Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The female goldensilk orbweaver and her mate

We are having a wet season here in south Florida. That is the understatement of the year. It seems constant storms and rain are the norm these days, not to mention the high wind speeds coming out of the east. All this makes getting out on Biscayne Bay very difficult and when there is a small window of opportunity, I jump on it. Last Sunday, I had an opportunity with mostly overcast skies, but calm conditions for a change.

After an hour at the bird rookery where I didn't manage to capture any keeper images, I decided to explore the mangroves and  head into one of the creeks where I hoped to find my favorite spider, the goldensilk orbweaver. About this time of year is prime for these spiders and many can be seen overhead when drifting through a mangrove tunnel. The lighting was perfectly diffused from the cloud cover, and with use of the flash, I might have some luck finding a spider with clear background (as I look upwards). For more info on my technique for photographing the spider, see my previous blog from two years ago.

Today, almost every female orbweaver had a mate with her. The female is easily seen, while her mate, a fraction of her size is not so easy to see. Next to the female, the little  male looks so puny. The female is grand and lovely. So with cloud-cover sky (lending a perfect background), angled light from the sun and my flash, I captured some photos of the couples. I offer here three photos of three different pairs. Note the abdomen of each female spider and how it differs in shape and size. The spider in the photo above is strikingly larger than the other two.

Can't wait to get back out there with the goldensilk orbweaver. Enjoy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The many poses of the green heron

There are many reasons why I like the green heron. It is very smart and is known to use lures as bait to attract small fish. It lives among the mangroves and uses the roots as a perch when fishing and this location makes the bird more difficult to spot (and I love a challenge). But probably the most appealing characteristic for me is the fact that the green heron has an endless number of shapes. I always think of the term "shapeshifter" when describing the green heron. Unlike other herons and egrets that seem to alternate between two or three poses, the green heron has quite a repertoire of shapes. Many times, we see the green heron in its neckless stout form as it rests on a branch or mangrove root. But when fishing, its long neck can extend to give the bird twice the length.

The other day, I managed to get out on Biscayne Bay between rain storms. The morning proceeded quite nicely but with challenging light conditions as clouds of varying thickness moved quickly across the sky. In addition, the  easterly winds persisted, not reaching much more than 6-8 knots, but briskly pushing into the shoreline. The low tide was not very low due to the winds and this limited the number of wading birds. Instead, many birds stayed near the mangrove shoreline making it difficult to reach them. With the prevailing easterly winds for the past several weeks, a great amount of seaweed has been pushed into the shallows. Today, there was enough of the seaweed to create islands along the shoreline where I thought I would see many birds. With the exception of a couple ibises and juvenile little blue herons, the only bird I attended to was a lone green heron.

I spent most of my time on the water attempting to photograph the little greenie as it hunted for morsels around the seaweed islands. It allowed me to come close within 12-15 ft. With challenging lighting, I captured several photos. I chose some to show here as a means of demonstrating the shapeshifting characteristic of this beautiful little bird. The wind blew its feathers and in the photo above, you can see the bird's exposed ear, a rare sight.