Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

The Guardian   3 comments


The Guardian
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If looks could kill.

While kayaking along the Silver River in Florida, we encountered our first group of wild monkeys, the backstory of which you can learn in Shelter from the Storm.

The monkeys weren’t hard to spot. The mother and child seen in “Shelter…” were sitting on a cypress stump near the water. Just on the other side of the large cypress tree, this alpha male was standing guard against the onslaught of other members of the troop. Just behind him, in the woods, there was a cacophony of howling and screeching as monkeys chased each other through the trees. It seemed more serious than just play. I don’t know what the problem was, but there was clearly upset in the tribe deeper in the woods.

Meanwhile, the male’s attention was drawn to a number of colorful boats approaching from the river. Threats all around.

He kept a careful watch on the mother and child. If a rambunctious member of the troop got too close, he’d climb up on a flexible downed tree, bouncing up and down while grunting his warnings. The other monkeys seemed to respect that, and kept their distance.

As did we. This guy gave me a look, so I backed… away… slowly…

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Handheld from the kayak, ISO400, f/6.3, 1/250s, 210mm

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So I’ll Follow the Sun   4 comments


So I'll Follow the Sun
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Despite being on the road in Florida for almost two weeks, the winter weather dictated that we would get only one kayak paddle trip. Fortunately, the Silver River was loaded with wildlife of all sorts.

Passing by one of the many downed trees along the way, we spotted a primordial procession of turtles leaves the water, seeking the warmth of the sunshine. Given that we were bundled up against the cold north wind, it seemed like a good idea.

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‘Gator, Resting   7 comments


'Gator, Resting
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It was early January.

We had come to the Okefenokee Swamp to shelter ourselves from the oncoming storm, the ferocity of which we couldn’t even imagine at the time… rain, high winds, bone-numbing cold. (Okay, so the state park at Okefenokee has really nice cabins, you see.)

Late in the afternoon during a break in the rain, we wandered around to see what we could find, and discovered this guy. We were surprised to see him at all, as alligators are markedly less active and visible in the cold weather. He didn’t mind at all as I snapped a few pictures. Good thing: This was taken at 55mm, a rare opportunity to get so close without being chomped.

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Shelter from the Storm   7 comments


Shelter from the Storm

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Yes… monkeys.

“You’re not going to see any monkeys today,” an experienced outfitter told us at the launch ramp before we started out. “It’s too cold and dank.”

My advice is to take local knowledge — usually quite helpful — with a grain of salt. We came across lots of monkeys.

After snapping the cormorant (Cormorants) while paddling the Silver River in Florida, we rounded a bend and found the first troop of monkeys cavorting near the edge of the water. They were creating quite a ruckus deeper in the woods, swinging from the trees and challenging one another.

There were about twenty individuals, ranging from the dominant male and young-buck upstarts, to teenagers, and pairs like this adorable mother and child. Here, the mother is taking a break from grooming the young one long enough to warm him up. Just on the other side of the tree, the dominant male was posing and bouncing up and down on a fallen tree, warning other troop members not to approach.

You might ask: Why are there wild monkeys in Florida?

At the Silver Springs headwaters, you can find a number of attractions, including the famous glass-bottomed boat rides. In the 1930s, the operator of the Silver Springs Jungle Cruise put the monkeys on a small island in the river in order to spice up the ride for customers.

He didn’t realize that monkeys are excellent swimmers.

The monkeys escaped the island, of course, and began to populate the surrounding woods. As civilization approaches closer to the Springs, some monkeys have been seen in the nearby city of Ocala, or raiding citrus groves, or free-ranging on livestock farms. Some people have claimed that the monkeys pose a threat to humans, as they can carry the Herpes-B virus, fatal to humans, though the threat is surely overblown.

An animal shelter worker studying the monkeys once stopped 15 tourists in the park and asked them what drew them there. Fourteen said they came to see the monkeys (as did we.)

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Cormorants   2 comments


Cormorants
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As I mentioned in my previous post Full Retreat!, not all of our recent trip was a downer. On the one day that we did get to paddle the kayaks, we took a trip up the Silver River to the headwaters of Silver Spring.

Now, Silver Spring is an interesting place. It was the location for the “Tarzan” movies featuring Johnny Weissmuller. “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” was filmed there. The first glass-bottom boats plied the river in the 1870s. “Sea Hunt” with Lloyd Nelson was filmed there. Silver Springs was, and still is, the site of various tourist attractions both active and defunct.

But, we were there to paddle the river. Because Silver River is restricted to paddle boats and idle-speed-only motors, it seems that the wildlife has become accustomed to the presence of humans. This allowed us to get very close to the animals — while still maintaining a respectful distance, of course.

Here, a cormorant dries his wings after diving for sushi lunch. Getting this close let us notice, for the first time, how their feet wrap around and grip the perch. We could see individual patterns of feathers and coloration, each bird a bit different.

This proved to be the case with other wildlife as well, including wild boar, great herons, ibis, and monkeys.

Yes… monkeys.

Here, Susan is doing her impression of a cormorant…

Susan's Cormorant Impression

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He’s So Shy   6 comments


He's So Shy

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With apologies to The Pointer Sisters.

“When I first saw him standin’ there
I wanted to speak but did not dare
Something inside whispered to me
You’d better move in carefully.

By the end of the summer, we get to know our Carolina Anoles pretty well. There are those that like to hang out on the string beans; those who frequent the vines covering our garden gate; or in this case, our guardian of the back deck. This one can often be seen scouting for delicious bugs, and is the same one featured in my previous image, “I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues.”

This night, after a(notherdamn) rainfall, our buddy was seen slinking his way across wet blades of lemongrass. He had been looking right at the camera, and at the last second… well, he’s shy.

~

Sony NEX-7 with 55-210 lens, f/8, 180s, ISO 1600. Initial toning using Photoshop CC’s “Color Lookup” filter. Further mods with Nik Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro

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They Leave the Nest So Early…   7 comments


They Leave the Nest So Early...

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My friend, Jeff Garvey, invited me out to an abandoned schoolhouse near Arapahoe, N.C. Jeff reclaims old buildings slated for demolition, and repurposes the wood and materials to make absolutely delightful birdhouses that reflect the character of old N.C.

After taking this frame from the second story, I went downstairs to look for more trouble.

I could hear a lot of chirping on the first floor. It seemed that multiple birds were inside. A mother wren was making quite a racket, frenetically flying back and forth among the rafters of the schoolhouse. Following the source of all the chirping, I found a dilapidated nest on the floor near a pile of lumber, and two very young baby birds nearby… the source of the commotion.

Jeff knew what to do, so I called him in for a look. He put the nest back where it belonged, tucked it into the rafters, and then picked up the kids and carefully placed them back in the nest. “Mom” was pleased, although she still put up a fuss as we backed out of the room.

(Please don’t worry about handling baby birds in a situation like this. The parents will NOT abandon them. Birds have a limited sense of smell and cannot detect human scent. That old advice we learned as kids turns out to be a myth.)

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Above is Nikon D600, Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, f/8 at 24mm, nine frames with Promote Control, merged to 32-bit in Photomatix Pro, adjusted in Adobe Camera Raw, then Photoshop for luminosity masking and other adjustments.

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Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?   4 comments


Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?

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One evening, I was wandering around the garden with my new D600 and a sweet hunk of glass, the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, when Susan told me of a bee sleeping in a nearby purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), a plant with many uses not the least of which is… attracting bees.

Now, I don’t know what they put in that stuff, but it’s not the first time we’ve seen bees passed out after collecting a load of pollen. One time, we witnessed a bee waking up on a flower, stumbling around in a bit of stupor, then clumsily flying away to what we presume would be his home base.

Gardens are lovely because as you spend more time in the relatively confined space, you begin to focus in on little things that you might ordinarily miss. And if you sit long enough, nature comes to you, and you begin to recognize the patterns that individual creatures take through the landscape.

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BUGS!   2 comments


Bugs!

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Is there an entomologist in the house? I’d love to know what he’s feeding.

Continuing on the theme from “A Mother’s Kiss”, here’s the papa House Sparrow with his offering for the babies. When the kids got to be this size, the male and female parents were constantly flying to and from the house in an effort to keep the babies satisfied.

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Busted! My Position Has Been Compromised   4 comments


Busted! My Position Has Been Compromised

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While the mother and father House Sparrows were busy bringing food (bugs, actually) to the new babies, I was able to set the camera on a tripod behind a few fava bean plants and fire frames using a remote trigger.

Either the noise of the lens closing, or the blink of the lens, must have startled the mother a bit.

Fortunately, she went about her business of conducting nearly constant feeding trips. Clearly, the largest baby found a good way to snag most of the bugs: Block the hole.

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