It must have been slim pickings for this anhinga in the western Everglades but I really wish it wasn’t eating gambusia, we need every one we can get. Gambusia are also called mosquitofish, because they feed on loads of aquatic larvae, though judging by the swarms around my head, they miss a few. Another fun fact, the genus name Gambusia is derived from the Cuban Spanish term gambusino, meaning "useless," which we now know is totally unfair to this little mosquito-vacuum. I almost didn’t shoot this scene because it was harsh light but then I noticed what the ripple patterns in the water were doing. Man, I love this place. @corkscrewswamp @insidenatgeo #oldgrowth
When you talk a big game because you know your homie has your back... Nesting season is underway in the Everglades for the American alligator and by the fall, the swamp will be teeming with adorable vocalizing hatchlings. Fortunately for them, their mother stays close by because hatchlings can be depredated by raccoons, fish, birds and other alligators. #swamp #oldgrowth @insidenatgeo
*Series 9 of 9* As Peter says, “Ol Chuck Darwin would be proud of us.” The film, Chasing Ghosts, about @carltonward , @peter_houlihan and my journey to photograph the pollination of the ghost orchid is out and the link is in my bio above. We have been holding in this secret for a year and I’m really proud to put this story, that has had so many twists and turns, in the hands of @bendicci and @jeffreedfilm at @grizzlycreekfilms Thank you @biographic_magazine for believing in this film and of course to @corkscrewswamp for trusting us to make these new discoveries. Enjoy the film! https://youtu.be/_Ob80Cfo9T8
*Series: 6 of 9* Typically, ghost orchids are found at chest level or slightly higher, their roots holding fast to pop ash or pond apple trees deep in the remote sloughs of the Glades. In the old growth cypress stand of Corkscrew Swamp, ghost orchids grow in the canopies, their seeds dispersing with the wind and peppering the forest below. One of the orchids in this virginal forest has become famous in that it produces multiple blooms during the summer, up to 18 flowers in one season (most produce between 1-3 ) and aptly named the “super ghost.” To rig up a camera and strobes that could withstand hurricane season, Peter @peter_houlihan and I needed a special piece of equipment that didn’t exist in any store. Once again, I called on a friend, Tony Caiazzo, a fellow Virginia Tech grad and engineer. With some tinkering and welding, we created the “TreePod,” a fortified steel beam that could support 60lbs and strap to the trunk without harming the tree to get the right perspective. Meanwhile Carlton @carltonward had his own challenges, taking an ATV, then paddle boarding miles and slogging heavy equipment into his project site.
*Series 3 of 9* Photographing a rare orchid deep in a swamp visited by an even more elusive moth would require serious planning, technology and—as with any impossible task—good friends to get you through. In 2014, I called Carlton Ward Jr @carltonward to start brainstorming how to tackle a photo like this, the equipment, the hours, and the foolhardy naivety needed to pull it off. He had spent years camera-trapping panthers and bears with countless frustrations, so dedicating a system to something stationary, less-toothy and within his fieldwork sites probably seemed like a layup. I was thrilled by the prospect of something novel, new to science, and where this pursuit would inevitably take us. Ghosts grow low within the sodden sloughs of south Florida, but they also inhabit the canopy of an ancient subtropical swamp, the largest one of its kind left in the world and old growth is where I wanted to be. #swamp #everglades #florida @insidenatgeo
* Series: 1 of 9 * The Everglades has always been a source of inspiration and profound curiosity for me. I grew up in north Florida, which is a world apart: live oaks and springs instead of mangroves and emerald bays. I was 16 when I visited for the first time with my dad, paddling the Wilderness Waterway and was hooked immediately. I adore the relative high ground of my youth, but the subtropics hold a certain branded allure that is unkempt and untamed, a land of epiphytic conquest, panthers, crocodiles, bears and ghosts.
Every ghost crab I approached last week while shooting for @openspaceinstitute wanted nothing to do with me, except this one; this one was cool, so we hung out, watched the sunset together and talked about old times. 🦀
I’ve slogged through some incredible wetlands and swamps over the years but this Old Growth project is showing me sides of the southeast that leave me speechless. @peter_houlihan and I managed a handshake with the oldest cypress swamp in the world this weekend in North Carolina and it’s safe to say we’ll be back. The knees were taller than me! @insidenatgeo #oldgrowth #swamp
Just as the skies are starting to get interesting, I’m leaving the east coast for a first-time visit to Alaska with @hannahdstone , @woodzenworkshop and @428joyce. I love this time of year here, but the whales, glaciers and otters are calling and I’m pretty sure there will be plenty of lightning and dramatic skies when I come back. Wish us luck!
Yesterday was #worldotterday and not sure how I missed that boat but I’ll be damned if I don’t share my love for these water dogs. I’ve had some wonderful encounters with them the last year in the #oldgrowth sloughs of Corkscrew Swamp and Beidler Forest. I even dedicated a special “otter cam” to track their comings and goings. While out with @stbedard a couple of weeks ago we watched a large otter face off with a 4-foot alligator. Getting face time with these curious wetland specialists feels like a gift.
Because you all seemed to like the vulture yesterday, here’s a glimpse of a black vulture you rarely get to see. One of you asked how they nest... well, oddly enough Black vultures don’t make nests like most birds, instead, they’ll lay their eggs directly on the ground. I’ve only seen one in all my time in the Everglades and it happened while slogging through Fakahatchee Strand. I didn’t actually see it first, it was the smell that betrayed its location. When I got closer I heard a hissing, which usually means something interesting. Parting the ferns, there was a smelly little fuzz ball, ornery and mean-muggin. By far it was the least adorable nestling I’ve ever seen, but you know, still cute in its own rotting-carcass-bath kind of way. I doubt I’ll ever see something like this again. The swamp never ceases to amaze. #everglades #florida #vulture
Black vultures get a bad rap in the Everglades. They’re known to tear apart rubber seals on windshields and doors within the National Park and when approached they make unflattering grunting and hissing sounds. But, they’re also one of the best recyclers we have, feasting on large and small, filling a crucial role in the complex web of life. Beauty can be found anywhere if you know how to look. #everglades #vulture #florida
Warm spring days are meant for lounging by the water, just ask these guys. While shooting a story for Audubon magazine about the nesting boom in the Everglades, I couldn’t resist asking my pilot Gary Lickle to fly over Lake Okeechobee to see the gators stacked up on the shore. Drones are great tools, but nothing beats holding a camera in your hand out of a doorless helicopter with a trusted pilot. #everglades #alligator #aerial #onassignment
“Midnight Oil” - I’m thrilled to have an image awarded as a finalist in the @bigpicturecomp among some breathtaking and groundbreaking photographs by friends and colleagues with @ilcp_photographers The Art in Nature category isn’t one I frequent but I thought this photo would be a perfect fit if the judges could grasp what’s really going on in the image; I was afraid they would think it’s a bad attempt at a double exposure. While slogging back through the ancient sloughs of Beidler Forest one evening, I noticed something catching the light on the surface of the water; it looked like oil. Anaerobic bacteria decompose plant material in swamps and release iron, sometimes leading to a rainbow effect on the water. This beautiful patch looked like a moon, so I aimed my camera to only include the reflection of the trees to complete the illusion. A big thank you to @fstopfoundation @nanpapix and @audubonsociety who have supported this Old Growth project. #oldgrowth #discoversc #sc #beidlerforest
Here’s to the outliers and those who refuse to sit still... I empathize. #birdsofinstagram
Birds are nesting, fish are spawning and greenish rat snakes are on the prowl in the swamp. These snakes are perfectly adapted to thrive in bottomland forests. They can swim and they can climb tall trees to search for prey. It’s always a treat to see them gliding through the metallic reflections cast on the water. #oldgrowth #snake #swamp #swamplife #discoversc @beidlerforest
If you’re allergic to poison ivy like I am, this photo might make you nervous. But, if you’re like me and torn between a love of frogs, fun perspectives and a miserable rash, then you might find a way rationalize rolling around in this caustic plant to capture an in-situ moment. I paid for this two days later, big time. Short sleeves was a bad decision. #worthit #discoversc #exploresc #swamp #swamplife #oldgrowth @beidlerforest
Nearly every year on the edge of my peripheral vision I catch a cryptic but unmistakable pattern in the woods. They lie so still and are so well camouflaged I’ve come inches away from stepping on one, which would have erased any good karma points I’ve accrued over the years. Mothers will leave their fawns in a safe place while they go forage. A fawn will instinctively sit still for hours on end until its mother returns to avoid predation. Seeing a newborn fawn in the woods like this is like finding treasure. The arch of emotions across a two-minute encounter is generally thus: primate surprise, silent screaming elation, adolescent curiosity, simmering guilt and paternal adoration followed by acute separation anxiety. Totally normal. Despite their white markings, it’s remarkable how well they blend in to their surroundings. I worked for over two hours setting up a camera trap just twenty feet from this newborn without knowing until I left in the opposite direction to avoid triggering my camera. Ironically enough, the camera trap was for deer. Swamps are the best. @beidlerforest #deer #fawn #swamp #exploreSC #oldgrowth #swamplife #discoverSC
Spring in the old growth is magical. Tupelo trees drop their flowers which float along the black water and after a short rain, everything pops. This 1,800-acre tract is the largest stand of virgin cypress and tupelo swamp left in the world, providing us a glimpse of how much of the southeast used to look before industrial logging forever changed the landscape. Thankfully this property was protected by @audubonsociety and @nature_org in 1969 and is now a sanctuary owned and managed by Audubon at Beidler Forest. #oldgrowth #swamp #cypress #exploreSC #discoverSC
Happy Earth Day, everyone! It’s my greatest honor in life to pay homage to the myriad landscapes, wildlife, and people who make this world so fulfilling. I hope you took the time to get outside today and give a nod to the generations before us who helped lay the groundwork for the wild places we get to enjoy. I did, but I forgot to wear sunscreen and now I’m seriously sunburnt. Why have you forsaken me Earth?!
My heart goes out to those families and communities in Sri Lanka who suffer from the senseless and cowardly attacks this weekend. I’m still in disbelief that such a pernicious form of hate could take root in the soils of this peaceful island. #srilanka
Happy Everglades Day everyone! Today is Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ birthday, and she was one of the best examples of how a single person can help create and inspire a national movement to protect something important. I think she’d be proud knowing so many of us have picked up her torch and continue to fight to restore this national treasure. #everglades #florida #wetland