On this particular day awoke early for a two hour northerly ride to launch on the waters of Lake Kissimmee. Today’s quest would be the elusive Snail Kites!! Their population consists of only 400 to 500 breeding pairs today. So to think we might see them in their natural habitat delighted me! In the green lily pads would be the apple snail, the main diet of this endangered species. The blue pools beckoned us as we waited patiently for nature to show up, and show up she did!
If you ever see a bubble gum looking clump on a reed or tree, guess what, this would be the EGGS of the Apple Snail! The proper name is “egg cluster” And as we made our way to my mentor’s favorite spot we spied them. YEAH! A good sign of a natural cycle in progress.
Many Florida marsh birds were present, the vibrant Purple Gallinule was skipping over the lily pads and also seeking out the snails! And of course my fave Great Blue Heron also ventured so close had to switch to my 400mm to barely fit him in my viewfinder!
Then they started coming in! Such concentration and a few flew right over the boat! Here you can see their long talons and sharp beak!
What a site, what VISION, they laser in and BAM down they go and up to transfer the snail from their talons to their beak and then dangle on a delicate branch for consumption. They were trapeze artists!
To see them forage for food, gather nesting materials left us rapidly shooting, must have topped over 1K shots this day, worth every moment!
If you ever want to witness such vision contact my dear friend Ron Bielefeld, Whistling Wings Photography and set up a tour with him, whatever the species he’ll get you to them! His extensive knowledge as an avian research biologist richly adds to the experience! Ron is located in Sebastian, Florida and can also be reached on Facebook!
We were out on the water around four hours and decided it was time to make our way back to port so to ride into town for some lunch. A few more passes over the boat just took my breath away.
It was high noon when we made our way back, strong light and never would expect to see this, a lifer for me. My first Great Horned Owl in the wild and branching!! The first step before attempting to fledge. Oh to look into those innocent eyes!!! Again keep your camera with you at ALL TIMES! Never know when nature will show up!
Mama flew in and to zoom and see her piercing eyes left me speechless. Captured this male spying treetops for predators. It was sweltering yet goose bumps were apparent all over me. Adrenalin rush. To witness the dedication of this pair to see their offspring to safety was an honor. Held my breath and machine gunned the shutter, my 500 mm would not disappoint.
The neck of the great horned owl can rotate up to 180 degrees to provide this species with almost all-round vision!! Just adore their ear tufts. These horned owls can live up to 13 years in the wild. Most mortality is related to man – shootings, traps, road kills and electrocutions.
The only natural enemies are other Great Horned Owls and, occasionally, Northern Goshawks during disputes over nest sites. Peregrine Falcons have also been observed attacking Great Horned Owls. Still haven’t spied the Northern Goshawks, a few Peregrine Falcons have been a delight! They are known to be the fastest falcon in the world! They are able to dive at 200 miles per hour! So yes, these parents were stalwartly on watch.
Waited two hours to catch the pics below of a much smaller and more delicate falcon; American Kestrel They have double the facial stripes and just as fast.
If you want to capture birds, you have to be patient, you have to be dedicated, and I think you have to love them.
Springtime is a great to find families together, they are so focused on copulation and maintenance of their homes, keep your eyes to the trees and you just may catch the silent owls! Truly you can not hear them fly. Research found that many owl species have developed feathers which can effectively eliminate the aerodynamic noise from their wings as they cut through the air. If you learn their calls and hone in on their location then you may be blessed with a sighting!
This is exactly what happened and in the below tree are a pair of Barred Owls, can you see them? And what happened next was nothing more then incredible. You think you’re ready for the “suddenly’s” in life until they happen!
So there we are looking at them when one fly’s directly toward me! Holy crap is all I could think as I raised my cannon and said a quick prayer; “Please don’t see me as a threat” Unbeknownst to me, concentrating on the one, the other must have flown to a nearby tree and this one flew right after her and OVER MY HEAD!!!
Will never forget this moment as long as I live.
And I teared up when the upload revealed some of the magic caught with my handheld.
Every month I smile wondering what adventure I will get to share with my mom and anyone else who happens upon my blog. Nature is radical! Can’t thank our Creator enough for these moments of refreshing. And yes, the JOY is in the sharing!