The morning walk was down to Ponce again. The Great Blue Herons appear to have mated and have eggs in the nest. I can’t see them but the female has gone broody and is down on the nest most of the time. Things won’t change much for a while now on that front but that doesn’t mean activity is down. This morning, I found a Black Racer in the grasses along the seawall and a Little Blue Heron feeling safe enough to pose for a portrait.
It’s hard to get a decent shot in this position because the snake tends to bury itself in the grass. In this case, I found it sunning itself before going hunting. It was a good two feet long and let me take a couple of shots. I found this Little Blue Heron posing on one of the pilings of the boat launch.
Quite the handsome fellow. As I walked around I struck up a conversation with a fellow waiting for a photo class to start. I noticed that he had the Nikkor 55-300mm on a Nikon D5200 for the class. As we chatted, I asked him if I could borrow his lens for a couple of shots to compare it with my 55-200mm on the Nikon V1 body. Since the broody heron was on the nest, I moved over to a parking signpost to establish a common position and took a couple of shots with each lens. Here are the results. They are straight from the camera jpegs with a full height crop at 1024×786 ratio and then resized to 1024×768 for web display. If you click on them, you will see a larger view. For these first two, the left image is the 55-200 and the right is the 55-300. I did find it harder to hold the 55-300mm steady even with the VR on. Considering it was the equivalent of an 810mm lens on an FX camera that’s not too surprising.
By way of comparison, I cropped the 55-200 image on the left to approximately the same size as the 55-300mm. Here is the result.
Please note, these are not formal optical tests of the lenses. The show results that I find in the field using normal operating methods. In this case, I find the 55-200 better than the 55-300 but, had I had the longer lens on a monopod or tripod, the results could be different. Both seem to work well with the V1.
Posted in animal behavior, Bird, Camera Gear, Park, Park - Ponce de Leon, reptile
Tagged black racer, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, nikkor 55-200mm VR, Nikkor 55-300mm VR, Nikon FT-1, Nikon V1
Sorry, couldn’t miss taking the opportunity for an alliterative title. Our local Brown Pelicans are beginning to change into their breeding colors and act in flocks and pairs. That means that the rookery in the mangroves will be filling up soon and we will have young in another couple of months. The banner above shows them hanging out near the fishing pier this morning. They would cluster for a while and then fly off to feed. Several of them have started pairing and flying and feeding together.
When paired they even tend to flap their wings or glide and turn in near identical form as the fly. My favorite shot from this morning was this one
On the way down to the park, I also discovered this Red Shouldered Hawk hunting in the Mangroves.
Whenever we go to Fort Myers for some reason I notice a sign for the Prairie Pines Preserve on the north side of town just past Del Prado Blvd. I never had the time to stop off so decided to take a trip to see what was there. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the property (2700 acres) and the facilities. I didn’t have a lot of time so I limited myself the the area within a mile of the parking lot. Recent rains also made a lot of the trails pretty swampy which was another limiting factor.
It was also mid afternoon and there wasn’t a lot of activity. The preserve is very handicap accessible with a hard shell path from the parking lot that runs in a loop around a marsh. The Great Egret above was seen from the path. There is a boardwalk over the marshy area and an observation blind just past the boardwalk. Unfortunately, that was closed due to a swarm of bees on the day I was there. I found a small alligator in the pond on the north side of the parking lot and a lot of wildflowers in bloom. Here is a small sample.
While hanging around waiting for the GBH to do something active, I started looking in the Sea Grape below the nest. There was a large chaotic spider web there and after looking around a bit I found the spider that created it. It was unusual so I put the image up on Bugguide.net and found out that it was a Cyrtophora citricola – Tropical tent-web spider.
It looks like this species might be a real traveller. It is known in Europe, Africa and South America and has recently been discovered in Florida. I suspect that it tagged along with european colonization.
If you look at the little stick at the bottom right of the picture above you will find another smaller spider hiding. You can see the You can see the Tropical Tent-Web spider better in this picture on the left. I was told the little spider is hard to find so here it is in the right picture.
I also found a crab-like orbweaver with it’s nice nest near the fishing pier.
You can see that it leaves the central portion of it’s web open. To prevent things getting through the bullseye you can see the little markers it puts over the area. Insects see that and try to miss the obstruction. Oooops, that puts them right in the trap area of the web.
I visited the Great Blue Herons at the Wildlife Center again this morning. The light was right for the nest on the pole and the wind was perfect to bring the birds in at a good light angle. I knew that if I waited long enough that one would return with nesting material. When it happened, I was able to catch this six shot sequence of a landing. These five images are all time tagged in the same second.
On this one notice that the exchange from the selector to the nest builder is taking place even before the completion of the landing.
Of course, after receiving the stick, the builder spends a lot of time finding the absolutely perfect position for that stick. The selector is looking carefully to see what is needed next.
Just click the image for a larger view.
For the last couple of mornings I have seen Great Blue Heron nesting activity in the area of the Peace River Wildlife Center. The have an old concrete pole near the compound exit that had a structure on top that appeared to be geared to attracting Ospreys. Unfortunately, there is an Oak tree that stands close by and higher making this less attractive to the Osprey. It looks though like a pair of Great Blue Herons have decided that it might make a suitable nest.
For the pure nature photographer the cut timber and concrete pole means too much ‘hand of man’ for entry into competitions. It does provide an opportunity for the naturalist to observe behavior though. In this case, it allowed me to get a very nice portrait of one as it stood on the roof of the center.
This morning, I noticed another Heron delivering nesting material. I hadn’t realized that there was a second nest in an Oak tree near the main road. Because of the location in the tree, it will be harder to get good shots but there is plenty of opportunity for predictable flight shots and perhaps some courting behavior as time progresses.
Morning is best for shooting at the nest on the pole but afternoon should put better light into the Oak tree nest. This is the second year so we could be seeing more as the colony grows.
Again, just click on any image for a larger view. If you go to the area please stop the Wildlife Center and support them with a donation.
The Wakodahatchee Wetlands are interesting. It sounds like an indian name but it is actually modern since Wakodahatchee means ‘created waters’. The water you see in these wetlands is the output of the sewage treatment plant. Yuk?? No, the water is actually nice and clean and a good environment for all kinds of critters. The PB Water authority pumps about two million gallons of treated water into the wetlands every day and the wetlands act as a natural filter. There is a nice 3/4 mile boardwalk through the wetlands and a number of nesting sites that are closer than you find at the Venice Rookery. Here are a few of the birds I found the other day. These cormorants were nesting already.
I also found a pair of rather tame Egyptian Geese who were happy to pose for you.
A little further down the boardwalk and I found this juvenile Little Blue Heron.
I also saw a number of Gators, Grackles, nesting Great Blue Herons and other birds along the way.