Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Human Interest

Lens on Pasco wildlife: Park supervisor shares encounters with his pictures

NEW PORT RICHEY — For Mark Berlinger, getting the best shot is a matter of serendipity. Being in the right place. Looking up at the right time. Hearing a rustle and following a notion to take the lens cap off your camera and shoot.

Often, the right place is along the trails Berlinger traverses daily as the site supervisor at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park. That’s where he encountered a pair of red shouldered hawks and their hatchlings after an adult hawk swooped across his path during a hiking trail check.

Sometimes, the right time is after the park entrance gate is locked for the night, when a happenstance glance out a window is rewarded with the sight of a handful of deer grazing on the ranger residence lawn.

Berlinger, 48, has been with the Pasco County Parks, Recreation and National Resources Department for 13 years, most recently overseeing a crew of six at Starkey Park, a 12,000-acre swath of wilderness maintained by the county and Southwest Florida Management District. Among his duties — landscaping, filling water stations, maintaining the hiking and biking trails, cleaning rest rooms, camp cabins and the playground area, as well as power-washing the boardwalk at the park education center. And if hikers get lost at the end of the day, Berlinger treks into the woods to find them.

"I love it," Berlinger said, listing of some of the creatures he has captured with his camera. "Water snakes, alligators, a great horned owl, wild boar, deer."

Add to that, a first-time sighting of a juvenile roseate spoonbill in the park, and a bee buzzing over a pigmy rattle snake in the leaves. He got down on his belly for that shot.

"Basically it’s just luck that nature presents itself," Berlinger said. "The best time, of course, is early morning, before the crowds start coming through, or close to dusk. But I have found things throughout the day. I’m on the job doing other things, and it just happens around you."

Berlinger’s photographs appear on the Starkey Park Facebook page he manages.

"Mark the Park Ranger" wildlife shots also are a regular feature on Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department’s social media pages, managed by program coordinator, Alex Fasano,

The photographs are a great way to highlight the offerings of local parks alongside notices about events and programs, prescribed burns and construction in the parks, Fasano said.

"Mark has a great eye for photography," he said. "He’s taken an initiative to showcase the wildlife and nature at the park, and this was just another avenue for us to share the beauty of Pasco County."

Berlinger may have inherited his talent from his dad, who earned a living as a school portrait photographer.

"I learned how to develop black and white photographs," he said, adding that he never warmed to taking pictures of people.

"My dad took thousands of pictures of us growing up," he said. "Nature is my thing."

It’s been a circuitous route.

Berlinger grew up in Cumberland, Rhode Island. He served as a military combat engineer in the Army during Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s. He later worked security and management jobs in nightclubs in New York City. He also had a small, recurring role as a doctor on the soap opera Loving.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Berlinger packed up his family and relocated to Spring Hill, taking a job as night security supervisor for the Tampa Convention Center.

"I had a 2-year-old son, and I wanted to raise him in a different environment," he said.

Berlinger, who is now divorced, found a his calling in a want ad for a grounds keeper and attendant at Crews Lake Park in Spring Hill.

"I figure with Florida, I wanted to work outside," he said. "I love wildlife, and I was lucky to end up where there’s lots of it."

His foray into nature photography began with a cell phone while working at Crews Lake Park. Now he carries a Cannon Rebel equipped with a 250- or 300-mm lens. He often spends his days off taking pictures at other county parks, and tags along for many of the county park nature walks.

Like any good photographer, he takes hundreds of pictures to get that one perfect shot. When he’s not sure of the species of birds or flora he’s captured with his camera, he calls on Kimberly Calhoun, the preserve ranger at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

His photographs are a draw for visitors, said Parks and Recreation superintendent, Cristina Cordon. She is contemplating a park exhibit featuring wildlife photos taken by Berlinger and other camera bugs who volunteer or visit the parks regularly.

"He’s slowly fine-tuned from a hobby to expertise," she said. "A lot of people who have seen (his photographs) on social media like them."

Berlinger hopes that those who see his photographs will want to visit, and those who can’t will get a glimpse of local wildlife. Maybe that will help drum up support for local parks and the programs they offer throughout the year.

"I love what I do. I love where I do it," Berlinger said. "I just want people to see it."

Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52.

     
   
Comments
'Game of Thrones,' 'Mrs. Maisel' and a proposal highlight Emmy Awards

'Game of Thrones,' 'Mrs. Maisel' and a proposal highlight Emmy Awards

LOS ANGELES — Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel became the first streaming series to win top Emmy comedy honors and HBO's Game of Thrones recaptured the best drama series award Monday at a ceremony that largely slighted its most ethnically di...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lens on Pasco wildlife: Park supervisor shares encounters with his pictures

Lens on Pasco wildlife: Park supervisor shares encounters with his pictures

NEW PORT RICHEY — For Mark Berlinger, getting the best shot is a matter of serendipity. Being in the right place. Looking up at the right time. Hearing a rustle and following a notion to take the lens cap off your camera and shoot.Often, the right pl...
Published: 09/13/18
New Miss America glad she didn’t have to don swimsuit to win

New Miss America glad she didn’t have to don swimsuit to win

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The first woman to win the Miss America crown without having to don a swimsuit says she’s glad she didn’t have to. Nia Imani Franklin, who won the title Sunday night in Atlantic City while competing as Miss New York, said the ch...
Published: 09/10/18
Judy Garland’s stolen ruby slippers from ‘Wizard of Oz’ are found

Judy Garland’s stolen ruby slippers from ‘Wizard of Oz’ are found

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal authorities say they have recovered a pair of sequined ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz that were stolen from a museum in her northern Minnesota hometown 13 years ago. The slippers were taken from the Judy ...
Published: 09/04/18
Local Loudmouth Lip Attire founder makes a colorful statement, and you can, too

Local Loudmouth Lip Attire founder makes a colorful statement, and you can, too

TAMPAAmber Parker loves to stand out in a crowd.And with a vivacious personality and a funky personal style, the petite 32-year-old certainly makes a bold impression.So it’s only fitting that her makeup line, Loudmouth Lip Attire, features vibrant an...
Updated one month ago
‘What the hell did you do to my daughter?’ He was accused of a crime he swore he never committed; she believed her 4-year-old

‘What the hell did you do to my daughter?’ He was accused of a crime he swore he never committed; she believed her 4-year-old

ST. PETERSBURGOn the evening of the accusation, before the police came, Austin Holcomb walked to his neighbors’ house to get his son.The boy, who was almost 4, had been playing there all afternoon.The neighbors’ house was a wreck. That Saturday, they...
Updated one month ago
Zephyrhills High rallys to support ‘the greatest kid,’ who’s in a fight for his life

Zephyrhills High rallys to support ‘the greatest kid,’ who’s in a fight for his life

ZEPHYRHILLS There was a swelling of Bulldog Pride as students, many donning orange and black school colors and "I Run For Zack" T-shirts, flocked to the gymnasium for the afternoon pep rally at Zephyrhills High. • The marching band played rousing...
Updated one month ago
Looking for Leo: It’s all politics at a nightclub for seniors

Looking for Leo: It’s all politics at a nightclub for seniors

PALM HARBOR — Regulars call it the "fallout" or the "mishap" or the "situation."It has been eight months, but the breakup of Leo’s Italian Grill and its longtime band, True Passion, resonates like a fair-to-middling car crash. Not fatal but nasty, bo...
Updated one month ago