Saturday, February 23, 2008

Raptured with Raptors

Rapture: The state of being transported
by a lofty emotion; ecstasy

As I tried to think of an alliterative word to use with "raptor" this just popped into mind. The dictionary definition confirmed the choice of my subconscious, and now I have the perfect description for the way I feel when I encounter a raptor, especially one in the wild. Our Florida trip added two new raptors to my list, and gave me some great photos of other favorites.
First, the new raptors include a Snail Kite and Burrowing Owls. The brown Kite soared across the marsh and landed on a post, attracting my attention. In the scope, we could clearly see that it was a Snail Kite with a large apple snail in talon. Click this picture for an enlargement and see the snail. I called another nearby birder with a scope, who was just as excited to find the elusive Kite. However, the Kite was more interested in extracting the snail from its shell for lunch than it was in posing so we could get good photos.
The Burrowing Owls lived at the Pompano Beach Municpal Airport - a "gated" community in the best Florida tradition! One area hosted at least 15 burrows, marked with white T perches, both for the benefit of the owls and so the lawn mowers could avoid the area. Again, the scope clearly saw the owl families sitting around enjoying the late afternoon sun before going out hunting. One burrow had two owls, while another had at least three. A jogger directed us to a nest built right against the fence, where we saw these owls face to face. A chain link fence does not add to the quality of the photos, but it does protect the owls. I got down on my belly in the grass to shoot one little guy under the fence. What do you think of this shot?
We see more Red Shouldered Hawks in Florida than we do in Kentucky. This one struggled with something it caught in the water. Later, we saw the same bird in its favorite perch in a nearby tree, watching over the marsh for another snack. In other years we have seen lots of Bald Eagles in Florida, but this year there were none. The marshes and wetlands we visited probably didn't have the deep clear water that Eagles seem to prefer.
Ospreys were everywhere. Hobe Sound NWR was decimated by the recent hurricanes, and only a few pines were left standing on the hillside, surrounded by brush. In my experience, Ospreys aren't as anxious when humans come around as other birds. This male Osprey caught a fish, landed in one of the few trees, and wasn't about to leave when we approached. As always, I started taking pictures as soon as I saw him, then walked a little closer and took some more. Finally, we stood right below the branch where he sat, and he completely ignored us, so these close-ups are really close and not doctored with Photoshop! This American Kestral was the first bird we saw at Hobe Sound.


Lynne said...

Hi Kathy- I found your blog on the Nature Blog Network. This looks like an interesting place- I'll be back to read more. I've also bookmarked the digital photography tutorial site on your sidebar. I've recently graduated from a point and shoot to a Canon Rebel XTi and I think that site will be helpful to me. Thanks!

Kathy Dennis said...

These tutorials do a great job explaining camera terminology in 3 paragraphs or less, with photos to show different settings. I think it's a great site. Thanks for checking out my blog.