Monday, October 23, 2006

Wood Stork

Have a look at the heavy bill and long legs... a standing wood stork is a funny-looking bird. In the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge last week, things were mostly quiet and sparse. I came upon this lone wood stork who was patient enough to pose for me, though eyed me nervously. After watching the human shift about with his tripod for 10 minutes, s/he finally had had enough and flew to a more private spot. I added 'Flying Away' to my website as well, because I liked the comparison of the two images ... you'd never know he had all those beautiful black feathers when sitting there, nor are the red feet very noticable on the snag (or in the water or mud). In the air, they have grace and splendor. There were more treats later that morning... I'm still sorting through the images.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Seed Tick Beach

Seed Tick Beach is a destination along the Florida Trail. I've been there several times, but never thought much about the name before today. Crystal, Sue, Jeff and I started the hike out of Medart on this lovely cool fall afternoon. I hauled all my photo gear having never brought it along in past hikes through these flatwoods, saltmarsh, and Gulf views. The "beach" itself is really a shoreline of saltmarsh with large expanses of flats, It is very beautiful and there is a ruin of an old saltworks dating back to Civil War days. Several miles into the trek, we crossed a creek, and Sue felt a compelling intuition to look down at her pant legs where she found what she most dreaded: hundreds of seed ticks crawling up both legs. "Yikes!" Naturally, the first thing the rest of us did was to look down. Sure enough, we were all loaded with hundreds of the tiniest pinpoint-sized ticks making their ways up our trousers. That is, except for Crystal. She had on shorts, so her legs were covered in ticks. What to do? Peel off the infested clothes, pick and scrape off the bulk of bugs, then hightail it back to the car. With shoes tied to the roof rack and clothes balled up in the back, we raced back to our outdoor shower where we spent a good half hour with dish detergent, hot water and a stiff scrub brush debugging from head to toe. We have all experienced the persistent itchy bites of these tiny varmits (and will likely refresh that memory starting tomorrow). Some days, like today, photos are a bust.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Remembering Daniel

(Click here, then click Back, and read on...) Time for a personal note, in honor of Daniel. This is a photo of my son, Daniel, with our old dog, Posey. Both have died. Every October 1st, we go to the lake where Daniel was fishing when he was hit by a boat 7 years ago. Fishing was his passion. We lived on the lake then... Daniel spent his whole happy life there (almost 12 years). He gave us many gifts in his short life, and even taught us a great deal in his death. In some intangible way, he lives on in me. At the lake, in my dreams, and randomly, he shows up now and then. He's a bright spirit. It's good. Here's an October 1st photo- click here.

St. Marks Wildlife Refuge banquet

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is so close we could say it's in our neighborhood; so it's no wonder we drop by and see what's up pretty regularly. Yesterday evening we decided to take in the big sky of the Refuge and see what we could find. From the van, we soon spotted a kingfisher on a post not far from shore. Upon opening the doors, we quickly discovered the biggest hoedown happening was among the mosquitos and biting flies. They welcomed us with open jaws. The kingfisher flew, of course... they are very camera shy. We saw lots of wading birds and found a warbler we didn't know (click here - let me know if you can name this one). This small bird was so close to the road in the poke weed that I shot through the open window. Crystal had her binoculars going and, jostling both of us, our dog, Jupiter, was snapping away at the flies that were swarming into the van... "Stay down, Jup!" He finally gave up and moved to the back of the van thinking he could hide from the flies. Later, as we started to leave, the kingfisher called. We saw him land on the post again in the dying light. I got out and walked back. Snapped a few shots... but without my tripod, they weren't worth more than the satisfaction of seeing him through my telephoto lense. But then I heard a toot from the van. Crystal and Jup were being eaten alive. Time to go.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Watching one's step

Do you ever wonder what makes you look down just as you are about to step on a dangerous spot? I've had a few close calls with poisonous snakes over the years. Once I somehow managed to 'step on air' inches above a cottonmouth coiled on my path. It was on a remote island and I was wearing flip flops - help was many hours away. I was walking toward a pond which had my attention, but somehow in the split second before my foot hit the snake (and I would have been bit) I got some warning, saw it, and managed to hold that foot in the air as my other one stepped over the snake. A couple days ago, Crystal and I were helping with a park cleanup. Right in Crystal's path was this tiny pigmy rattlesnake carefully camouflaged in shaded grass. From it's perspective, all it could do is coil up, flare it's jaws, and shake it's tiny tail like mad as the giant's feet approached. No where to run. No where to hide. She was scanning for trash but somehow spotted it before both of them would regret it. I was lucky enough to have my camera nearby and waited for the sun to get above the trees and light up the snake. It was tricky trying to photograph too. With my telephoto lens, I had to be too far away to avoid grass blades blocking my view... but with a more standard lens, I had to get right down on the tiny snake to adequately fill the frame and it didn't like that one bit.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

St. Marks at dawn

I awakened early and couldn't get back to sleep yesterday morning so I went outside. There was an early fall chill in the air. Nice. So I grabbed my gear and drove down to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to see some big sky and birds. I was amazed to find a line of cars ahead of me and behind me pouring into St. Marks in the dark pre-dawn. Most were fishermen towing boats. I found trees full of roosting egrets and cormorants. The ponds were quiet. Headlights streamed by as I waited for dawn. The sun came up behind the final pines that line the saltmarsh. Glorious. (click here) Within a few minutes the birds were filling the sky and ponds. I found a busy flock of Black Skimmers performing their aerobatics, bill half in the water at the pond by the boat ramp. I wonder if the fishermen were enjoying the Skimmer show too as they waited to launch their boats.