I find that black vultures are often a source of mystery. It isn't that they are particularly cryptic in and of themselves. It's their coloration. Since they have black feathers, a bald black head, black eyes, and a dark beak; they are effectively all silhouette. And since they often tuck their head in or hold it at odd angles, they are often fairly indistinct silhouettes at that. Often, I will spot a bird perched in a tree or on a pole with the sun at its back and start thinking of all of the possible birds that it could be, only have it turn out to be this living silhouette, the black vulture.
Sunday, as I was riding in the middle of nowhere, I spotted a large bird perched on a power pole. The sun was at its back, so all I could make out was its shape. My first thought was, "this has to be a black vulture, of course."
As I got closer, I started to have doubts. "The head just isn't right for a black vulture. Could it be a turkey vulture?"
I get closer. "Hmm. The head shape doesn't really work for either vulture. The beak looks too thick for a hawk. Crested caracara?"
I start to get a bit hopeful. Crested caracaras have been reported in the area, but I haven't seen any on this trip. They are striking birds and it would be a great opportunity, but there's a problem. "The head would work for a caracara, but that bird is huge. What could it be?"
I finally start to get parallel with the bird. The pole that it is on is now 10 yards away from me. The light has shifted enough so that I'm not just looking at a dark shape. I can now clearly make out the bright yellow beak and the pure white feathers on its head. I couldn't help but think, "Aha. American bald eagle. I guess that will have to do."
Fortunately, the bird did not hold the slow identification against me. It stayed on the pole and let me take as many pictures as I wanted. (Such as the 2 below)
I had originally planned to follow up my bald eagle post with one that included pictures of black vultures. I wanted to demonstrate that I don't dislike vultures, in spite of how their silhouettes may occasionally mislead me. It's just that they are difficult to get good pictures of because of their coloration, and they are such a common sight in this area that I often don't think of trying to take pictures of them. My plan changed because of a couple of sightings that I had while I was out running errands last weekend. I happened to take notice of another ubiquitous bird -- the osprey.
There really isn't any reason I should fail to notice the osprey. They have distinctive markings. They catch fish and carry them off in their claws (thus the nickname "Fish Taxi"). They don't shy away from human areas. They make huge nests. They even hover -- about as close to posing for the camera as a bird can. It's just that I see them every day and they faded from my potential subject list. So, here are two birds that I happened to notice:
I realized that I have been remiss in keeping this up-to-date. (After all, @Squidleybits can't have all the fun posting pictures!)
For the past few days, a different kind of bird has dominated my photography -- the Thunderbird. The Air Force's Thunderbird flight team performed yesterday and today for an airshow at the local airport. They also practiced for a couple of days prior to that. Even though the F-16 is a remarkably agile jet, it's still a jet (and I assume not being pushed to its operational limit during the shows), so a performance at an airport is really a performance for the entire area around the airport. I have seen multiple flyovers at work and at home, both miles from the airport in different directions. Today, I split the difference -- I went to a park halfway between work and home. It was a great vantage point, and I think I got some good pictures. The "inverted" picture really illustrates how good of a vantage point I had -- the original picture has enough detail to show that the plane is Thunderbird #6, assigned to Major Jason Curtis.
I also found time to bother one of the local birds (in this case an anhinga):
Most of my telephoto work is with a 70-300mm lens on a 60D. I normally leave the camera in shutter priority 1/400" with the ISO limited to 800 max. I usually leave the auto-focus on the center mark. Though, today I was manually pulling the focus because I was worried the autofocus wouldn't keep up.
These are a series of related pictures that I took during my trip to Raleigh in August. The first three pictures are from a small park called "The Rose Garden". As would be expected, everyone goes there to take pictures of the flowers. Being something of a contrarian, I went there and took pictures of bugs.
What fantastic photo's Mike (Nobody who likes birds can be Evil!). I'm envious of your Camera, it beats my cheap and cheerful one. Birds and Aircraft, my favourite subjects but I have never taken any this good.
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to find a herd of manatee (and pictures will be forthcoming). While I was taking pictures of the sea cows, a green heron decided to walk right below me on the embankment where I was taking pictures. I have to wonder if it was a little jealous that I wasn't taking pictures of birds and decided to show off to get my attention.
One of the few times I am disappointed that an answer turned out to be entirely logical:
I looked up the collective noun used for manatee, hoping for something spectacular and unusual like a wake of vultures, a murmuration of starlings, or a murder of crows. Imagine my disappointment to find out that what applies to cows also applies to sea cows -- a group of manatee is simply called a "herd".
I recently learned about an unusual air plant. It's a type of tree, that has been introduced to Florida and looks similar to a rubber tree, called the Schefflera. It also has a number of interesting colloquial names such as the Umbrella Tree or the Octopus Tree. (Thank you, Google.) The fact that it can exist as an epiphyte - a plant that grows on another plant without harming it, or directly drawing subsistence from it, is quite surprising. The Schefflera that I routinely see in this area grow from the ground and can end up 30 feet tall or more. The reason I know the tree can exist in as an air-plant was because I found an example of it. The picture isn't that spectacular, but the plant itself certainly is. It's a ~18 foot tall tree growing out of the trunk of a ~35 foot tree. (The host tree isn't dead -- it's a northern species that doesn't understand Florida so it sheds its leaves for the winter.)
One of the main feeding strategies of the reddish egret is to cause as much as chaos as possible and then attack whatever prey is left dazed and confused in its wake. Here is a glimpse of an egret mid-ruckus.