Category Archives: Emeralda Marsh

Emeralda Marsh

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 sundog
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
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.

American Bittern
American Bittern

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.

Other:

Here’s a link to the property map, and you can download the drive 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.

Summary

“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.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157626234490421/
Website: http://www.sjrwmd.com/recreationguide/emeraldamarsh/index.html
Address / Phone: Lake County BCC
315 West Main St.
P.O. Box 7800
Tavares, Florida 32778(386) 329-4404Geolocation: 28.886668,-81.79056

View in Google Maps

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: There are places near me that I think are better, but go if you’re close.

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

©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.