The other evening I was standing along Sarasota Bay and there were all types of birds by the waters edge. This egret was picking through grasses exposed by the low tide. Egrets are accustomed to humans and will come quite close without feeling threatened. However if you’re fishing it’s a different story altogether. They have no problem walking right up and stealing fish or bait right at your feet.
This one thought I might be fishing and came to investigate. When he realized I didn’t have a net he lost interest. In this moment he seemed to lose interest and hop a few meters down the shore.
I love animals very much and tend to anthropomorphize them. For instance I would say this little fella is striking a pose, deciding on his next move. If they squawk I’ll attribute it to human emotions, as though they are complaining or mad about something. I do that with wild animals all the time and especially with my own pets. Sometimes if I talk to animals they’ll take an interest in me and look back quixotically. That’s because they’re not sure what to make of a crazy human like me. At least my dog understands me, but that’s another story.
I’m not so much of a wild life photographer, but I do like capturing birds along the shore, especially here in Florida. There are a lot of egrets and herons that make for good subjects with their graceful poses and antics. But real wildlife photographers are a different bred, they are patient and calculating, and will end up with spectacular shots of nature. Me, I’m more of an opportunist; I’ll capture the wildlife if I happen to be in the right spot at the right time.
Palms grow near the wildlife viewing boardwalk in Myakka River State Park. I grew up near the mountains in California where most parks have pines trees or redwoods. Not so here in Florida as pines would not withstand hurricanes. In any case, this boardwalk extends into a wetland were you can see all manner of birds like Herons, Egrets, Osprey, Hawks and Eagles. And just off on the left is Myakka Lake which is home to about five hundred Alligators. Definitely not California.
This is a path through the mangroves at a place known as Leffis Key in central Florida. It’s a little nature preserve where you can watch all kinds of wildlife and about half of the trails are on these boardwalks. I came here early one morning to capture the rising sun peaking through the mangroves and just to walk along this path to take it all in. It was a warm morning and mostly the birds were about their business starting to fish for a meal. In any case, as I write this I’m about a thousand miles from here and it’s below freezing outside; I can’t wait to get back to the warm climate and walk again through these mangroves.
While returning from whale watching afternoon fog started rolling in and as we passed little inlets like this it created a misty, almost mysterious scene. I think the combination of ocean, mountains and inlets makes for a lot of little micro climates. You can never how the weather will change, only that it will. Little islands like this could have sea lions or otters, but on shore it’s not uncommon to see bears in search of food. In fact I did see a three year old black not far from here earlier in the day.
Last week I was on a whale watching boat in the Broken Islands just off the coast of Ucluelet in British Columbia. The captain warned us we might not see whales as they hadn’t been spotted in a few days. With so much scenery I was fine with that, it would be an enjoyable cruise nonetheless. As fate would have it we did in fact come upon a family of Orcas. But none of us, including the captain, were prepared for what we were about to witness. As it turns out an unlucky sea lion was there also shadowing a small powerboat and the whales knew. The sea lion would not leave the side of the boat until it eventually sped away leaving him exposed and effectively ending his life. Over the next thirty minutes we watched as the whales surrounded, attacked, toyed, and eventually put an end to the sea lion. It all took place within a radius of twenty-five to one hundred meters from our boat. I’ll never forget the sound and feeling of the powerful waves and splashes as the whales pursued their prey. Our captain, Brian Congdon of Subtitle Adventures, said that in thirty-five years of whale tours he’s never seen this. It’s a well known fact that Killer Whales eat sea lions, but it is rare indeed to witness this act in nature. I for one was deeply impressed by this raw display of nature up close and unscripted.
Caught one morning on Anna Maria Island. At the crack of dawn Pelicans are busy. The wake up call from the sun sets these fellas about their business, as though they have important jobs to get to, …like sitting on a pole. I’m not great at patiently sitting in one spot, but that’s what you need to do to catch stuff, …fish, photos, …etc. For this I stayed only about three minutes in one spot and noticed his intent, or got lucky. The perfect perch for a Pelican to sit and observe the world while waiting for the next meal to swim by, or photographer, whichever comes first.
If you’re an Osprey and you live in Florida, you’ve got it made. We love our Osprey and to show our appreciation we build these platforms high up on poles everywhere. As in everywhere and anywhere; …cell towers, transmission lines, out in fields, in all the parks, everywhere. This one is near my house and I drove right by as I looked up, put on the brakes, backed up, picked up my camera and said good morning. This guy just stared at me and wondered what the heck I was doing in his territory. Silly me.
One morning last week I captured this just after sunrise. Everything seems so peaceful in the morning and to me this pond is a reflection of that. After capturing this I went a little ways up the road to another pond and was treated to the chatter of all the birds. I’m not sure chatter is the right word because sound of the Osprey is more like a cry-out warning the neighborhood that he’s up and awake. I think if I was a critter I’d take note, because other than the occasional Eagle, the Osprey are the head honchos. Anyway, it’s a nice experience to watch the morning rituals of the wildlife before I start my own busy day.
On the weekend we took a drive to the east coast of Florida to see what we could see. A little more than halfway we stopped at Lake Placid for lunch. Picked up lunch at a friendly little diner and then found the public boat dock for a picnic by the water. Later I learned that Lake Placid has a clown college, …okay? So if you’re afraid of clowns you might steer clear, …I’m just sayin. Other than that this sleepy town seems like a nice enough spot and a good place to put your feet in the water to cool off from the Florida midday heat. And besides, the only clowns I saw were these waterfowl playing in and amongst the reeds.
White Egrets are common where I live in central Florida. They can be about four feet tall and every inch of grace. Sure they prefer the water but they also forage on land. Yesterday morning as I was about to pull into the driveway I noticed a White Egret standing there looking for something in the bushes, probably a lizard. I didn’t want to scare him off so I waited in the street for about five minutes until he finished. As he sauntered onto the grass he looked back at me as I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car. He kept a little distance without flying off and I just kind of marveled and such a beautiful bird. I think this is not so uncommon in Florida, although I wasn’t raised here so for me it’s a treat. And that’s my Great White Egret story for the day.