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Foggy Morning and Lifer Clay-colored Sparrow

Central Florida Sunrise

Central Florida Sunrise

I almost didn’t go anywhere that morning.  There was dense fog in the forecast, and I wasn’t sure I’d have any light.  But I woke up early with a desire to do some weight-lifting (i.e. carry the Beast on a long trek!) and so I headed out.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The scene you see above met me as I entered the small park.  The rising sun shone through the fog and glittered in the water droplets on all the leaves and grasses.  It was really pretty.  The image above is an HDR composite of three exposures.

Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow

This park is scrub habitat and it attracts lots of sparrows. If you recall from my sparrow adventures last year, I have a habit of finding fun sparrows on chain link fences.  This Grasshopper Sparrow took pity on me.  He hopped out onto a nice open branch and posed in the beautiful morning light.  I spotted him from a distance and crept closer and closer, photographing him as I moved.  He let me get very close.

Clay-colored Sparrow

Clay-colored Sparrow

I was definitely not expecting this bird.  This is my lifer Clay-colored Sparrow.  Clay-colored Sparrows are pretty rare in Central Florida.  They frequent the midwest, from their breeding grounds in southern Canada to their winter territory in Mexico.  Last year a Clay-colored Sparrow visited Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive and I didn’t get to see it.  So you can imagine my surprise when I was watching for Grasshopper Sparrows and a Clay-colored hopped out in front of my lens instead.  It was nice – instead of the normal crowds of onlookers who usually surround a rare bird, I got to enjoy him quietly for a few seconds before he disappeared into the trees. :)

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

A Red-bellied Woodpecker hopped out onto a tree trunk and showed off his red belly.  It’s not often you see the red belly that gives these birds their name.  The bird grabbed a seed that the park rangers scatter on the tree trunk and flew off.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

I sat for a while longer at the bird “feeder.”  I was expecting the woodpecker to come back.  Instead, a Pine Warbler hopped out and posed for the camera.  Nice!  I sat watching him, listening to the calls of the Eastern Phoebes and the American Goldfinches. Yep, it’s almost winter!

Hummingbird Refraction in Salvia

After watching my hummingbirds nectar repeatedly at my salvia plants, I was inspired to take my macro lens and explore the salvia bloom a bit closer.  Flowers always amaze me with their detail that you never notice unless you look closely.  So I tried to create an image that showed what a hummingbird would perceive as it nectars.

Notice anything pretty in the water droplets? :)

Purple Salvia Water Droplet Refraction of Nectaring Hummingbird

Purple Salvia Water Droplet Refraction of Nectaring Hummingbird

To create this image, I took a flower, spritzed it with water, lit it, and arranged one of my favorite hummingbird photos in the background.  In that photo, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was nectaring at a black and blue salvia plant, which is a close cousin of the purple salvia in the foreground.

If you are curious, this next image was the original hummingbird image (the one refracted in the water droplets).   Technically, if a hummer did see himself refracted, he’d see himself upside down (due to the physics of refraction).

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Nectaring at Black and Blue Salvia

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Nectaring at Black and Blue Salvia

My mom says the flower close-up looks like a lizard with its tongue out. ;-)

Viera Wetlands is Open Again!

Viera Wetlands has been closed since Hurricane Irma.  It recently re-opened and I headed over there to see if I could ease the pangs of my Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive withdrawal.  It felt great to be out again but the wetlands were not particularly active.  The vegetation has grown up and filled in places that used to be prime duck-watching locations.

The Great Blue Herons are starting to nest in the tops of palm trees.  If I get there before sunrise, I usually head to the center of the wetlands to photograph the heron silhouettes against the orange sky.  The heron on the right was alone on the nest for a long time.  When I saw her stand up and arch her neck, I knew her mate was about to fly in.  I love how the detail in their feathers is accentuated in this image.

Nesting Great Blue Herons

Nesting Great Blue Herons

After the sun got too high in the sky for heron silhouettes, I turned around and looked for birds posing in the beautiful golden light.  Wading birds like this Tricolored Heron flew to the tops of dead palm trunks, posed briefly, and then flew off squawking in their quest for breakfast.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Who can resist photographing a first-of-fall coot?  They are the harbingers of a great Floridan winter birding season!

American Coot

American Coot

The wetlands were alive with the calls of birds, particularly this Belted Kingfisher, who was on the prowl for breakfast.  She flew from treetop to treetop, watching the water below her.  When the conditions were right, she flew out and hovered over the water, then dove straight down to grab her prey.  Silly bird, she always took her fish to a far-off tree to eat it.  But she did perch close enough for me to take her picture.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

The Great Blue Herons are not the only birds with nesting on the mind.  The Anhingas are starting to stake out nesting sites on the tops of dead palm trees, too.  This pair was fun to watch as they defended their location.  Want to see what happens when the male is sitting on the tree trunk and the female decides to visit?  Lots of flapping wings…I was surprised they didn’t knock each other off!

Anhinga Pair

Anhinga Pair

I look forward to returning in a few weeks as the activity picks up.  :)