Central Florida Wildlife PT.8

Sunday was to be my last shooting day in Florida before heading back to the miserable winter of the northeast. Even though the polar express had tainted my two week stay, I wasn’t looking forward to leaving. I wanted this day to be the exclamation point on the entire trip so selecting the right location was paramount. Recalling a conversation with Jim Gray while photographing a Great Horned Owl in Fort De Soto Park, I remembered he had raved about Myakka River State Park. I had read about it in researching for the trip but could not fit the park into my schedule while in the Venice area, an apparent error in judgement. In order to rectify this lapse, I decided getting up very early and retracing my route was the only way to ensure the anguish of not knowing what I missed didn’t ruin my day.

After our pleasant experience at Lettuce Lake Park, my sister was a more than willing participant in this early morning jaunt so you might imagine how disgusted we were to awake to the sound of rain. After a bit of hand-ringing, we decided to make the long drive in the hope that the weather would change by the time we arrived. Fortunately, we guessed correctly and were rewarded with tolerable conditions. Myakka stood up to its advanced billings with 58 square miles of wetlands, lakes, rivers, high grasslands, forests and abundant wildlife in every direction

We had barely entered the park when we encountered a White-tailed deer just off the road. This foreshadowed an entire day of marvelous photo opportunities.

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All the usual suspects were there.

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The extremely prolific Common Grackle.

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At the lake, we encountered an Alligator’s convention. We saw them coming and going.

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I was thrilled to see more of the colorful Roseate Spoonbills.

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As you have probably realized, I love the graceful beauty of the Great Blue Heron. I was looking for a different approach to communicate that appreciation. I wanted to move away from the sharp luster prints I had been primarily producing.  In my mind, this particular heavily overcast day created a hazy impressionistic image the second I raised the camera. It was as if a watercolor painting was hanging on the wall in front of me. I have printed the 3 images below in that muted soft watercolor fashion and couldn’t be happier with the results. By the way, the Roseate Spoonbill just above is my next candidate for this printing approach.

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High-tension power lines bisected the park creating a cleared pathway through an otherwise rather inaccessible terrain. It went on for miles traversing many different types of landscapes. I asked my sister if she was up for a little hike. Before I could hardly finish the question, we were on the move. Along the way, I spotted a nest on the top crossbar of a wire tower. Knowing it was too far away to be a good photo, I only intended to use my lens as a magnifying glass to identify the bird. While watching the female Red-shouldered Hawk high in the nest, the male landed on a tree to my immediate left. Unbelievable, the ornithology gods must have staged this. Not only did the male pose for portraits but proceeded to dive-bomb a kill in the grass and drag it into the clearing almost at my feet. My day just couldn’t get any better!

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Or could it??? We continued  deeper into the park before realizing it was time to go. On our return to the vehicle and in need of a brief rest, I stopped to observe the same hawk’s nest we had seen on the way in. I had set up my tripod to take a peek but found no one home. Inexplicably lighting struck twice as the pair flew in right beside us and proceeded to mate. It may have only lasted 5 seconds but everyone seemed to have contented expressions.

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Quite a climactic conclusion to a grand adventure. Sorry, just couldn’t help myself.

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5 responses

  1. Sue

    Spectacular photos! I don’t think I have ever seen the red shoulder of the hawk so well defined before, and the one of the spoonbill in flight is just superb. Thanks for taking us on your photo journey.

    March 19, 2014 at 9:25 pm

  2. barry kostanski

    Hi Steve: Being from an “outdoor” family, you’ve rekindled my interest in the true beauty that nature provides us—–Thanks so much for this series and congratulations to you for what you have created for us “followers”.

    March 21, 2014 at 11:06 am

  3. Great shots! That’s not a European starling though, it’s one of the grackles. Either a common or a boat-tailed grackle.

    March 29, 2014 at 1:57 am

  4. axarus

    Great shots! Just to let you know though; the blue-black bird is either a common or a boat-tailed grackle rather than a European starling.

    March 29, 2014 at 9:48 am

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