Peace River Wildlife Center & Ponce de Leon Park – Punta Gorda, Florida

Since I have been a photographer, I like to help wherever I can with a camera. Not all organizations have a multimillion dollar budget for marketing and it’s good to give back to the community. This post is special as I’m just the grunt doing the posting. I’m privileged to have guest writer and accomplished photographer, Linda ONeill to help out with this one. I’ve known Linda for a while now and she’s an amazing person. She loves to go out and take photos and volunteers her time at an organization that serves our wildlife in their time of need. As I have said many times before, I wouldn’t trade this job for the world. I have met some really nice folks doing this that I other wise wouldn’t of had the opportunity to know.

Before I hand it over to Linda, just a note about the photos. I had an opportunity to get some behind the scenes access to this wonderful organization. Anytime fence or wire is involved, it poses a challenge to the photographer. How I deal with wire is that I get as close to the wire as I can and zoom the lens out and focus on the subject. This will make the wire invisible. The best situation is putting the lens right on the fence (you have a UV filter on your lens, right?). The next challenge was the lighting. Most of what you are about to see were in enclosures. Think deep shade. This shoot was on a day where we visited other outside places so I wasn’t thinking I needed flash. Since these enclosures were so dark all I had was my pop up with me. Granted, it’s not the best light, but it was all I had so it was GREAT! To help get the most distance out of this little flash, I set my f-stop to f/5.6 as this was the minimum that my lens would go to at the telephoto end. Secondly, I boosted my ISO to 800. WHAT….800 ISO! ARE YOU CRAZY? Nope. This is one of the Nikon D300’s strengths. I can shoot up to 1600 ISO before things get dicey. Also, ISO 800 looks much better in good light than it does in crappy light dark situations. When I use flash, I like to light the subject, not nuke them. After some experimenting, I was able to get a balanced flash exposure so it complimented the scene and didn’t take it over.

One last thing, since the flash that I did have was limiting, I had to do a bit more post work than normal. Mostly in the eye sockets and darker feathers. I used a combination of double processing and painting with curves adjustments to balance out the highlight and shadow side of the animal.

If you get a chance, visit the center. There are some amazing animals there. OK, enough of me going on. Here’s Linda….

Peace River Wildlife Center is located in Ponce deLeon Park on Marion Ave in Punta Gorda, Florida. The mission of the Center is to treat and rehabilitate injured and orphaned native wildlife and return them to the wild. The wildlife center is a non-profit organization. Money is raised by fundraisers, memberships, items sold in the gift store, donations, collection of soda and beer cans, empty ink cartridges and Coke products with the points. Volunteers are always needed. There are a variety of jobs to choose from.

On May 28, 2012 the Wildlife Center celebrated 30 years the their present location. Come and visit and see these beautiful creatures and learn about them. Tours are given daily from 11:00-4:00 daily, the tours are free. There is also a Wish List of items most used at the Center. To see the complete list and other information, please check out our Website at:

Barred Owl – Spencer Pullen © 2012

The Barred Owl’s hoot sound like “who who who cooks for you” This is a large owl with a round head and no ear tufts. They do not migrate. When the owl flies they flap their wings a lot. This is because they have special soft feathers. Soft feathers are quiet; this helps the owl to sneak up on night animals.This owl does not make a nest. They used other bird nest. The same male and female stay together on a one square mile territory all year. When the babies are born it’s about 40 days till they fly.

Red Tailed Hawk – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Red Tailed Hawk live on small rodents and small birds. They are found in most of the United States through out the year. The Red Tailed rarely spends time in the backyard or places frequented by people. They mate for life. Their Courtship is much like the Eagle. Flying in the air and locking talons and swooping nearly to the ground. They can live to be 20 years old in the wild.

American White Pelican – Spencer Pullen © 2012

This Pelican is one of the largest birds in North America. This bird arrives in October, winters along the coast and returns North around March. They migrate up the center of the United States and fly as far as Southern Canada. Unlike the Brown Pelican that dive hard first into the water to get fish, the white Pelican dips it’s head underwater to scoop up fish or several pelicans form a circle then dip their heads into the water.Their huge beak measures 13- to 14 inches in length and have a wingspan from 95″-120″.

Sandhill Crane – Spencer Pullen © 2012

The Sandhill Crane is a tall gray heron like bird with a red patch on it’s forehead. Has a black bill. These birds form huge flocks in winter and during migration. They will feed in fields and roost at night in the center of shallow lakes. Courtship displays are easily seen during migration and involve graceful jumps off the ground in a dancing manor. This doesn’t occur until between the age of 2 – 7 years old. They can live up to the age of 20. Mated pairs stay together year round.

Eastern Screech Owl – Spencer Pullen © 2012

This small owl is 9″ in length and has yellow eyes and ear tufts which can be lowered and hidden. This is the only small owl in the East with ear tufts. These owls are red and gray morphs. Territory is only the area right around the nest site. As with all owls the male has a lower voice and is smaller in size. Male feeds female while she is incubating the eggs. The young cannot fly well when leaving nest hole, and may use beak and talons to crawl out and up onto a branch. This couple may occupy a site for 7 years or more.

 American Bald Eagle – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Need we say more? [Ed.]

Coopers Hawk – Spencer Pullen © 2012

  1. Nice work!

    • Thank you so much. I love sharing stories about the birds at the Center.

  2. Great owls! Nice story. The rescue center does valuable work.

    • Thank you. IF you ever get the chance stop by and I’ll tell you my Barred owl love story.

  3. Great photography and I enjoyed reading the bio’s on the birds.
    This rescue organization does a wonderful job.

    • Spencer”s photos are great. I thank you for your kind words about the Wildlife Center.

  4. Great Shots Spencer. It’s a wonderful place and they are doing great things for these little creatures.

  5. Spencer is AMAZING! I am taking his intro class and learning an incredible amount so fast! I also volunteer at the “Peace River Wild Life Center” and it’s open to professional photographers or beginners for $100.00 an hour INSIDE THE CAGES! Try it, the birds are so beautiful up close!


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