When I have seen them they seemed fairly quite and peaceful birds.
However that’s probably because they hunt at night. I must see them half asleep. From what I have read they are very predatory and nothing is safe around them.
One of the things I had hoped to accomplish on the this trip was to shoot a series of a Great Egret. The Great Blue Heron and the Great Egret are the 2 largest wading birds.
The first hike of the week found one within an hour. A good start.
When you see a Great Egret in person you know right away, really big birds. The smaller Snowy Egrets also have bright yellow feet. Of course it’s not always obvious since they stand around in water most of the day.
I have read they also hunt differently, one has his beak out straight, the other neck bent. That kind of detail is beyond me. You would need to hang out in swamps or water a little more than I care to for that expertise.
The first morning in Corkscrew Swamp went from a very slow walk, stalking a Snowy Egret, to complete and total chaos in a split second.
In the tree tops right above us 2 very large birds were screaming and fighting. The trees blocked any photos but we could see them plowing between branches.
One bird had chased another, then landed back near us. It turned out to be a Barred Owl. For quite some time the Hawk and the Owl went back and forth through the trees and over a small swamp area.
We found 2 Owlets hiding in the trees nearby. They looked a little big for the Hawk but obviously Mom was taking no chances.
The Owls had no interest in us at all. Drawn by the noise other photographers came to the swamp edge. The Owl family of 4 ignored us and hunted along the waters edge. The Hawks and food were important, we were just one more ‘critter’ among all the other swamp residents.
Click here for a quick review of our photo shoot week.
Before this photo trip I had never seen an Anhinga except from afar. I assumed they were Cormorants. Seen close they are really beautiful birds.
Anhinga’s are also called Snake birds, they swim with only their neck and head above water. Piano birds is another name based on their wing feather shape and colors.
Like Cormorants they lack body oil for their feathers so they must spend time with wings held wide, drying off. They are much bigger than our local Cormorants.
Click here for a quick review of our photo shoot week.
Who knew ?
OK, really bad joke but I could not resist.
Owls are always associated with night. They hide during the day. Hunting and other activities are after dark. But not all Owls.
It seems in the Corkscrew swamp area, Florida near the start of the Everglades, the Barred Owls have evolved to be active during the day. There is more competition for food there at night and Hawks are an on going danger.
The Owl here was out in full daylight. I watched her hunt, fight with Red Shoulder Hawks to protect her young, and really just hang out.
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary includes hiking trails and a boardwalk along a central lake. The preserve is 13,000 acres. During the dry season many of the residents are forced to congregate at one of the larger lakes. Great for photography, bad for the locals. Alligators swim right beside wading birds, Hawks and Owls prey on each other. In general it’s chaos for about a month.
The shots taken here were while a pair of Red Shoulder Hawks flew over head looking for the young Owlets. Mom (above) ran them off.
It’s the middle of April and the Loons are still on the New England shores and inlets. I have been told the lakes are still frozen up north.
While they may not be migrating yet their mating plumage is evident. During the winter they are fairly drab in color. Come spring the striking black and white coloring we associate with Loons returns.
One of the great things to witness with Loons is the take off. In the water they are incredibly graceful. On land they can hardly stand.
However, when a Loon takes flight to leave the water it’s a sight to behold.
Basically they standup on their big web feet (in the water) and start to flap their wings….. and run really really fast. Ultimately they get in the air, but you almost feel yourself trying to help them.
The shots below are a step by step take off.
I almost want to applaud when they get airborne.
If you don’t live in an area with Osprey it’s almost impossible to describe how they dive for fish.
It’s a head down, full speed, controlled crash. At the last second they drop their talons down and grab an unsuspecting fish.
I photographed this acrobatic Osprey casually flying along the edge of the Connecticut river and then suddenly fold back it’s wings to quickly shift into the controlled dive they are famous for.
Don’t look away or you can miss everything.
No fish on this try. Instead he snatched a branch for some nest repairs.
One sure sign spring has arrived in New England, besides the mud, are the returning Osprey.
Typically the female returns to last years nest and waits for the male. Early on she will chase away all other suitors waiting for her mate.
In Connecticut we have both state and privately funded nest platforms along the shore and inlets. Most are placed far from people, but still close enough to watch.
Finding the right spot to photograph these birds is hard, but certainly rewarding when you can watch them fish, raise young, and soar over the waters and marshes.
These photos were taken from a distance, with a lens less than perfect for the job (300mm). I hope to get a closer location as the weather warms. And of course be ready with the longer lens next time.