Story Behind the Photo: Osprey

Osprey, Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Ospreys are one of my favorite birds. Now that I think about it, my fascination started when my family would spend as much as we possibly could on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Our trip from Virginia Beach included a drive over the Wright Memorial Bridge, named after the famous Orville and Wilbur Wright who first took flight in Kitty Hawk on the Outer Banks. Along that drive, Osprey nests were easy to spot on the power poles and eventually the platforms provided for them along side the bridge. For me, seeing an Osprey today is just as exciting as it was when I was a kid and when I drive along the local bridges and causeways in the Tampa Bay area, I’ve always got an eye out to spot one.

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Story Behind the Photo: Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron at Marina in Palm Harbor, FL

After a recent fishing trip, my husband was filleting his catch at the marina before heading home for the day. This always draws quite a crowd…not people admiring the catch for the day, but shorebirds hoping for a snack. The feathered opportunists, this little Blue Heron, a few Brown Pelicans and a Great White Egret, were all watching intently looking for any chance that they might have a free lunch. While the pelicans are a given at any marina along the Gulf, Little Blue Herons are a treat to see. Little Blue Herons are small herons that are easily recognizable because they are as named, all blue. That is unless they are juveniles. In their first year, Little Blue Herons are actually all white. This heron is the only species to have such a dramatic color change as they age to adulthood.

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Story Behind the Photo: Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron, John Chestnut Sr. Park, Palm Harbor, FL

After a slow start, it’s rainy season in Florida. Usually we can expect storms every afternoon thanks to the sea breeze collision from the Gulf and Atlantic coasts and the storms last for about a half an hour. In the last few weeks however, we’ve had some storms last the better part of a day and dump inches upon inches of rain. With swelling retention ponds and drainage ditches full of water making them look more like creeks, wading birds are loving it. Herons and Egrets that have been limited to larger bodies of water are now able to spread out a little and find food all around them. Birds like this Great Blue Heron photographed at John Chestnut Sr. Park are now easily seen in my neighborhood retention pond enjoying lunch.

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Story Behind the Photo: Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Homosassa, FL

Happy Independence Day! On this great day of national pride, it seemed like the perfect time to share an image of a Bald Eagle.  Now synonymous with the United States, the Bald Eagle became the unofficial symbol of our country in 1782 when the Great Seal of the United States was adopted with a Bald Eagle prominently featured. Not everyone was a fan, with Benjamin Franklin rallying hard for the turkey to be our national bird as he believed it was “more respectable”.  Thankfully, supporters of the Bald Eagle won in the end and when George Washington was made our country’s first president in 1789, the Bald Eagle was made the official National Bird.

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Story Behind the Photo: Stellar Jay

Stellar's Jay, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA

One of the things I’m looking forward to in Arizona and Utah this weekend is the opportunity to see all kinds of different flora and fauna.For me, air travel has made it easy to lose perspective about how large the United States is and how diverse the climates are. In just the 8 hour drive from my old home north of Atlanta to my new one in the Tampa Bay area, an entire new tropical world opened up with exotic plants, animals and birds. As I travel through some of the nations most beautiful national parks over the next few days, I hope to see a few new birds and would love to see some of the wildlife indigenous to the area.

As I try to study up on what birds and animals I may see, I was reminded about my surprise and fascination with the new plants and birds I saw in California a few years ago. My husband and I kept seeing beautiful blue birds, but they weren’t the Blue Jays we have on the East coast. After much research, I discovered it was a Stellar’s Jay, pictured here at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, CA.

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Story Behind the Photo: Red-bellied Woodpecker

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker, Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

While it may seem ridiculous to most people that I would feed squirrels on purpose, it does keep them off of my bird feeders and they are quite the entertaining bunch to watch. We also have Blue Jays and Cardinals that frequent the squirrel feeder and it ends up being the hub of all activity in the back yard. Yesterday I noticed a new visitor to the feeder, helping himself to a peanut or two. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker not only stopped by, but came back several times to visit and thoroughly inspected our wooden fence for any bugs that might be yummy. This female Red-bellied Woodpecker was photographed at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, FL.

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Story Behind the Photo: Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret, Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin, FL

Reddish Egrets are considered medium to large herons at just under three feet tall. Common along the Gulf Coast, I had never seen a Reddish Egret until moving to Florida a few years ago. With blue-gray bodies and and reddish heads and necks, it’s easy to see where they get their name. Often found stalking fish in shallow saltwater, Reddish Egrets are truly entertaining to watch as they spin and flap their wings in effect “herding” the fish into the just the right spot before striking. This Reddish Egret was photographed at Caladesi Island taking a break from fishing to enjoy the view.

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