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About zackiedawg

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Boca Raton, Florida
  • Interests
    Cruising, boating, driving, computers, hockey, photography
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Holland America, Royal Caribbean
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Europe, Canada, Alaska

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  1. Well my back yard was an unusually good spot for plane/aircraft spotting this past Saturday. A continuation of the national tributes to first-responders and hospital workers during the Covid pandemic, two local military services decided to do Memorial Day fly-bys of the hospitals in the South Florida area - Air Force out of Homestead, Florida, and Coast Guard out of Miami. Our town's hospital is just 2 miles from me, but even better, between the hospital and my neighborhood sits the airspace of the Boca Raton airport - so when aircraft want to do hospital fly-by tributes, they stay clear of the airport which puts them directly over my house. Here's some of Saturday's action, as seen from my back yard: Goodyear Blimp hovering nearby waiting for the flyby to cover it for local news: Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons flying overhead: U.S. Coast Guard MH65 helicopter and C-144 airplane tribute: Look close in the plane's rear open ramp and you can see a helmeted crew member peering out the back...
  2. Taking a photo of a cute female painted bunting sitting quietly in a bush, I snapped the photo and the bird took off - a cardinal was lurking in the same bush right after. I thought I missed the shot. Then I looked, and found I did get a shot of the bunting, and the unplanned arrival of the cardinal, menacing the bunting and chasing it off a fraction of a second after the snap:
  3. Same situation down here - some reopening beginning in Palm Beach county, a little behind the rest of the state, but a bit ahead of Broward and Dade which are both still shut down...unfortunately, my two primary wetlands spots are still not opening - both are county-run, and both have lots of sections with narrow boardwalks that they feel social distancing would be impossible to maintain, so they are staying shut. Bigger, more wide-open wetlands to my west are open, and very few people go there, mostly because it's too hot, too many bugs, and a much farther drive away. I decided to go Saturday out to one of the farthest west - about a 45 minute drive...and facing a 6 mile walk in 90+ degree heat...I finished a circuit of the wetlands with about 6 photographs of wildlife, and 14 bee stings on my legs and arm. Won't be headed back to that park in the summer - it's a winter-only spot! I ended up hitting my pool when I got home and got as much or more action in the backyard. Oh, and I did start the weekend of photography on Friday, when the Blue Angels did their flyovers of Florida hospitals - I brought my camera to the office to see if they'd be close enough to photograph - there's a hospital about 1 mile from me that was on the fly-by route. They were close enough to get shots with a 400mm lens, but the haze and heat-shimmer were awful, so it was like shooting a mirage. Still, don't get many chances to photograph them outside of an air show, so I still took the shot: A baby gator trying to hide in the shallow water and grasses, with the sun reflecting brightly in the water... I had about 3 bee stings at this point, so still willing to stop and take shots: Young basilisk lizard climbed up a cypress knee to grab a dragonfly for lunch...up to 10 bee stings now, and starting to rush my shots to get out of here!: Last shot from the wetlands, after scoring my 14th bee sting and deciding I'd had enough! A downy woodpecker: I'm sure you can infer I'm not allergic to bee stings, or I could have been dead by now...but even not being allergic to them, they're not pleasant...and I can tell you 14 of them will really test your patience and endurance to itching, throbbing welts of pain. Soaking in the pool helped a bit, so it was much more relaxing to sit in the waters and photograph this cardinal in my back yard: A blue jay popping down to the deck to give me the eye - he wanted to see if I might have any more food to pass out other than what was in the feeder. The blue jays are very partial to peanuts, so they will come to see if I have any for the squirrels and try to nab one, and then head to the sunflower seeds at the feeders if they've eliminated the chance at a peanut:
  4. For the first time in 3 weeks, I ventured out farther than the yard for the weekend wildlife shooting. Local parks - at least those with wide open spaces that could support social distancing - started to open again, so I decided to head out to the two most isolated and western parks in the area, both with miles of open trails and levees and very few people. Not as much wildlife action to see, but nice to get out and stretch on a good 8-mile walk, with the camera along too for anything interesting! Purple martin with some nest materials flying past me: Great egret, way out in the grassy waters: My favorite big bugs are back! The eastern lubber grasshoppers had started to hatch last time I was out there, almost a month ago...so this time when I got back, there were thousands of them everywhere - it was actually hard to walk without stepping on one. These big, clumsy things are 3-4 inches long, can't fly, and don't really do hopping too well either. When they try to jump out of your way, they often jump sideways, land upside down, or even hop INTO your leg rather than away: They are truly beautiful animals - the paint job on these things looks like something that would come out of an artist's studio, or a fancy custom car paint shop: I used to pick them up as a kid - I thought it was hilarious how they'd let out a loud hissing noise, and sometimes spray a little smelly spritz on your hand - there was nothing better to scare the girls at school than a 4-inch-long hissing bug that stunk and hopped randomly - to a young boy, well worth the stinky hand to get a reaction from the girls: The buttonbush pods were blooming out in the everglades, and the bees were busy visiting for pollen: Back home, I jumped in the pool to cool off, and brought the camera as usual - the squirrels were happy I had filled the feeders:
  5. Neat to see it head-on where you can see the large bill. Our nightjars (chuck-will's-widow, whip-poor-will) look very similar to the tawny from the side and most angles, but ours have very tiny sections of the tip of the bill that barely protrude from all the feathers, so their mouths generally can't be seen unless open. They all have amazing camouflage though! My weekend shoot around the yard again - we had a bit of a 'fallout' of migrating birds Saturday as the radar indicated hundreds of thousands of birds arriving from the Caribbean making their way north, while a large storm front was coming down across Florida right in their path - the birds all put down around South Florida early Saturday morning - and my neighborhood had quite a few. I've never seen so many black-and-white warblers in one place in my life - they numbered in the hundreds...along with blackpoll warblers, prairie warblers, northern parula, black-throated blue warblers, Cape May warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, American redstarts, worm-eating warblers, and more. A few shots of some migratory birds, plus some locals, from the front and back yards and swimming pool: One of the hundreds of black-and-white warblers, voraciously feeding on any bugs they could find - hungry after a flight of hundreds of miles over water...it was a bad day to be a bug in South Florida!: European starling - dirt-common most places, but not super-common down here - so neat to have one in the yard: Northern parula feeding up in the trees, trying to get some energy for the rest of the migration flight north: One of the birds that isn't migrating anywhere - the local blue jays, here year-round: I shared a few shots of these last week - they were one of the first migrating birds to arrive here - and now, one of the last few still sticking around, this Cape May warbler was surrounded mostly by other species: Another 'local' bird that isn't going anywhere - the northern cardinals are year-round birds in S. Florida, and also regularly nest in my yard. This female recently had 3 chicks, and if you saw my post last week you saw dad feeding one of them:
  6. Funny, at the time I didn't think these would be my last sunsets at Disney World for months to come, possibly even the rest of the year! But I was there for one of the final weeks the parks were open, early March: Have reservations for the second week in June, early September, and December this year...but still waiting to see if the parks will be open for any of those.
  7. Still stuck in the stay-at-home mode here - fortunately as spring migration is in full force here in Florida, sometimes even the back and front yard can have pretty good activity...this Saturday was shockingly good for diversity around the house: Egyptian geese with their goslings in the pond: A solitary sandpiper gliding over the pond: A limpkin flying past a neighbor's yard: A cedar waxwing in flight: And one hanging out in the tree: A black-throated blue warbler: The gorgeous Cape May warbler: A blackpoll warbler passing through: A blue jay on the bird bath: A repeat of a shot from last week's thread - this time they relocated to the deck rather than the planter, but the male cardinal still dutifully feeding his youngster:
  8. Well this weekend's shooting was all done from the front yard, back yard, or from my swimming pool...sticking to the 'stay at home' order, and decided to see what kinds of birds and wildlife I could find from the confines of my property. A pair of mottled ducks flying by the neighbor's house: A mockingbird with a dragonfly dinner: A downy woodpecker with a few caterpillar larvae from the black olive tree: Sometimes you get a rarity even in the backyard! While lounging in the pool, I spotted a strange bird in my hibiscus tree, and took a shot - on closer inspection, it was a bird I've only ever photographed once before in 2016 in the wetlands...a yellow-billed cuckoo: A blue jay, one of the most common backyard visitors down here: A male cardinal brought one of his kids down to the spot under the feeder to pick up some fallen sunflower seeds and teach his child where to find food - but still feeding it for now: One last closeup look at the lovely male cardinal hanging out on the deck:
  9. Last week at least, I still had one place I could get out to - the Everglades...not the big National park down by Miami, but the grassy river itself that flows through the center-south of the state, accessible from the east or west coasts by driving away from the beach for about 15 minutes until all roads end. It takes miles upon miles of walking open levees to spot just a few animals or birds, and the heat was over 90 degrees last weekend...but anything to get different scenery than the house and yard for just a few hours is worth it, and social distancing is easy when no one else is out there. I got a few shots from the Glades, then jumped in the pool when I got home and took a few more from the swimming pool of the wildlife in the back yard: A green anole on a leaf out in the cypress marshes out west: A red-shouldered hawk on alert from up in a tree, watching me pass below: Off he flew after deciding I was not a threat and he could go back to hunting for food: It's that time of year out in the western wetlands - the eastern lubber grasshoppers have sprouted from the ground by the thousands - they're still juveniles with their black shells lined with racing stripes, but will soon morph into giant orange and yellow and red grasshoppers nearly 4 inches long, and clumsy as blind drunk hobos: From the swimming pool, a squirrel enjoying the peanuts I threw out for them to keep them away from my bird feeders...he was sitting in the shade of my hibiscus tree: This is a most ridiculously tiny fly - less than 1/8 inch - that landed on the pool float that was supporting my camera and lens while in the pool...it's a species of long-legged fly, and I fortunately had a lens capable of good minimum focus distance to get in tight with the minuscule fella: A mourning dove flying off through the yard after feasting on some seeds:
  10. Well this past weekend was all about social distancing - in a state that has not declared a full lockdown, but in a county that has, the choices are to stay at home, or to travel to a state park - by heading out to the Everglades wetlands, there are very few people willing to walk miles long levees in 92 degree heat, so I was able to enjoy a day out while being pretty much alone the entire way - the closest I got to a few people was about 40 feet away in the parking lot. I needed to use my 200-600mm lens with 1.4x teleconverter attached to shoot anything out there - those animals are not used to people and don't really let you get close. Then when I got home, it was time to jump in the pool for my version of shelter-at-home, and photograph the backyard wildlife. Here's Saturday's action: A swallow-tailed kite buzzing the treeline out in the Everglades: Red-shouldered hawk parent in her nest, feeding her chick: A sandhill crane way out in the grasses: Shot while soaking in my pool - a northern curly-tailed lizard on my deck (can you guess how he got that name?): A blue jay hanging out in my hibiscus and watching me in the pool: A squirrel, socially distancing by lying up on my fence away from the other squirrels:
  11. My two counties (Palm Beach where I live and Broward where I work) are both under Shelter in Place - though as an 'essential' worker I'm still going to the office M-F - I'm just there by myself with all other EEs working remotely from home, so we are all socially distanced. Last weekend I was able to go out to the wetlands - in what ended up being the last time for my primary spot (Wakodahatchee Wetlands is county-run, so after Saturday March 21, they closed indefinitely) and I also headed farther west to the Everglades where few people go on normal days - walking miles out on to the levees, it was just me and the alligators and birds - about as safe from coronavirus as home! So here are some pics from those two wetlands last Saturday, 3/21: A purple flower out at the Everglades: Not a copy/paste image - but two eastern lubber grasshoppers, both juvenile. There are thousands of these in the Everglades, all hatched around this time of year - by May, you can barely walk without stepping on the big, colorful, and clumsy lubbers: A sandhill crane, out among the grassy waters in the distance, with strong backlighting giving it an interesting texture: A glossy ibis, showing why he's called 'glossy' as the sun hits his iridescent feathers: A black-necked stilt with his reflection: It's the time of babies in the wetlands - and not just the birds. Here's a little baby alligator popping up for a look around:
  12. Well finally got around to sorting my weekend wildlife shots again - so here are some from this past Saturday: Six-spotted fishing spider (that sounds awfully scary! And it looks it too): Green iguana closeup: Glossy ibis in flight: Snowy egret flying past - normally, they have yellow feet and yellow at the base of the bill, but during mating season, those sections turn a deep orange to blood orange color: Yes - if you stand in the wrong spot or don't pay attention when walking, the wood storks CAN and sometimes DO hit your head, with their wingtips or sometimes with the branches they're carrying back to their nests. As you can see, they fly awfully low, definitely at or below the head level of people walking on the boardwalk: Shooting directly into the sun, I liked the diffuse backlight and glare effect of this great blue heron flying low: A male boat-tailed grackle showing off his iridescence:
  13. Monday March 2 was my last day up at Disney World on my 5 day vacation, and I spent it at the Animal Kingdom Park...some of the animals I saw: The largest vulture in the world - the lappet-faced vulture of Africa: Malayan tiger, looking like he'd enjoy a nice lunch of...me: Really close up with a giraffe, who proceeded to taste the safari truck we were riding in: Lion hanging out on the warm rocks: Colorful faced mandrill out for a walk: Hippo showing just how big that mouth really is (taken through wet, inches-thick glass smeared with fingerprints): Young gorilla, being silly and playful, enjoying chewing on a straw lying on its back with its feet up: The much more serious and grumpy looking adult male silverback, annoyed with the paparazzi:
  14. Spent a lovely, cool 5 day weekend at Disney World - starting Friday, Feb 28th - here are some shots that I finally got around to downloading and sorting: Old Key West resort where I had my villa: Hitchhiking ghosts at the Haunted Mansion: A lovely cold sunset at Disney Springs: A duck cruising through the still, sunset reflected water: The Riviera Resort, reflecting in the lake at sunset: A lovely sunset over the Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Skyliner gondolas:
  15. Very nice Kev - lots of those look familiar indeed, and nice work with the IDs. And congrats on the sora - they're not always easy to spot, and this isn't even the better time of year to spot them...Wakodahatchee only has a few of them, as Green Cay is generally a better spot for finding them, but with Green Cay closed, we have to find what we can!
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