EnviroQuest

Photography by Larry A Lyons

Spring Has Sprung: Busy, Busy Birds

This is the first of a three part series of a Florida field trip organized by the South Jersey Camera Club for the purpose of photographing birds and their behavior. The field trip was conducted over a five-day period in the beginning of March.

This first post will present images captured at the Venice Audubon Rookery in Venice, Florida. This rookery is a 14-acre park with a man-made lake. The lake has a small island that is made of mangrove trees and shrubs. A first glance of the island does not particularly provide a significant impression, but a closer examination reveals an incredibly busy habitat. This small island that is probably no longer than 50 yards (46 meters) and 20 yards (18 meters) wide displayed an astonishing level of activity including courting, building nests, mating, and feeding the newborns by an assortment of bird species. Nesting at this rookery can begin as early as December and last through May.

Great Egrets are often the first birds to begin nesting in an area, which often precipitates the nesting activity by other bird species. Great Egrets are the symbol of the National Audubon Society.

Pair of Great Egrets

‘Pair of Great Egrets’ © Larry A Lyons

This elegant bird stands between 37 and 41 inches (94 to104 cm) and has a wingspan of 52 to 57 in. (131 to 145 cm).

Nest Building

‘Nest Building’ © Larry A Lyons

The male will begin to construct the nest from sticks and twigs before it pairs up with a female. Both sexes will work together to complete building the nest.

Egret Courting

‘Egret Courting’ © Larry A Lyons

During breeding season, long plumes grow from their backs that are displayed for courting.

Great Egrets were hunted for their plumes almost to extinction in the late nineteenth century. This resulted in some of the first laws to protect birds in the United States. It was the reason the Audubon Society was originally formed to bring attention to that slaughter.

Great Egrets Mating

‘Egrets Mating’ © Larry A Lyons

Broods of one or two are produced. Here the two siblings are licking the beak of an adult for nourishment from regurgitated fish by the adult. The nesting period lasts for 21 to 25 days.

Great Egret Siblings

‘Great Egret Siblings’ © Larry A Lyons

The Anhinga is predominately a southeastern bird in the United States preferring Cypress swamps, wooded forests, and freshwater marshes. The female Anhinga has a pale brown neck and breast while the male is green-black overall. The long thin pointed bill is used for spearing fish.

Anhingas have a variety of courting behaviors. Here they are pointing their beaks up in the air and were maneuvering their snake-like necks between each other.

Anhingas Courting

‘Anhingas Courting’ © Larry A Lyons

The Anhinga nest is mostly built by the female with the male supplying the materials.

Anhinga Nest Building

‘Anhinga Nest Building’ © Larry A Lyons

The Anhinga does not have oil glands for waterproofing its feathers like most water birds. So it is often seen sunning itself to dry off its wings.

Anhinga Sunning

‘Anhinga Sunning’ © Larry A Lyons

The ‘cousin’ to the Anhinga is the cormorant that also was attending to a nest at the Venice rookery. Cormorants have shorter tails, shorter and blunter bills and do not have the silvery wing patches like an Anhinga.

Double-Crested Cormorant

‘Double-crested Cormorant’ © Larry A Lyons

Flying over the Venice rookery was a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. The geographical range for these ducks extends from South and Central America with their most northern range in the United States being Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

‘Black-bellied Whistling Ducks © Larry A Lyons

The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in Florida measuring between 42 and 52 inches (107 to 132 cm). It spite of their majestic size they only weigh 5 to 6 lbs. (2.3 to 2.7 kg). They build large platform nests made of twigs and lined with leaves and grasses. The male brings the nesting material to the female who builds the nest.

Different aged- generations of these herons were being reared at nests on the island. Here the adult identified by the black plume extending beyond the back of the head, the blue-gray back and wings and the back plumes in alternate plumage was busy feeding an immature heron. The immature heron has brownish to gray upper wings, lacks back plumes and lacks the black plume extending from behind the eye.

Adult and Juvenile Great Blue Herons

‘Adult and Juvenile Great Blue Herons’ © Larry A Lyons

The young herons will take to flight by the time they are 45 to 55 days old. However, the immature herons are not as proficient at foraging and will return back to the nest to get additional nourishment from an adult. This will go on for about 2 months after fledging.

Immature Heron Being Fed

‘Immature Heron Being Fed’ © Larry A Lyons

Both sexes share in the care and raising the young. One of the parents is always present during the first 3 to 4 weeks. Feeding the young is primarily regurgitated fish.

Great Blue Heron Chicks

‘Great Blue Heron Chicks’ © Larry A Lyons

Check out the long toes of the Common Gallinule that allow this bird to walk atop soft mud or floating vegetation while foraging. This newly hatched chick is being cared for by an adult. Newly hatched chicks have spurs on their wings that aids them to climb into their nest.

Common Gallinule With Chick

‘Common Gallinule With Chick’ © Larry A Lyons

One, two, three, four – photography is all about being at the right place at the right time. Number One: This Brown Pelican took flight from the island directly towards the outer bank of the lake where this photographer was standing.

Brown Pelican Inflight

‘Brown Pelican Inflight’ © Larry A Lyons

Number Two: It then immediately plunges its beak into the water with its throat pouch wide open to trap the fish.

Brown Pelican Capturing Prey

‘Brown Pelican Capturing Prey’ © Larry A Lyons

Number Three: It then proceeds to drain the water from its pouch.

Brown Pelican Draining Pouch

‘Brown Pelican Draining Water From Pouch’ © Larry A Lyons

Number Four: And then it swallows its catch.

Brown Pelican Swallowing Prey

‘Brown Pelican Swallowing Prey’ © Larry A Lyons

All four images were taken during a period of 22 seconds.

Black-crowned Night Herons spend their days mostly perched on tree limbs or concealed among foliage. They forage in the evening and at night.

Black-crowned Night Heron

‘Black-crowned Night Heron’ © Larry A Lyons

Sunset over the Venice Rookery provides another surprising event. Hundreds of birds fly into the rookery to roost during the night.

Sunset Over Venice Rookery

‘Sunset Over Venice Rookery’ © Larry A Lyons

This is one very, very busy rookery. Spring has sprung in Florida. Stay tuned for the next post ‘Spring Has Sprung: Birds of Prey”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Award: An Image from the Amazon

This image entitled, ‘Doing Laundry In The Amazon’, was awarded ‘Best of Show’ by the Photographic Society of America (PSA) within the interclub competition for projected images. It was submitted on behalf of the South Jersey Camera Club competing with more than 30 other camera clubs.

Doing Laundry In The Amazon

‘Doing Laundry In The Amazon’ © Larry A Lyons

This image was captured from a dugout canoe on a tributary of the Amazon River when visiting the city of Iquitos, Peru.

Award Announcement – Snowy Owl

This image entitled ‘Snowy Owl’  was awarded second place in the juried photographic exhibit held at the Medford Arts Center in Medford, New Jersey.

Snowy Owl copyright

This image along with 35 other amazing images are on display at the Medford Arts Center until March 18th.

Medford Arts Walk Exhibits- An Invitation

Tonight (February 18th from 5 to 7 p.m.) is the final receptions for three separate  exhibits held at Medford, N.J.

The Medford Arts Center is presenting a juried Photographic exhibit with a wide diversity of photographic images contributed by New Jersey Photographers. There are over 35 images on display.

The “All About Nature” exhibit held at the Hansen Warner Building is also a juried exhibit by the very talented South Jersey Camera Club members. There are over 60 images on display.

Stop by this evening.

February ArtWalk on Main

 

Great American West Exhibit – An Invitation

You are invited to our next “Great American West” exhibit by Larry Lyons and Pat Worley. This exhibit will be hanging at the Deptford Galleria, Deptford, NJ from January 22 to March 30, 2016. The exhibit includes over 65 framed images captured from national parks including Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Redwood Forest, Badlands, Yosemite, Desert Valley, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and much more.

A reception will be provided on Sunday, February 28th, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. There will be flutists playing and hors d’oeuvres being served. Save the date.

Feel free to contact me at lalyons@comcast.net if you have any questions.

The GAW- Feb 28 Reception

 

The Foxes of Island Beach State Park

Island Beach State Park is one of the last significant remnants of a barrier island ecosystem that once existed along most of the New Jersey coastline. In fact, it is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches along the north Atlantic coast.

Island Beach State Park is about 3,000 acres along a 10-mile stretch of coastal dunes. It is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay. This barrier island ecosystem consists of primary dunes, beaches, dense thickets of brush and trees, freshwater wetlands, maritime forest and tidal marshes. There are over 400 plant species. This ecosystem is utilized by a wide diversity of birds including ospreys, peregrine falcons, wading birds, shore birds and songbirds. Island Beach State Park is also the home of a red fox population.

'Red Fox On Snow-Covered Dunes' © Larry A Lyons

‘Red Fox On Snow-Covered Dunes’ © Larry A Lyons

The red fox population at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey appears quite healthy and prosperous. This past winter of 2015 appears to have a particularly high population of foxes present. In one drive through at least 8 to 10 foxes were observed over a period of four hours. Since Barnegat Bay has been frozen for several weeks this winter, some migration of the foxes is suspected to the park via the frozen bay.

'On The Run' © Larry A Lyons

‘On The Run’ © Larry A Lyons

Foxes are generally nocturnal and like to hunt at night. However, if they live in a place where they do feel safe, like Island Beach State Park, they may also hunt in the daytime. One fox was observed running across the road with a bird in its mouth. It quickly disappeared into the thickets to either stash its catch or eat it.

'Do Not Feed Me' © Larry A Lyons

‘Do Not Feed Me’ © Larry A Lyons

It is obvious that the foxes of Island Beach are somewhat unafraid of humans since they will approach you waiting to see if you will feed them. However, it is strictly forbidden to feed them. There is plenty of natural food in the park for their needs. Feeding them is detrimental to them. One fox was observed walking around with a broken leg. This injury could have resulted by being struck from a vehicle.

'On The Prowl' © Larry A Lyons

‘On The Prowl’ © Larry A Lyons

Red foxes are successful animals in the wild. They live throughout the continental United States and also in Europe, Asia and North Africa. They can be found in a variety of habitats including forest areas, grasslands, deserts, mountains, and coastal areas.

Living in the wild is a harsh life. The life span of a red fox is three to five years in the wild as opposed to red foxes that live in captivity can live up to 10 to 12 years.

'Oh So Pretty' © Larry A Lyons

‘Oh So Pretty’ © Larry A Lyons

Red foxes are the size of a medium sized dog. They are naturally lean, but do not appear that way when seen in the winter with their rather bulky coat.

Foxes have excellent hearing and can hear low frequency sounds and rodents digging underground.

'Red Fox Profile' © Larry A Lyons

‘Red Fox Profile’ © Larry A Lyons

Red foxes also have great eyesight. They have vertically-split pupils like a cat that would be advantageous when hunting at night.

'Red Fox Close-up' © Larry A Lyons

‘Red Fox Close-up’ © Larry A Lyons

Foxes being omnivores have a very diverse diet of animals and plant material. Plant material would include fruits, berries, acorns, grasses, sedges and tubers. Their animal diet consists of small mammals (mice, rabbits, voles), insects and grubs, birds, and if they live near the ocean they will also consume mollusks, crabs and fish.

Although foxes typically hunt or forage alone, they are social animals that live in packs. Packs can consist of older siblings, pups, nannies (non breeding females) and mates.

'Winter Courting' © Larry A Lyons

‘Winter Courting’ © Larry A Lyons

Their breeding season is in the winter when they will court and mate. The female fox is referred to as a ‘vixen’ and the male as a ‘dog’. The dog fox will support the vixen by bringing food to the family in early spring. A vixen can produce a litter of 2 to 12 pups. Both parents care for their young through the summer after which they are out on their own.

'The Dog and The Vixen' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Dog and The Vixen’ © Larry A Lyons

Vixens can also be assisted in rearing the cubs by non-breeding females or a female cub from a previous litter.

Fighting and posturing of red foxes can either be the result of aggressive and dominant behavior or by fearful or submissive behavior. When male foxes are courting females, the male will turn its’ ears outwardly and raise it’s tail in a horizontal position.

'Dominance' © Larry A Lyons

‘Dominance’ © Larry A Lyons

When a fox is afraid or expressing submission to a dominant animal, foxes will arch their backs while crouching their legs and curving their bodies. Their ears are pointed backwards and their tails are lashing back and forth.

'Submission' © Larry A Lyons

‘Submission’ © Larry A Lyons

Playful individuals will perk their ears and rise on their hind legs.

'Playing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Playing’ © Larry A Lyons

'The Chase' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Chase’ © Larry A Lyons

When red foxes move into an assertive attack, the foxes approach each other directly instead of sideways. They will stand on each other’s upper bodies with their forelegs using open-mouthed threats.

'Squabble' © Larry A Lyons

‘Squabble’ © Larry A Lyons

These fights typically occur among juveniles or adults of the same sex. These fights tend to be very short-lived.

'Foxy Vixens' © Larry A Lyons

‘Foxy Vixens’ © Larry A Lyons

It is no wonder why the red fox has a reputation of being cunning and smart. They are quite resourceful with their ability to find food and appropriate habitats, like Island Beach State Park, to achieve their livelihood. They have a social structure that is not only interesting to observe but is quite successful.

The preservation and management of habitats, particularly unique ecosystems like Island Beach State Park, is a treasure that must be protected, respected, and cherished.

 

Resources:

http://www.islandbeachnj.org/index.html

http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/island.html

 

February 2015 Exhibition Announcements

Two exhibit announcements to be made for the month of February 2015.

Three images were accepted into the 2015 Wilmington International Exhibition of Photography. This is an annual exhibition that is a juried competition from entrants from all over the world.

For the “Photojournalism Projected” competition a total of 632 images were received and a total of 155 images were accepted. Two of my images, entitled “Wedding Caravan” and “Innocence”, were accepted for the “Photojournalism Projected” competition.

'Wedding Caravan' © Larry A Lyons

‘Wedding Caravan’ © Larry A Lyons

'Innocence' © Larry A Lyons

‘Innocence’ © Larry A Lyons

For the “Color Projected” competition a total of 1,257 images were received and a total 296 images were accepted. My image, entitled “Vigilant”, was accepted.

'Vigilant' © Larry a Lyons

‘Vigilant’ © Larry a Lyons

The projected images can be viewed on February 22nd and March 1st from 12 noon to 5 pm at Arshst Hall, University of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware.

In addition, three ‘printed’ images were accepted at the Medford Arts Gallery in Medford, NJ. A juried exhibition of all prints can be viewed at the gallery during the month of February. One of the prints, entitled “Out of Africa”, was a metal print that received an “Honorable Mention” award.

'Out of Africa' © Larry A Lyons

‘Out of Africa’ © Larry A Lyons

The other two images (Innocence and Vigilant) are displayed as fine art prints.

That is enough of the bragging.

 

Grand Teton National Park – The Landscape

To read about the images of this gallery go to the blog post:

Grand Teton National Park – The Landscape

Grand Teton National Park – The Landscape

The Grand Teton National Park, 310,000 acres in size, is located just 10 miles south of Yellowstone within the State of Wyoming. It encompasses the Teton mountain range, glacial lakes, the 15-mile long Jackson Lake, the upper stem of the Snake River and part of the Jackson Hole Valley.

'Grand Teton National Park Map'

‘Grand Teton National Park Map’

This is the second part of the National Park series following a post on “Yellowstone- The Landscape”. It really is astonishing to travel only 10 miles (16 km) south from the geothermal landscapes of Yellowstone to the majestic, and more serene, landscapes of the Tetons.

'The Tetons' © Larry A Lyons

‘The Tetons’ © Larry A Lyons

The Teton mountain range is a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains that extends for 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from British Columbia to New Mexico. It is the youngest mountain range within the Rocky Mountains that began forming between 6 and 9 million years ago.

Mount Grand Teton is the tallest mountain within the Teton mountain range with an elevation of 13,775 ft. (4,200 m). Here Mt. Grand Teton stands 7,000 ft. (2,100 m) above a Moulton homestead within Jackson Hole Valley.

'Mt. Grand Teton Overlooking Jackson Hole Valley' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mt. Grand Teton Overlooking Jackson Hole Valley’ © Larry A Lyons

The beauty of the Tetons is never far from your view while visiting this national park. You just have to face west. In addition to Mount Grand Teton, there are another nine mountain peaks at elevations over 12,000 ft. (3,700 m).

'Teton Mountain Range' © Larry A Lyons

‘Teton Mountain Range’ © Larry A Lyons

Mount Moran, named after Thomas Moran, a frontier landscape artist, stands at 12,605 ft. (3,840 m). Mount Moran rises 6,000 ft. (1,800 m) above the Snake River at an area called Oxbow Bend.

'Mt. Moran At Oxbow Bend' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mt. Moran At Oxbow Bend’ © Larry A Lyons

Here Mount Moran is reflecting in Jackson Lake.

'Mt. Morans' Reflection' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mt. Morans’ Reflection’ © Larry A Lyons

The major peaks of the Teton mountain range were carved out into their current shapes by glaciers that have vanished long ago. Small glaciers that continue to recede still exist at the highest peaks.

'Mt. Moran's Peak' © Larry A Lyons

‘Mt. Moran’s Peak’ © Larry A Lyons

The peaks with their light blue glaciers and bare granite are often viewed through the clouds.

'In The Clouds' © Larry A Lyons

‘In The Clouds’ © Larry A Lyons

'Bare Granite Peaks and Glaciers' © Larry A Lyons

‘Bare Granite Peaks and Glaciers’ © Larry A Lyons

Jackson Hole Valley within the national park is 55 miles (89 km) long and 6 to 13 miles (10 to 21 km) wide. It is a fairly flat terrain at an average elevation of 6,800 ft. (2,100 m). The Snake River starts out as a small river flowing west and south into Jackson Lake. The first 50 miles (80 km) of Snake River runs through Jackson Hole Valley.

In the early 1800’s mountain men came to Jackson Hole Valley to trap for beaver and hunt for other fur bearing animals. Fur trading businesses thrived until about 1840 when businesses folded as a result of the decline of beaver populations from over-trapping. Today, beavers are back in business and building rather extensive dams.

Weather conditions can really change how your images will be portrayed. The overcast days and extensive cloud cover when photographing within the park this past autumn really provided for some dramatic images. Here only the foothills of the Tetons were visible because of the extensive cloud cover when photographing the large beaver dam.

'Beaver Dam On Snake River' © Larry A Lyons

‘Beaver Dam On Snake River’ © Larry A Lyons

Jackson Hole Valley is also the home of the National Elk Refuge with the largest elk herd on earth.

'Elk Grazing' © Larry A Lyons

‘Elk Grazing’ © Larry A Lyons

And Bison also roam free in the valley. Here the bison were moving in one direction, whispery faint clouds passing in the opposite direction in front of the Tetons, and the sun was beginning to set that lit-up the peaks and clouds.

'Bison On The Move' © Larry A Lyons

‘Bison On The Move’ © Larry A Lyons

Like Yellowstone, the Grand Teton National Park supports a wide diversity of wildlife. An upcoming post will provide a glimpse into the wildlife that utilize and reside in the ‘Greater Yellowstone’ ecosystem encompassing both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

'Western Ho' © Larry A Lyons

‘Western Ho’ © Larry A Lyons

All of the images in this post were captured in the autumn when the aspen trees brighten up the landscape with their quivering, yellow foliage. Autumn is a particularly good time to visit this national park.

'Aspens Accenting The Landscape' © Larry A Lyons

‘Aspens Accenting The Landscape’ © Larry A Lyons

'Autumn Colors of a Meadow' © Larry A Lyons

‘Autumn Colors of a Meadow’ © Larry A Lyons

The green tint of the bark of aspen trees is created by chlorophyll that allows photosynthesis, providing energy from the sun for their growth. This allows aspen trees to flourish during their short growing season.

'Stand of Aspens' © Larry A Lyons

‘Stand of Aspens’ © Larry A Lyons

Homesteads settled by few frontiersmen in Jackson Hole Valley during the 1890’s and early 1900’s have been historically preserved.

One particular homestead, known as the “Shane Cabins”, was actually used as props for a 1953 movie starring Alan Ladd in the movie entitled “Shane”. It is an American West movie about homesteaders. A clip of this movie with the Grand Tetons as the setting can be found at Shane.

'Shane Cabins and Homestead' © Larry A Lyons

‘Shane Cabins and Homestead’ © Larry A Lyons

Historically this homestead was the “Luther Taylor Homestead” that was built in 1916; however, for the most part it is referred to as the “Shane” cabins.

'Teton Sunset' © Larry A Lyons

‘Teton Sunset’ © Larry A Lyons

'Shane' © Larry A Lyons

‘Shane’ © Larry A Lyons

While photographing these nighttime images, the howling of coyotes in the distance added to the lore of the Shane cabins.

'Big Dipper Over Shane Cabin' © Larry A Lyons

‘Big Dipper Over Shane Cabin’ © Larry A Lyons

There is also a complex of homesteads within Jackson Hole Valley referred to as ‘Mormon Row’. Mormon homesteaders began to arrive in the 1890’s. These homesteaders clustered their farms to share labor and community. Despite the arid and long winter conditions of the Jackson Hole Valley, these settlers grew crops by using irrigation. They dug out levees, dikes and ditches to funnel water to their fields. Today the barns of two settlers – John and Thomas Moulton- remain as historic testament to these hardy homesteaders.

'Thomas Moulton Homestead' © Larry A Lyons

‘Thomas Moulton Homestead’ © Larry A Lyons

'John Moulton Barn' © Larry A Lyons

‘John Moulton Barn’ © Larry A Lyons

'Glacier Framed by Corral Fence' © Larry A Lyons

‘Glacier Framed by Corral Fence’ © Larry A Lyons

Bid adieu to the Tetons for now. As majestic and grand as the Tetons stand here on planet Earth, you can only ponder when glazing into the Milky Way and its millions of stars the infinite wonders of this universe.

'Infinite Wonders' © Larry A Lyons

‘Infinite Wonders’ © Larry A Lyons

Stay tuned for upcoming posts. One upcoming post will provide a glimpse of the wildlife utilizing both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Another post provide a glimpse of Mammoth Springs, which consists of extensive limestone formations generated by the hot springs in Yellowstone. In addition, a ‘glimpse’ into other National Parks, including the Badlands, the Redwood Forests, Yosemite, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon, will be forthcoming.

Yellowstone – The Landscape

To read about the images of this gallery go to:

Yellowstone – The Landscape