May 23, 2017

Those Eyes!

Burrrowing Owls
I was in the Ft. Myers area over the weekend and had some great luck finding more burrowing owls in the wild!  I visited my now favorite burrowing owl location....and immediately saw not one, not two...but five of these adorable little guys.  All were out and about in the middle of the day in the 90 degree heat.  Very exciting stuff for this wildlife photographer.  (I just love those big, buggy eyes!) This nest (or den -- not sure what they're called) is adjacent to a park and directly across the street from houses.  It's an activate neighborhood, but the little owls don't appear to mind people coming and going -- including those with a big camera and tripod.

May 12, 2017

Weekend Ready

Weekend Ready
Weekend's almost here...and I've got my eye on the prize!
Taken on Lido Beach...just minutes away from the office.
Oh, yes...I'm weekend ready! 
Are you?

May 11, 2017

Wee Fella

Baby Sandhill Crane
"S'up?"

When you're a baby sandhill crane and so little you have to plop down and rest under your mom's tail feathers while she munches on dinner.  Such a cute, fuzzy wee fella!  Hard to believe I photographed him just over a month ago.  Bet I wouldn't recognize him now!

Thankful I'm able to enjoy special moments like this in nature right near my house. Linking to Michelle's Thankful Thursday, which I just love!  Great idea.

May 7, 2017

Painted Sky

Sarasota Sunset
We've been having some amazing sunsets in Sarasota recently, which is a bit unusual for this time of year.  The entire SDP staff was discussing this issue and concluded these are the kinds of colorful, eye popping sunsets we traditionally experience in February -- but, not this year. Seems Mother Nature is working on her own schedule...and that's just fine with me. Better late than never. Happy Sunday!

May 6, 2017

Golden View

Coreopsis Field
It's been a few years since I've been at Myakka River State Park with the coreopsis in bloom. It's quite a sight: yellow wildflowers as far as the eye can see!  The last time I photographed them, they were in full bloom...and I was much more adventurous...wandering way out into the field. (Check it out here.) Last night, I just walked down a short path with my GoPro and captured this scene.  There's something captivating about being surrounded by brilliant yellow flowers and bright blue sky!  I suspect even more will be in bloom within the next couple of weeks.  If the timing works out, maybe the SDP staff can make it back out there.  Hope everyone is having a good weekend!

May 5, 2017

Dinner Time!

Dinner Time
RAT!  It's what's for dinner!
This photo was taken just moments after this barred owl pounced on a rat climbing on that very tree branch.  I couldn't believe it!  I always imagined owls swooping down and snatching a rodent or rabbit from the ground and carrying it away in its talons.  But, this guy landed on this branch...sat there for a minute...swiveled his head once...and then...WHAM!  Dinner's ready!  Very exciting for this wildlife photographer! I wonder if the owl heard the rat scurrying on the bark from a short distance away and then landed here in preparation for the hunt. Sure makes me glad I'm not a rat.  Or an owl having to hunt my dinner.  

May 4, 2017

Tucked Away

Barred Owl
With it being overcast last night for the first time in awhile, I thought maybe the barred owls would be out early at the neighborhood park. Bingo! This handsome fellow was contentedly tucked in a tree roosting, with a human family running around nearby making a lot of noise. (Being camouflaged so well, the family never saw him.) I ended up having quite an incredible encounter with this guy, his mate and two little ones. Nothing like observing a family of four owls at dinner time! (That's definitely foreshadowing a SDP post!) Although I saw and heard the two juveniles, they were very good at hiding. I'll post more as time permits. Hope everyone is having a good week so far!

May 2, 2017

Pretty in Pink

Roseate Spoonbill Pretty in pink. 
And, with that reflection...twice as nice! 
Roseate spoonbill spotted recently in rural Sarasota County.

May 1, 2017

Theme Day: Let's Eat!

Bananas
As I write this post, I have visions of fellow City Daily Photo bloggers submitting pictures of every kind of mouth watering epicurean delight imaginable.  And, then, there's SDP with...bananas.  It very well could be one of the most boring (and unappetizing) submissions for this month's theme day.  But, bananas are big news to me! ((drum roll))  After 10+ years, I believe I've successfully re-introduced bananas into my diet!  Many years ago, I started experiencing food sensitivities to the point where my diet became very limited. As I eliminated processed sugar, dairy, gluten, preservatives (you name it), I started eating more and more fruit. Healthy, right?  Not for me. I began reacting to the fructose.  A few years ago, I successfully re-introduced blueberries and blackberries (fruits with the lowest amounts of natural sugar), which was very exciting.  Recently, I randomly ate a banana....and survived -- without a hint of a reaction!  I'm pacing myself but I'm confident enough to say, 'The bananas are back, baby!'

There's an art to photographing food which I have not mastered (or even started to develop), so this theme day was a challenge!  To see more interpretations from the CDP community click here.

April 30, 2017

Meadowlark

Meadowlark
I've only seen an eastern meadowlark one other time in Sarasota.  That was almost 6 years ago to the day! (You can check out the SDP post here.) I encountered this handsome fellow recently at Rothenbach Park on the east side of Sarasota County, where he was camped out near the entrance awaiting my arrival.  I hadn't been to that park for years, and since I was in the vicinity, I decided to take a quick detour. What a pleasant surprise when I spotted him. Hard to miss that brilliant yellow!

April 29, 2017

Jumpin' Mullet

Sarasota Sunset
Sunset on Sarasota Bay last night.  Lots of mullet were jumping!  And, believe it or not, by chance I captured one on camera.  Just as I pressed the shutter, this guy soared out of the water right into my shot.  Look at that form and height!  For those wondering why mullet jump, the entire SDP research team looked into that very question.  While there are many theories, the bottom line is...no one knows.  Maybe they're just having fun and taking in the scenery.

April 23, 2017

Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl
This adorable little guy is a burrowing owl. I've heard that Cape Coral (near Ft. Myers -- about 80 minutes south of Sarasota) is home to the largest burrowing owl population in the world.  The SDP team conducted some research, then the Junior Editor and I set out in search of these pint-sized birds of prey last weekend.  It was the middle of the afternoon (when most owls are hiding), so I didn't have high hopes. But, as soon as we arrived at the first location, I spotted one immediately. Very exciting! They actually live underground and like to roost on manmade posts nearby or stand outside their burrow, like this fellow.  Quite fascinating! We even spotted a fuzzy little baby poking its head out of a burrow.  (Could be a future SDP post...possibly.)  They're so small and low to the ground, they really blend in with their surroundings.  It was unusually windy the day the SDP team was out, and since I was shooting at a distance with a long lens, the conditions were quite challenging even with a tripod. Looking forward to returning and seeing them again soon!

April 22, 2017

Lido Beach Sunset

Lido Sunset
Nothing quite like a Lido Beach sunset! 

Lido SunsetXX
It's important to arrive early and have just the right set up. The SDP Editor-in-Chief stepped up last night and took this assignment herself.


And, this is a quick peek at Lido Beach and the Gulf of Mexico at dusk. (The SDP staff has been experimenting with time lapse videography using a GoPro Hero 4 procured during last year's budget cycle.)  Gorgeous evening -- and a great reminder why I live here.  Hope everyone is having a good weekend so far!

April 9, 2017

Peek-a-Boo Moon

Peek-a-Boo Moon Peek-a-boo!
Spotted last night in Sarasota.

April 8, 2017

Spring Training

Orioles-Pirates
The regular Major League Baseball season just got underway, so I guess I should share these Spring Training pics before they get too dated! Living in Sarasota, I'm within close proximity to many Spring Training facilities. And, it's always fun to spend a spring day at the ballpark. This year, I made it to two games just up the road in Bradenton, which is the spring home for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In this photo, the Pirates were playing the Orioles and the Pirates baserunner slid safely under a tag at first base.  SAFE!

Spring Training
I don't think this Orioles player made the cut to join the Big Leagues. I looked up #17 on the current Orioles roster, but couldn't find him. Some fans sitting in front of me along the right field line temporarily moved out of the way, so I was able to get this shot showing the player hustling to first base.

Austin Meadows
Following the games, some of the players will pause to talk with fans and sign autographs. This young man made quite an impression on me the way he spent so much time interacting with fans and genuinely engaging with them.  His name is Austin Meadows and he's a top prospect for the Pirates. I understand he's starting the season playing AAA ball in Bradenton, since he's so young and the Pirates don't have an open slot for him yet. Seems like he has a winning attitude and hopefully he'll have a long, successful career. 

Travis Harrison
Home run swing! And, this was taken during the first game I attended this year: Twins vs Pirates. That's Twins outfielder Travis Harrison taking it deep. I noticed this year the games weren't sold out -- not even on St. Patrick's Day, which traditionally is a very popular day to go to the park. Not sure why, except maybe the tickets are getting a bit too expensive for some families. Hope everyone has a terrific Saturday!

April 2, 2017

Splash of Color

Cardinal
How about a splash of color via Mother Nature on this Sunday? I was at a neighborhood park in Sarasota earlier this week poised with my camera patiently waiting for an owl to return when this handsome fellow showed up. He certainly seemed ready for his close up. Who was I to turn him down?!

April 1, 2017

Theme Day: Wet

Rain Delay
Typically, when I attend the Miami Open, I'm very prepared for any kind of weather. Hat, sunscreen, sweater, change of shoes and raincoat -- all are with me! Except this year.  For some inexplicable reason I was confident it wouldn't rain and didn't bother bringing a jacket.  (In my defense, we haven't experienced a rain delay for years.) Sure enough, late in the afternoon, a squall blew in from the Atlantic Ocean and soaked us. Blue skies reappeared fairly quickly and maintenance crews were dispatched to dry the court, which was drenched to the point that puddles were casting reflections of the clouds.  Naturally, right when it looked like they were close to resuming play, the skies opened up again. It was a challenging time for a rain delay because this was a late day match overlapping into the evening. So, day fans were on the grounds scurrying for cover while people were arriving for the night matches. It was quite chaotic with people running and yelping (as though raindrops would seriously hurt them) and packing into any and all covered areas. With a steady rain coming down at that late hour, the SDP Junior Editor and I decided to call it a day. Turns out the match resumed hours later and finished well into the night. To see other interpretations of the City Daily Photo Theme Day: Wet click here.  Happy Saturday!

March 31, 2017

On The Road: Miami Open

Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Immediately following a victorious match, players at the Miami Open usually spend some time signing autographs and mingling with fans. When Bethanie Mattek-Sands emerged from the grandstand court she was a completely different person than the one who had just been playing!  Her face lit up when she saw spectators waiting to greet her. She was quick with a big smile, laugh, and happy to take selfies and interact with fans. Quite gregarious!

Bethanie Mattek-Sands
I particularly liked this interaction with a fan in a wheelchair. Bethanie squeezed her hand and chatted for a bit before moving along.

John Isner
And this is Big John Isner signing autographs in the same area, just outside the grandstand court.  Look at that smile!  So nice.  I'm not sure if you'll see this kind of close fan interaction with any other professional sport nowadays.  I love this aspect of tennis -- hope it doesn't change.

March 30, 2017

On The Road: Miami Open

John Isner
For those who like action and a good photography challenge, this is the place to be! No matter what court you're on, typically there's a good seat close to the action (especially on the smaller courts). This is American John Isner who currently is ranked #26 in the world. Big John has the distinction of winning the longest match ever played in Wimbledon history -- 11 hours and 5 minutes -- in 2010.  Whew! When Isner is on the court, it's pretty much guaranteed the match will go the distance!  He pulled off a victory here against Brazilian Thomas Belucci with a second set tie break (of course).  

Bethanie Mattek-Sands
And, this is American Bethanie Mattek-Sands.  Although this was a singles match, the way she was prowling at net you could tell she's an incredible doubles player.  I'm not a big doubles fan, but it turns out, she's the #1 female doubles player in the world. How about that! With her black compression socks and shorts, Matter-Sands is known for her unique style on the court.  What I didn't know is that when she walks off the court, she trades her game face in for an infectious smile and fun, outgoing demeanor.  More on that tomorrow!

March 29, 2017

On The Road: Miami Open

Miami Open: Iguana
Those who've followed SDP for awhile know that every March I head down to Miami to watch a  professional tennis tournament on Key Biscayne.  This was the 11th straight year I made the trip -- so much fun!  The tournament has gone through some name changes over the past few years and now it's called the Miami Open.  Whatever it's been called, every year, I've seen lots of great tennis and experienced close encounters with top tennis players.  One thing I've never seen is this:  an iguana clinging to a practice court fence!  (Yes, it's real!) Look at the length of that tail!  Lots of us were keeping a watchful eye on this unexpected spectator.  Even Roger Federer posted on social media about encountering it! Iguanas are not indigenous to the South Florida area, but they've become increasingly prevalent over the years.  Now, somewhat surprisingly, they've made their way to the tennis park on Key Biscayne.  Welcome to Miami!

March 28, 2017

Urban Living

Hart's Landing
This is Hart's Landing, a popular destination on Sarasota Bay where live bait is sold, seabirds loiter for fish scraps, and boaters briefly moor. A very short distance away is downtown Sarasota. So...this, believe it or not, is urban living Sarasota-style! Glad I had my wide angle lens with me on this beautiful evening last week to capture a broader perspective of our city on the bay.

March 26, 2017

On The Road: Galveston, Texas

White-Faced Saki
Who could resist this little guy -- a white-faced saki monkey?!  When the SDP Junior Editor and I visited the Moody Gardens rain forest in Galveston, Texas, recently, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that some of the inhabitants roam freely around the spacious rain forest area.  Apparently, white-faced sakis tend to be shy and prefer to spend their time in the trees, so I was a bit surprised to encounter this guy just hanging out on a rock, as if he were waiting for his close up.  As surprised as I was, I think a young employee there was even more so --- and strongly encouraged us to stay back back and give him his space.  Done! We also spotted two sloths high up in the trees....and I'm now thinking sloths may have a bad reputation because one was on the move!

Zebra Longwing
Making our way through the rain forest, we also encountered a colorful compact garden with oodles of vibrant butterflies flitting about, including this zebra longwing -- another great surprise, since I love these kinds of photo opps.  Great visit!

March 17, 2017

On The Road: Galveston, Texas

Scarlet Ibis

Recently, while in Houston, the SDP Junior Editor and I took a road trip to Galveston, where we visited the Moody Gardens rainforest. We were there during shoulder tourist season, so when we arrived, the place was pretty quiet...and, I really didn't know what to expect. Imagine my surprise when we walked in and immediately saw this stunning creature! A scarlet ibis.

Scarlet Ibis

The birds -- and many of the animals, like sloths -- have full reign of the rainforest. So, when you're strolling through the area, which is a sizable pyramid-shaped structure with lush foliage, you'll encounter animals wandering around -- very cool! (The snakes and bats etc., naturally, are in more confined areas.) It was a great experience -- would highly recommend it, if you're ever in Galveston. 

Between work and travel, it's been a busy start to 2017! Hope everyone in the SDP world is doing well. Look forward to catching up soon!

January 15, 2017

Through the Clouds

Myakka Sunset

It was overcast and I wasn't sure what kind of sunset there would be through the clouds...but I figured I'd go to Myakka River State Park last night and at least see the sandhill cranes flying in at the boardwalk. Well, the cranes really didn't show up...but this sunset did!  The clouds and sky were amazing.  So glad I had my wide angle lens with me!

January 14, 2017

Crane Convention

Sandhill Cranes At dusk, they materialize...seemingly out of no where.

Sandhill Cranes Sandhill cranes arriving 2-3 at a time.


Sandhill Cranes Sometimes in larger groups...as many as a 40-50.


Sandhill Cranes It can be quite a sight with their wings extended at 5-6 feet...and their landing gear dangling.

Sandhill Cranes
No matter which direction they come from, almost every crane makes the same approach when landing here at Myakka River State Park. Fascinating! This is the largest number of sandhill cranes I've ever seen here. Hundreds are coming in at dusk every night! A park ranger told me at least 500 were here one evening last week -- a sea of gray.  Size aside, what's most interesting about the sandhill crane is their call. It's a distinct honking sound...and it's loud!  Usually they call whenever new birds arrive.  So, with hundreds arriving over the period of an hour or so, it's quite entertaining!

January 7, 2017

Cabbage Key

Cabbage Key
To mark the end of 2016, the entire SDP editorial staff took a day trip to Cabbage Key, a small island in the Gulf of Mexico.  Easiest way for us non-boat owners to get there is via charter boat from Pineland, just north of Ft. Myers.

Cabbage Key The Key is straight out and to the left.  We couldn't have asked for better conditions!  Calm seas and  light sweater weather.

Cabbage Key It's a short ride...only about 10 minutes. 

Cabbage Key

Enough time, though, to take in the sights...and, start to relax.


 (The SDP Editor in Chief looks quite relaxed, don't you think?)

Cabbage Key Lovely view looking back from the island! (The rooftops to the right are located on a different key.)  

Cabbage Key
Cabbage Key is teeny tiny.   No paved roads....and cars are not allowed.  About a dozen cottages are here, a short nature trail to hike, and a water tower to walk up (for a beautiful panoramic view).  The main attraction, though, is this: the Cabbage Key restaurant! Good food...cold beverages...served outside in paradise. Can't beat it! Not a bad way to usher out 2016.

January 5, 2017

Takeoff

Takeoff Look at that form...and concentration during takeoff!  Clearly, he's rapidly calculating how best to maneuver around several palm trees just feet in front of him.  (And, of course, those horses we saw yesterday. ) I think this may be the male, M15.  He was getting a drink from a pond near the nest when he spotted me 40 yards away...gave me the side eye....and whoosh!....took off.  Who knew there was so much activity in a horse paddock?

January 4, 2017

Flyby

Eagle Flyby
When horses share their pasture with a bald eagle who thinks he's Maverick.  ZOOM!

January 3, 2017

Eagle Watch

Bald Eagle
This is one proud mama or papa bald eagle!  (I still cannot tell them apart.)  This is the first time I've visited the world famous eagle nest in Ft. Myers for quite awhile.  Over the past year and a half, there was lots of drama with the eagles.  Long story short, Ozzie passed away (tragically) and Harriet was courted by a new suitor, M15. (Excellent recap story in the Washington Post here.) The couple produced two eggs this year.  With the world watching via the live Southwest Florida Eagle Cam, one fuzzy little eaglet hatched on New Year's Eve. Everyone is anxiously waiting, watching and hoping the second one enters the world soon. 

Bald Eagle
One of the adult eagles is always at the nest, tending to the new eaglet and unhatched egg. When I arrived at the nest last yesterday afternoon, I was just in time for the changing of the guard.  This one flew to a tree within close proximity and direct sight of the nest.

Bald Eagle
Moments later -- without a sound -- its mate materialized...soaring by, racing to the nest.

Bald Eagle
The eagle landed safely....taking over duties watching the family.  As I'm writing, 37,000 people are watching the live video stream.  Pretty cool I can see them in person!  For a closeup look at all the nest activity check out the live web cam.  (A word of warning:  Watching the eagle cam can be very addictive!)  Fingers crossed for a healthy season for the eagles!