Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sister Slider

On the way to photograph wildlife recently, I passed by a large turtle that was sitting in the left lane of the road.
I backed up and stopped the car, to remove the turtle from the dangerous roadway, before it could be crushed by a passing vehicle.

As I knelt down on the road to pick it up, I was surprised at how heavy it was. 
It was a big, beautiful green and yellow Yellow-bellied Slider that weighed approximately 10 pounds.
I assumed that it was a female, judging by the size and weight, because they typically dwarf their male counterparts in the wild.

I found a large sunny field nearby, where I gently placed her on the warm green grass.
I snapped a few quick shots with my camera, bid her adieu, and continued on to my destination.

Later on, when I passed back by the field, I noticed that she was still sitting on the grass, so I stopped again to check on her.
As I approached her, I saw that she was intently digging in the dirt with her hind legs.

To my surprise, she was in the process of digging a hole to lay her eggs in.
How exciting!
I simply had to photograph that.
She patiently waited, as I took several more pictures, then went on my way.

God provides such wonderful photographic opportunities for me, if I just be patient.


Female Yellow-bellied Slider Turtle Laying Eggs

My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bedeviled Bullfrog

On a hot July evening, I thought that I heard a faint cry coming from the pond. It sounded like it was saying "Ow...Ow...Ow" in a small voice. 

I ran over and visually scanned the pond area, but I couldn't determine where the sound was actually coming from. I hurriedly grabbed my camera gear and zoomed in on a small, distant Bullfrog that was sitting in front of a hole in the high clay wall of the pond. 

As I looked on in amazement, a larger Bullfrog crawled out of the water, leaped up the bank, attempted to grab the smaller frog, then tumbled back into the water. The large frog did this several times, as my camera shutter snapped. I assumed that they were simply feuding over territory, but I couldn't have been more wrong. 

When I was able to see what was actually going on, the small frog had been swallowed nearly up to his neck, by a Water Snake that was hiding deep within the hole. The adult Bullfrog had apparently been trying to rescue the smaller one from the snake's deadly jaws. 

As I realized the severity of the situation, I gasped and quickly searched the area for a weapon. I angrily armed myself with a long stick and ran to the back ledge of the pond, above the area where the frog was being attacked. I hung precariously over the edge of the pond and furiously poked the snake with the stick until it regurgitated the frog, in order to escape my wrath. The small, thinly-stretched frog let out a loud squeak, tumbled down the pond bank and rolled into the water with a welcomed splash. 

The large Bullfrog peered up at me, in apparent appreciation, then turned and belly-flopped into the relative safety of the water. I wished the frogs well and went on my way.

Bullfrog being eaten by a Water Snake


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Big Bad Beetle

On a recent morning, I walked the dog in the back yard for a while, then returned to the house, using the rear steps. As soon as I opened the back door, the dog dashed inside. When I started to walk into the house, a small voice said, "Go look by the side steps". Because of past experiences, I didn't hesitate. I quickly closed the door and headed down the side steps, toward the yard light, wondering what was in store for me, now. 

I soon spotted a big beetle, furiously flailing on its back, with a column of Fire Ants marching nearby. I picked up a stick, for the beetle to grab onto, and lifted him out of the sand and away from the ravenous ants. He crawled up the stick and onto my left hand, where he desperately clung to my finger. His sharp little claws dug into my skin, as he fastened himself to me. I excitedly chirped, "Ouch, Ouch, Ouch", as I hastily headed for a shady spot, to examine him more closely. 

He was big and olive-yellow in color, with brown spots on his back and shiny black horns on his head. It was the elusive male Eastern Hercules Beetle, that I had been hoping to photograph, for nearly a year. Last August, I had rescued and released a female Eastern Hercules Beetle. She had knocked herself out by flying into a wooden fence in the back yard. I had been searching for a horned male since I realized how beautiful their species was.

I took him inside the house, thinking that he could better recover from his overnight ordeal, away from the scorching sun. I walked into my bedroom, wondering what I could do to make him more comfortable. As I silently sat on my bed, he calmed down and loosened his gator grip on my finger. Then he slowly crawled off of my hand, and onto my pillow, where he promptly went to sleep.

While he rested, I did some more online research on his species. Every few minutes, I would look over my shoulder, to make sure that he didn't disappear on me. I could imagine the surprise of rolling over on a big bad beetle, lost in the sheets, in the middle of the night.

Over an hour later, when I looked back for the millionth time, he was nowhere to be seen. Horrified, I jumped up and ran over to the bed. I was relieved to see him lazily crawling to the back side of the pillow.

I decided that it was a good time to take him back outside, for some photographs under a shade tree. He wouldn't stay still for long, but I got a few good shots of him, before taking him back inside. This time, to be on the safe side, I placed him in a large plastic container, with plenty of holes in the lid. I poured a little bit of maple syrup in one corner, for him to feast on. In the wild, they feed on tree sap, but I didn't have any of that to offer him. 

After a while, I heard him scratching and moving around in the container. When I checked on him, I saw that he was face down in the corner, lapping up the maple syrup. Like a cheerful child playing in mud, he had it all over his legs and face. I picked him up, to make sure that he wasn't going to drown, but he appeared to be having a syrup sipping good time. To make the container a bit more homey, I added a large piece of bark, for him to rest on. He seemed to like the new crib.

I attempted to release the male Eastern Hercules Beetle late last night, near the yard light. I took him out of the container and, when my finger was finally liberated from his death grip, put him on the ground. After over two hours, he still hadn't gone anywhere, so I returned him to his freshly-cleaned container for another stay in the house. I added a small piece of ripe banana and poured some more maple syrup in a ranch dressing bottle cap for him. He quickly went face-first into the banana slice, and was later seen sleeping on top of it. I guess that he must enjoy bananas as much as I do, although I can't recall ever sleeping on one. He totally ignored the syrup, when offered the banana option. I think that I will nickname him "Nanner Man", since he is so fond of them.

Fortunately, that afforded me another photo opportunity with him, after the sun came up the following day. Many hours later, when I first woke him up, he was lethargic and ornery, like he didn't want to be bothered. I gently rinsed the banana residue off of him with some warm water, to which he vehemently objected. When I took him outside, he flinched at the intensity of the sunlight, but once we got under a shady oak tree, he mellowed out. He crawled onto my left thumb, cinched himself to my skin, and posed for several close-up photographs. He soon became disinterested, though, and detached himself from my thumb. He then proceeded to climb up my arm, painfully poking me the whole way. I decided that it was time to take him back inside, before he tenderized my neck.

Male Eastern Hercules Beetle

My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Marvelous Mud Turtle

As I was returning home, the other evening, I noticed a small Eastern Mud Turtle attempting to cross the lane. I stopped the car, picked the turtle up, and took him inside the house. I placed him in a large plastic uncovered container, along with some water and Turtle Food, for the night. 

This was the first turtle of that species that I had ever seen. They are listed as "Endangered" in some states. 

The following day, I took the turtle back outside, to photograph him in the sunlight. After seeing how he extended his neck so drastically, when handled, I nicknamed him "Stretch". 

God really blesses me with a lot of cool critters to photograph. 
This is a shot of the Mud Turtle in my hand, with his neck only one third extended. 
Unfortunately, it proved impossible for me to get a clear photo when he fully stretched his neck out, and swung his head from side to side. Every shot was out of focus.

I released the little nocturnal turtle into the pond late last night. He swiftly kicked with both back legs and immediately swam away. I looked on sadly as his small, dark shell vanished below the murky surface. Several minutes passed, while I sat quietly with my bare feet on the lower ledge of the pond. Surprisingly, the turtle reappeared and crawled back up to me. He acted as if he didn't actually want to leave. I was elated, but deep inside I knew that he really belonged in the wild. I sat on the bank and talked to him for a while, then about an hour later, he finally went on his way. 

Take care, Stretch.


Eastern Mud Turtle


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Swelling Suwannee

Recent torrential rains have caused the Suwannee River to overflow its banks, but it still provides many great Wildlife viewing opportunities.

It is a bit harder to find convenient parking now, because the best parking spaces are under four to five feet of swiftly-flowing water. I recently managed to snap a comical photograph of an American Alligator swimming past a Handicapped Parking sign, that was neck deep in the drink.

If hiking, extra diligence is necessary, to avoid walking in grassy areas, where snakes and other critters seek refuge from the ever-rising water. I happened upon several different types of Water Snakes during my trek. After the impromptu photo ops, they went their way and I went mine.

I noticed that the Alligators and Wading Birds were coming even closer to shore. I photographed a Snowy Egret that was wading dangerously close to an American Alligator, while enjoying the abundance of small fishFortunately for the Egret, the Alligator was content to simply watch, as the bird furiously darted back and forth, catching its fill of fish.

Sometimes, inclement weather conditions can actually enhance the Wildlife viewing experience, but we always need to be wary of new dangers that might present themselves at any time.


American Alligator

Banded Water Snake

American Alligator and Snowy Egret


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Springtime Spectacle

It is such a wonderful feeling, each year, whenever I spot the first Dragonflies patrolling the pond, and look closer to find hundreds of tiny eggs hidden in the shallows. 

The Giant Moths return to meet a mate beneath the yard lights, and the Toads show up to gorge themselves on the many late-night treats. 

At the waters edge, a choir of Frogs are singing praises to God for the much-needed rain, while the Bats are feasting on an abundance of Mosquitoes and Gnats. 

The first Songbirds begin showing off their vocal talents before the sun even breaches the horizon, while enjoying a breakfast of last night's leftovers.

Beautiful Butterflies and Bees are dashing to and fro, busily extracting nectar from the bounty of new blooms. 

In the Swamps, pollen-covered baby Alligators are desperately calling for Mama, as numerous Wading Birds squawk in their treetop nests.

Yes, the much-anticipated SPRING is finally here.
It provides a renewed sense of hope for the future, of both Human and Nature.


Male Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly

American Alligator Family

Tricolored Heron

Osprey


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Splendid Suwannee

On a recent visit to the Suwannee River, I was elated to find an extensive variety of wildlife to view and photograph. 

I first saw a colorful Red-Shouldered Hawk standing near the edge of the water. Surprisingly, it allowed me to approach close enough to get some detailed shots, before it took flight, high in the baby blue sky. 

I later happened upon a large American Alligator basking on the river bank, with a recent kill in the water nearby. It looked at me as if it thought that I might try to steal it's leftovers. After excitedly snapping some great photographs, I continued on.

While intently watching seven Alligators gathering at a sharp bend in the river, I observed a Wood Stork flying over my head. I hurriedly followed it, until it landed in the top of a towering Cypress Tree. It perched and posed for several minutes, for me to get some great shots.

A short time later, a gorgeous Great Blue Heron perched in a nearby tree, with limbs draped in Spanish Moss. What a photograph that made.

As the sun settled in the swamp, I counted my many blessings and thanked God for all of the beautiful creatures that He created, and generously allows me to photograph. What a day.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

American Alligator

Wood Stork

Great Blue Heron


My Nature Photography can be viewed at this website:
http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fantastic Frog

When I walked outside, around midnight, I noticed the outline of something that looked similar to a Leopard Frog in the shadows.
I retrieved a flashlight and returned to find the creature gone.
 While searching the area, I spied a cat walking under the deck.
As I got closer, I realized that the cat had a frog in its mouth.
I exclaimed so loudly that the cat dropped the frog and ran.
I quickly crawled over and picked up the limp frog's body.
I was furious because the cat had attacked the frog.
That was my favorite type of frog to photograph.

As I solemnly returned to the house, I felt a slight movement.
I rushed the frog into the bright light, for a closer inspection.
It appeared to have some minor wounds on its right side.
I prayed that I had gotten there in time to save its life.
I carried the frog inside to rinse the dirt and grass off.
It started kicking with both back legs, as I washed it.
That startled me and made my night, all at once.
That frog was a fighter; it was going to survive.
I prepared a container to keep it in overnight.
It didn't protest as I closed the vented lid.
It tolerantly rested in a far corner.

The next afternoon, I took the frog outside for some photos.
As soon as I removed the container lid, the frog leaped out.
I chased it back and forth in the yard, until it gave up.
I returned the frog to the house for another bath.
It escaped from my hands and dove into the sink.
I finally had to have a serious talk with the frog.
I said that I deserved some good pictures,
since I had saved it from the crazy cat.
That talk must have done the trick.
The frog settled right down and 
let me get my photographs.
I released it, afterward.
What a Fantastic Frog.


Southern Leopard Frog




You can View my Nature Photography here:

http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/

Black Woolly Bear

I spotted a bristly black caterpillar on a dank November night.
It was fervently feeding on some light green leafy vegetation.
When I touched the prickly hairs, it curled in a defensive circle.
That was the first time that I noticed reddish rings on its body.
That captivating caterpillar was two and a half inches of total awesomeness.

I did some research to find out what kind of caterpillar it was.
I had happily happened upon a Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar.
That fuzzy caterpillar would eventually change into a wonderful white moth with shiny black and iridescent blue circular spots.
The moth would have a three inch wingspan and a beautiful blue belly with orange markings.

GOD created the coolest creatures.


Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar




You can View my Nature Photography here:

http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/






Monday, November 4, 2013

Highlighted Heron

It was a blustery afternoon and I was searching for a Heron.
The birds had apparently taken shelter from the strong wind.
I rounded the coming corner with a healthy helping of hope.
I looked in a slough to my immediate right, in anticipation. 
A Great Blue Heron stood feeding from the muddy bank.
I was elated.

I quickly found a good vantage point and I began snapping.
The sun was playing peek-a-boo and I was losing light fast.
The Heron looked up and began walking in my direction.
My heart skipped a beat as I waited for the punch line.
Where was it going?

I momentarily lost sight of the Blue in the camera's viewfinder.
My eyes frantically scanned the area where it had been fishing.
I hoped that I didn't accidentally frighten it, making it fly away.
As I looked down, I saw that it was fishing directly below me.
The evening sun was illuminating its beak, causing it to glow.
I thanked GOD for my many blessings, as I snapped my photographs.


Great Blue Heron



You can View my Nature Photography here:

http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Snazzy Sliders

Clouds obscured the sun as I perused the pond perimeter. 
Near the waters edge, I startled a Frog, that returned the favor.
He shrieked an alarm and noisily belly flopped into the water.
SQUEEK...SPALOOSH!

I located my wits, steadied myself and continued my journey. 
I saw something ahead like small green leaves on the wet sand.
I approached for a closer look, my bare feet sinking in the mud.
I suddenly realized that they were green and yellow Turtles.
As I gently picked the tiny reptiles up, I had a vivid childhood flashback.

I had a similar small green and yellow Turtle, as a little kid.
I recalled a clear container with water and a plastic Palm Tree.
I wondered what became of that Turtle; what had I named it?
No idea.

They sprang to life as I rinsed the dried mud from their shells.
Scratching my fingers with their claws, they tried to get away.
They had summoned surprising strength from those little legs.
I placed them in the palm of my hand and carried them to the soft, warm grass, to dry.

They let me take photos, while they basked in the sunlight.
The sun highlighted the intricate designs on their stunning shells.
GOD's handiwork is clearly evident in the smallest of details.
Impressive.

I enjoy the exploration of Nature now, much as I did as a child.
Each newly found creature affects me like a shiny new toy.
Finding two at a time; now that is a big ole bonus.
Twin Turtles!



Yellow Bellied Slider Turtles



You can View my Nature Photography here:

http://al-powell.artistwebsites.com/


   

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall Fungi

The sun was slowly setting in the Pines and the Autumn air was getting a bit cool, as I wandered around, in search of a unique subject to photograph. 

I had decided to turn around and head back to civilization, when a little voice said, "Don't turn around; walk up a little more".
When I relented and took just two more steps, I came upon a surreal scene in the shade of a Live Oak Tree. 

Had I fallen down a Rabbit Hole?
Before me stood two Orange Amanita Mushrooms with a small American Toad sitting between them, surrounded by a soft bed of leaves.

I immediately dropped to my knees and elbows, cleared a small pathway, and started photographing the Wonderland scene.
The little Toad probably thought that his world was coming to an end, when the flash started popping, but he survived just fine.

Orange Amanita Mushrooms and an American Toad




You can View my Nature Photography here:




Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lucky Lizard

As I walked around looking for animals to photograph, I noticed a dark brown Lizard, also known as a Carolina Anole, perched on the inside of a window frame of a storage building.
He was longingly staring out through the glass, as if he was begging for help in escaping.

He would probably not live long, once the sun baked the black metal roof of the small structure in which he was trapped.
The temperature would soar and he would become lizard jerky.
When he tilted his little head up and looked me directly in the eye, I knew what I had to do.

I retrieved the storage building key, unlocked the door and readied myself for a chase, a fight, or both.
My childhood memories reminded me that, when captured, Lizards tend to squirm, bite and run.

I needed to be sure that he would make it to the outside, and that he wouldn't just hide elsewhere inside the same building.
I quickly devised a plan to distract his attention with one hand while grabbing him with the other one.

The tactic worked, just like it had when I was a kid.
I rushed outside, with him furiously flailing between my fingers.
Holding an angry Anole was more exciting than I remembered.
Once outside, I attempted to calm him down and get some quick photographs.

He wasn't very appreciative of me saving his life.
Apparently, his intention was to bite my forefinger as hard as possible, jump down into the grass, immediately turn green, run away, and leave me standing there with my mouth wide open.

Well, his plan didn't work out exactly as he had imagined.
He squirmed around in my hand until I nearly dropped him, then, with my grip loosened, he moved around and bit the side of my forefinger three times, hard and fast...Bam Bam Bam!

To his surprise, I did exclaim, but I didn't actually release him.
He looked up at me like he was amazed that I didn't scream and throw him, or at least drop him, when he went all rabid dog on me.

I told him that I just wanted to get some photographs of him.
That was the least that he could do, after that exciting rescue.
He didn't seem to like it very much, but he humored me.
He was all atrocious and angry, but he posed.


Lucky Lizard staring out of a storage building window

Angry Anole reluctantly posing for the camera


You can View my Nature Photography here:



Thursday, October 17, 2013

Drowning Dragonfly

As I approached the edge of the pond on a warm, sunny day, I noticed a Dragonfly lying motionless on the surface of the water.
Most of the body had been submerged except for the wings, that now glistened in the afternoon sunlight.

I assumed that it was dead and wondered how it had gotten itself into such a serious situation.
Maybe it had been trying to drink some water, had a splash-down and its wings had become too wet to fly.

In mid-thought, my eyes widened in amazement as the wings fluttered momentarily, then came to a halt.
Was it still alive? YES, it was!
I frantically searched nearby for a limb that was long enough to reach the now struggling Dragonfly.

I quickly found a limb, stepped into the damp mud at the edge of the pond, and attempted a rescue.
The Dragonfly began slowly rising from its watery grave, when it suddenly slipped off of the tip of the limb and fell back into the water with a splash.

As I apologized for my mistake, I went in for another try.
Fortunately, my second effort was a splendid success.
I gently rinsed the loose mud away and brought the waterlogged Dragonfly to rest on my hand in the warm sunshine.

After a closer inspection, I realized that it was a female Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly that I had just fished out of the pond.
I had no idea how long she had been in the water before my arrival, but she was covered with sand and scum from tip to tail.

She didn't move much in my palm, except to intermittently wipe her eyes, attempting to get some of the muck off.
I held her gingerly and photographed her while she warmed her body and dried her wings in the sun.
She didn't mind much. She was happy to be alive.

After nearly fifteen minutes, she had finally recuperated enough to fly away and perch in a tall tree nearby.

Good luck, Rosie.

Waterlogged Female Roseate Skimmer Wiping Her Eyes


I have heard other Nature Photographers and Naturalists say that a human should NEVER intervene in Nature's dealings, and that it is "survival of the fittest", but I definitely disagree.
If there is a way for me to help an innocent animal that is in a life-threatening situation, I will certainly try.
Of course, any potential rescue would warrant a hearty helping of caution and common sense.


You can View my Nature Photography here:



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Two Headed Butterfly

I went out to watch the interesting Insects nipping nectar
from the gorgeous Goldenrod this morning.
I was stunned to see what appeared to be a
brilliant Butterfly with a head on each end.
I had to move in for a closer look.

It was a medium sized Butterfly with rich red,
white, blue, black and gold colors on it.
It had two black antennae on its head and two black
curved appendages on the trailing edges of its wings.
I had never seen a Butterfly quite like this one.

I looked on in astonishment while it was feeding.
As the Butterfly's proboscis was busy sipping nectar on the front end, the hind wings were rubbing together, causing the fake rear antennae to move back and forth, attracting competitors and predators alike, to the posterior.

Competing Bees and Wasps repeatedly dove at the rear agitating appendages, attempting to intimidate
the beautiful Butterfly into leaving.
The Butterfly paid them little attention and
continued feeding at the opposite end.

That was incredible.
Predatory Birds would likely also attack the fake antennae, possibly allowing the Butterfly to live another day, minus an appendage or two.

Through research, I found out that this beckoning Butterfly is a female Great Purple Hairstreak, in all of her glory.

GOD really created some fascinating creatures.

Female Great Purple Hairstreak


You can View a VIDEO of this Butterfly here:
   

Friday, October 11, 2013

Colossal Caterpillar

It looks like Fall has finally arrived.

I enjoy the slight chill in the Autumn breeze.
I enjoy the contrasting colors of the falling leaves.
But I especially enjoy seeing the COLOSSAL CATERPILLARS.

Every October, I look forward to the Tersa Sphinx Caterpillars
showing up to gorge themselves on the plentiful Borreria plants.
I search the vegetation for the brown or green caterpillars with seven splendid eyespots on each side of their plump bodies.

To my delight, I recently found a beautiful brown Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar that showed up earlier than expected this year.
It seems friendly and is about the size of my middle finger.

This Caterpillar will eventually morph into a beautiful medium-sized, triangular-shaped brown and beige Tersa Sphinx Moth, if it is fortunate enough to not be eaten by a predator.



Tersa Sphinx Caterpillar

You can View my Nature Photography here:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Refuge Rights Revoked

"CLOSED DUE TO GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN"

These wicked words were prominently printed on a swinging sign on the locked gate, when I recently traveled to one of the
National Wildlife Refuges.

The administrators have always made a point to remind us that 
these are OUR Wildlife Refuges, some proudly displaying signs 
stating, "Visit YOUR Refuge Again Soon".

If the refuges really belong to US, then why are we denied entry, simply because our leaders have their heads up their hineys?

Keep in mind that these refuges do not require guided tours, or interaction of any kind with another human being.
You simply drive in and view the wildlife on your own.
You don't normally see any of the workers there, anyway.

There was little that I could do, short of crashing the gate, 
so I huffed and puffed and went on down the road.
Little did I know that I was about to encounter some beautiful Wading Birds that had found their own refuge, away from government meddlers.

My heart hit ninety miles a minute, 
when I first spotted them wading in the wetland.
When I was finally able to count them, I thought that this surely was God's way of providing me some cool critters to photograph, without any government intervention.

They were breathtaking Roseate Spoonbills 
and their number was Seven.
I hurriedly readied my camera gear, 
thanking God the whole time.

When I made it out to where they were wading, they looked at me and started doing a "what's up" nod to one another.
They patiently posed for several minutes, then took flight, in a brilliant burst of pink.

So the Government Shutdown attempted to ruin my trip, but GOD saw fit to bless me with an awesome adventure that even ludicrous legislators could not spoil.

Roseate Spoonbills


You can View my Nature Photography here: