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The Hard Life of a Sandhill Crane

5/16/2018

 

Under Dad's wing, this week-old sandhill crane colt feels safe enough to swim and paddle around its marsh home...happy to be out of the thick woodlands it had to trudge through all day. It's just a part of this little birds daily training. It's a day-in-the-life of a sandhill colt which is always grueling, exhausting, educational and not always successful.

This is the second year in a row I have monitored this specific mated pair of sandhill cranes raise their young. Their chosen nesting area is really good for safety, more so than the many other cranes using this wetland marsh. But to get to dry land where the young build strength and learn to forage and survive there are many directional paths to choose from.

Last year this Mom & Dad chose the most dangerous route that led them to a deep stream crossing near an alligator den. Sadly Dad lost his rambunctious favorite and was not the same the rest of the season. They carried on and raised one colt and I was there the day it took its first of many flights. Family of three, job well done.

Almost two weeks ago these parents began nurturing and training two new born healthy looking colts. Alison and I monitored a full day trek just days ago of this new family of four. Thus far they have outsmarted the gator. Oh yes, the gator is there, slipping under its gator hole and skimming the banks and laying in wait for its next avian meal. But this smart Mom and Dad have selected a brand new route into the woodlands which has so far eluded crossing the deep river parts where the enemy lies. 

It was a nerve racking day's journey as I followed the family (loosing track of them for expanded amounts of time) and would spot them on a trek that was meandering along the river banks and crossing dirt paths to avoid what they experienced last year.

All I can say is wow. I couldn't have felt more proud for the family and their survival instincts. These two colts are under the wings of two, more educated parents. I wish this family safe passage where ever they go.

photo ©MarcHarris/MarcHarrisWildlife 2018

 

Fire and Loss

4/10/2018

Wow, where do I begin? And how do I convey what I found over Easter weekend 2018 at an Eagles nest that I visit only occasionally. Straight out what I found was a burned up forest.

This nest is home to a mating pair of bald eagles with eaglets in the nest. (I posted a story on these two eagles on my Instagram page November 17th, 2017 - just about 5 months ago).

This nest pictured above, prior to this photo, was literally undetectable from almost anywhere in this forested site. It took me days of hiking around to find it for the very first time. To preface, I was in this dense locale photographing and attempting to document a pair of great horned owls with two newborn owlets in an old abandoned shabby pine tree nest. I would watch, in a territorial power play, the eagles fly an east-west pattern near the owls nest daily. It made me wonder where the eagles were living. With snake books and hiking gear I set out on a trek to find the eagles. Hidden in a remote low lying area I finally spotted a camouflaged, mega-huge, sturdy nest built high up in a tall pine tree full of green pine needles, canopied and lush. These eagles had found their utopia. These parents were alone deep in the woods and any movement near their nest sent them blaring out alarm calls. Photographing the nest was never an option so I decided to only check in on them for personal updates like, after severe storms, hurricanes, breeding season, to make sure they were there and safe.

So you can only imagine my horror when I arrived at the burned out pine land forest. As I walked in closer, which was a breeze now, I photographed the fully exposed nest. No canopy, burned trunk, bare branches...I waited and waited for any sign of life and then with an Oh My God feeling, a juvenile head popped up from the darkened diminished pile of twigs. Amazing I thought! Within a half hour, one parent made a fly by. I took a couple documentary photos and left them to be.

I don't know who was responsible for this burn but the loss of wildlife in this acreage is heart breaking. A coyote den, a rose-breasted grosbeak nesting area, many migrating species feeding on grasshoppers and other insects, and small ground animals are all gone. Including the ground nest of the mating pair of great horned who had owlets.

Life in the wild is mighty tough and humans aren't helping like we should. 

#YearOfTheBird

©MarcHarris/MarcHarrisWildlife

What's a whirley bird?

2/28/2018

Belted Kingfisher/Florida Everglades

 

This belted kingfisher has been plunging for his breakfast from the edge of a marsh lake I've been sitting on for a while this winter. He only shows up within camera range - before sunrise. Zips in eats and then zips out. It's rare for me to have the opportunity to have him perch, even for a second or two, right next to me. I kinda dig the dewey twilight infused spider web spun on the twig he scoping from.

 

Other than that...it's a kingfisher. Sitting. But take my word for it, not for long. He sped away as quickly as he sped in.

 

A fleeting forest flier finding fish.

 

He's like a tongue twister, whirlybird.

 

Well not really a whirleybird but who remembers that word???

 

Now that's a word I haven't heard in forever.

But 'kingfisher'...that's a word I'll say for always, endlessly, for all time. 

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#conservation #conservationphotography #wildlife #nature #kingfisher

 

Our Only Native Stork in North America

10/25/2017

North American Wood Stork

This bald headed Southeastern United States wading bird in all its glory and bizarreness hasn't really been given its due appreciation, in my humble opinion.

Relating to this bird with pure emotion, and also in character with my adoration and respect for all wildlife, I see this bird as beautiful.  Look at this creatures prehistoric looking head, it's awesome and awkward at the same time. And because the wood stork has gotten sort of a bum rap in the "good looks" gene pool, no doubt undeservedly, I decided to feature all of its loveliness and make him the cover photo of my 2018 Wildlife Calendar.

I decorate him with favor for returning to southwest Florida to breed after a about a two year absence. Welcome back my featherless headed friend. 

In this photographic image this wood stork is enjoying a little late afternoon sunshine after a day of dining on minnows, frogs, and crayfish from what I could tell. Leading the troop, he began exiting a grassy marsh pond with a flock of friends and family who were gingerly lagging behind. This gave me the perfect opportunity to capture this ones style and essence as they all silently retreated into the shadows.

©Marc Harris/MarcHarrisWildlife   

Purchase this image at  http://www.marcharriswildlife.com/galleries

Purchase our 2018 Calendar at http://www.marcharriswildlife.com/merchandise/calendars

 

 

The Dance of the Sandhill Crane

10/17/2017

There are several theories about why Sandhill Cranes dance. The most widely accepted theory is that the dance is a mating ritual. 

However, even Juvi's have been known to join in on the fun.

Maybe that's the real answer...they dance because it's fun.

 

©Marc Harris/MarcHarrisWildlife   

Purchase this image at  http://www.marcharriswildlife.com/galleries

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandhill Cranes Mate For Life

10/9/2017
 
 
The majestic sandhill crane.

This 2017 breeding season many sandhill cranes made a Florida inland marsh their breeding home. There were rock island beds to keep their nests relatively safe from coyotes, bobcats and other ground predators but the attentive parents still had many dangers to face every day.

I set up my hidden blind area at the rounded tip of a land jetty that allowed me to observe one particular mating pair. Their colorings were significantly different as well as their nesting behaviors so it was easy for me to tell them apart whether they were together or one of them was off taking a break from the two eggs they were caring for.
 
On March 31st the eggs hatched and two colts were born. Within 8 to 12 hours both little ones were being led away from the nest by the parents, across the muddy marsh to begin their rigorous struggle and perseverance for what would be a life of survival. The first trek to the edges of the marsh bank for the two tiny birds was amazing. With Mom and Dad urging them forward they would drop from exhaustion but the family bond of encouragement made them stronger as they struggled through the muck in preparation for life in the wild. 
 
The siblings bonded immediately and at four days old when the weaker of the two was having difficulty keeping up, the stronger one would rush to the rescue and insist the little one keep moving. It was incredibly touching to watch the dynamics and the roles they assumed as one family.
Every morning at sunrise the family left the nesting site for long treks through the forest. 
As of April they had one surviving colt that was doing quite well despite the fact that it was the weaker and smaller of the two hatchlings. I watched it start to fly just a little to keep up with the parents. The family of three made it through the season and I returned often to witness the love, knowledge and survival skills they imparted upon their colt as she grew into her legs and became as beautiful as her Mom and Dad. 
 
As this noble and elegant family continues to make their way through life I hope to see them again soon.
 

Bald Eagle Behavior

4/8/2017

 

An apparent female bald eagle was enjoying her meal while her mate circled above to keep nearby vultures and other birds of prey from interrupting her. Meanwhile, in the skies above, a juvenile bald eagle showed up with interest in joining in on the feast. The male eagle immediately began chasing the juvenile in an aerial showdown. This left the female unattended and I witnessed her begin to scream and scream. 

I patiently watched from the pine flats. When the male returned just moments later she decided she was over the whole scenario and flew off.

As I moved on, looking behind me, no other bird had mustered up the courage to pick up where this regal hunter had left off. 

I thought to myself, just give them time.

 

Photo ©Marc Harris/Marc Harris Wildlife

 

 

Where Have All The Ibis Gone?

5/20/2016

I speak more specifically about the American white ibis. Genus: endocimus albus; Family: ibises and spoonbills.

Most common in the deep southern regions of the United States, the white ibis is one of the most numerous wading birds in Florida. Adults are mostly white with black tipped wings, red face and legs and a very distinctive downturned pink bill.

Originally found in numbers reportedly as high as in the thousands across the Everglades, the white ibis has turned to urban life all over Florida in order to adapt. Their population is much lower today than in past decades due to loss of feeding and nesting habitats.  In spite of the perils they face they can be seen everywhere from backyards, golf courses, parks and shorelines, looking for insects or probing for prey. But the question I still ask myself most is... will they return to the subtropical wilderness of the Everglades or will they continue to exist as a social bird among people?

Photo title: "White Ibis Sunrise"

Photo location: Coastal region of Southwest Florida

Photo description: Ibis in flight, silhouetted against a shoreline morning sunrise with the water's reflection capturing the peach colored sky painted by Mother Nature.

Purchase this print: https://www.marcharriswildlife.com/Galleries/Birds-And-Wildlife

(I personally recommend the matte paper)

©Marc Harris/MarcHarrisWildlife