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Tag Archives: great blue heron

Unexpected sighting while on a Florida beach

I went to a Ft. Meyers beach for sunrise today that is more populated by wildlife than people. There are lots of better beaches for sunbathers, so the only people that come to Bunches Beach are there to either walk, look at birds or photograph birds. Today there was a large group of bird watchers carrying binoculars and scopes, wearing their bird watching clothes and their boots. Which means they were going to mess up a lot of photos.

So I went the other direction on the beach. There weren’t as many birds and no people, but one great blue heron was working the surf to get a fish. Herons are one of my favorite birds to photograph. Their long necks make great shapes, it is either curled back as they relax or it gets taught when they have prey in sight. My heron today was standing in shallow water as small waves rolled in on. It didn’t move a whole lot so I tried lots of different shots, using different composition and placement of the bird in the photos. I decided to try some very slow shutter speed to see if I could get a unique effect blurring the incoming waves.

The heron had caught a good size fish was standing pretty still so I knew it would be sharp and the blurry water surrounded it. Of course, as soon as I make lots of setting changes the heron kind of turned around and a bald eagle came out of nowhere and stole the fish from the heron’s mouth. I was a bit dumbfounded knowing I didn’t have time to change camera settings and fired the camera anyway knowing that anything moving would be a blur even though the eagle was moving fast. I got cool wave effects but the two birds look like blurry blobs. It was fun knowing I was the only person to witness nature at its peak.

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Two days isn’t enough in Florida, but there were plenty of photos

I checked out a couple of parks along the Gulf this morning and then headed to the famous rookery in Venice. Unlike yesterday at Gatorland, this is a much smaller rookery that has been preserved by the Audubon Society. It is right off a major highway, smack in the middle of way too many people, but the little park is just what the birds need.

The rookery itself is a little island with a bunch of small trees in a little pond. It is the perfect place for the birds, alligators live in the pond, protecting the birds and people are just far enough away that the birds don’t care about us.

A nice pavilion is near the pond, so people can sit under cover and watch the birds all day. It is free and always open, luckily I noticed a donation box, this is worth as much as the $20 I paid at Gatorland.

When I arrived, a light rain was ending but there were five other photographers there. You can walk around the entire pond, so the light is always coming from the right direction. Within 30 minutes the others were gone, I didn’t take it personally, but I was happy to be the only one shooting.

There was plenty of action. Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Anhingas, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibises, Green Herons, Tricolored Herons and Black-crowned Night-Herons all make the island their home. I saw young Anhingas sticking their heads literally down the throats of their parents to get food. Two young Great Blue Herons went crazy when mom arrived with food. There was constant screeching coming from the nests as little loud-mouths were yelling for food. It was quite the scene.

I ended the day along the beach in Ft. Myers, shooting shore birds. It was quite a two-day adventure.

See a photo gallery from my two days in Florida.

 

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A quick road trip to photograph birds in Florida

When I’m driving in Florida, I have this crazy expectation that the drivers are friendly and relaxed. They aren’t. My first day here and I’m driving around Orlando and Kissimmee and people are frantic. I expect that in New Jersey, but people should be calmer in Florida. Four times I got honked at within the first hour around here.

I come to Florida looking for nature and wildlife, the critter kind. So it is rather crazy that I am hanging out in the ultimate tourist trap of Orlando. Everything looks like it was built for $15 and there’s a million signs wanting me to stop and buy something.

But I’m here to photograph birds and I’ve made my first journey to Gatorland. I’d heard about the rookery at Gatorland and I was extremely doubtful. But I did a lot of research and it seemed to be real. A tourist trap had been built around a rookery and they made sure plenty of gators are around to keep the tourists happy. They put a big boardwalk through the rookery and built some towers to make observation even better. I was initially repulsed by the idea of it but the more I thought about the more I realized that if money wasn’t being made, then somebody would fill in the ponds, knock down the trees and build another un-needed hotel.

Gatorland lets photographers come in at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday through Sunday for $20, while the rest of the public doesn’t come in until 10 a.m. There were about 15 people heading in this morning, a few had been there before and several, including me, were Gatorland rookies.

It was worth the $20. It is the largest rookery I’ve ever had access to. There are lots of different species nesting and most are close enough to get good photos with a 200mm lens. The nests are down low because they are protected from raccoons and other predators by the big, mean-looking gators. The gators get fresh snacks when young birds fall out of the nest, so it is a good thing for everybody.

The birds have grown accustomed to the people because they know they are protected. Hundreds of birds were sitting, flying, wading and doing everything birds do and I shot until my trigger finger was sore and the sun was moving up in the sky.

I left the busyness of the Orlando area and headed west to the coast to check out some parks in the Tampa area.

See a photo gallery from my two days in Florida.

A wood stork carries a stick to its nest.

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Special Maine sunrise makes getting up early worth it


I’m not naturally an early morning person, but it is rare that I’m upset when I see the sun rise. Sunday was one of my favorite sunrises ever. I was along Flagstaff Lake in Stratton, Maine, as the sun rose in a clear sky. Fog filled the mountains and hovered over the lake, which was fine by me.

I was on a narrow road that sliced through the water, so every direction I looked was water, mountains and fog. It was one of those times when there was so much to shoot I was running in circles to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I had cameras on two tripods and was firing away like a mad-man, literally screaming joy into the wind.

A couple of photos are posted here, you can see more over on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/LorenFisherPhotography.

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Fox and heron at the Great Swamp

A red fox at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge pounces on prey.

I headed off to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge this morning. I thought with the cool morning air and water still being warm there mist be some nice mist shots as the sun came up. If they were there, I didn’t find them.

A red fox at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

I was driving down a small gravel road and saw a red fox in the road about 1/4 mile ahead of me. As I got closer, it went into the trees but I couldn’t see it anymore. I creeped away and saw it in my mirror, so I turned around and slowly drove back toward it. It didn’t mind me being there as long as I kept my distance, so I followed it for a while. It stopped a few times and I took pictures through my windshield. It stopped and looked at something in the grass. The fox hunched down and got ready to pounce and then it jumped through the air and landed on a vole. It brought the tasty breakfast back to the road, gobbled it down and then walked toward me as I shot more pictures through the windshield. The fox walked right past me on the road that is barely wide enough for two cars. It didn’t even look up to see what I was doing, it just went back to where I first saw it and headed back into the trees.

A great blue heron stalks prey in the grass of a pond at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

My favorite bird is the Great Blue Heron. They are pretty and they make me smile when they walk. They are pretty skittish, I haven’t found a way to sneak up on one, but if I see one working the shore of a pond, I know if I stay still, it may walk right in front of me. This morning I saw one sitting on a small log in a pond. I pulled my Jeep off the edge of the road and the bird stayed put. I sat there for over an hour taking pictures of the heron on the log and then walking through the grass. When it was in the reeds it would peek through while looking for some breakfast.

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What’s good: Foxes and heron

Fox kits cross a field in Hillsborough, NJ

It looked like there would be some nasty thunderstorms late this afternoon, so I hopped in the Jeep and headed out. I was driving along the South Branch of the Raritan River and saw a Great Blue Heron on the opposite bank. I pulled over and as I climbed down the bank, the bird flew farther down the river. Then he walked out on a log in the river at a bend and posed from some shots. The storm didn’t really happen, there was a short rain and some clouds, but they cleared. I started to head for home and noticed something running in a plowed field. It was red tail fox kits and they were casually crossing the open field.

A Great Blue Heron fishes in the South Branch of the Raritan River.

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What’s good: Herons on high

Great Blue Herons in their nest near Bennington, Vermont

It has been a couple of months, but I was finally able to get back to our home in Woodstock, Vermont. As I was driving, I was looking at a swamp just north of Bennington in hopes of seeing a moose. I swear the Vermont state tourism department is in charge of putting up Moose Crossing signs, because I’ve seen dozens of signs but no moose near them. But I’m always looking. As I was scanning the swamp I saw there was a small Great Blue Heron rookery. There were about a dozen nests and all of them seemed to have birds in them. The road was up high and the swamp was about 75 feet lower than the road. The closest tree with a nest was at the same height as me. I could see right into the nest and there were two or three younguns and a parent. It is pretty unusual to be able to photograph into the nest of a heron without going to extreme effort to get up high.

Young Great Blue Herons in their nest.

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What’s good: Gomer and great blue heron

Great Blue Heron at Duke Island Park, Bridgewater, NJ

I went to a local county park this morning for sunrise to see what might be good. I walked along the Raritan River on a paved path, the sun was streaming in through the trees and hitting the river in a few places, but nothing hit me. So I walked back to a pond that was near where I parked. There were several pairs of Canada geese with goslings when I initially walked by but the area was in the shade, so I passed them by.

As I approached the pond, there was an old gomer wearing Bermuda shorts in 52 degree weather and carrying a small camera. I saw that he was trying to take pictures of a great blue heron at the edge of the pond. Gomer was trying to sneak up on the heron to get close enough to take a picture with his point-and-shoot camera. Hey Gomer, herons aren’t blind and you can’t walk up to them. I knew he was soon going to blow any chance I had to photograph the bird. Sure enough, the heron took flight but only went to the other side of the pond.

There is a bench by the pond, so I had a seat so I could be still and let the goslings come close. Gomer walked around the pond and sure enough he was trying to sneak up on the heron again. Heron’s will give you about 150 feet and then they are gone. That isn’t nearly close enough to get any kind of decent picture with the camera Gomer was using. Having taken lots of heron photos, I guessed the bird would either leave or come back where it originally was. So I sat extremely still on the bench waiting to see where Gomer would chase the bird.

Luckily the heron flew back to my side of the pond, right where it was earlier. I was there on the bench fairly close and he didn’t care. Fortunately, Gomer gave up and I got some nice shots. The heron stood in the exact same spot for 45 minutes while I photographed him.  Most of the time it stood on one leg and preened. Finally I had to leave and the heron was still there as I got in my car.

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