Montrose Magic

Montrose Park in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood has been a magical place for me. As a child, I used to watch my big brother Herb play 16 inch softball games there. When older, I’d go for walks with girls there. Now, it’s a great place to see birds, and I’ve added many to my life list there.

Incredibly, during the Cold War, part of the beach front served as a Nike missile site. After decommissioning, the area was planted and tended by volunteers to support the migratory birds who would rest during Spring and Fall migrations. Many flyways concentrate along Lake Michigan, and the birds need a place to feed and recover. The tended area of plants, trees and grasses has become known as the “Magic Hedge” Unlike other migratory hot spots where the birds are flitting dots 100 feet high in the forest canopy, part of the magic here is that most are found lower to the ground.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Magnolia Warbler and Common Yellowthroat

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Magnolia Warbler and Common Yellowthroat

One bird I added to my life list this year was a Yellow Warbler who found its way to a delightful blooming bush.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Lots of people enjoy this bit of wildness in the heart of Chicago. I had my doubts about this couple who were calling to the birds and encouraging them to come feed, but Hamid had a special touch.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

The nearby beach attracts a great collection of gulls, terns, shorebirds and waders. The harbor, especially in winter, attracts a great variety of waterfowl. My best encounter occurred several winters ago when some Snowy Owls erupted from Canada to better feeding much farther south. An owl or two were spotted in the Montrose area, so I went for a look. I searched for a long time and was fooled by many distant seagulls. As I was thinking of leaving, I saw a large white bird more than a hundred yards away flying toward me. A snowy! He flew directly at me and went a few feet over my shoulder. He flew over the water, and then landed in the grasses and permitted me to get a few portraits before flying off. Those eyes are the last thing many a rodent saw. A pretty cool encounter for Uptown Chicago.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

The Dolphin & the Pelican

Unless you’re equipped for underwater photography, it’s challenging to photograph a mammal who lives in the water. A kayak gets you a bit closer and with a better angle. We were fortunate to go out with a dolphin researcher who leads trips into the Matanzas estuary. Dolphins are matriarchal and the females stay together in pods with their young. They also go in estrous together so they can raise the babies at the same time.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Estimated baby less than 2 weeks old

Estimated baby less than 2 weeks old

The Ripple Effects Ecotour kayaks leave from area that was once the Marineland park which opened over 80 years ago and was one of Florida’s first large tourist attractions. The University of Florida operates a marine laboratory in much of the old grounds. We were fortunate to get a dolphin and pelican show right in the Matanzas River before we even got to our mangrove estuary destination.

The adult dolphin weigh up to 600 pounds and must eat about 30 pounds of fish a day. Pelicans sometimes take advantage of seeing where dolphin have found fish. I believe it is appropriate etiquette to introduce yourself first.

“May I join you for breakfast?”

“May I join you for breakfast?”

As the dolphin raise through the water, the pelican follows looking for fish stirred up, and then dives in for a meal.

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It is only appropriate to thank your companion for providing the meal.

A mullet in the gullet

A mullet in the gullet

Rose

A couple months ago, I wrote that the memory of the first time I saw Roseate Spoonbills remains imprinted on my mind, and how the sight of them continues to thrill me. One of the wonders of a photo is that it can capture and let us study details we cannot otherwise see. So here are some details from images this week of Spoonies from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm rookery.

You might call Robin a red-breast, but look at me

You might call Robin a red-breast, but look at me

I can grab a branch  or swirl up food from the muck with these

I can grab a branch or swirl up food from the muck with these

I don’t need the eyes of a hawk, but it’s sure nice they match my apparel

I don’t need the eyes of a hawk, but it’s sure nice they match my apparel

Do you agree these are my best feature?

Do you agree these are my best feature?

Sky(lum)'s the limit

I’m attending the Florida Birding and Photography Festival in St. Augustine this week. My first event was a sunrise boat ride into St. Augustine Bay and the estuary. with eight other birders and photographers. As we were heading out, I realize I’m chatting with Scott Bourne who is one of the great bird photographers. He’s also President of Skylum software. I was a bit embarrassed to say I’d purchased their Luminar software but hadn’t yet used it! So now I’m giving it a go. I’m just learning and I’m processing these images on a laptop that doesn’t have the best resolution, so hope these come out OK. Also, learned that Scott’s a great guy!

Sunrise over St. Augustine Bay

Sunrise over St. Augustine Bay

Crossing the Sky

Crossing the Sky

That evening, I did a shoot of the nesting birds at St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Most species were still on their eggs but some Great Egret chicks were getting quite big. This trio acted like squabbling siblings. Even though nearly as large as the adult, and so getting ready to fledge, you can easily tell the difference between the adult in the next image who has breeding plumage and green lores (the areas between the eye and beak.

Great Egret trio, St. Augustine Alligator Farm

Great Egret trio, St. Augustine Alligator Farm

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The next morning I took a kayak trip into the Matanzas River estuary at low tide. Many birds were feeding in the muck and low water. Sometime in the future, I’ll post images of a pelican following a pod of dolphin and feeding the fish they would stir up. As for now, here is a juvenile pelican and a Willet feeding among the oysters.

Juvenile Pelican, Matanzas River estuary

Juvenile Pelican, Matanzas River estuary

Willet feeding

Willet feeding

This morning’s shoot of horses on the beach at sunrise was cancelled because of a threatening storm. One of the photographers was immediately leaving to head home and he convinced one of the riders to stay and hope the storm would pass. It did! So a few of us were able to get some images of this beautiful pair. Thanks Kari Coad!

Butler Beach, St. John’s County, FL

Butler Beach, St. John’s County, FL

In the beginning . . .

Passover begins tonight and Christians are in the middle of the Easter Triduum. I have been privileged for many years to recite the creation story to begin the readings for the Easter Vigil service in our parish. Jews and Christians share this same Torah preamble to scriptures, and the Qur’an shares many of the verses. I’d be hard pressed to find more beautiful poetry.

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In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, 
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, 
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Then God said,
"Let there be light," and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night."
Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day.

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Then God said,
"Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, 
to separate one body of water from the other."
And so it happened:
God made the dome, 
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome "the sky."
Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

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Then God said, 
"Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin, 
so that the dry land may appear."
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin, 
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land "the earth, " 
and the basin of the water he called "the sea."
God saw how good it was.

Glen Canyon, AZ

Glen Canyon, AZ

Then God said,
"Let the earth bring forth vegetation: 
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth 
that bears fruit with its seed in it."
And so it happened: 
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed 
and every kind of fruit tree on earth 
that bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

Manoa Falls, Oahu

Manoa Falls, Oahu

Then God said:
"Let there be lights in the dome of the sky, 
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years, 
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky, 
to shed light upon the earth."
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights, 
the greater one to govern the day, 
and the lesser one to govern the night; 
and he made the stars. 
God set them in the dome of the sky, 
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night, 
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

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Salmon River, Idaho

Salmon River, Idaho

Then God said, 
"Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, 
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky."
And so it happened:
God created the great sea monsters 
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems, 
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying, 
"Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; 
and let the birds multiply on the earth."
Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

Then God said, 
"Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: 
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds."
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.

Pronghorn, North Dakota

Pronghorn, North Dakota

Then God said: 
"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, 
the birds of the air, and the cattle, 
and over all the wild animals 
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground."
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
"Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, 
and all the living things that move on the earth."

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God also said: 
"See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth 
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; 
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, 
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, 
I give all the green plants for food."
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains National Park

Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains National Park

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished
with the work he had been doing, 
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.

Genesis 1.1 - 2.2

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Last evening with Roosevelt

I’ve enjoyed reviewing these images from the Dakotas. Here is the last set of evening light and sunset images from the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The South Unit has wild horses who roam the prairie. This young colt was playing on the hills and then ran to mom for some milk and rest. The owl might be tiny in the second image, but I think it makes the shot.

Mother and child reunion

Mother and child reunion

Great horned owl, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Great horned owl, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The South Unit is primarily accessed through a loop road that circles a wonderful, undulating landscape of knobs and buttes. Some distant peaks surround the park. Theodore Roosevelt escaped to his nearby ranch after his wife and mother died on the same day in his New York City home. The land helped him build his strength in his youth and his resilience later.

Badland view, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, South Unit

Badland view, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, South Unit

Roosevelt sunset

Roosevelt sunset

Bison Dogs

Another group of reprocessed images from my trip to the Dakotas several years ago. I was greatly surprised by the diversity of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. The park has two primary units conveniently called North and South Units. The North Unit has some wonderful badland scenery and a wide valley created by the Little Missouri River. There are also lots of Bison. I was on the search for badgers—a creature I’ve never seen. I read they’re sometimes found digging for prairie dogs. So I was up before dawn hiking to a prairie dog town. I was greeted with a pleasant sunrise.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

I found the prairie dog town and settled in to look for badgers. No badgers. No prairie dogs. Not much of anything going on. I discovered that prairie dogs sleep in late. Finally, they started popping out of their burrows.

Prairie dog breakfast

Prairie dog breakfast

I had fun watching the little fellows, but was ready to move on after laying on my stomach photographing the guys. As I was getting up, I looked behind and saw a crowd coming up on either side of me.

Bison approach

Bison approach

I hoped the herd would continue on an walk by me. But they decided the prairie dog town was a nice place to stop and graze. I was stuck. But it gave me a chance to get a family portrait.

Bison family

Bison family

I was stuck for well over an hour as the bison munched on the grass, with the big bulls keeping their eyes on me. I finally told them I was very tired of waiting for them to move and that I would slowly walk out. I gathered my equipment, talked softly and tried to keep as much distance as I could.

Bye, son

Bye, son

I made my get away. That evening, I was rewarded with a nice flock of pelicans flying over the Little Missouri Valley before the sun set.

Pelican flock above the valley

Pelican flock above the valley

Sunset over the Little Missouri River Valley

Sunset over the Little Missouri River Valley

Dreamland, Badland

Several friends have said they are planning trips west this year and will visit Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The park is one of my favorite, but it’s been 10 years since I was last there. I returned to my images from that brief visit, and had some fun working on them. The tools for image adjustments have improved in that time, and so have my processing abilities, so I had some fun reworking some of the old images. The mid-day light is harsh, but magic happens as the sun gets low. However, one mid-day opportunity presented itself when rangers were doing a prairie burn. Aside from the badlands themselves, most of the park is short grass prairie.

Inferno

Inferno

Once the sun gets low, the colors come out. Here is a formation with a pretty obvious name—Yellow Mounds! Can you spot the RV in the distance on the top ridge in the middle of the image?

Yellow Mounds, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Yellow Mounds, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Some starker formations are further west near Sage Creek, and I got some images of the grasslands and badlands before the sun went down and my tent went up. Bison wandered around the campground.

Sunset panorama

Sunset panorama

Sage Creek campground

Sage Creek campground

Especially with cloudless skies, the best light often comes before the sun rises. I was up early and off to the east end of the park, where I hoped the morning light would be good. This wonderful, soft light was well before the sun rose and made the formations glow.

Badlands dawn

Badlands dawn

When the sun got to the horizon, it lit up the formations.

Sunrise on the Badlands

Sunrise on the Badlands

Once the sun got up, it became a subject, too. If anyone needs a personal photographer on their trip to the Badlands, let me know! I think it’s time for another trip.

Sun up, Badlands National Park

Sun up, Badlands National Park

Dreamland, Greenland

The flight from London to Chicago started very cloudy with little to see but occasional waves. As the flight screen showed us approaching Greenland however, the sky cleared and an amazing expanse of ice appeared.

Ice in the sea near east coast of Greenland

Ice in the sea near east coast of Greenland

Mountains spread across the southern tip of the world’s largest island. For some reason, my head was playing Joni Mitchell’s song of a flight but substituting “Greenland, Greenland.”

With dreamland coming on
Dreamland, dreamland
Dreamland, dreamland

In a plane flying back to winter

Wings over Greenland, Greenland

Wings over Greenland, Greenland

The middle of the island was a big sheet of glacier and snow. Slovenian National Geographic photographer Ciril Jazbec has a remarkable project of the Inuits of Greenland and the devastation climate change has on their life: On Thin Ice.

Mountain peaks over glaciers

Mountain peaks over glaciers

Watching the flight path and mileage counter on the seat back showed an incredible coincidence. At the precise halfway point between London and Chicago we were flying over a seahorse-shaped island on the west coast of Greenland.

Seahorse island

Seahorse island

Because of the distinctive shape of the island and this last one on the east coast, it was easy to find on Google Maps. Remarkably, there is a small village just southwest of here named Arsuk. Can you believe there is a Google Maps street view! Very soon the flight was completely cloud covered.

Lands end, east coast Greenland

Lands end, east coast Greenland

Scottish views

Views from Stirling castle. First, the William Wallace memorial from across the valley.

William Wallace memorial

William Wallace memorial

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Dog walkers

Dog walkers

Clearing

Clearing

Stacking Up

Sea stacks are an iconic scene of the U.S. Pacific coast. On the north coast or Oregon is the long, sandy Cannon Beach. The largest feature is called Haystack. Over 200 miles south is Bandon Beach. Here are two images in the “golden hour,” the hour or so near sunrise or sunset.

Haystack, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Bandon Beach, OR

Bandon Beach, OR

Well before sunrise, or here after sunset, is the blue hour.

Blue Cannon Beach

Blue Cannon Beach

Bandon Blue

Bandon Blue

A Thousand Mornings - Mary Oliver

How did I not know of Mary Oliver until I read her obituary last month? She was one of the best selling American poets with thirty books, and won a Pulitzer in 1984. She wrote crystalline images of nature that led to her observations of mortality and living a full life. I have been absorbed in her wonderful works. Some excerpts with my images follow. These small portions of her poems only hint at her profound insights.

Evidence

 . . .

Memory: a golden bowl, or a basement without light.

 

For which reason the nightmare comes with its

painful story and says: you need to know this.

 

Some memories I would give anything to forget.

Others I would not give up upon the point of

death, they are the bright hawks of my life.

. . .        

                Evidence, 2009

Osprey a/k/a Fishhawk, Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area, Brevard County, FL

Osprey a/k/a Fishhawk, Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area, Brevard County, FL

Red-shoulder hawk, Goodwin WMA

Red-shoulder hawk, Goodwin WMA

White Heron Rises Over Blackwater

. . .

or the white heron

   rising

      over the swamp

         and the darkness,

 

his yellow eyes

   and broad wings wearing

      the light of the world

         in the light of the world—

 

ah yes, I see him.

   He is exactly

      the poem

         I wanted to write.

New and Selected Poems: Volume Two, 2005

Great Heron preening, St. Augustine Alligator Farm

Great Heron preening, St. Augustine Alligator Farm

Catbird

. . .

He is neither the rare plover or the brilliant bunting,

   but as common as grass.

His black cap gives him a jaunty look, for which

   we humans have learned to tilt our caps, in envy.

. . .

Owls and Other Fantasies, 2003

Catbird, Everglades National Park

Catbird, Everglades National Park

Do Stones Feel?

. . .

Is the tree as it rises delighted with its many

   branches,

each one like a poem?

 

Are the clouds glad to unburden their bundles of rain?

 

Most of the world says no, no, it’s not possible.

 

I refuse to think to such a conclusion.

Too terrible it would be, to be wrong.

Blue Horses, 2014

Oak, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Florida

Oak, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Florida

Sunset rain, Viera wetlands

Sunset rain, Viera wetlands

What is the color of your day?

Some images from dawn to dusk in Florida. We start with light rising over the Atlantic.

Dawn, Melbourne Beach, Florida

Dawn, Melbourne Beach, Florida

Ringbilled Gull greeting the day

Ringbilled Gull greeting the day

A bit north and inland, some birds look for places to roost as the sun goes down.

Sandhill Cranes silhouette, Viera Wetlands

Sandhill Cranes silhouette, Viera Wetlands

Wood storks following the rays

Wood storks following the rays

A few people were around watching the sunset on the Matanzas River south of St. Augustine. Most had left when the best light show arrived in the dusk after the sun was down.

At the far right of this image, you can see the silhouette of Fort Matanzas. Built in 1740, it guarded the southern, inland water route to St. Augustine where the Spanish city was vulnerable to attack. That’s where I wanted to photograph the sunset, but the ranger locked the gates as I got there! This was a decent location, though!

Dusk on the estuary, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Florida

Dusk on the estuary, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Florida

First sight, old friends & new acquaintences

A few birds have left marks on me. Seeing them for the first time was so compelling, I can never forget the sight. My dad had a bird feeder near our back door. It was usually populated with Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, Sparrows, Grackles and an assortment of other daily visitors. One day a rainbow arrived.

Painted Bunting, Green Cay Wetlands

Painted Bunting, Green Cay Wetlands

Some years later, I was riding my bike past a pond (which today is fenced in and sits between a six lane road and a warehouse). A large, white bird was on the edge of the water, which is a common sight in Florida. Then I got a good look and it stopped me. A huge, dark gray, featherless head. This was before it was speculated that birds were descendants of dinosaurs, but I thought a dinosaur had just appeared. I investigated and figured out I’d encountered a Wood Stork, which was then on the endangered species list. Fortunately, these storks are making a good recovery, and are off the endangered list and hopefully soon off the threatened species list.

Wood Stork, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida

Wood Stork, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida

I went to the Everglades for the first time in high school. My parents and I camped in Flamingo which is at the southern tip of mainland Florida. At sunset, flocks of Roseate Spoonbills flew overhead ablaze in the evening light to their rookeries in the mangrove islands. Seeing their pink wings is still a thrill.

Roseate Spoonbill, Orlando Wetlands, Florida

Roseate Spoonbill, Orlando Wetlands, Florida

And then there are new acquaintances to make. As I was trying to photograph this quick fellow, a nearby birder identified it as a Blue-headed Vireo, a new bird on my life list.

Blue-headed Vireo, Green Cay Wetlands, Florida

Blue-headed Vireo, Green Cay Wetlands, Florida

And there are old, familiar friends. This Mockingbird was singing to announce the new morning as the wind ruffled its feathers.

Mockingbird, Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park

Mockingbird, Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park

When I was five, a couple newly hatched mockingbirds fell out of their nest, and we fed and raised them. I named them Tweety and Limpy, because one had a gimpy leg. I taught them to fly by perching them on my finger and lowering it so they’d flap their wings. Though they eventually took off on their own, they would come by to visit. We’d leave our backdoor open, and while other birds were content to stay at the feeder, Tweety would fly in the house to get the raisins or nuts we’d leave on the counter for him.

Limpy and Tweety

Limpy and Tweety

I'm Heron You

Sorry for the late post. I’ve been out shooting some birds rather than sitting at the computer. Here are a few herons from earlier this week. Most are from the water reclamation areas I posted on Tuesday. The first is a Little Green Heron cooperatively perching on a nice branch before taking off. This little fellow has a very loud, unforgettable croocking call. Shot at Wakodohatchee Wetlands.

Little Green Heron

Little Green Heron

Take off

Take off

Black Crowned Night Herons are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. You can find them nesting in city parks in Chicago. The first fellow showing off his white plum resides in Big Cypress National Preserve—a part of the Everglades. The young fellow is from Viera Wetlands.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

A warning before the next image.

If you like to eat, but don’t like to see other animals eating, don’t look. This Great Blue Heron at Wacodahatchee Wetlands is looking eye-to-eye with his next meal.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Reflecting

While much of the country was in a deep freeze, these guys were reflecting on finding food in the water. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy this bit of warmth. All images from Grissom Memorial Wetlands, also called Viera Wetlands, or more prosaically, the South Central Brevard Wastewater Treatment facility. The birds come whatever the name of the place. The first image is a tiny fellow just popping out of swimming underwater—the Pied-billed Grebe.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Nearby was a solitary figure, the Little Blue Heron looking to capture a snack, or possibly just admiring its gorgeous plumage.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

Across the water was little blue’s big cousin a Great Blue Heron finding a nice frame to look statuesque.

Great Blue Heron framed by Pickerel Weed

Great Blue Heron framed by Pickerel Weed

The last bit of sun caught this trio of a White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, and an American Coot.

Sunset Trio

Sunset Trio

Winter in Yellowstone

At dinner last night a friend talked about planning her first family trip to Yellowstone National Park this June. How wonderful for an eleven year old to be introduced to this magical place. While it will be quite different in June, here’s some images from two years ago. (And talking with the friends we went with about returning next winter!) All the images are from North Geyser Basin near Old Faithful.

Bison trio, North Geyser basin

Bison trio, North Geyser basin

Heart Hot Spring

Heart Hot Spring

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Upper Geyser Basin

Upper Geyser Basin

Under the tree

On the shoulders of the Sierra Nevada Mountains grow sequoia trees, the largest living things. On the coast grow their cousins, the redwood. So while not the correct species, I think Van Morrison’s song works.

Family under The General Sherman

Family under The General Sherman

Boy and his dog
Went out looking for the rainbow
You know what did they learn
Since that very day

Walking by the river
And running like a blue streak
Through the fields of streams and meadows
Laughing all the way

The Congress Trail, Sequoia National Park

The Congress Trail, Sequoia National Park

Oh redwood tree
Please let us under
When we were young we used to go
Under the redwood tree

Tree halo

Tree halo

And it smells like rain
Maybe even thunder
Won't you keep us from all harm
Wonderful redwood tree

Sequoia sunset

Sequoia sunset

And a boy and his father
Went out, went out looking for the lost dog
You know what oh haven't they learned
Since they did that together
They did not bring him back
He already had departed
But look at everything they have learned
Since that, since that very day

Van Morrison, Redwood Tree, 1972

The Florida Mountains

I’ve mentioned before that one of my mentors growing up in Florida was Erna Nixon. I don’t remember the context, if she was commenting on a picture I showed or we were just outside looking and talking, but she remarked that in Florida, clouds are our mountains. Hope you like the mountain views.

Sunrise storm, Melbourne Beach, Florida

Sunrise storm, Melbourne Beach, Florida

Wood Stork, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Wood Stork, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Moccasin Island Tract, River Lakes Conservation Area, Florida

Moccasin Island Tract, River Lakes Conservation Area, Florida

Seeing 10 million years

You may have noticed a new watermark on my images. My son Dan and his fiancee Melina gifted me with this graphic designed by a friend of theirs, Hannah Bess Ross. Many Native American cultures have totems or tonalii which are spiritual links to an animal. My link is to this tall, ancient bird.

Sandhill Crane, Virgil Grissom Wetlands, Florida

Sandhill Crane, Virgil Grissom Wetlands, Florida

This fellow, nearly five feet tall, let me sit in the grass and watch him dig for insects while getting his portrait with a wide angle lens. Sandhills in Florida become accustom to humans and have even eaten out of my hand. While some Sandhills live year round in Florida, most migrate to the northern U.S. and Canada. An eastern migration route spends several weeks south of Lake Michigan in Jasper Pulsaki Wildlife Refuge in northern Indiana feeding on leftovers in the surrounding farm fields.

Corny landing

Corny landing

Fossils of birds nearly identical to the Sandhill are over 10 million years old. The Sandhills’ call is loud, ancient, and unforgettable. Click here for their flight call Our home is on the migration path, and I’ve heard their call in my house and gone outside to see hundreds of cranes far up in the sky on the move.

The birds mate for life, and you can find pairs doing elaborate dances jumping in the air, spreading their wings, and calling to their mate.

Moondance

Moondance

Jasper Pulaski sunset flight

Jasper Pulaski sunset flight

The western migration route funnels the cranes along the Platte River in Nebraska, and many winter along the Rio Grande in New Mexico or head further south into Mexico. The cranes usually spend the night in water to keep away from predators. At Bosque, near dawn, thousands of cranes and geese explode in flight from the pools and fly to nearby fields. Last week’s post had an image of snow geese on a dawn take off.

Cranepool, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Cranepool, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Sandhill Trio

Sandhill Trio

Sandhill reflection 2-26 web.jpg

The fellow in the first image let me collect some close up shots along with the wide angle.

Close up time

Close up time