Aww, how cute

There is a balance of cute and ferocious when observing nature.  I was watching birds at Woody Pond in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge when these young alligators climbed out on a tree branch in the water to sun themselves.  The first one came out and claimed a spot and the second just climbed on top to share the beautiful sunshine.

At the same time, we could hear adult alligators bellowing in the swampy area surrounding the lake.  It is a thrill to observe nature but, I was very aware of what was going on around me, just in case one of those adults appeared nearby.  We always need to remember that nature is not always a human-friendly habitat.  We could become an easy meal to the natives if we’re not careful!

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Townsend, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/9 – 1/200 sec – ISO 320

Snakebird

I first saw this bird sunning on a branch along the edge of Woody Pond at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.  It was not a familiar species to me and I initially thought it was a cormorant.

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Anhinga sunning at Woody Pond

The Anhinga’s name comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird. The origin of this name is obvious when the bird is swimming. It swims with the body submerged and just ‘s long, slender head and neck the above the water so the bird looks like a snake ready to strike.

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The “snake bird” with catfish

The Anhinga pictured above had just caught a catfish and was swimming back and forth with the prey speared on the end of its beak.  At first, the fish was flapping about but the bird held it and waited for the wriggling to stop.  The Anhinga then flipped the fish up quickly to release it from the beak. After a little juggling to re-position, the fish was quickly swallowed whole.

This was quite a process to watch.

 

North American Anhinga
(Anhinga anhinga leucogaster)

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Townsend, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
420mm @ f/9 – 1/80 sec – ISO 320

Blue Heron on the watch

On a more serious note, yesterday’s post was a juvenile tri-colored heron which was an awkward and humorous bird to see.  This blue heron is much more representative of the beautiful birds that adult herons are.  I also loved the patterns in the driftwood that provided a nice spot for this one to stand and enjoy the morning.

It is a great adventure to watch and capture images of the beauty and diversity that nature has to offer.  Time to get out and enjoy it!

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Townsend, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/9 – 1/100 sec – ISO 320

Hay, I’m hungry!

Baby birds fall into one of two categories – 1. Cute little balls of fluff and 2. Weird, gangly, bizarre looking creatures.  In the case of tri-colored herons, they fall into the second category at least until the feathers come in.  The rookery at Pinckney Island had a lot of odd looking chicks and a smaller number of cute ones.

It was also full of birds fighting over territory and protecting the nests.  It is amazing, with all the birds that flock to the same place to nest, that any of them survive all the squabbling that goes on but somehow, they seem to do OK.  The rookery is also surrounded by marsh and swampland that is home to a fair number of alligators.  I would have thought there would be a better spot for birds to raise their young but they come back every year.

Juvenile Tri-Colored Heron
(Egretta tricolor)

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Bluffton, SC

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/16 – 1/100 sec – ISO 400

Pink Dragonfly

I think this is a Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) but I’m not sure about that.  Anybody out there an expert on dragonfly identification?

I was told by Mike Moats that the best time for Dragonfly images is early on a cold morning.  He said those conditions cause the insects to be very slow-moving which allows you to get in close and not spook them off.  It seems that hot and humid may not be too bad a combination either.

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While we were at Harris Neck NWR in Townsend, Georgia, the butterflies and dragonflies flitted about the rim of Woody Pond but when they landed, they stayed in place for quite a while.  This pink specimen was sitting at the end of a reed and didn’t seem to be bothered at all by my photography.  It probably helped that I was using my long lens and was not all that close but he didn’t move at all, even when the wind occaisionally picked up.

Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly
(Orthemis ferruginea)

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Townsend, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/9 – 1/125 sec – ISO 320

Common Gallinule

Here’s a question for the bird nerds out there: What bird has a call that sounds like a kids bicycle horn?  This image is just that bird.  We spotted a number of them wading in the marshy area surrounding the ibis rookery at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge near Hilton Head Island.

The water surrounding the rookery was coated with some kind of green material which also covers the birds legs as you see it standing near the shoreline here.  The most viewed birds in this area are actually egrets, ibis and herons but the Gallinule was closer to shore and just looked neat against that green carpet of the water.  I love getting to know birds that I hadn’t been familiar with before!

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Bluffton, SC

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2
600mm @ f/16 – 1/100 sec – ISO 400

Cades Cove Coyote

Wildlife is one of the biggest attractions at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  You could always tell when something interesting had been spotted by the cars pulled off to the side of the road.  In this case, there were two park residents in opposite corners of the same big clearing.  At one end was a black bear, foraging for its breakfast and at the other, this coyote, doing the same.

On a ridge a good football-field length away, stood a good-sized group of photographers and other gawkers watching the pair.  If the two animals knew of each other’s presence, I couldn’t tell.  The each seemed to be consumed with eating.  The coyote seemed to be hunting some small animals, maybe mice.  You could tell when he saw something when the ears perked up and he would occasionally jump and pounce.

It was a great sight but it was also one of those times when you say – “People are idiots”.  Two separate occurrences of people wandering through the clearing without any regard for the wild animals happened while we were there.  I don’t know if they didn’t realize that they were walking right toward them or if they were actually trying to get as close as possible but there they went.  We didn’t witness any incidents of people getting eaten by wildlife but, I kind of wished we had.

Good thing there are park rangers around when these sighting are made.  Otherwise, the bears would all be way too fat from eating stupid tourists!

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
300mm @ f/8 – 1/200 sec – ISO 400