Intro / Description
Emeralda Marsh is called the “Jewel of Lake County Bird Watching”. When we first visited in May of 2010, the Interpretive drive had just been closed to vehicles – which was a big disappointment and prevented me from doing a review of the site. Fast forward to late March of this year and the drive is again open, so Kevin M. and I headed over to see if this place lives up to its reputation.
It’s huge (7089 acres), with a 4.3 mile long drive that’s accessible by car for part of the year. We arrived a little after sunrise but before the gate opened at 8am, and so we spent a little time around this very picturesque canal just up the road from the entrance.
Canal, mist, and Sun Dog: A Sun Dog appears over this misty Florida canal near Emeralda Marsh just after sunrise.
Info for Photographers
Photo hints: The Interpretive drive is open from the 3rd week in February through May on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Call before you go to make sure. The drive had already been closed when we went last May and the place is too big to walk (at least for me). The hours are 8 – 5. We didn’t see much of interest on about the first half of the drive. Things picked up a bit when we turned north at the south-west corner (see link to Google Maps, below). Then we ended up seeing a good variety of birds including a Belted Kingfisher, coots and moorhens, gators, American Bitterns, a Northern Harrier, Ospreys, Egrets and Herons, and various ducks.
Northern Harrier in flight: This bird was quite active on the morning we were there
There’s a dirt road that’s closed to cars leading west from the north-west corner of the drive. It goes to a rookery on a small island just off the Lake Griffin shore. We walked out there and saw some displaying and nest-building going on, but it was grown up and hard to get a clear view.
Tripod/Monopod: Allowed of course.
Lenses: Bring your standard bird set up – the longer your lens, the better.
Best time to visit: When the drive is open (late February to May), which is also the best time for nesting, breeding, etc. Winter time is reportedly good for migrating species, but the drive will be closed to vehicles and you’ll have to hike in to the area.
Here’s a link to the trail map, and you can download the trail guide here.
Landscapes and sunrise / sunset photos will be hard due to the hours that the drive is open to cars, although you may be able to find a few scenic locations close by for golden hour photos.
There was a Bass fishing tournament going on the morning we were there, which made for a few loud moments as the fast boats all roared off. We also heard several gun shots, so there was some hunting going on in the area.
“Jewel of Lake County Bird Watching”? I certainly can’t argue with that. This is a huge place with a diversity of habitats and we did end up seeing a lot. I think that if you could visit several times over the course of a year, you’d see a variety of Florida and migratory birds.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog – now go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.