On Wednesday Steve Uffman and I visited a rookery near Ville Platte, Louisiana.  From a raised road we looked across a lake at great egrets sitting on eggs, but some where already with half grown chicks.  They feed the babies by regurgitating fish which is quite exciting to watch.  These chicks are eating and growing machines. Some of the egrets were still displaying their breeding plumage.  The fans of long white feather shinning in the early morning sunlight were beautiful.
Great egret on nest

I will be teaching a workshop here in two weeks check out the Rookery Workshop.

The beautiful roseate spoonbill

In the same trees were amazingly colored roseate spoonbills. These birds were a little behind the great egrets in maternal duties as they were mainly building nests, bobbing their spatulated bills for their mating dance.  I got a nice video of two spoonbills mating of which I will post on Facebook soon.


John O'Neill

Saturday night the LSU Museum of Natural History had a reception for my old friend and neighbor John O’Neill, artist and ornithologist extraordinaire. John was here being inducted into the LSU College of Science Hall of Distinction for his amazing work in the field of ornithology. While many bird experts were pretty sure that most, if not all, new species of birds had been discovered, John led, through LSU, numerous expeditions to Peru. While there with graduate students and other helpers, he discovered fourteen new species of birds in the wilderness of Peru. Three were in new Genera. Tough, long expeditions.

In the 70s and 80s, John, along with Dr. George Lowrey, Dr. Doug Rossman, Doug Pratt, and many others at this fine museum, helped me immensely as I photographed the wildlife of Louisiana and elsewhere. Their knowledge and kindness helped this young photographer much.

If you have not seen it, look at The Birds of Peru by John O’Neill and others. It is a comprehensive and wonderful bird field guide to this avian-rich, South American country.

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See below

Above is a photo of John and four other current and past directors of the LSU Museum of Natural History. Left to right, Van Remsem, Mark Hafner, Fred Sheldon, Robb Brumfield, and John O’Neill.


Eagle Reconnaissance

Last week Steve Uffman and I did our 64-mile bald eagle survey by boat in Terrebonne Parish. This was our fourth year. It was a beautiful, clear blue-sky day that started cold but warmed up quickly. We observed 25 adult eagles and got within a few hundred yards of 10 nests, of which at least 9 were active with an adult near by or sitting with chicks.  Seven of the nests had visible chicks.  The oldest nest I know of had no adult around it, but the nest looked like it had been repaired. One nest we have observed for the past three years was lost to the wind.  A storm must have broken the willow tree in half. We could see 8 more nests at a great distance in which we did not try to observe activity.

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Bald Eagle on nest

All but one new nest we have found are in black willow trees.  This tree is relatively short lived and can break in the wind much easier than a bald cypress.  The good news is the eagles are increasing and having to move away from the established territories in bald cypress swamps where birds are already established.  The bad news is they will have to rebuild nests, as the weaker trees will be lost more often.

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Spanish moss lights up at sunset

We also saw hundreds of hawks, flocks of white ibis and white pelicans among many other birds. Due to the previous day’s cold and wind, only two alligators and a few turtles were seen.  It was a fine boat ride preparing for the February 27 Eagle Expo in Morgan City, LA where I will be teaching a Photo Workshop on bald eagle Photography


Beautiful in Belize

On February 28, 1978 I walked in the El Centro Hotel CafĂ©, Belize and met Mike and Roxanne Denoyer, managers of LighthouseReef Expeditions.  It was the beginning of a friendship that turned into 36 years of adventures beginning on the most beautiful tropic isle I have ever visited, Half Moon Cay.  I camped with Mike and Rox, the rest of their crew and guest scuba divers from various parts of the US.  The next year I came back for another three weeks.  We camped, we dove, we snorkeled, and we took pictures of the nesting red-footed booby birds.  Iguanas, softball size hermit crabs, huge land crabs, the bobbies and the frigate birds shared the island with us campers, the lighthouse keepers and three commercial fishermen.

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Half Moon Cay Lighthouse

I photographed 36 sunrises and sunsets at the island over the two years, dove the blue hole four times, once way deeper than I should have ever gone and returned home thinking it was the second best place I had ever spent time (the Atchafalaya Basin being first).  In those two trips of 3 weeks each I saw one floatplane and one boat that was not with our group. It was paradise to us.  In 1985 I sailed to Lighthouse reef from Belize City and spent a week anchor near half Moon Cay returning to the same dive sites of the 1970’s.  Still wonderful, but it was discovered as a dive destination. We saw about 15 boats that week.  Lighthouse Reef is 60 miles off the coast of Belize, so it’s a substantial trip over waters thousands of feet deep.

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Our dive boat was a Grand Canyon S-Rig

Just after this Christmas, I went back.  This time I stayed at fishing and diving resort on Turneffe Atoll. Turneffe is a 45 square miles mangrove atoll. It is surround by deep water.  It’s about half way from Belize City to Lighthouse Reef. Turneffe Island Resort is on a very small island, but is very comfortable with a great staff to take you fishing, diving or snorkeling.  The highlight was going back to Lighthouse Reef. It was only an all day trip, but the memories flowed back like the swallows to Capistrano. After 30 years I recognized some of the same coral trenches and caves I swam in 1978 and 1985.  The bobbies and frigates were nesting in the same zericote trees.  The only difference was the number of day tripping boats.  I saw 13 come in some with 20 divers, yet the island was still beautiful.  It’s a refuge now, the Nature conservancy being one of the supporters.  Some say you can never return to Shangri-La, I came close last week. The beauty and bounty of this island and reef ecosystems boggles the mind.

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Site of the old lighthouse 


Lunar Eclipse

The weather was perfect for Wednesday’s total lunar eclipse. The little bit of fog, low and below, did not get in the way of the clear cool skies above. In Louisiana the eclipse started early in the morning and was still partially eclipsed as the moon set over some trees at the edge of a farm in West Feliciana Parish, where I was standing with my Nikon 500mm lens. While watching the moon darken I looked up and to my left I saw the constellation Orion high in the sky.  You would never see this on a full moon night without an eclipse.
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Waiting between shots I remembered the many eclipses I saw of both the sun and the moon, while shooting night skies for three years in the early 90’s. Back then it was with film. The anticipation was exciting waiting for the transparencies to come back from the lab. Only then did I know if I got the photo right. Last night I only had to look at the digital viewfinder. Next May I will be teaching a night sky workshop in Southern California, where the sky is dark and the Milky Way shows up brightly.
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