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A visit to a Bird Rookery

I love the rookery. It is amazing to go visit and witness the architects of Nature, as they prepare for the next generation of avain.

So much goes into the breeding traditions, and each sight is one to behold.

The changing of appearance is perhaps the most astounding, as the birds transform themselves into brightly colored versions of their previous self, doing everything they can to get the attention of prospective mates.

Dancing, bobbing, rowdy screaming and crowing, songs and grunts will tell you that evolution is evolving before your eyes.

Bright colors and expertly preened feathers galore, a flag to those in close proximity that this is the time of year to start making a family.

Breeding plumage is not always seen in the feathers.

Careful and constant preening not only attracts a mate, but acts as a sun screen in the Florida sun for the eggs, hatchlings and fledgelings.

Being beautiful takes time………..
Sitting on eggs, the carefully preened breeding plumage feathers allow air to circulate, while shielding direct sun rays.
The nest is always under construction.

The rookery I visited was not fully populated, but I did see snowy fuzzy heads and a few eggs. I can not wait to visit again in three weeks.

So, I wonder if I finally Got Covid.

Not for sympathy, as there are many who have had had it and are not here to talk about it.

Prayers right now for those we have lost, and those that were left behind. God bless you all. From the depth of my heart and soul.

I work, which has been a blessing. With the Covid being health related, Citing HIPAA laws where I work, it is prohibited to have any kind of discussion about who has it, and who they were around prior to being diagnosed. I know this won’t be a popular topic, but it begs the question of human decency, and letting those that may have been exposed they may want to go get tested. And right now, it is what I would call “Ripping through us like a hot knife through warm butter.”

If you are compelled, here is the link from HHS, summarizing the HIPAA policy. https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/laws-regulations/index.html

So, this is day three of feeling like crap. My co-worker was out last week. I don’t know if they had Covid, or the flu. We worked closely together their last day the week before, and of course I wanted to know if they tested positive. Casual phone calls between us are nothing new, as we have worked together for three years. Long story short here, they teased me with an answer Friday when I asked if they had gotten their test results back. “I will tell you Monday. I’m coming back Monday.” Which is today.

Unfortuantely, I will not get the answer, as I have been on the couch since Saturday with a non-yielding headache. I don’t get headaches. Ever. I called out sick today, and this afternoon HR called and wanted to know the answers to the litany of their questions. “Do you ave a headache? Have you been around anyone that has Covid? (I said to that, “Maybe, but you told them not to tell me, so I can’t really answer that question. Oh yeah, you had me working in an area on Friday, and an hour later, told me to clear the area so it can be sanitized for Covid. So there’s that.) Do you have a sore throat? Diarrhea? Fever? Who were you around? For how long? Were you wearing a mask? Etc. Masks are mandated at work, and I wear mine all the time. Hope it helped.

So, I have been mandated to go to the doctor and get a PCR Covid test. I will go tomorrow, as today I just can’t picture myself getting in the truck and driving into town to wait in a crowded waiting room.

Symptoms? Not too bad. Feels like the flu is coming on. The headache won’t go away for the third day. I feel a sore throat coming on. I’m tired and a little achy. Not really an appetite, but I will get something to eat after I’m done here. Still have my sense of smell and taste, so that’s good.

Just going to write a little every day, to kinda track what is going on. If it’s the flu, cool. If it’s Covid, it may be interesting to read after I get well.

Stay safe. Be kind and patient.

Sunrise on the Indian River, taken last week..

Let’s just keep it simple

One day. And then it’s all different.

A different year. A different feel. Different expectations.

Let’s just keep it simple.

Love is not hard. Kindness is not hard.

Smile at yourself. Spread your smile.

Be good to yourself so you can be good to others.

Allow your inner spirit to breathe, laugh and soar to the skies.

Spread it everywhere you go. Transpose it in everything you do.

I wish us peace, patience and tolerance.

Happy new year. I wish you, and me, us, well in the coming 365 days and beyond.

Let’s just keep it simple.

Central Florida Kingfishers

Female Belted Kingfisher in Central Florida

They fly erratic. Like little ninjas in the air, darting, dipping and zooming. I love to see them when the culverts are running water, as they will hover 20 foot above the water like a Hummingbird, then dive down, kamikaze style to dart into the water and snatch their prey with their long, sharp bill. Immediately, they will fly to a branch or wire and pound their prey, before eating it headfirst.

Hard to photograph, they do not tolerate any kind of interaction. I see them often perched on overhead power lines, scanning the area for small fish that are in the ditches below.

Usually living a solitary life, during breeding season they will be seen together, as the male feeds the female during the courting ritual. They frequent the ditch lines, which is where they burrow their nest, away from trees. They both defend their territory, and are relentless until the intruder goes elsewhere.

Male Belted Kingfisher In Central Florida

While they are are related to Woodpeckers, their diet varies with the addition of fish and crustaceans.

I enjoy watching for them when I hear their raucous call, and love to see their animated flying antics.

Next time you are out, look for them, and you will fall in love with them too!

Until the next time.

Female Belted Kingfisher abut to fly.

All images were taken by me. By me. Me alone.

Last Warm day for awhile

Last warm day for a while

While a lot of you guys have snow on the ground, and manage to manage through that and the ice, a Floridian that has never seen snow looks at plummeting temperatures differently.

We get the same sense of dread as when we have a hurricane three days out, helpless and not sure what to do.

So, we always go out the Refuge and get the last bit of warm sunshine, hoping that will hold us over until it warms back up again, knowing we won’t be spending much time outside for the next few days.

With no rocket launch today, and it being Christmas Eve, we were hoping that most of everyone would be home preparing for the fest of tomorrow, so we went to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

We spend a lot of our free time on the refuge, roaming and exploring the vast salt marshes, slash pine trails and marl roads. It’s always fun to see what birds have arrived for the winter. And boy, are they coming in!

The Bald Eagles have migrated back down here for the winter and seem to have easily re- established themselves in the nesting areas they used last year. That’s a good sign, gives us hope there will be a new generation of eagles next year. This is a posting tree nearby they have frequented over the past years, and I was glad to see this one looking comfortable. Looks like they are glad to be back!

The Eagle has landed. A little Kennedy Space Center humor there. Haha.

Saw an Osprey enjoying the sun.

So animated. And act as though they get miffed if they see you looking at them.

There was a fish finding team effort involving the newly arrived White Pelican, Glossy Ibis and a Roseate Spoonbill. The little Glossy was the only one that found anything.

And the winner is………….. The little Glossy Ibis with the big Mud Minnow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I feel obligated to post a couple Roseate Spoonbill images. They just got back in town too. Glad they are back.

Roseate Spoonbill in flight
Roseate Spoonbill.
Red Shoulder Hawk

At the end of the short run, we headed back in, so it was a short but beautiful day.

That’s about it for now. Hope you like these.

They were shot on The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in Central Florida on the east coast.

A few American Avocets and Friends

American Avocets preening and napping at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

I take a sense of haughty pride in the fact that I can raise northerners eyebrows when the inevitable subject of cold weather and snow comes up in casual conversation and I mention I have never seen snow.

That, my friend, is why I have always called central Florida home, and I will never leave.

Don’t be fooled by the ads, depicting bikinis, fruity drinks with umbrellas, and endless surfing, with neon painted hotels and lots of l.e.d lighting.

The tireless upper heat index with 90% humidity is only rivaled by the mosquitoes and constant train of tourists, fumbling their way through our small towns, unfamiliar with the route needed to reach their yet to be decided destination.

Is the law that says you can turn right at a stop light really that novel of an idea? I mean. Is it? Don’t y’all do that where you live?

But for all of that, where we call home is so cool. Like, where else can you pick fresh fruit and have a garden year around? Watch a rocket launch from your front yard? Fish every day? From land, the beach or a boat.

We are basically a high tech fishing village, surrounded by water. You have the St. John’s River, which is one of few rivers that flows north in the States. The brackish water is a haven for bass, crappie and tons of bream. We wont talk about the sirens, which the birds and gators do a great job of keeping in check.

Then we have the Atlantic Ocean. When the cruising industry was a thing, the ships were in and out of here all the time. One good thing Covid did was help clean up the beaches by parking the ships. The ships dump their trash at sea, and it washes up on the beaches. That has minimized dramatically since they have been lolling around in circles right outside the port. Thank God.

A clean ocean with no trash or debris is a happy ocean. Playalinda Beach, Canaveral National Seashore.

As locals, while we appreciate the tourism dollars injected into the community, the absolute disregard for the environment by those that make millions off of and in the industry is tough to live with. But that will be another story in and of itself.

The Kennedy Space Center borders the rivers and the beach. If you have never been here, and only seen rocket launches on TV, it may be hard to discern that the pad is almost directly on the beach. The rocket ranch employs many locals, and you see the fruition of the work done here when the cameras show up to record a launch.

Then we have the salt water rivers, The Banana River and The Indian River Lagoon. For those of you that have purchased Florida citrus over the years, yup, we grew it right here. You’re welcome. 🙂

So. In the middle of all that is a very special place. Through conservation efforts put into place in 1963 by Kennedy Space Center, we have what is known as The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. It’s 140,000 acres of untouched natural Florida that is home to both local and migratory birds and land animals, such as Alligators, Bobcats, Skunks, Otters and well, the list goes on.

That’s where we spend 90% of our free time. It is a nature paradise, with marl roads that wind through Black Point Wildlife Drive, Gator Creek, Caftifsh Loop and Peacock’s Pocket, to name a few of my favorites. Any or all of these will take you to State Road 3 as far north as you want to drive, until you hit US1. While not all that visit know what exactly they are looking for, they all usually end up seeing something they weren’t expecting.

We try to go three or four days a week. Now is an exciting time, because the migratory paths from up north are bringing the frequent fliers here. These are the yearly snow birds that call our area home. They come here to build a nest, and start a family. How special is that?!?!?

Which is how we got the American Avocets today. They just showed up this week, and I was happy to see them. Today was kinda slow; it was rainy and not a ray of sunshine.

There were few birds out. Everyone was ducking the light rain that was off and on. I did see a Peregrine Falcon on the way in to Blackpoint.

Peregrine Falcon on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Once inside the Drive, a few gators were out, waiting for the sun.

Halfway through, the Avocets made their presence known, They were seining the shallows in the salt marsh, looking for grass shrimp, minnows and small crustaceans.

Such a dainty and delicate looking wading bird, they bring to mind elegance and grace.

American Avocet in The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Up the road was a Belted Kingfisher, waiting for the rain to make up it’s mind.

Belted Kingfisher at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

That was the end of the rainbow today. The rain clouds covered the sun, which makes it hard to shoot images. So that’s it for today

I have so much to share. I hope this blog works out and takes off. I really enjoy this…..

Have a great week. Be kind. Be safe. Be nice to photographers.

Moving to Instagram

Sunset on the MINWR at Peacock's Pocket

I never loved Facebook.

I have Samsung to thank for that, and I still am grieving their decision to terminate a special gathering place that brought others from the internet to a small corner of happiness.

Samsung had a photo sharing site named SOA. It was a fun place to go. There were really good photographers that helped others with crooked horizons and other editing tasks/debacles . There were photo contests that the majority participated in. SOA even had a lounge, and thats where we all got to know each other. Breakfast was served with coffee and donuts in the early hours of the mornings. It was just a great place.

The years rolled by and suddenly, SOA announced it would be “shutting the doors”. They said it was costing too much money. Some of us had gotten the email before the site had been updated on the front page stating yes, they were going to shut the doors. It caused an uproar at first. You never want to let go of something you enjoy. Then Glenda came in and confirmed everything.

Glenda was the good wizard that wore a decorated wizards hat, had a floor length navy blue gown covered in stars with a little magic wand. That was her avatar. I always looked forward to see what mischief she had been up to when I saw she had posted. Out of the blue, she would appear, to add a sassy comment that was always hysterical, dole out diamond awards, settle minor bickering or, like this time, pass the words of sadness down to the group. We all loved Glenda. It was evident it brought her no joy to tell us, and she was just as sad as the rest of us. She was always a bright light of fun and laughter, and her un-expected visits were something we all looked forward to. Except that day.

Years-long friendships had grown and were firmly established. The group had shared day to day goings on, along with accomplishments, tragedy, illness, marriages, divorces, and death of friends and family. We were a core unit of up and coming photographers, with our share of greatness in our midst, and I for one did not want this to end. Nor did the rest of the people that I admired and looked up to for their humor, wisdom and talent that they freely shared.

While everyone didn’t agree on everything, SOA was deeply rooted in our hearts. To know that suddenly, that place would no longer be there, was my first take on losing something embedded in my heart that never really existed in face to face encounters.

Don’t get me wrong, there had been trips that the group would plan, and those in that chosen part of the country that were able to attend always had a marvelous time. I was sorry I was never able to go for whatever the reasons were at the time, but usually, the lack of money was at the top of the list.

The more studious and tech savvy of the group quickly posed the thought of moving to a media platform they knew about. You could share images, talk to each other. It would be just like the lounge! And the contests! The contests would be able to continue. All in a different place on the web called Facebook.

So now, plans were to be made, and time was not going to be kind to initiate an endeavour of this size wherein everyone would still have a place to meet, greet, share and enjoy the company of those that were held dear.

I dug in and decided to just say bye to everyone. I had no idea what facebook was, and it sounded wayyyyy to complicated for me. One of the girls told me to “Just come on.” She would walk me through everything, and that way, everyone would still be together.

There was a group of the smart ones that not only thought up the idea, they made it come to life. It was an amazing feat, but they did it in grand style and on time! I can’t imagine how much time that took but they did it!

While it wasn’t “the same as SOA”, it was nice to see familiar names, and hear the familiar stories. I came to realize you could continue the relationships and photos. Win win for all that wanted to come along.

So that’s how I got on facebook.

It’s been a long time since I learned how to navigate the media platform, and honestly, I don’t like it any more than I did the first day. Yes, it’s handy. It’s great if you have a business. I went to school and still attend classes online through Facebook. It is an amazing concept.

But the downsides…

So. A lot have moved to Instagram. I took the jump, and am still learning. I do not love it just for the fact I am one of the last that work on a Laptop instead of a phone, and you have to negotiate developer code in order to post images from your laptop or PC. That is an automatic 10 Demerits.

Anyway, if you have any tips or clues about Instagram, I am all ears. And eyes.

I hope you have a nice weekend.

Stay warm. Stay safe. Be nice to photographers.