We recently received an email from Plymouth Harbor resident Lou Newman with the following note:
“I would like to introduce you to “Hootie” and “Hooter”, the two new resident Great Horned Owls at Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay. Although frequently heard, the owls are rarely visible because they have taken up residence high in the large Banyan tree at the northeast corner of the building. They likely have a nest in this tree; however, it is completely obscured by the dense foliage. Is Hootie “pregnant? ”Only time will tell!”
This little note accompanied by a stunning photograph that looks like he was in the tree with the owls is just another run of the mill day for Dr. Lou Newman, retired large animal veterinarian, now professional nature photographer.
Lou developed a curiosity about photographic techniques as a teenager, which evolved into a lifelong calling.Photography was a significant activity throughout his years as a rancher and veterinarian in Montana, and became of major importance when he left practice to become a veterinary college faculty member and pursue an advanced degree. Photography was important in his roles as professor, pathologist, diagnostician, research clinician, and administrator.
During the 1990’s Lou prepared for a photographic “career in retirement” and the change to digital imaging. Large animal medicine/surgery and wildlife studies had always been major interests and reinforced the progression to wildlife photography. Lou’s passion is photographing the wildlife and birds of the Florida coast.
Of course, with Plymouth Harbor being situated on Coon Key in the midst of a natural bird habitat, Lou has become the photographic chronicler of many of nature’s dramas in our midst. Here he alerts us to a potential nest of baby owls in our future and not too long ago, he played an even more active role in protecting our wild fowled young ones.
A Heroic Rescue for Stranded Chicks
In May 2012, Lou was on hand to rescue and document an entire Black Skimmer colony on Longboat Key that was threatened by Tropical Storm Debby. The storm had pushed coastal waters two to three feet above normal and large waves carried the water over the colony of over 400 birds with more than 100 active nest scrapes. The adult birds were all standing facing the wind in the lee of the buildings at the top of the beach; none were with the stranded chicks.
In his own words, “My initial reaction was to hope the adult birds would seek out their chicks. When this did not occur I returned to my vehicle to call beach monitors and bird rehabilitators for advice. When I returned to the beach half of the chicks had disappeared. Chicks were being buried by wind driven sand; and Laughing Gulls, and even a few Royal Terns, were gorging on stranded chicks. I saw only four chicks that somehow made it up the beach to the adult birds (and I hope were reunited with their parents). There were perhaps 50 chicks remaining at this point.”
“The stress of the day-long storm, flooding, relentless wind gusting to 40mph, biting wind-driven sand and opportunistic raiding gulls took a toll as I watched. It made no sense to stand by and watch remaining chicks perish this way. With help from others who arrived, it made sense to try to rescue the surviving chicks. We were able to find and pick up 32 live chicks. Gail Straight from Wildlife, Inc. on Anna Maria Island came to help and took the chicks to her wildlife education and rehabilitation center.”
Not surprisingly, Lou is active with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and has volunteered as a veterinary pathologist at Mote Marine Laboratory, as a veterinary surgeon at the former Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary, and as an Emergency Veterinary Medical Officer in Great Britain during the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak.
Lou is an active member of the North American Nature Photography Association, National Association of Photoshop Professionals, Dimage, Digital Photo Artists, Sarasota Audubon Society, and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Citizens Advisory Committee. His work is held in several private collections and is on permanent display at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Pines of Sarasota, SMH Institute for Advanced Medicine, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, and Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay’s Smith Care Center. He frequently participates in regional art gallery and photography exhibits. We’re proud he shares this wealth of photography with Plymouth Harbor on a regular basis.