Saturday, January 31, 2009

Camera Critters Cardinal

With our area blanketed in a thick layer of heavily crusted snow, finding sufficient food is difficult for many species of wildlife. Birds are flocking to feeding areas in great numbers.

This morning with the thermometer dipping to 11 deg F I decided to visit with my brother Willard and shoot at his feeding/observation post. This male Cardinal was nice enough to pose for his portrait.

After shooting a while, I headed to a local building supply store purchasing some lumber and screws for my afternoon project building Blue Bird nest boxes. I found some nice plans at The Bird Report blog and intend to give it a try.

For more Camera Critters visit our friend Misty’s Camera Critters blog

Thursday, January 29, 2009

SkyWatch: Daybreak on Sideling Hill

The first light of a cold January day brightens the eastern sky on what was to be a cloudy gray day. In the valley the lights of farms and homes can be seen with the bright cluster visible in lower center being that of the Sideling Hill Plaza of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

This photograph was taken from a scenic overlook along the Bark Rd south the Lincoln Highway (US Route 30).

For Sky photos from around the world visit the Sky Watch Blog

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The winter storm that crossed much of the nation deposited a layer of snow and ice on the new cranes.

Not only are these cranes frozen by the weather but also by the economic crisis that is gripping the world. Sitting idle the machines wait at the factory for a thaw in the economy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Loggerhead Shrike

A small bird for a change

For the past month most of my posts are of the “glamour” bird species I encountered during my Florida vacation. Today’s post is of a much smaller bird, the Loggerhead Shrike.

Although the Loggerhead Shrike’s range includes nearly all of the continental United States this encounter at Joe Overstreet was my first. I found through internet research that this bird has been listed in Canada as an endangered species since 1991.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Red -Shouldered Hawk

The Red-shouldered hawk is once again another of my Overstreet captures. I first spotted the hawk sitting on a fence post near Lake Kissimmee. Soon it flew a short distance towards me settling down on a fence post standing among the high reeds. The mid-afternoon lighting was all wrong but the situation improved when the hawk once again took to the air.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ibis Silhouette

While shooting at Joe Overstreet one morning, a flock of Ibis flew past the rising sun and landed in a grove of trees.

Of the images captured shooting continuous drive mode, this shot stood out above all the rest.

I usually keep my camera’s drive set on low-speed continuous drive. This setting fires three frames per second and works very well when shooting moving situations. I have come to prefer the low-speed drive as it allows me continuous fire when the situation requires it yet is slow enough that one can only fire single exposures if desired.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Soaring on High: Bald Eagle

A Bald Eagle watches me intently as it soars past on mighty wings.

While reviewing this photograph I noticed that identification bands on each of the Eagle’s legs (click on the photo to see). Much effort and money has been spent on this previously endangered species.
I captured this photo along the shoreline of Florida’s Lake Marion. During my visit to this region Eagle sightings were a daily occurrence.

For more Camera Critters visit Misty’s Camera Critters blog

Friday, January 23, 2009

Eastern Meadow Lark

I recently read an article in the Pennsylvania Game News describing some of the issues surrounding our grassland bird species of which the Eastern Meadow Lark is one.

The article stated that many grassland species have become much rarer with some having suffered eighty percent population declines. The article went on to mention intensive mowing/haying and pasturing as being part of the problem since these birds require the grass to stand throughout their nesting season.

I have observed the occasional Meadow Lark but not until my Florida trip did I have the occasion to capture a photograph. While driving back Joe Overstreet road one foggy morning I spied this pretty little songster singing in a pasture field.

Notice the height of the grass, this field certainly does not suffer from over grazing as do many of the pastures in my home area.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

SkyWatch: Florida Sky

Fog hangs close to the ground before the sunrise on this beautiful warm winter morning.

This image was captured along Canoe Creek Rd, not far from the intersection of Joe Overstreet. With the cold weather we have been having here in Pa these shots are looking better to me every day.

For more Sky Watch and to join in visit the gang HERE

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The game is to open the 4th folder and post the 4th photo. Well I got lucky. My 4th folder, the 4th photograph was this shot of a flock of Scaup in flight. This photograph was taken March 29, 2008 while the early spring migration of waterfowl was passing through my area.

Photographing these birds is only a spring game for at that time the lake is quiet except for a few fishermen. During the fall migration the waterfowl hunting seasons are in full swing with a number of hunters with decoy spreads working the lake shore.

With the cold weather we have been having lately I find myself beginning to yearn for the open water and the first flights of spring travelers stopping by.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gliding Wood Stork

A Wood Stork glides over Florida’s Lake Marion

The plumage of the Wood Stork is most striking during flight when its black flight feathers contrast vividly with the white. When on foot, the Stork’s black feathers are nearly invisible, covered over with white as seen in my previous post.

Why would nature choose white for the Stork as well as for many of the other long legged wading birds?

Nature uses many different camouflages. Considering that these birds’s prey is hiding in the marsh below looking up for danger, the bird’s white body would blend very well with sky.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Too much to Swallow: Wood Stork

While shooting Florida’s Lake Marion a number of Wood Storks were frequently present stalking the marshy lake shore.

The Stork slowly stalked the wetland until suddenly, with a quick stab of its beak it secured a fish. For the next ten to fifteen minutes the Stork tried unsuccessfully to swallow the fish whole. Finally the Stork left its catch behind as it fled from the roar of a passing air boat.

I did not see the Stork return to claim its catch, but with the multitude of birds foraging in the wetland it could not have been long before someone lay claim to the prize.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Landing: Great Egret

With landing gears extended, wings & tail acting as air brakes; a Great Egret prepares to land in the Florida marsh. These birds are impressive when stalking the marshland but when their great wings are spread a majestic image appears.

In comments on my last post Meggie asked if I were still in Florida. Sad to say, no. Since our Florida visit I have been working through the collection of new images in my spare time and have found little time for outdoor photography. Of course, the cold weather and gray skies have played a part also.

The shear amount of birdlife in Florida is simply awesome. A few hours at a good location there can produce hundreds if not thousands of images.

During previous trips I shot extensively in Lakeland city parks where birdlife was completely acclimated to humans. This time was different. The area south of St. Cloud around Lake Kissimmee and Lake Marion were to the best of my knowledge open to public hunting. I noticed quite a bit of waterfowl hunting being conducted on Lake Kissimmee. The non game species were not appreciably wilder and I observed a greater variety while the hunted varieties of waterfowl were difficult to observe and virtually impossible to photograph.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Black Vulture

No, it wasn’t me that he wanted, thank God, but rather the remains of a wild boar that someone had deposited beside Lake Marion. Whatever the person’s reasons was for dumping the carrion were, it did provide me with some good Vulture shots.

This Vulture along with many of is brethren repeatedly swooped low hoping to resume feeding only to change their minds at the last minute and landing in the nearby trees. Although the remains were unsightly and somewhat smelly they were a tasty morsel for the Vultures. I was hoping they would also attract a gator but that was not to be.

Friday, January 16, 2009


With high temperatures barely rising above the single digits and tonight’s low to drop below the 0 F point the bone chilling cold is seeping into every nook and cranny. As if that isn’t bad enough today the company I work for sent over three hundred employees on their way clutching a bundle of papers containing their unemployment information.

At first it looked as though we could possibly weather the downturn in the world economy by moving more work into our facility but eventually, as with the winter, the chill of the economy began to take its effect on the 2009 build schedule.

I now wait the awakening of spring, the first shoots of new grass, the first leaves, and the first signs of a rebirth in the economy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cattle Egret

When photographing the Cattle Egrets I felt it proper to include to cow.

I spotted many of these stocky little herons feeding around the cattle pasturing in the vast fields of the Florida prairie region. At one point I noticed an Egret hitching a ride on a cow’s back but before I could bring the camera into play it decided to hop down. Another missed opportunity!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Landing Zone: Bald Eagles

A friendly photographer from Ohio whom I met at Joe Overstreet advised me of a Bald Eagle’s nest near the Joe Overstreet boat launch. Although I was seeing Eagles in the area it was not until my last morning there that I was able to locate the nest.

Prior to locating the nest I observed this pair of Eagles sitting in a tree top. After a few minutes both flew up circled a few times and then alighted again. As the second bird prepared to land I snapped this photograph. The strong backlighting provided a good sharp silhouette against the morning sky.

A few minutes later both birds flew to the nearby nest but it was well obscured by branches and Spanish moss, no further photo opportunities were possible.

From my observations Bald Eagles are very common in this region of Florida. Although I did not keep tally, I observed Eagles numerous times each day as I traveled about the Lake Kissimmee area.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Curious Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes are numerous in the Lake Kissimmee region and show very little fear of humans. I photographed this curious bird from my car while parked along the Joe Overstreet Road, Lake Kissimmee Florida.

I understand from doing some internet research that these cranes were few in number when surveyed in 1986 with less than 500 birds making up the total estimated Florida population. Today they are said to number somewhere around 5000. If my research proves accurate then the Florida Sandhill Crane is one more wildlife management success story.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

B&W Egret

The original image of this flying Great Egret showed very little color because of the strong backlight against a soft blue afternoon sky. After toying around with this image in Photoshop I tried a B&W version, something I very seldom do with my wildlife photos.

I like the results, do you?

Captured at Lake Marion, Florida.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Heron Tongue

While visiting Joe Overstreet one morning a fellow photographer arrived and struck up a conversation. Asking if anything was happening I replied no, not right now. He was quite familiar with the area stating that he normally visited it about once each month. After giving me some tips concerning what and where to look for photo opportunities at Joe Overstreet, he gave me direction to another favorite spot of his on Lake Marion. According to him this location was particularly good for Limpkins, Vultures, and Wood Storks.

Soon the allure of a new adventure was too much and I was in the car headed south. The information was good with all of the stated species being present along with plenty of others. Late in the afternoon this Great Blue Heron positioned itself in the nearby marsh standing with open mouth. The strong backlighting illuminated the Herons long spike tongue.

I have spend many hours viewing and photographing these birds but this was the first and only time I have ever seen one stand with open mouth displaying its tongue. For reasons that only the Heron knew, it gave me a unique photo opportunity.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Florida Morning Sky

Continuing the Joe Overstreet Series from my recent Florida trip; this photograph of a small flock of rare Whooping Cranes was captured on my last morning of birding. You will notice that the right leg of the lead crane is extended unnaturally. Apparently the leg had been injured at some time in the past. Once the bird was on the ground it had no noticeable problem walking.

For more stunning skies visit the Sky Watch Community

A number of you commented on my previous post that they were unfamiliar with the Crested Caracara. I must admit that until I did internet research for bird photography locations near Kissimmee Florida that I too had never heard of it either. I came across it on a site that recommended the Joe Overstreet Rd as an excellent location for birding. The page mentioned that Caracaras are frequently sighted there. How lucky could I get to bump into one during my brief visit! describes the Crested Caracara as follows:

A tropical falcon version of a vulture, the Crested Caracara reaches the United States only in Arizona, Texas, and Florida. It is a bird of open country, where it often is seen at carrion with vultures.
Large, long-legged raptor. Black cap with short crest at back. Pale sides of back and neck. Bare red skin on face. Black body. White tail with wide black tip. White patches at ends of dark wings. Faint barring on upper back and breast.
Size: 49-58 cm (19-23 in)
Wingspan: 120 cm (47 in)
Weight: 1050-1300 g (37.07-45.89 ounces)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Crested Caracara

One morning while shooting Joe Overstreet a couple approached me. The lady asked if I had seen the Caracara then she told me that one had been hanging around the dumpster near the boat ramp. Not having ever seen a Caracara let alone photographed one I headed for the ramp shortly after our conversation ended.

Locating the bird proved easy enough as it was sitting on a post under a palm tree. Capturing an acceptable photograph was not quite as easy. The bird was sitting in the shade with the bright lake behind. Between bracketing and some Photoshop manipulation I arrived at this image.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Taking Flight: Great Egret

While photographing wildlife nothing can replace time, time spent afield. After photographing this Great Egret perched at the Joe Overstreet Boat Dock over a period of twenty minutes the bird decided to relocate. With wings spread and feet leaving its perch the image materialized before my lens.

With wildlife anything can happen. Seldom do I plan my best shots. I have found what works for me is simply being there and being prepared. With that being said many times I see “the shot” materialize and then dissolve before I can bring the camera into play.

The challenge of capturing these moments in time when everything comes together is what keeps me returning time and time again to the great outdoors.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sandhill Crane

Of the large birds I observed during my Florida trip the Sandhill Cranes were the most frequently sighted. This particular Sandhill gave me an excellent photo op as it flew close overhead.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Florida Whooping Crane

Through searching the internet I learned that the endangered Whooping Cranes are frequently sighted along Joe Overstreet Rd. Upon arriving at the boat launching/camping area on my first visit I noticed a gentleman with a Canon 500mm L lens set up on a tripod pointing towards an area of trees with cattle and cattle feeders underneath.

He kindly pointed out that he was photographing the Whooping Cranes that were mixed in the Sandhill Cranes around the feeders. Although the distance was quite far for my 100-400 I was still able to capture a decent image of the large white bird. The smaller gray cranes in this photograph are the Sandhills.

During my stay the Whooping Cranes would fly into this feeding area each morning after sunrise and could be viewed most any time of day feeding around the cattle feeders.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Little Blue Heron

No trip to Florida would be complete without spending time viewing its incredible birdlife. With the main focus of my recent trip being the wedding of our son Chad, I was unsure of how much time I could devote to wildlife photography. Upon our arrival, I soon ascertained that he and Sandy were quite busy wrapping up last minute details allowing me considerable time to pursue wildlife photography.

I decided to concentrate on the Florida prairie country south of Kissimmee. Internet research had revealed Joe Overstreet Road to be an excellent destination and I was not to be disappointed. This area proved to be an excellent place to locate many of the long legged wading birds along with Sandhill Cranes, the rare and endangered Whooping Cranes, Bald Eagles, and many more species.

This photograph is of a Little Blue Heron flying over Lake Kissimmee, photo taken from the air-boat launching area at Joe Overstreet.

For more Camera Critters click HERE

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Wedding Party

The wedding party arranged for the formal photograph. This shot is taken off-side as are all of my formal shots since the pro was shooting from directly in front.

The venue is the Royal St. Cloud Golf Links, St. Cloud Florida. Chad and Sandy chose it for their wedding location because of the beautiful background it provides. Chad & Sandy maximized the photographic potential of the location by planning an evening wedding to coincide with the great light of the evening golden hour. Fortunately for them the day turned out to be “picture perfect”.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

SkyWatch: Central Florida Sunrise

During my recent Florida visit I had many opportunities to stray away from the city and venture into the prairie country. I was primarily focusing on birds but I was quick to make the best of this stunning sunrise when it developed.

This shot as well as my new header was taken from Joe Overstreet Road south of St. Cloud.

For more Sky Watch visit the gang by clicking HERE