Tag Archives: Dragonfly

Lake Apopka Restoration Area

If you take a look at my blog archives, you’d see only a few mentions of Lake Apopka and the wildlife drive that goes through the restoration area out there.  If you look for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge posts, you’d find almost 70!  Judging solely by these numbers, you might assume that MINWR is a better place to visit.  At least some of the time, you’d be wrong!

I met my friend Robert Wilson one morning a couple of weeks ago at the entrance to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  I hadn’t seen him (or Lake Apopka!) in a while.

Country RoadCountry Road – Near the Lust Road entrance to the drive

There’s been lots of activity there this summer.  Robert and others described feeding frenzies in the ponds by the pump house. Alligators and birds have gorged on fish, creating some great photo opportunities.

And people have seen many interesting birds too including Swallowtail and Mississippi kites, Brown Thrashers, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, an Ash-throated Flycatcher, Purple Martins, and others.

_EM128449_DxO.jpgSwallow-tailed Kite

Red Shouldered Hawk with Field MouseRed Shouldered Hawk with Field Mouse (in right claw). It had just caught the mouse on the road and carried it to this tree.

You can get a good idea of the birds at a place using eBbird.  Here’s their chart of bird observations by species and month for Lake Apopka.  And here is the same thing for MINWR.

On our trip, we also saw several kinds of dragon flies:

Holloween Pennant DragonflyHalloween Pennant Dragonfly

And many water lilies blooming, some of them in very pretty light:

Water LilyWater Lily

MINWR can be quiet through the hot part of the year and the times I checked on it this summer, I saw few birds / wildlife. Conditions were poor with little rainfall for long periods followed by some huge fires along Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.

On the other hand, Lake Apopka’s been a wonderful place to visit this summer.  It’s a shame I didn’t go over there more often.  Not too long ago, the lake was polluted with farm runoff.  Restoration efforts and the opening of the wildlife drive about two years ago have made it a premier nature and wildlife destination in Central Florida.

It’s about the same distance from me as MINWR.  I’m going to make a point of visiting more often.  If you haven’t been recently – go.

You can see more Lake Apopka images in this folder on Flickr.  And MINWR photos in this folder.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go make some photos!

©2017, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Ravine Gardens State Park

Dogwood blossom in front of azaleas

Dogwood blossom in front of azaleas

Intro / Description

I had never heard of Ravine Gardens State Park until Lynn mentioned it to me after reading about it in our Florida guidebook in the St. Augustine section.  The ~185 acre park is in Palatka, about 35 miles south west of St. Augustine and about 90 miles north east of the Orlando area.

This is a steephead ravine formed by ground water leaking through porous sand onto a sloping surface.  The sand is eroded from the bottom causing sand above to collapse and be carved away by the stream.  It’s from 70 to 120 foot deep.

It became a state park in 1933 when the Works Progress Administration began construction and also landscaped it with 95,000 azaleas including 64 varieties.  They also planted 11,000 palm trees and more than 250,000 ornamental plants.  There’s a multi-tiered rose garden with a fountain at its center.  You can drive a 1.8 mile loop around the ravine and hiking paths and jogging trails also wind throughout the park, including one over a suspension bridge across the ravine.

Lily pond and suspension bridgeLily pond and suspension bridge

There’s also a playground or two and picnic tables if you want to eat lunch there.

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:  The azaleas are a main attraction at this park.  There’s other things to see too, including the abandoned water plant, the suspension bridge, and ponds.  For photography, of course, early or late in the day would be the best time to get there.  If you try to photograph during midday, you’ll be bothered by harsh sunlight and high contrast with the dark forest.  Capturing a scene with this much dynamic range practically begs for RAW mode and HDR techniques.  You might also want to bring a polarizing filter to help cut down on reflections from leaves.

Tripod/Monopod: Definitely allowed, and you’ll need it for any HDR work.

Lenses:  A wide angle lens will be useful to try to capture the feeling of the change in elevation.  We saw butterflies and dragonflies when we were there, so a macro capability might also be handy.

Ebony Jewelwing (?)I believe this is an Ebony Jewelwing dragonfly

Best time to visit: Spring time is a wonderful time in Central Florida. The Azelea festival is usually one weekend in the beginning of March, however they bloom over several weeks, so you have plenty of time to visit.

Several varieties of azaleas in bloom

Several varieties of azaleas in bloom

Other: Like most state parks, the entrance fee is a bargain at $5 per car.  You’ll need to occasionally park and walk short distances to see all the views, but you can see most of the park from your car.  Wear good shoes if you intend to do any hiking.

Summary

This park doesn’t seem to be very well known and it’s a wonderful surprise when you discover it.  The elevation changes are  interesting and very different for Central Florida.  It’s fairly close to Orlando and worth a visit.  Go in the spring time (March) so you can view the multitude of flowers.

Vine covered trellisVine covered trellis.

My Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157624336756372/
Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/ravinegardens/default.cfm
Address / Phone:
1600 Twigg Street

Palatka, Florida 32177

(386) 329-3721

View in Google Maps

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Ravines in Central Florida?!  Check it out at azalea time – in March.

Note:  This post was updated on March 12, 2011 after an additional visit to Ravine Gardens, while the Azaleas were in bloom.

©2010, 2011 Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

You can’t always get what you want* – Emeralda Marsh

Four of us from the Photography Interest Group rolled out before dawn this morning to visit “The crown jewel of bird watching in Lake County”, Emeralda Marsh.   It’s a little over an hour drive on mostly rural roads from our normal meeting place in Oviedo through Central Florida to Tavares.  “Donuts” found this place on the web and it sounds really good.  He called ahead to ask about it and learned that the driving route through the marsh is only open from February through May – but we still decided to go ahead and explore it.  While up there, we also drove to and walked around Sawgrass Island Preserve.

It’s difficult to judge any place based on just one visit.  Even at the best known and consistent locations we occasionally have a hard time getting photos of wildlife.  Sometimes you just have to be patient and really work for your photos.  Today was one of those times – especially since we were in an area we weren’t familiar with. [4/16/11 update:  Here is a new post on Emeralda Marsh based on our return visit]

It’s disappointing that the Emeralda Marsh Interpretive Drive isn’t open all year.  I’m certain that would’ve made our trip much more successful.  As it was, we had to park and hike looking for scenic places and wildlife and we weren’t able to cover as much ground.  The end result was that for wildlife, today was somewhat of a bust.  We talked about returning next February when the driving route is open.

Over several hikes, we saw quite a lot of Florida scrub land and very few birds or other wildlife.  But photographers are resourceful and we did see many things worth taking photos of.  My photos seemed to develop a theme of “Things in people’s yards”, also known as TIPY.  I’ve created of a set of thirteen of these photos on Flickr (set, slideshow), and I’ve posted a few below.  If you go to the set on Flickr, you can see things like llamas, dogs, additional old farm equipment and a flower.  See the captions for details.

Old plow and horse
Old plow and horse.  It doesn’t look too much like a plow horse to me.

Old Blue Truck
Old Blue Truck – We came across several old trucks this morning and this was the last one we found. Since it was blue, it completed my full spectrum RGB set. You can see the Red and Green trucks on my Flickr Feed.

Cattle Egret and Horse
Cattle Egret and Horse

Dragonfly in flight
Dragonfly in flight – I was waiting in the car for the rest of the group and noticed some dragonflies that were moving past the window. I decided to try to capture one in flight.

At the end of the trip, we found a close by Cracker Barrel restaurant and stopped to eat.  Today, we had fun.  We had breakfast.  We made some photos worth posting.  And we confirmed that even though you don’t always get what you want, if you try sometimes you find – you get what you need*.

*With apologies to the Rolling Stones

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Wetland Wildflowers

I drove over to Orlando Wetlands Park last Friday morning and walked around the 2.5 mile ‘Birding Route’ foot path. I arrived around 9 am and didn’t expect to see much wildlife. But once again this urban oasis didn’t disappoint me. I saw the usual alligators, including one that posed with some flowers, as well as many herons, egrets, ducks, etc. (Note: you can go to my gallery to see larger versions of these photos).

Alligator and white flowers

New for me this visit were some Sandhill Cranes, and a raccoon. I was walking quietly down the middle of the path taking pictures when the raccoon came around the corner. It had it’s head down and I took several photos before it looked up.

Oblivious Raccoon

It did a double take, decided it didn’t like what it saw, and took off pretty quickly.

Not so oblivious raccoon

There were also a tremendous number of dragonflies out there. I’m worried that this means the lovebug season will be especially bad for us here in Florida this year.

The highlight of this trip was the many varieties of flowers in bloom. It made for a very colorful stroll.

The biggest problem this time of year is that our weather is turning very hot. By the time I left the park to head home around 11 am the temperature was approaching 90 degrees. Get out early and get back inside while it’s still cool!

The rest of my photos for this post are here.

©2009, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.