Flats fishing is very popular in the summer months, especially here in the in the Tampa Bay area thanks to the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Since my family tends to do more offshore fishing, I had to do a little research about flats fishing and thought I’d share. The term “flat” refers to any shallow area, and the Gulf is full of them. Usually a flat bottomed boat is chosen for the task and after the perfect spot is targeted, the engine is raised and the boat is pushed along the flat with a long pole, like the boat pictured here. This gives the fishermen a chance to effectively sneak up on larger fish like in the shallow water and with a raised platform like the boat pictured gives an even better view of the fish below.
After a slow start, it’s rainy season in Florida. Usually we can expect storms every afternoon thanks to the sea breeze collision from the Gulf and Atlantic coasts and the storms last for about a half an hour. In the last few weeks however, we’ve had some storms last the better part of a day and dump inches upon inches of rain. With swelling retention ponds and drainage ditches full of water making them look more like creeks, wading birds are loving it. Herons and Egrets that have been limited to larger bodies of water are now able to spread out a little and find food all around them. Birds like this Great Blue Heron photographed at John Chestnut Sr. Park are now easily seen in my neighborhood retention pond enjoying lunch.
Happy Independence Day! On this great day of national pride, it seemed like the perfect time to share an image of a Bald Eagle. Now synonymous with the United States, the Bald Eagle became the unofficial symbol of our country in 1782 when the Great Seal of the United States was adopted with a Bald Eagle prominently featured. Not everyone was a fan, with Benjamin Franklin rallying hard for the turkey to be our national bird as he believed it was “more respectable”. Thankfully, supporters of the Bald Eagle won in the end and when George Washington was made our country’s first president in 1789, the Bald Eagle was made the official National Bird.
This week is the big trip out west to see what seems like another planet compared to the white sandy beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast. I’ve spent the last few days reading more and more about the destinations for our trip and am excited about all of the opportunities for awesome photographs. While I’ve been worrying about how in the world to pack for 37 degree nights and 85 degree days, I started to think about all of the people across the country that would be heading here to my neck of the woods for their vacation and wonder if there is someone in Arizona planning a trip to my local beach. If you are out there, I hope you enjoy it…the weather will certainly cooperate for beautiful photos, but it will be hot and humid! This photo is of Clearwater Beach, FL, a very popular tourist destination in the Tampa Bay area.
While it may seem ridiculous to most people that I would feed squirrels on purpose, it does keep them off of my bird feeders and they are quite the entertaining bunch to watch. We also have Blue Jays and Cardinals that frequent the squirrel feeder and it ends up being the hub of all activity in the back yard. Yesterday I noticed a new visitor to the feeder, helping himself to a peanut or two. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker not only stopped by, but came back several times to visit and thoroughly inspected our wooden fence for any bugs that might be yummy. This female Red-bellied Woodpecker was photographed at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, FL.
Reddish Egrets are considered medium to large herons at just under three feet tall. Common along the Gulf Coast, I had never seen a Reddish Egret until moving to Florida a few years ago. With blue-gray bodies and and reddish heads and necks, it’s easy to see where they get their name. Often found stalking fish in shallow saltwater, Reddish Egrets are truly entertaining to watch as they spin and flap their wings in effect “herding” the fish into the just the right spot before striking. This Reddish Egret was photographed at Caladesi Island taking a break from fishing to enjoy the view.
Hawks are amazing birds. Perched high in the tree tops always watching for for thier next meal, I usually am delighted to see a hawk. Lately there has been a pair of Red-shouldered hawks in my neighborhood, making appearances a few times a day. I usually only see one at a time, but know the other is near thanks to it’s shrill call.
Remember when I said that I am usually delighted to see hawks? Do you also recall that I have an entire neighborhood of squirrels that I feed in my backyard? Per the “circle of life” it seems that my furry squirrel buddies are quite the desirable meal for a hawk. As far as I know there aren’t any squirrels missing, but they don’t exactly check in regularly. This Red-shouldered Hawk was photographed at the Homossassa Springs Wildlife State Park, not stalking any squirrels.
It’s hot out. More than half of the country is experiencing August-like temperatures in the beginning of June, leaving many to wonder where ‘spring’ went. Many of these places were in the 70′s not that long ago and managed soar right past the 80′s and settle in the 90′s this week. It has been hot in Florida for weeks now and every day there are hints that rainy season is due any day now, but isn’t here yet. So for those of you sweltering in the heat, a beach picture from Caladesi Island. As my husband likes to say, when it’s this hot out, there are only two places to be: in the air conditioning or in the water!
I have some really exciting news…my parents are moving to Florida! Let me clarify – not just to Florida, but to my little city, only 2.4 miles away! Only for a short period of time a few years ago have I even lived in the same state as my parents since moving out of our family home to go to college. We’ve all moved several times since then and until today have been 1000 miles apart. To say that I am delighted that they are moving here would be an understatement!
My parents are under the impression that they will get to relax and enjoy the “Florida Lifestyle” when they get settled here. I don’t know if they realize how much my husband and I have planned for them when they arrive. My husband is looking forward to having my Dad as a fishing buddy every weekend until the fall. While the boys are busy, I plan to take my Mom with me to all of my favorite photography spots and we will surely see many sunsets like this one from Honeymoon Island State Park. However we all end up spending our time, it will be fantastic to be spending it together and I can’t wait! Now if I can just get my brother and sister-in-law down here..
A few weeks ago I snapped this photo of our neighborhood rabbit, Peter Cottontail. He is an Eastern Cottontail rabbit and lives in the lush landscaping of my next-door neighbor’s front yard. I thought he was the only rabbit in my little part of our neighborhood which I realize is rather naive as they are known to breed like, well, rabbits. This weekend we met what I assume is one of his offspring in quite an unexpected way!
Early on Sunday morning my husband noticed ripples across the top of our pool, which was odd as the pump was off. It’s not uncommon for a small frog to get into the pool and make it’s way to the skimmer, and we rescue a few a year. Ready to scoop out the first frog of the season, my husband took the top off of the skimmer and found something furry instead. As it turns out, a small bunny had gnawed it’s way through our screened enclosure and ended up in the pool. We think he was in search of water since it’s dry season here and hasn’t rained for weeks, but who knows for sure.
We have no idea how long he was in the pool, but had thankfully made his way to the little floating flap in the skimmer and was perched on top, keeping his face out of the water. After scooping him out of the pool we realized he had hurt one of his front paws and called the best vet hospital in town for assistance. The fine folks at Blue Pearl Veterinary Services do some pretty amazing things, including working with a wildlife rehab organization that was delighted to help our little swimmer recoup from his big adventure.
While summer doesn’t technically start until late June, it has felt like summer here in the Tampa Bay area for weeks now. With highs in the low 90′s and little rain to speak of, it’s been sweltering! The combination of these above-average temperatures and Memorial Day in just a few days means area beaches will be busy this weekend. Any beach in our area is beautiful, but my favorites are Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park. Honeymoon Island is the busiest state park in Florida, so I have no doubt that it will be full of sunbathers enjoying the cool waters of the Gulf. Caladesi Island will also likely be busy this weekend, but since it is only reachable by boat it should be a little less crowded. If you haven’t made your mind up yet about weekend plans, perhaps this photo will help. This photo was taken at Caladesi Island State Park a few years ago in late May and is likely what you can expect there this weekend. Happy Memorial Day!
If you are a frequent reader of the PhotoBlog, then you know my family loves to boat. Over the years we have had several different types of boats from a large aft-cabin boat that you could live comfortably on for a weekend to a small open bow boat that the kids loved to tube behind. Now that my husband has really gotten in to fishing, we have a center console boat that works perfectly for fishing in the Gulf. Regardless of what type of boat we’ve had, we have always been able to find a few places to anchor up and relax with friends, as most boaters do. A favorite spot in the bay area is Three Rooker. Sometimes called a “bar” and sometimes called an “island”, Three Rooker is nothing more than a sand bar that is technically part of Anclote Key Preserve State Park, just north of Honeymoon Island. This photo of a friend’s boat was taken there in May a few years ago.
As an avid bird watcher, my back yard is filled with bird feeders. There are all kinds of visitors including several Northern Cardinal families, a pair of Tufted Titmice, many Blue Jays and a couple of Mourning Doves. In addition to all of these feathered visitors are the squirrels that seem to spend their days plotting and scheming to steal all of the specially selected birdseed right out of those feeders.
Rather than fighting a loosing battle, I decided that if I fed the squirrels something they liked better than my birdseed, perhaps they’d leave the feeders alone. This plan appears to be working, thus my weekly visit to the local pet food store for “squirrel food” that goes in a special feeder just for them on the fence. To be honest, watching all of the neighborhood squirrels fight over who gets the last peanut of the day is more entertaining than you might think, and I’ve grown attached to those furry little thieves.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, Ospreys are one of my favorite birds. Now that I think about it, my fascination started when my family would spend as much as we possibly could on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Our trip from Virginia Beach included a drive over the Wright Memorial Bridge, named after the famous Orville and Wilbur Wright who first took flight in Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks. Along that drive, Osprey nests were easy to spot on the power poles and eventually the platforms provided for them along side the bridge. For me, seeing an Osprey today is just as exciting as it was when I was a kid and when I drive along the local bridges and causeways in the Tampa Bay area, I’ve always got an eye out to spot one.
Willets are one of the taller shorebirds you may see feeding at the edge of the surf. Here in Florida they are prevalent in the winter and are often seen alongside Sanderlings and various Plovers. While most Willets breed further north in the summer, you can generally still find a few of these shorebirds year round in our area. This Willet was photographed at Caladesi Island State Park, a natural barrier island teaming with shorebirds. The virtually untouched beach at Caladesi Island provides a quiet haven for many wintering shorebirds and fantastic opportunities for bird watching.
It wasn’t until I moved to Florida a few years ago and was able to see water lilies more frequently that I realized how much I like them. They not only add color to the ponds they reside in, but offer opportunities to see various wildlife. I often see frogs perched on top of lily pads with bees and dragonflies buzzing nearby . It’s not uncommon to find a bird or two wading through thick clusters of lilies looking for fish that must like to hide underneath their broad leaves. While I think all colors of water lilies are beautiful, this particular variety with the contrast between the vibrant magenta petals and the yellow center is one of my favorites. This photo was taken at the Florida Botanical Gardens one afternoon, where just enough sun filtered through the trees to really highlight this single water lily.
These two American Flamingos looked to me as if they were trying to find some peace and quiet amongst all of the hustle and bustle around them at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Living amongst Wood Storks, Brown Pelicans, Sandhill Cranes and White Ibises, the Flamingos at the park certainly stand out in the crowd. As one of the loudest inhabitants of the bird habitat, they are even more vocal in the spring when it is mating season and are often seen giving beautiful displays of their colorful feathers to attract a mate.
As I mentioned last week, several of my photos have been selected as a Photo of the Day for Light and Composition Magazine. See the latest photo, “Goldstripe Maroon Clownfish and Anemone” featured on Saturday, May 7, 2011.
This photo was featured just last week on May 2, 2011, here in the PhotoBlog. ”Goldstripe Maroon Clownfish and Anemone” is also now entered as a contestant for Photo of the Month for May 2011. You may vote for it by visiting the link below and ‘liking’ through Facebook, ‘retweeting’ through Twitter, ‘liking’ on StumbleUpon or by making a comment.
While the Goldstripe Maroon Clownfish (premnas biaculeatus) is naturally found in Sumatra, this one was photographed in my family’s home aquarium in our living room. Named “Sashimi”, she was the first addition to our saltwater tank several years ago. Although this variety of clownfish is considered to be one of the most aggressive of the species, Sashimi coexists peacefully with the other inhabitants of our tank. The Goldstripe Maroon Clownfish is also known to rearrange items in the tank to their liking, which Sashimi does on a regular basis, making her one of the most entertaining fish in the tank to watch.
Update: This photo was featured on May 7, 2011, as the Photo of the Day by the online photography magazine, Light and Composition Magazine. See the photo online and vote for it as a contestant for the Photo of the Month for May 2011.
Like many photographers, I have a trip to Africa to photograph the amazing animals found there on my bucket list. The chance to see lions, leopards, zebras and elephants in their natural environment would really be the trip of a lifetime. There are still many exciting and beautiful places in the US that have on my list to visit, so my dream trip to Africa will have to wait a few years! In the meantime, I do have the bug to see some animals a little bigger than Peter Cottontail that lives in the neighbor’s front yard.
One option is the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park which offers opportunities to see animals and birds native to Florida like this bobcat. A truly wonderful opportunity to see endangered native species up close, this park is on the top of my list for a weekend in the near future!
Last week, I shared a photo of a pair of American Oystercatchers taking a stroll down the beach. The stark contrast between the pale green water of the Gulf and the bold colors of these shorebirds was evident, even from a distance. Today I wanted to share another photo of an American Oystercatcher that really showed off the detail of this beautiful bird. Their bright red beaks are usually spotted straight away, but what I really love are their eyes. Set against their jet black heads, their vibrant yellow eyes and bright red eye rings truly stand out.
With Easter Sunday just around the corner, it seemed fitting to share a photo of a bunny today. The Eastern Cottontail is one of the most common rabbits in North America, and this one lives in my next-door neighbor’s front yard amidst their lush landscaping. Known as “Peter Cottontail” around our house, we see him often around dusk venturing out for some dinner.
Rabbits have long been a symbol of fertility and abundance due to thier ability to breed large litters often, especially in early spring. In ancient times, rabbits were the favorite animal of the Germanic goddess of spring, Eastre, symbolizing renewal and fertility in the spring. The exact history is a little vague, but the tradition of a rabbit delivering brightly colored eggs to children on Easter Sunday is thought to have began in Germany in the 1500′s. The tradition was introduced in the United States in the 1800′s by German settlers in Pennsylvania Dutch country. As the tradition spread across the country, the modern day Easter Bunny was born.
I hope you each have a wonderful weekend and a very happy Easter!
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater-Horizon explosion that caused the largest accidental oil spill in history. There will likely be many retrospectives in the news today recapping the the disaster and it’s affects on the environment. I have no doubt that there will be footage of oiled birds, many of them pelicans, used to help punctuate the severity of the effect that the oil had on wildlife. With that in mind, I wanted to share a photo of a clean, happy, healthy Brown Pelican today.
Brown Pelicans might not be the most beautiful birds and are certainly not the most graceful, but they are unique. As the only dark pelican of seven worldwide species, the Brown Pelican is also one of few birds that incubates their eggs with their feet. They also hold the distinction of the only pelican in the world that dives into the water head-first to catch fish. It turns out that that what I thought was an ordinary shorebird isn’t so ordinary after all.
Days like today remind me to appreciate the beauty of nature and all of the wildlife in it, especially healthy pelicans.
American Oystercatchers are one of my favorite birds. They are so very exotic looking with their long red beaks, it’s hard not to notice them on the beach. I knew of one pair of American Oystercatchers that lives on Caladesi Island State Park, and the day that I went out to shoot it was my goal to get a few new shots of them. Much to my surprise, there was not one, but two pair on the beach that day! One pair was quietly resting on the beach, not really wanting to pose for many photos while a little further north, this pair was walking along the shoreline while feeding.
After my first encounter with these magnificent birds a few years ago, I learned that they mate for life. While many birds mate for life, what always strikes me with American Oystercatchers is that I rarely see one without it’s mate. They are usually very close to each other, very conscious of the other, and seem to be rather devoted to each other. I loved this photo because to looked to me like these two were on a “date” having a nice stroll along the beach, talking about whatever it is American Oystercatchers talk about these days.