One early morning while surveying Myakka River State Park, a fellow photographer excitedly told me that I had just missed a great image of a crested caracara. The photographer shared with me that it had flown in and landed mere minutes before I arrived. The caracara is one of the birds on my “bucket list” to capture on film (digital, these days), because it is a rare find, and my fellow photographer was not shy about pointing this out.
The crested caracara is a member of the falcon family, despite its not so falcon-like appearance. It is also known as the Mexican eagle. This name came about as the caracara’s image actually appeared on the original national emblem and flag of Mexico.
The caracara is about the same size as our bald eagle, with a wingspan of up to 4 feet. It has been placed on the U.S. endangered species list and is classified as threatened in Florida. Caracaras need large open-country territories. The conversion of habitat to citrus orchards and tree plantations, as well as the loss of habitat to residential and commercial development, has caused their numbers to drop. Caracaras are slow reproducers and have not been able to rebound quickly.
After a few dozen more trips to Myakka River State Park in search of this elusive (to me) bird, I expanded my hunt to the greater Myakka area. I would hear rumors of where the bird had been recently been spotted, so early the following morning I would be on my way with camera in hand.
One must keep in mind that a full day of shooting for photographers (or at least for me) begins with my being on site before the sun rises. (I’m not sure why I think I must be there before sunrise, because I certainly can’t shoot in the dark!) I, then, typically stay on the shoot all day or until 9 a.m. (at which point I hit the nearest restaurant for breakfast).
But I digress. I will share with you my first capture of a caracara. After searching all morning, I pulled my truck over and poured myself a cup of coffee. While I was enjoying my beverage, I looked up and, voilà, the elusive caracara landed on a light pole almost right in front of me.
Decision time: breakfast or an image of a bird on my “bucket list?” With the excitement of a 2-year-old at Christmas, I managed to grab my camera and slowly exited the vehicle. I took aim, focused, stabilized the camera and captured an image of the south-end of a northbound caracara as he flew away. But he did ultimately land in a nearby field, and that was the day, I completed my quest for the caracara.
Interestingly, since that time, I have seen them several times while traveling on Verna Road on my way to Myakka River State Park and around the back roads of the East County.
East County resident and photographer Bob Salyers enjoys sharing his work along with his knowledge of through workshops, classes and trips. For more, visit www.bobsalyers.com or email to [email protected].