Birds of a Feather

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December started with a show-off of a full moon, rising just behind our big oak to illuminate a rough lace of branches.

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Then, as winter showed its intention to stay, I headed to Florida for a week.

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Any visions I had of fun in the sun were abruptly quashed.

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After a first busy morning when I was unable to get outside to enjoy the warmth, the wind whipped up, a front moved in, and the temperature plummeted.

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Even the hibiscus flowers were tattered at the edges by the cold and wind.

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The rest of the week, until the morning I left (of course) remained unusually frigid for Florida.

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Pelican ornaments.  The most mature ones are highest in the tree.

Whether weather-related or not, the underwater dock light was packed with feeding fish all week, but they weren’t the usual snook, who lurked sluggishly around the edges. The snook were displaced by raucous hordes of ladyfish, darting about as if on vacation, eating everything at the buffet. Our friend who has been fishing at the dock for decades, said he’d never seen anything like such masses of ladyfish before. They are too bony for good eating, but were fun to watch.

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There are compensations to cold weather in Florida.

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Almost empty beach.

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One bird.

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And plenty of shells.

Mostly, everyone (but a few loony Northerners) stays inside.

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Well-insulated surfers.

Since Florida’s population is booming to the point of congested agitation to me, I enjoyed an almost empty jetty and beach.

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On the other hand, the birds also made themselves scarce. With the exception of an osprey couple nesting at the marina, which seemed to be everywhere, eep-eep-eeping as they patrolled for fish and did whatever else ospreys do.

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But at the jetty, there were only one or two anhingas and a few pelicans.

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Fortunately for me, I love anhingas and pelicans.

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They fascinate me and photographs reveal the details of feather, feet, and beak that can’t be properly appreciated with normal eyesight.

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The week of cold was accompanied by high, cutting winds.

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Those winds whipped up feathers, drawing my attention to the different feather types and patterns of these birds.

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Brown pelicans are common as dirt in Florida and from a distance they are attractively prehistoric looking.

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But with the camera’s lens, their feathers are transformed into things of subtle textured stunning beauty.

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As for the anhingas, these ordinary looking birds likewise transform into feathery splendor when they spread their wings to dry, looking like birdy sentinels until they start grooming.

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Then their long necks perform sinuous gymnastics, reaching every part of their bodies in seemingly impossible contortions.

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Anhingas swim underwater for long stretches and, curiously, some of their feathers remind me of otter fur.

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A few years ago, I took photos of a male anhinga in mating season in late January, when they develop green circles around its eyes.

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Apparently December is too early for mating because the only anhinga braving the cold on this trip had brilliantly red eyes, with no green circles. I believe this one was a female.

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For the first few days, I saw no egrets at the jetty, but on my last morning, a whole line of them were fishing.

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Their feathers used to be used to adorn hats.  Gorgeous they are, but much better on the bird.

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48 thoughts on “Birds of a Feather

  1. I love the pelicans in the tree! They do look a bit like ornaments. And your feather photo’s! The anhingas with the black and white patterns are fabulous, and those pelican feet made me think ‘terrible lizard,’ which I think is English for tyrannosaurus, but who knows at this point. Your osprey peaking over the nest looked alert and ready for fishing. Too bad it for cold while you were in FL, but I imagine it was still a bit warmer than Maine! Since I haven’t checked the weather, though, I could very well be wrong. Gorgeous photos!

    • I love the roosting pelicans, too. They perch in all levels of the Australian pines across the water, busily grooming, and really do look like decorations.
      It was colder in Maine than Florida but the Florida cold seems to penetrate all the way to my bones. Maybe it’s the moisture in the air, but I’ll take 10 degrees in Maine over 40 degrees in Florida. Also, I didn’t bring enough warm weather clothes and had to go out and buy some!

  2. Wonderful photos Brenda, very like the ones I’ve been looking at in National Geographic. The Egrets’ feathers are SO white and beautiful, their cousin Egrets in Australia look a bit dishevelled in comparison! Interesting to read the weather has been cold in Florida, we have had a very strange mix of weather for the beginning of summer.

    • Judy, the only camera I have used for the past few years is a relatively inexpensive Canon PowerShot. This one is the SX530 HS and cost under $250. I’m not sure if it’s considered a point-and-shoot or a very low end bridge camera, but it’s an absolutely amazing little machine for its size and price. Its a bit fussy with macro shots but, overall, I love it.

  3. Beautiful. I saw pelicans (in the wild) for the first time last year in Australia and found them totally captivating. I love the demure, head down, ‘spying at you out of the corner of my eye’ look.

    • What a perfect description of the pelican look. There’s almost something flirtatious about it. They are one of my favorite birds. They look so pterodactyl-like, as if designed by someone with a too-vivid imagination. I can watch them fish for hours and seeing them flying in low formation over the water makes my heart race a little. It’s like bird ballet.

  4. Beautiful feather studies, Brenda. I’m sorry your vacation was marred by cold weather – so disappointing. Guess the wind followed you South! At least the light was better than at home. 😉

    • Thanks Eliza. It wasn’t really a vacation trip, so I didn’t mind the cold so much. I have hit December cold snaps several times in Florida, so shouldn’t have been surprised.

  5. A beautiful collection of bird studies Brenda. I also love the crazy looking pelican, it looks so cumbersome on land but when flying and skimming over the waves it is poetry in motion. What a pity the weather let you down. Did you take the dogs with you?

  6. I saw the tag “anhinga” and thought, “What?! There are no anhingas in Maine!” What an amazing set of photos–I was curious about your camera, too, and am blown away by the shots you’re getting with a basic camera. It must be skill and talent, I guess! I love the egrets and those elegant, silky feathers. Your trip doesn’t sound like a typical Florida vacation but it was memorable! Oh, and the branches in front of the moon–sublime!

    • I cannot recommend these type of cameras enough. They open up a world of photography to people who don’t want or have the means to invest in expensive equipment and the time to understand the complexities of manual photography. It feels like cheating to just point, zoom in, and shoot, but it’s such fun. Trust me, no skill and talent involved, it really is just pointing and shooting. But there’s the fun of the hunt for a good shot and the satisfaction of seeing what the little camera’s zoom lens reveals.

      • I happen to think you’re wrong when you say there’s no skill or talent involved–you have an eye for detail and framing that is uncommonly fine. But it’s great to know that a basic camera, in the hands of the right person, can result in such amazing images!

  7. Love, love, love those close-up of the feathers. Oh, my! And that little Canon you use is amazing. I’ve always been a fan of Canons, and your photos illustrate why.

    • These new cameras are amazing. I know that lots of bloggers like Lumix cameras, but I’ve had all kinds of Canons over the years and have developed a fondness for them.

  8. Oh….I was in heaven here. Those birds!!! Those feathers!!! Sighs I…. just beautiful, all of it! I shall revisit this post when things calm down and I have a chance to dwell on it. I remember you visiting your parent there, hope all is well with your mum. xxx

    • Thanks Dina. With your rescue work, you must get to see the beauty of feathers up close quite often. I need a camera to do the same! It sounds as if you are having a busy holiday season. All the best to you and your family and dogs, of course!

  9. What a shame the weather wasn’t very good for your trip to Florida. It still looks warmer than here , looking at your pictures! The bird images are fantastic , I have never heard of an anhinga before although it does look similar to the cormorants we have here. I will have to experiment with taking close up of their feathers too. It must have been a shame to miss the dogs delight of the first snows. Wishing you and your family a Very Happy Christmas. Sarah x

    • Anhingas and cormorants are related, but when anhingas spread their wings, they transform into a black and white majesty. Someone should try to recreate that exquisite beauty in a textile pattern.
      I was sorry to miss the dog’s first snow of the season, but the snow keeps falling and their exuberant delight hasn’t diminished.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family, Sarah. I hope you create happy memories!

  10. Remarkable and fascinating photos. I’m sorry the weather did not cooperate with your vacation, but it certainly wasn’t a total loss. We usually go somewhere warmer but not really warm for Christmas. I would love to have some pelican lawn ornaments, flamingos are so done!

    • Agreed on the pelican lawn ornaments. Do you ever see any pelicans in your area? I remember years ago stumbling on a magnificent flock of migrating white pelicans in South Dakota. I had no idea what they were at first, not knowing that they could be found there.

      • wonderful. I hope you find some this a good resources. There is so much to see that gets over looked. contact me any time if you have a question or a place you are interested in.Cheers

  11. Gorgeous photos! And how have I never seen anhingas before? We have white pelicans that come through our urban lake, including at least one (we all call him Hank) who decided he likes it here so much he doesn’t migrate anymore. (He does get a bit testy with the tourists though!)

    • You don’t live in Anhinga-land. hey hang out in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and South America. White pelicans, though, are quite spectacular and entertaining, so you are fortunate to have Hank. And I don’t blame him for being testy with the tourists. He hasn’t had your training!

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