humans.

Comments on my blog and this article are appreciated and can be entered by clicking on “Comments” found below the Share this: section. You can also read other’s comments there.

Posted in Bird Photographs, Nature, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Sandhill Cranes at Sunset on Paynes Prairie

Four-Sandhill-Cranes-at-PPSP-SunsetWhile reviewing recent images this week, I came across several that caught my attention and that I had not previously included on my website or blog. The images were taken at sunset in early January this year from the viewing platform at the end of La Chua Trail on Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Florida. As you can tell from the images, it was an incredibly beautiful and colorful sunset, and making it more memorable was the arrival of small groups of Sandhill Cranes.

Four-Sandhill-Cranes-at-PPSP-Sunset-3

Thousands of Sandhill Cranes winter in Florida, many at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The cranes roost on the Prairie’s wetlands at night for safety from predators. At sunrise most of the cranes fly to nearby fields where they feed, although they also find food on the Prairie. Sandhill Cranes are omnivorous and feed on land or in shallow marshes. Their diet predominantly consists of seeds, berries, tubers, small vertebrates, and invertebrates.

Two-Sandhill-Cranes-at-Sunset-on-PPSP

Sandhill cranes mate for life and live for well over twenty years. The oldest known Sandhill Crane lived 36 years and 7 months, which was determined by its band. Although some cranes start breeding at two years of age, some may reach the age of seven before breeding. Juvenile cranes stay close by their parents for 9 or 10 months after hatching.

Below, the cranes lower their legs and gracefully land.

andhill-Cranes-Coming-in-for-a-Sunset-Landing-on-the-Prairie

The above images show the cranes in flight against the gorgeous orange sunset, but they do not provide a detailed view of the cranes. Therefore, I have included the below images that I shot last year near Paynes Prairie. Sandhill Cranes with their bright red heads and orange eyes are an example of Nature’s diversity and beauty.

Four-Sandhill-Cranes

Sandhill-Crane-Eating

Sandhill-Crane-Headshot-2

Comments on my blog and this article are appreciated and can be entered by clicking on “Comments” found below the Share this: section. You can also read other’s comments there.

Posted in Bird Photographs, Nature, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Recent Use of My Images

As one of my favorite professional photographers, Rick Sammon, often says, “What good is shooting images, if all you do is store them on your computer.” I practice what Rick encourages by posting some of my favorite images on my websites and blog, thereby sharing them and my passion for photography and the natural world.

My websites have over 430,000 views and my blog over 86,000 views. My blog receives an average of 200 daily visitors with most views from people in the United States, but also from people in many countries worldwide. I greatly appreciate such activity and the many comments people provide. Those frequent visits have been generating many requests for use of my images in community reports and newsletters, presentations and reports of nonprofit organizations, newspapers and magazines, and informative displays in parks and preserves. Lately, I have been receiving weekly requests for use of my images. I would like to share two recent requests, which are the subject of this article, that I am particularly excited about.

Florida Museum of Natural History

Gainesville-Sun-Museum-Article

Above is the front page of the Local and State section of the Gainesville Sun (click on image to read caption), the local newspaper of Gainesville, Florida. As indicated in the May 3, 2014, article, the Florida Museum of Natural History is using my images of inflight Sandhill Cranes that I photographed at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The Prairie is located just south of Gainesville. The museum is using the images as part of a permanent exhibit in its entrance, which is currently being renovated. There is another large set of similar windows in the atrium lobby adjacent to the one shown below that also contains the flying crane images.

Below are are two images of one set of the windows taken by my daughter shortly after the Sandhill Crane window exhibit was completed.

Sandhill Cranes at FL Museum 2

Sandhill Cranes at FL Museum

 

Menominee Park Zoo in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Recently, I received a request from a representative of the Oshkosh Zoological Society to use my River Otter images in a new information sign at their otter exhibit. I sent them several images to choose from, and yesterday, I received a copy of a proof of the exhibit information sign (below) to be used at the Menominee Park Zoo. The proof is shown below. They will be sending a photo of the sign at the exhibit when it has been installed.

Otter Exhibit Sign Oshkosh Zoo

 

Special Limited Time Offer for Prints of My Images

I sell prints of varying sizes of my images from my website. I am not a professional photographer, meaning I do not make my living from photography. I am a photographer because I love photography and what I photograph. However, I have sold many prints, and they are hanging in numerous homes and commercial and noncommercial offices and facilities.

If you have ever considered owning one or more of my images printed, for the remainder of this month and the month of July, any size print of any image can be selected and printed at only the cost of printing, plus $10.00 that will be donated to the  Nature Conservancy. For example, a 12″ x 18″ print on professional grade photographic paper will cost $11.49 (my cost to print) plus the $10.00 donation for a total of $21.49, plus UPS shipping.

The images are printed by MPIX, the largest professional photography lab in the country. Whenever I print one of my images, I use MPIX. The quality of their prints is impeccable. Prints are never rolled, but are shipped flat, plastic wrapped and protected within the shipping container, and typically arrive within 4 to 5 business days.

If you would like one or more prints, send me an email, and I will send you a discount code to use when buying a print/checking out on my website. The prints can also be matted and framed, also at cost. The link to my website is:  www.stabone.com

Why am I making this offer? Solely to support the Nature Conservancy and do as Rick Sammon recommends, share my passion for photography and nature with those that follow my blog and enjoy my photography. I hope you take advantage of this offer and help the Nature Conservancy with your $10 donation.

 

Roseate Spoonbill 

In closing, below is an image of a Roseate Spoonbill I photographed in May while in Florida. I had a very successful trip photographing wildlife and landscapes and will be posting some of the images over the next couple weeks.

Spoonbill-in-Flight

Comments on my blog and this article are appreciated and can be entered by clicking on “Comments” found below the Share this: section. You can also read other’s comments there.

Posted in Nature, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

American Alligator Water Dance

Gator-Getting-Ready-to-Bellow-2

I frequently travel to Florida to visit family and friends, and while there, I try to also visit as many of Florida’s national, state and local parks, refuges and preserves as possible. During recent visits, I have taken my 89 year old father-in-law out for the day to do something unusual and entertaining. For example, on a previous visit I rented a boat, and we went on the Indian River to photograph Brown Pelicans at a rookery covered in pelicans and other birds. (Pelican Island images at: http://stabone.com/p109901015#h3af83c9c) Last week, I picked up my father-in-law in the morning and planned to take him to Gatorland, near Kissimmee.

Although my father-in-law has lived in Central Florida since 1966, he had never been to Gatorland, which was Central Florida’s primary tourist attraction for many years before Disney World changed everything. I wanted to go in the morning, just in case there was something worth photographing, while the sun was low in the sky and the light was good for photography. However, my father-in-law wanted to go to a hotel near Disney World that he used to frequent several years ago and have a late breakfast. Unfortunately, we could not find the hotel, and instead, we had lunch at a different location.

Father-in-Law

After lunch, since we were in the vicinity of Gatorland, we drove there, arriving mid-afternoon. I was a bit disappointed because the sun was overhead, bright and harsh–not good for photography. Regardless, I brought my Nikon D800 and 80-400mm lens with me just in case we saw something worth photographing. I did not know what to expect, since I had not been to Gatorland in over 30 years. Shortly after arriving, while nearing a small lake full of gators, I heard what sounded like a tuba. A tuba, I thought, why was someone with a tuba at Gatorland, since it is not the kind of instrument someone walks around playing. We could not see where it was coming from, but headed in the direction of the sound. As we rounded a bend on the boardwalk that hugged the lake’s shoreline, we saw what was happening.

There was a video crew recording the gators, and there were two musicians playing their tubas to attract the gators and encourage them to bellow. It was quite a sight, because there were about 30 alligators of varying sizes in the water all staring at the tuba players. I learned after speaking to a member of the crew that they were shooting the video for a BBC show about how animals attract one another for mating. I also spoke with one of the tuba players, William Mickelsen, who performs with The Florida Orchestra. He was accompanied by Brad Postich, one of his students at St. Petersburg College. They were playing variations of a B-flat.

BBC-Videographer

Tuba Players

When a bull gator tries to attract a female, it goes through a very unique and unusual process of filling its lungs with air, while raising its body and tail out of the water. It then lowers its body just below the water surface and bellows at a low frequency that makes the water above its spiked back vibrate, causing the water to boil and explode, which is referred to as “water dancing.” The below three images capture two different bull alligators as they were making the water dance above their backs.

Gator-Dancing-Water-3
Gator-Dancing-Water-2
Gator-Dancing-WaterAlligator water dancing is a natural behavior that most people do not know gators do, or for those that are aware of it, never get to see, and here I was witnessing it and photographing it.

Below are 8 images that I shot and complied into an animated GIF. If the images are not sequentially moving, hold your mouse on the image and it should show the sequence that the alligator went through to bellow and make the water dance.

Gator-Water-Dance Besides photographing the gators as they went through their mating ritual of bellowing, I recorded a video on my iPhone. Below is the video. The video begins by showing the BBC videographer in the lake and then pans around to an alligator that bellows several times. Be sure to have your sound turned up to hear the sound of the tubas and the alligator bellowing, while making the water dance above its back.

 

As is often the case with nature photography, timing and being in the right place at the right time is very important, as well as being properly prepared. Obviously, my timing at Gatorland when the BBC crew and tuba players were there was critical to seeing and capturing this very unusual alligator behavior. I owe it all to my father-in-law, who wanted to go for a late breakfast, which delayed our visit to Gatorland, resulting in perfect timing. I had heard of the alligator water dance before and had seen photographs of it, but never thought I would be fortunate enough to see and photograph it. I am very grateful to my very special and fabulous father-in-law.

Old-Bull-Gator-SmileAs my father-in-law and I headed out of Gatorland, the above very large, old alligator caught my eye. It was totally in the shade except for its snout, which was brightly lit by the sun. His massive toothy grin was a fitting end to a very memorable experience.

Comments on my blog and this article are appreciated and can be entered by clicking on “Comments” found below the Like this: section. You can also read other’s comments there.

Posted in Nature, Wildlife | Tagged , | 10 Comments