Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

1987 Scrub Jay Way #32782, Titusville, FL

Landscape upon entering.

Merritt Island is one of the largest barrier Islands in the United States. It fronts on the Atlantic Ocean and is surrounded by what we will call intercoastal, which in this case is really just the Atlantic Ocean.

The next land mass due east, on the same latitude is Morocco. The Bahamas Islands are south of this latitude.

The Refuge shares Merritt Island with the Kennedy space Center, there is a small estuary separating the two, with the wildlife refuge making up I guess 35% of the land mass, maybe 40%. – The Refuge is 570 sq Km or 220 sq mi. The public can be excluded from access to the refuge, if necessary for NASA’s purposes, as is done in the days before a launch.

Typical wetland #1
Typical Wetland #2
Typical Wetland #3
Typical Wetland #4

There over 1000 species of plants, 117 species of fish, 68 amphibians and reptiles, 330 birds, and 31 mammal species, of which 21 species are listed as endangered by the state of Florida or by the US federal government.  There are manatees, sea turtles and other endangered species which seek refuge here. On the next trip, will certainly put aside time to see them. I did mention the Refuge is huge, you drive your car on a dirt two lane roads, there are some wide shoulders and small parking lots, where you can get up out of your car and wander. You then drive to the next spot that strikes your fancy.

Red Headed Woodpecker
Elusive Kingfisher
Spoonbill #4
Spoonbill #7
Spoonbill #9
Spoonbill #1
Spoonbill #2
Heron
Northern Shoveler
Common Gallinule
Giant Egret
Tern
Family of Wood Stocks
White Pelicans Squadron
White Pelican 31
White Pelicans #6
Ibis and Egret
Glossy Ibis
Married Egrets
Kestrel #1
Kestrel #2
Eagle #1
Eagle #2
And of course the Alligator

Exotic, invasive, and nuisance plant and animal species is one of the priority management issues for the Merritt Island NWR. Nuisance animal species have a negative impact on threatened and endangered species. Also, can upset the entire eco- system.

There is an honor system for park admittance, at the entrance to Black Point Wildlife Drive. Here you deposit money in an envelope. The drive is a one-way seven-mile dirt road allowing wildlife viewing of the refuge.

Viera Wetlands – Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands

Viera North, 10001 N Wickham Rd, Melbourne, FL 32940

Also called the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands, the Viera Wetlands is one of the older wetlands parks in Florida.

Situated between wall-to-wall subdivisions and farms along the floodplain of the St. Johns River, this 200-acre park is modeled after Orlando Wetlands Park.

It is made up of a series of ponds of varying depths through which treated wastewater flows to clean it naturally before the water seeps out into the St. Johns floodplain.

Viera wetlands is located north of central Melbourne Florida in Brevard County. It is a wide-open space with extraordinarily little shade (in other words – none). In the late fall to early spring there is a wide variety of birds, and of course your obligatory alligators and turtles etc. The resident birds are very used to seeing people, the great herons strut along almost close enough to pet them, do not for your own safety.

Great Blue Heron #2
Great Blue Heron #5
Great Blue Heron #6

Also, a little bit north and adjacent to the actual Viera wetlands is an area that is also quite open and has quite a few birds, Sometimes the side dirt roads are blocked off sometimes not, but you can drive over there. We saw Sandhill Cranes walking about with their chicks.

Adjacent Dirt Road to the north
Adjacent Area
Sandhill Cranes with Chick

Viera wetlands is highly recommended for the diversity of birds from migrating ducks to the resident Florida birds, spoonbills, herons, cranes, and the occasional wood stork. Of course, you also have a share of raptors from Eagles, Hawks, Osprey, Cara Caras and Terns etc.

Osprey
Eagle #1
Young Eagle Chicks
Cara Cara with Lunch
Osprey, with catch being chased and harassed by an Eagle and a Cara Cara

Loggerhead Shrike
Osprey #6
Ducks Asses
Osprey with Lunch
Tern
Spoonbill #2
Spoonbill #5
Turtle
Green Heron
Blue Heron #7

Loop Road Scenic Drive

The Unpaved part

Loop Rd Big Cypress National Preserve, Ochopee, FL 34141

Loop Road is a 24-mile-long two-lane road, that parallels the south side of Tamiami Trail through the Everglades, in the middle of South Florida’s undeveloped center. There are signs on Tamiami Trail from the east and the west for the entrance.

Tamiami Trail is certainly a lot more scenic than Alligator Alley although not as direct. It bisects the state, with the southern part of big Cypress National preserve to the north and on the south, we have Everglades National Park. Tamiami Trail cuts across Florida, from Miami all the way over to Naples and then swings up on its way to Tampa hence the name Tamiami.

The eastern seven miles are paved and after that, it is gravel or dirt. In the late summer through the end of the year, parts of the road can be under water 3 to 4 inches. In the summer it is dry and dusty going, you will have to wash your car when you get home.

My son and I went in December, the road has areas, where you can pull off to the side. Some places you can see a large expanse and others it is just swampy water. The one thing you will see for sure, is alligators there is lots of alligators right off the side of the road in the water pools.

Side of the Road

Sometimes they are on the road alongside the shoulder. Do not be tempted to walk up to an alligator, these guys do not have a lot of fear people since they been exposed to them probably their entire lives, maybe the alligators having a bad day in which case you will too.

Head Shot
In a Pond

Here are some images of the landscape

Side #2
Side #5
Side #$
Side #2

You can expect in December to see these birds and an occasional turtle.

Egret #1
Turkey Vulture
Anhinga #1
Anhinga #5
Vultures In a Tree
Turtle
Anhinga #9
Hawk In Tree

We went twice, my son and I, the first time we went as mentioned was in December, we saw some birds and reptiles as we drove along.

The second trip was in the beginning of July, and it had been raining all throughout June yet the roads were dry and the very very dusty, my car had at least ¼ inch dust just caked on in the wheel wells.

Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing to see except alligators and very very very few birds.

There were some exceptionally large grasshoppers, when I say large, I mean probably five or six inches long, on the road. That was sort of odd, we saw no birds swopping down for lunch. Other than that, there was no fauna or insects other than the occasional horsefly that would land on your windshield. If you are going to go, I suggest strongly that you probably would be very well put to go between October and December. Oh, I should also mention NOT as hot. One point of interest is that when driving (coming from the east) on Tamiami Trail, before you get there is the famous Clyde Butcher gallery. Mr. Butcher who has made a name for himself and, a post career out of wading into the swamps off Tamiami Trail with a large-format camera on a tripod and shooting black-and-white film. It is worth the stop since you are there, so might as well take advantage.

Green Cay Nature Center & Wetlands

The Entrance

12800 Hagen Ranch Rd, Boynton Beach, FL 33437

The 100-acre property was purchased in 1999 from Ted and Trudy Winsberg, who had used the property for farming. The Winsbergs sold the property for 1/3 of its appraised value with the condition that it would be made into a wetland.

This wetland also has a one-and-a-half-mile boardwalk, which loops around the circumference of the property. The first thing that strikes you about Green Cay is how pretty it is. As you enter you go down the path to the information center and there is the boardwalk. The boardwalk splits to the right and the left, they suggest very strongly that you go to the left.

View to the right #1

View to the right #2

As you begin your journey on the boardwalk, is a great expanse of water on your right. It is large but you can certainly see the other side and, depending on the time of year additionally you see herons, wood storks, egrets, cormorants, and anhingas. On your left, there is quite a bit of foliage with some water, and you can see a few species of birds and wildlife.

Green Heron
Alligator feeding on an anhinga

As you swing around the boardwalk along the perimeter of the body of water on the right, on the left you there is a low wetland which has some trees and a lot of undergrowth, and you have birds flying in and out of it.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in a Tree
Male Red Winged Blackbird
Female Red Winged Blackbird

I have never seen flocks but if you look the birds are there. As you move along, you come to another area of water on your right and on your left. On the left almost every time, I have seen an alligator there, this seems to be its’ favorite basking spot. On the right at the same location, you start to see a little bit more foliage growing in the body of water. Here you will see egrets, herons, anhingas and  wood storks although if you like wood storks go to Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Now you will go through about 70 – 80 meters of a wooded area which is interesting, I’ve yet to see any birds in there, but it’s nice and you can see where the wetlands, meet firmed elevated land.

Basking
Swimming
Common Gallinule, Wood Stock and Egret

You come out of this short wooded area, and you have water on the right and water on the left. On the left is a real nice vista, a tree there with no leaves but certainly always has resident birds perched on the different branches and it’s just pretty.

Anhingas
Anhingas

Sitting in the foliage and sometimes on the the actual boardwalk are other friends.

Green Heron #2
Anhinga
Egret

As you swing around to your right and you’ll see different birds across the expanse of water and much narrower water on your left as you start to enter a larger wooded area, it’s pretty calm, I have yet to see any real fauna. It’s a nice walk, occasionally I have taken some macro shots.

View to the right
View to the right
Entering to wooded area.
Macro Spider

As you leave this wooded area, you are again over the wetlands. With a body of water on your left and on your right is the bottom part of that small lake that you’ve now walked around. Here it’s interesting, if you look down off the boardwalk you see a whole variety of different water birds. They have signs throughout telling you what birds you should expect to see. Surprisingly, I think this is the area where I have seen the most different birds.

Leaving the wooded area
Blue Heron
Glossy Ibis
Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule
Purple Swamphen
Tricolored Heron

As the boardwalk swings around the lake, they have a supplementary trail which is a loop back onto the main trail.  Here you can see lots of wetland birds and some flora, it’s a nice walk, I certainly suggest that since you’re here you take it. 

Almost every time I been there and looked on the right after completing the trek, on that large body of water there is a tree out there, and generally it’s inhabited by two hawks. Sometimes I have only seen one, sometimes I have seen the hawk and an interloper but usually it is two hawks.

Two Hawks at Home

The thing is, to keep your eyes open all the time, I have seen some of the largest iguanas I’ve ever seen, also really nice-looking butterflies etc. and it’s a nice and enjoyable area.

Iguana #1
Iguana #2

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

10216 Lee Rd, Boynton Beach, FL – Palm Beach County, Florida
145,188-acre (587.55 km2) wildlife sanctuary

Loxahatchee includes the most northern remnant of the historic Everglades wetland ecosystem. Loxahatchee is exceptionally large and spread out with distinct areas. Open spaces, swamp like area, a wooded area, canals, and a boating dock. There is a boardwalk which goes over a wetlands forest / swamp with some birds hiding in the trees and the occasional snake or alligator in the water. The entire area is overly sensitive to the time of the year, for example in September – February (due to the rainy season) it is quite different than April – June. September – February there is lots of water, the swamp is full, the outer wetlands support more birds and other wildlife. Come June it is very dry there is no water at all in the swamp, and wetland flats are low. All wildlife is scarcer during these months.

Behind the Administrative Building is the swamp like area with a boardwalk.

Sun Breaking though
Boardwalk #1
Boardwalk #2

This area also offers some refuge from the sun.

After walking thru the boardwalk, and then crossing the Admin parking lot to the other side of the entrance road, you encounter another small parking lot. There are some trees with the occasional owls and other fine feather friends.

Swamp like area.
Great Blue Heron
Blue Jay
Woodpecker

Now you go out and walk down a dirt path, with open spaces on both sides of the path. There is very little shade, so you want avoid the late June – end of September months especially in the mid day, as the light is harsh. The early morning and late afternoon does have a really nice golden hour. There are some photographers, and bird watchers there, not as crowded as Green Cay, or Wakodahatchee.

Observation Hut
Wetlands
Hawk
Anhinga
Blue Heron

I didn’t see very many mammals, once I saw a raccoon, There are butterflies and some flowers.

Butterfly #2
Butterfly #5

If your were to stay on the entrance road and take it to the end, about 1 – 2 miles, there is the boat launch and the horizon is flat Everglades.

Boat Launch
Path and Canal
Flat Everglades.

All in all, this is a large spread-out area, it is nice to be in nature, for more information click Loxahatchee

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wakodahatchee Wetlands is in Delray Beach on Jog Road about two miles north of Andrews Blvd. It is 50 acres of undeveloped land.  The Park was created in 1996 on 50 acres (20 ha) of unused utility land and transformed into a recreation wetland open to the public. With a three-quarter mile boardwalk that crosses between open water pond areas, emergent marsh areas, shallow shelves, and islands with shrubs and snags to foster nesting and roosting. Each day, the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department’s Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility pumps approximately two million gallons of 90% treated water into the Wakodahatchee Wetlands. This water, which is free of organic contaminants but still contains excess mineral content, is naturally purified by the plants and algae in the wetlands, then released into the surface water supply

It is home to many water birds, passerines, an occasional raptor, iguanas, snakes, and several alligators. It is setup, board walk style where you are above the water by about 4 – 5 feet (so no need to worry about alligators or snakes). It is good to get there early as with most places, that is the best light, mid-day is a much harsher light.

You can see the walkway on the left of the image below. Those are two herons flying on the upper left side of the image.

It appears that Wood Stocks have decided this is their home and they are certainly making themselves comfortable.

Majestic in the air.

Standing on the railing

Home improvements

A young hatchling

As noted there many, species of birds, coexisting, here are several,

Anhinga

A Great Blue Heron Dancing

And the occasional snake,

There are islands in the water where most of the bird’s nest, you can see them building their nests, or laying the eggs, or see the hatching depending on the time or year. Early spring though June is good time for the hatchings.

It’s a great reason to be outdoors, especially this time of year, the heat is not oppressive.

A Road Trip

I took a road trip with my son Efram, he had a task to do in the northeast corner of Tennessee, outside of Johnson City. We drove up from Florida which takes forever to get out of, through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, to Tennessee. In Georgia we stopped in Savannah.

Savannah was pretty, having a waterfront and a long line of adjacent parks. It was quite beautiful and touristy but not in a Saint Augustine sort of way, Savannah is more authentic.

This is the old Cotton Exchange, down by the waterfront – The Building was completed in 1880.
This is the Gold Dome from Savannah City Hall
This is a Monument to Hatian Solders, that came to Savannah to fight for American Independence in the Revolutionary War

After Savannah we drove up to Asheville through South Carolina, we stayed basically on the main highways.

Story will be below.

In Asheville we got something to eat, outdoors. Asheville was interesting , but due to the weather quite dreary, although has this fantastic reputation of being an Avant-garde city. We did not really go exploring and then we drove up through North Carolina.

This ramp had been recently used, Some of the inclines / decline were above 10% and long

One knows when one is in North Carolina as the scenery changes , more mountainous and and we did stop at a scenic viewpoint along the highway with was very pretty in North Carolina. South Carolina, the part we were in (Charleston is the next trip) was not nearly as pretty but did have more of a rural personality.

US 26
Off US 26

We then hit Tennessee on the way we stopped at a welcome center, still very pretty in the mountains.

That night we slept in Johnson City and Efram went to his appointment. I stayed in the hotel, an Embassy Suites something like that. I just walked around and visited the local liquor store, which there are many in Tennessee. I bought a bottle of Kentucky bourbon in Tennessee, and as an aside, it is cheaper at Total Wine here in Miami.

Now –story within a story – or a segue – then a revert to the trip.

On the way up, in South Carolina, we saw as we were driving (obviously North) and on the of West side of the road in rolling hills, a Valley. There was a deserted cabin and these mounds around it smack dab in the middle this Dell. It was a good time in the afternoon, with the sun descending, there was a softer, directional light, with the cabin in the center, and these small mounds of grass, with the light reflecting off. We made a U-turn.

Up until now, I was just going out with the Leica camera SL2, just shooting things at random. It is a fantastic camera, the in-body stabilization is incredible. I, mean for me I can shoot at 1/15th of a second. I don’t usually intend to, but I do default to an aperture priority and they come out textbook sharp. Now as this was a real photo opportunity, we decided that let’s take out the tech camera. We popped open the back of the car, took out the tripod checked the cameras.   As I started walking, there was this terrible underbrush, it was exceptionally low, I would say not more than between 6 inches and maybe foot and a half to two feet. Just to give this real meaning, we are talking like from your ankles to your knees and this is especially important because, they were the sharpest thorns of everything I’ve ever experienced, I mean it was just like walking through , a field of razors blades.  Of course, I was wearing shorts, and not high socks. I had lots of cuts on my legs, you need to remember to pack Neosporin.

It was nice getting reacquainted with tech camera, and the 32mm lens, a 20mm in 35-millimeter terms. It has such a fantastic dynamic range, otherwise I might have had to use a Graduated Neutral Density filter for the Sky.

We moved the tripod to different angles, to get different perspectives, and framing, trying to best capture what I was seeing, the cabin, in the center of the small valley with light, coming in from the side also secondarily, the mounds, to the right and front reflecting the light and having a real nice shadow.  Both sides framed by shadow, and an intricate soft sky that was not overpowering and not plain. I also shot the Leica, with zoom at different focal lengths. Looking through a viewfinder, especially a zoom, is a great aid in seeing the print.

An example of this is when looking through the 24- 90, it became much more apparent, that there were these two converging lines in the front, aiming at the at the cabin, and there was light on either side of the front mound in this patch of vegetation. This was nice. I did not pick it up on the with the 32 on the tech. I also decided at the time – this shot with Leica would be converted into B&W.

Repeating the image above, to compare to the B&W.  I think I have two different images, both of which I like.

Taken with Phase XT / IQ4150 / Rodenstock 32mm
Taken with Leica SL2 / 24-90mm @ 90mm

The story within a story is over – Back to the trip

Efram came back to the hotel, he had accomplished what he came for. With no further obligations other than to go home, we decided that we would take the back roads.

In this case a two-lane blacktop highway, through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. We started driving south, Tennessee is beautiful in that part of the state. We had a nice conversation with a local guy, when we stopped to take a couple of shots.  Comes to your attention very quickly that there lots of churches, it would be an understatement, that most of the buildings that are not houses, are churches. and then of course as you go further south into South Carolina, Georgia I think they are now competing with Dollar General.

Advertising on a Corner

Oh – While I was out of the car to take the previous image, Efram was parked in this Church Parking lot.

Tennessee Church

As were driving out Tennessee, we drove along the Nolichucky River and we stopped now and again, to get some shots, using only 35mm cameras.

River Bank

The drive through Tennessee into South Carolina, is extremely rural, nothing jumped out at me as really photogenic because I wasn’t looking at this as it was a documentary, although if I make the trip again, I would probably take some pictures of what I was saw. It was all very rural homes, no commercial anything and no grocery stores or no gas stations other than the image below. Occasionally you would see a house and it would have a lot of automobiles there, it was either a used car lot, a mechanic shop or, a roadhouse, otherwise in we saw nothing else. We were on the Old Asheville Highway.

Old General Store with Gas Pump

Other than that, it was just houses, and a lot of these houses are very rural, they are not vacation homes, people are living there, some large double wide trailers now on cinderblocks, some of them had chimneys, brick chimneys that they have added on to the side. I spoke to a friend of mine is from that area, I brought this up to him, he told me that many of the people who lived there, worked in the textile industry in the 70s -80s, that three to four women would carpool, three or more hours to the factory, alas the textile industry is long gone. They just did that, their way of life. The only other I could think of, possible people are pensioned, could be veterans from the Armed Forces.

We continued, and stopped and took these images, entering Georgia.

The Hartwell Dam is on the Savannah River at the border of South Carolina with Georgia, creating Lake Hartwell. The dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1955 and 1962 for the purposes of flood control (Wikipedia).

Hartwell Dam

Efram made this trip several times, and he would tell me about this church in Georgia that was built in 1888 by freed slaves, this is where were headed.

We took Highway 78, the landscape looked like this.

Sheep in a Field

Also, while it is not something you expect, along the way there was a memorial to a battle in the American War of Independence, The “Battle of Kettle Creek” February 14th, 1779. This was not fought against the “Red Coats” but between future Americans, colonists against colonists, ones loyal to the Crown, ones in favor of independence.

Memorial to Patriots
These are graves of some of the soldiers, many buried when they died after the battle

Along the way as we moved to State road 22, we stop for a break. Took these shots.

House along the way
Abandoned House
Abandoned Shed

Sure, enough we got to this church, wood frame church sitting on cinderblocks and it is called the Antioch Baptist Church. We stopped and looked at it, took a walk around it to get a feel of where we were. The graveyard off to the side, then walked up the four steps maybe five and walked in, it was empty, completely empty. It was not in disarray it was just like everybody went home for lunch. More so because, as we went to up to the altar, there was a table in front of it with a plate and there was money in it that people had left; apparently as a donation to the church, so they felt secure. Bible was open on the pulpit to Psalms 22:17. After our walk around, got out the tech camera of course, so now I am walking around with the tech camera and getting it from different angles and trying to you know, get it interesting angles, that are not calendar shots. Trying different lenses on the tech camera I was incredibly happy, took a couple shots with the Leica and couple of shots with the M10M.

The Entrance
The Side
Grave Yard
Upon Entering
From Pulpit
The Piano, how many songs were sung?
Tombstone of Member

I think Rev Dardem was the Reverend of the church before he died. It is the oldest legible tombstone there
 
The inscription on the bottom  says  
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith 
2 Timothy 4:7-9 King James Version (KJV) 7

It was really moving; as you get lost in the technical aspect of what you’re doing, but you know you step back, a second you look at what you’re doing and you imagine what it was like for the people that founded this church in 1888. I know a little about history and I know that life was precarious, sometimes more so than others, and think this is one of those times it probably more so than others, yet they found churches particularly important to them – to have a community church of their own. That the church is still standing today, they do a few services there on occasion, so you had that feeling.

So, you certainly wanted to do justice to this, just was not going to be an abstract idea, this is going to be where you took at your images, and you hoped that you did a good enough job. You want people to look at what they are seeing and realize that they are looking at something that is alive but it’s very it’s old. Yes, these are okay.

From there we drove to another small wood frame Church. The Powelton Methodist Church, circa 1830, Hancock County, Ga We did spend as much time; we did not take out the tech camera. We did not go inside as it was locked. we took a couple shots of the outside and some of the gravestones.

Powelton Methodist Church

We went on to the former capital of Georgia, Milledgeville. As I said, Efram had done this trip several times, and he has a penchant for exploring and is a is a very very good photographer, in addition to excellent scientific work categorizing and doing macro shots of wasp but I digress.

Milledgeville had the largest Mental Hospital in the world founded, in 1842, with 13,000 patients at its peak in 1959, and still today there are about 200 patients, who knows what was going on in Russia at the time, they generally had a tendency to do things on large-scale, but this was the largest insane asylum prison complex in the world.  I mean it was just overwhelming. It is all abandoned, we were in the car, driving over its grounds, that it was just took your breath away. Is interesting, because the buildings are built at different times and I do not mean times looking at your watch, I mean like times like looking at quarter centuries.

So, there is many different styles of architecture many are 5 and 6 stories and built in classical styles, mainly brick building, and very nicely done, like university buildings. I was just overwhelmed; I could not conceive what I was looking at it. All the buildings had no trespassing signs, there were no people there at all, saw no human beings, several trips ago Efram went into a couple of buildings, crawling in thru a broken door, and did get some shots, but we did not do this time as it was getting late, we did go into the old boiler building, which was totally in disarray.  We also weighted up our options, two white boys from Florida with expensive camera gear. So, in the interest of being more prudent than you were say, when you were you know 19, 20 years old driving around with your buddy, and you just had a couple sixpacks in the backseat, we pass on B&E. But not completely, we went into the old boiler building.

We walked and drove around; it was like we were in Rod Serling movie. The Twilight Zone, used to have a reoccurring theme that; somebody after a war they would slide through into a different dimension or something like that they’d be in one of any town USA, it would look like a Sunday morning at Easter — time no people.  This what this is what it was like, we did not see any security, we did not see any people and it just went on and on and there were houses there for the groundskeepers there we saw a couple people walking about. My problem is just absorbing all this, not even being prepared for what Efram explained. My problem was that I could not see the forest for the trees I mean everywhere I looked I saw this and that, this is hard to get your arms around the whole thing what you are seeing but I got it. I have a plan for next time.

A Mess inside the Boiler Room #1
Apparently they used Tube Boilers #2
Controls #3
Boiler Room #4
Boiler Room #4
Overgrown Rail supports to bring coal to the boilers
Overgrown Workshop
Main Sanatorium in the Background
Self Explanatory
Abandoned Grounds Keeper House
Abandoned

Have some ideas of how to shoot there, when I go back. I am looking forward to it very much.

That night we slept in Macon we got some carryout from a famous hamburger place and went back to the hotel and next morning got up and we drove to Savannah. Macon is a quite nice little town, the only thing I knew about Macon was one time it was Lester Maddox that made Macon famous, infamous might be the correct word. In Macon they do have Little Richard Boulevard

I got say that all the people ran into even when we made a couple of stops, on the side of the road. In some of the real small places we stopped, and nobody was wearing a mask, but we were wearing masks, nobody said anything derogatory or anything, so it was okay, I mean with Florida plates on the car you it was pretty easy-going, so we got to Savannah the next morning and walked around now we stayed there a couple of three hours.

It was just a lot of driving, but it was genuinely nice, and we had a great adventure. Covid truthfully for us, was just of an inconvenience, we didn’t eat in restaurants, we were always outside or had carryout. Hotel rooms we stayed were basically mid- tier from the Marriott chain. All hotel rooms took precautions a couple of them even had seals on the doors that they were sanitized. Everybody was nice and conversational again, it was was a great trip next time we will go to Charleston, I certainly want to go around Georgia. I really do like North Georgia and would love to spend a couple of three days to driving about. Got some plans, and hope they come to fruition. Finished

Haulover Park off Collins in Miami Beach

This is a Marina, and local fishing leaves from here, for half and full day fishing excursions.  The first bird you will see is a Brown Pelican, between December and April more or less, as they are migratory. I did see a Frigate bird, and a variety of Seagulls. Basically, you are going there because of the pelicans and as I, mentioned in an earlier post, I had a commitment to capture images of pelicans. It is not by chance we have fishing excursions and pelicans at the same place. Pelicans are patient birds, as they wait for the return of the boats, with their tourists, locals, and of course fish. They return occurs at noon, and five o’clock early evening. The boats generally go out 18 miles offshore, to arrive where the gulf stream is, as there are abundant fish riding the stream. This is the same Gulfstream that keeps the British Isles warm in the winter.

Main Building, first thing you see, – Turn Left.
The Docks

A couple of fun facts

  1. Pelicans incubate their eggs with their webbed feet – they stand on the eggs.
  2. Brown Pelicans can live to be 40+ years.

As the boats return, full of satisfied customers, with their “catch”, most of the people, which usually are locals, want their fish cleaned, as most Americans do not usually make fish head soup. So, the Skipper, and his mate, gut and clean the catch, tossing the innards, and head and sometimes skins, to our waiting friends, – the brown pelicans.

Waiting for Lunch
Lunch
Dessert
Portrait #1
Portrait #2
Flying
Portrait #3

There will be other Pelican in the Portfolio under Wildlife/ Birds/Waterbirds,

Also We will have some images from White Pelicans, in the Merritt Island post (yet to come)

The might a short detour as I took a road trip with my son and will post some of those images. Thanks

A New Path

I have been back in Miami, Florida almost five years. During this time, my son kept telling me, take up bird photography.  Over the years we have gone birding at Vieira Wetlands several times, close to where he was going to School. Vieira Wetlands is about 3 hours north of Miami. After procrastinating, I decided to “shoot where we are” and give it a try. So, from my son’s encouragement coupled with a dear friend asking me for images of pelicans (one of my favorites), here is diary of sorts, from my new path of shooting, “birding” and practicing.

I reviewed my equipment of which I have too much, and as it turns out, had what I needed, Canon 100-400 (which I upgraded to a Canon 100-500mm RF) and a Canon 5drs (which I upgraded to a Canon R5). Also, a Leica SL2 and the 24-90mm.

So, I go out now once a week to one of the numerous wetlands within a 2-hour radius, with two cameras with their respective lens. The Leica is generally used for landscapes and sometimes for “portraits”. I keep a B+W HTC polarizer on the Leica, as with the fantastic In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS), I can afford to give up one stop and still shoot at a 50 or 100 iso, for nice clean shots and the maximum dynamic range. Keep in mind South Florida has great sunshine and BLUE skies, with unusually great clouds. Wetlands have water; a polarizer makes a lot of sense, to minimize the specular reflections off the water and enhance some colors.

The Canon I use with the bare lens, as I need that stop, usually trying to keep the iso below 1000 and for birds in flight a shutter speed of 2500, or 3200. The f stop is dictated by these two primary factors, the lens has a variable maximum f stop dependent on the focal length of 4.5 – 7.1. The camera tracks beautifully, and image quality is great, the IBIS works great in conjunction with the native lens. I set the camera up for tracking and still shots and is always on manual exposure. What must be kept in mind is that you need to expose for the shadows and sometimes for the highlights, of the subject you want to isolate.. This helps in three ways, the complexity of the color in the bird’s body, when that color is dark, or silhouetted against a bright sky, and lastly, there is nothing worse than blowing out the beautiful delicate white feathers on a wood stock, egret, or pelican. Hence no polarizer.

Bears mentioning at this point, there are many times, I have plugged shadows and blown highlights on the same bird. Even with image shot form 25 feet away. Sooo, this is where iso means more than just noise. On the Canon, which is usually set to iso 1000, (this gives an acceptably clean image, allowing a higher shutter speed etc.). The dynamic rage of the Canon at iso 100 = 11.25 stops, vs iso 1000   = 8.8 stops (about 75% or in other terms, the best dynamic rage of the best digital camera in 2005) So, less detail at the extreme ends of the exposure. The more dynamic range: the more detail in the extreme highlights and the extreme shadows, just something to consider.

I must say, practice, practice, practice! You must feel comfortable with your equipment. Practice in photography is just as important as golfing or playing tennis 2-3 times a week, also instruction and tips as the aforementioned, is also key to improving, practicing badly makes you really good at being bad.

Also, birds are cool, and it is nice being outside this time of year in South Florida and it is quiet, also birds do not threaten you when take the image, which is endemic to the people in South Florida. It is interesting when you really look at birds, the colors and shapes, also they are old, as in dinosaur old.

So, this is the Preface to this journey, we will learn about the different wetlands and discover different birds, which so far include.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands  Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge  
Green Cay Wetlands  Wellington Environmental Preserve  
Loop Road  Ritch Grissom Viera Wetland  
Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary  Loxahatchee Wetlands  
Peaceful Waters  Harold Campbell Day Use Area  
Key Biscayne  Rookery Davie  
Reynolds Park  Beaches in South Miami