The Stakeout

April 13, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

On my recent trip to the Everglades the wildlife sightings were super sparse so I decided to take some time and check out a hawk's nest that I had been watching to see if there was any new activity.  As soon as I arrived I saw that there were now two chicks which had grown enough to move about the nest.  I quickly decided that this was most likely to be the day's high point so I found a shady spot and set up my tripod and a lawn chair and began my "stakeout" of the nest.


Hoping to catch one of the parents returning for a feeding session, I patiently began what was about a forty minute wait until that patience was finally rewarded when Momma returned carrying what looked like a large lubber grasshopper which she just dropped into the nest for the two chicks to devour on their own.  As she watched her brood in action she spread one of her wings.  At first I though she was just stretching but she maintained that position for quite some time so I am thinking she may have just been shading her chicks.  A few moments of rest from the never ending task of feeding these two and she was off on another hunting expedition. As soon as she left one of the chicks again climbed to the top of the nest and began to chirp "feed me" loudly to her as she perched in a nearby tree before flying off in search of the next meal. I actually thought it was going to fall out of the nest at one time when it climbed to the edge and began to flap its emerging wings.



Another hour passed and then Momma returned with the catch of the day.....a two foot plus long snake.  She spent the next thirty minutes picking it apart with her beak and talons and making sure each of her chicks were well fed.

After feeding the nestlings she ate a few leftovers and took a well deserved rest period for a few moments before again flying off in the endless task of feeding two ravenous and growing red shouldered hawk chicks.


Middle of the Pack

August 28, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

One of the highlights of my second trip to South Africa was this encounter with a pack of African Painted Dogs (AKA Wild Dogs). It was late afternoon and we were slowly working our way back to our lodge when our ranger received a radio alert about a pack of wild dogs on a kill close to a nearby lodge.  Since we were fairly close, we sped to the scene where we stopped near a steep riverbank and could observe the pack about a quarter mile away on a sand spit in the middle of a shallow river.  Not to be deterred our ranger quickly drove along the riverbank until he could descend and then began to make his way off road across the marshy ground toward the pack. 

You could feel the anxiety within our group as we lurched and slid along the mushy riverbank and a few intrepid adventurers even questioned aloud whether it was worth the risk.  I don't remember the exact response of our ranger but it was something like...."Don't worry, no problem.  I got this under control".  I do confess that I had flashes in my mind of being stranded in the African bush at night surrounded by large, hungry predators but the closer we got to the wild dogs the more such thoughts dissipated and then completely disappeared when we stopped about 50 feet from the still feeding pack. Cameras were quickly raised and the clicking of shutters sounded like machine gun fire on the Western Front which, lucky for us,  the dogs paid no mind. 

A pack of about 15 painted dogs had taken down a bushbuck and in typical fashion had made short work of the kill.  Wild dogs speedily devour their prey and have been known to start feeding before their prey is dead.  This is not due to any inherent cruelty but of necessity as larger predators will let them do all the work and then steal their kill.

Sometimes Mother Nature can appear cruel and indifferent but that is the circle of life maintaining the balance of nature.  African Wild Dogs are successful in downing their prey about 80% of their hunts whereas lions are only successful about 30% of the time.

After a few moments of hectic shutter clicking one of the bolder dogs grabbed the largest morsel still available and made a run for it passing a few feet in front of our vehicle and stopping about 20 odd feet away. 

The rest of the pack soon joined him and they again began to feast in the typically noisy fashion of the wild dogs best described as a high pitched yipping as they do not bark.  I seldom take videos as I normally don't think to do so until it is too late but this time I did take a short one of their feeding frenzy.  Towards the end of the video you can watch and hear them discipline one of the younger members of the pack for some infringement of pack etiquette.

Wild Dogs

 A fond memory from my second trip to South Africa made better by sharing it with fellow photographers.  I would be remiss to not thank our ranger/guide, Gregg Stevens, for his yeoman effort in placing us perfect position to have such a memory.  Kudus to Gregg.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

December 30, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

The decade is nearly over and what an adventure the past 10 years has been for this wannabe photographer.  In celebration of that passing, I am posting one photo captured during that decade from each of my distinct portfolios with a brief explanation on the background of each shot.   Why these particular photos?  For various reasons they all have special meaning to me.


 I visited South Africa for the first time in  late 2016 and loved it so much I returned some 6 months later for another safari.  On that second visit our land rover had stopped at the base of this hill so we could shoot two bachelor bull elephants off to the left when I glanced up the road.  My immediate thought was the contrast between the red earth, green vegetation, and blue sky might make for a great road shot so I clicked off a few frames.  Typically as soon as I lowered the camera a couple of elephants crossed the road at its crest.  Inwardly cursing myself for missing the shot I refocused my camera at the top of that hill and muttered a silent prayer for another crossing.  After what felt like an eternity but was probably only a minute or two a few more elephants crossed the road and I fired off a continuous burst or two hoping to isolate a clean shot.  Lucky me ended up with this frame.


Roseate Spoonbills, AKA "Spoonies", are one of the most colorful birds native to South Florida.  One of my friends messaged me with the information that it looked like a spoonie convention at one of the wetlands about an hour north and I should hustle on up there.  I was on the road before sunrise the next day and had the best "birding" day that I have ever had to this date.  Hundreds of birds were swarming this particular reclaimed wetland in a feeding frenzy.  Great egrets, snowy egrets, herons of all types, ibis, and dozens of spoonies.  I had one frame in which I counted over two dozen of these colorful birds.  I spent nearly four hours in this birder's heaven and surprisingly the birds were still there in and actively feeding when I left.   What a day........



Wormsloe, Savannah, GAWormsloe, Savannah, GA

Long one of my favorite landscape captures, this is the oak lined canopied entry to Wormsloe Plantation near Savannah, Georgia.  The unimproved road leading to the ruins is over a mile long and is bordered by over 400 live oak trees many with Spanish moss hanging. This particular frame was captured in mid-January when the oak trees were not in peak condition and I can only imagine how it would look in prime season.  We were on a family vacation when I made a detour to this location so I must give many thanks to my family (all non-photographers) for being good sports and donating their morning so I could check one item off my bucket list.



When I ventured into the realm of photography, my primary interests were wildlife and landscapes. As a photography subject, people held little interest for me but that changed over time.  For a landscape/wildlife shooter living on the southern tip of Florida, geography can be a constraining factor.  Tiring of shooting birds, gators, and the Everglades between my travels to other locales, I began to broaden my horizons and started shooting candids of what I called "people at play". The annual Homestead Rodeo is one event I always look forward to and this particular shot is my all-time favorite rodeo capture.  I do wish I had also caught the rider's face but am happy with what I got.  The upside is that neither the horse nor rider was injured.  Surprisingly when they hit the ground, the horse immediately got back up on all fours and the rider was still mounted.



 One of my fellow photographers is also the founder, choreographer, and principal dancer of her own dance group.  When she produced her first show she asked me to photograph the event.  I initially declined as this was way outside my comfort zone but with a bit of prodding on her part I accepted the challenge and am so happy I did.  To my surprise the skill set needed to capture wildlife easily transferred to live dance events.  Anticipating movement, maintaining focus, and a fast shutter finger work well both in the bush and in the theater.  I now look forward to capturing the grace, passion, and beauty of dancers.  As one dancer once pointed out...."you are still a wildlife photographer as we dancers are both wild and free spirits".  

A Sad Ending

May 08, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

One of the highlights of a recent visit to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands was observing the behavior of a pair of Black Necked Stilts as they protected their nest.  One of the mated pair was always on patrol nearby and as soon as it perceived any threat it would squawk loudly and should the intruder not retreat it would harass it until it left.  Size was of no concern as I observed it harassing a great egret which was easily 20 times it size until the egret finally flew off.

I observed the roosting bird for quite some time hoping to catch a glimpse of the eggs and after some time it raised up from the roost and spent a moment or two cleaning the nest and rearranging the eggs before sitting again. I obviously was not the only one enjoying the scene as once I moved away I could see a crowd of nature lovers and photographers near the vantage point.


I was surprised to see a nest in such an exposed location and could only guess that this was a young, inexperienced mated pair of stilts.  I remember telling my fellow photographer that "i was surprised that a gator had not got them already" and sadly that came to pass.  Two days after I took this photo it was reported that the nest was abandoned, both the eggs and birds were gone, and a small alligator was now resting on the island.  I know it was a natural occurrence in Mother Nature's circle of life but it nonetheless saddens me that this story ended so abruptly.

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