Kevin M. asked if I wanted to go on a photo excursion yesterday and of course I agreed. Since I hadn’t been to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive since before the pandemic, we ventured out there. It was a really good choice.
Two birds I don’t see very often were quite common: Black-necked Stilts and Least Bitterns. The Stilts were all along the drive. At first, they were way out in the water or flying in the distance. Eventually we found some much closer – and even had to wait for them to get out of the road!
There were some cute young ones toddling around too.
Black-necked Stilt Babies
The Least Bitterns were taking cover in the reeds and occasionally flying from one hiding spot to another.
A Least Bittern in the reeds
There were lots of other birds too. These nesting Anhingas were a treat. I don’t think I’ve seen them nesting since I visited the Everglades.
Nesting Anhingas: When is lunch, Mom?
Kevin pointed out this next bird for me – one I’d never photographed before.
Great Crested Flycatcher
The LAWD Gate doesn’t open until 7am so we usually can’t get any blue hour or sunrise photos. But I always like to make a photo of the pump house. I hadn’t tried this perspective yet and I think it looks good in B&W with those clouds in the background.
Lake Apopka Pumphouse
We also saw Turtles, Alligators, a Marsh Rabbit, lots of dragonflies, a Blue Grosbeak (way, way far away!), a Downy Woodpecker, a Black-crowned Night Heron, Bank Swallows, Common Gallinules, Purple Gallinules (and babies), Ospreys, Red-winged Blackbirds, Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Little Blue Herons, and many lovely flowers too. And I’m sure there were other things I’ve forgotten to mention or overlooked.
Way back in 2009, a group of friends at work were all interested in photography and getting out into nature here in Central Florida. We started a “club” we called the Photography Interest Group. We’d go out together, make photos, and share info on cameras, techniques, locations, etc. Over the years, people drifted away: lost interest, moved, etc. Kevin and I are the last two active members. He’s going to move away soon. We’ll keep in touch of course and may even be able to go out photographing together at times. But it seems like the Photography Interest Group has faded away. It was good while it lasted! I’ll miss you Kevin!
If you’ve been a photographer for any length of time, you might be familiar with “new gear jinx”. It seems whenever we get new photo equipment, the weather turns bad for a while so we can’t use it.
The day was dreary and the light was dim. Lots of clouds, some fog and haze, and rain later in the morning.
Kevin M. and I both wanted to try out some new gear and in spite of the poor weather we’ve had lately, decided to defy the jinx and venture out to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive on Friday morning. I’m very glad we did. Here’s some of what we saw.
Fulvous Whistling-duck. There were quite a few. I’d never seen one before, so this was a great addition to my life-list. Thanks Kevin!
Common Yellowthroat. I posted a photo of one a few weeks ago, but this bird is much more colorful.
American Bittern – in their classic frozen statue pose. It eventually realized we could see it anyway and left. By then, I wasn’t paying attention and missed the flight shot.
Eastern Phoebe. This must be a young one – it hasn’t learned to hide from photographers behind twigs and branches yet.
Black-crowned Night-Heron in flight. We saw 4 or 5 of these on Friday. They’ve been on Black Point Wildlife Drive too and seem more common than usual this year.
There were hundreds (maybe thousands) of birds on the water – I haven’t seen that many in a long while. Lots of coots, but also Redheads, Northern Shovelers, Blue-wing Teals, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks too – among others. We also saw a few alligators, all the other usual wading / water birds along with an occasional Belted Kingfisher, one young Bald Eagle, Red-winged Blackbirds, many Red-shoulder Hawks, and even one fast flying snipe.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive undoubtedly lives up to its name. If you’re planning to go, it’s usually open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset. That poor light on Friday was a good test of our new gear but I ended up with a lot of photos I like. I think we broke the jinx!
I make a lot of photographs – you may not have been able to tell ;-). And I have many that I like that never get into the blog. So this week I’m going to post a handful of B&W images from around Central Florida that I think are worth seeing. I hope you like them too. Not many words this morning. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
Pump house, Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Cathedral Interior, St. Augustine
Cypress stand, Orlando Wetlands
Quiet morning, Merritt Island NWR
Sunrise Along Bobcat Trail, Orlando Wetlands
Tranquil morn, Orlando Wetlands
As always, click to view larger on Flickr, and you can see many more of my monochrome photos in this folder.
Thanks for stopping by and looking at my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Hello faithful readers! This is my first post in a new category I’ve created on the blog that I’m calling “Postcards”. I’m going to occasionally post photos here that are typical Central Florida scenes – like a postcard.
You’re welcome to download them at full resolution for your personal use. I’m going to use the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license for these instead of “All rights reserved”. Please visit this page to see details and restrictions that apply: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.
In the future, they should be easy to find using the “Places / Categories” pulldown menu over on the right side of the blog and selecting “Postcards”. If you’re viewing the site on a phone, you might not see that menu – if so, just type “postcards” into the search box.
Anyway, the first photo in the new series is this one:
To download, just click on the image to go to the source and then right-click to download it. I hope you like it!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Black Point Wildlife Drive seemed quiet when I was there a week ago, but Lake Apopka is active. We saw lots of people and lots of birds. I don’t catch Black-crowned Night Herons that often, but we spotted several including this young one fishing in a canal.
Black-crowned Night Heron
A little later we spotted another that’d just caught a catfish.
Black-crowned Night Heron and Catfish
This looks like a Sailfin Catfish. I hadn’t heard about these, but Kevin M. filled me in. They’re a type of suckermouth (or armored) catfish and a non-native, invasive species in Florida. Originally from Venezuela and Colombia, they’re popular in aquariums. Most likely they escaped from tropical fish farms and / or were released here by people.
Now they’re abundant and widespread throughout Florida and bad for our ecosystem. They dig burrows that cause erosion. Because of their tough, armored skin and sharp spines, they can choke birds that eat them. There were a lot of them in the canals next to the roads. The St. John’s River Water Management District has an undesirable fish harvest each year that gets some of them out of the water.
In addition to the Night Heron, we also saw a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret with one. I hope they didn’t choke.
I don’t see many Purple Gallinules either, and I didn’t realize this was a young one until Kevin M. ID’d it for us. Thanks, Kevin!
Purple Gallinule juvenile
We saw several other types of birds, dragonflies, butterflies, flowers, and the usual alligators too. Lake Apopka is well worth a visit, even in the hot summer.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Country 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.
Red Shouldered Hawk with Field Mouse (in right claw). It had just caught the mouse on the road and carried it to this tree.
On our trip, we also saw several kinds of dragon flies:
Halloween Pennant Dragonfly
And many water lilies blooming, some of them in very pretty light:
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 Black Point 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.
My friend Tom M. wanted to go out shooting last week and hadn’t ever been to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The drive itself is only open to cars from Friday through Sunday, so we met on Friday morning and went over. It was raining when I got up and still cloudy on the way over, which made for interesting skies in my infrared photos.
Lake Apopka Pump House – 2 frame panorama, infrared, black and white.
We did have a bit of good light while we were there. We saw this bird struggling to swallow a fish and stopped to watch for a few minutes. It was on the side of a canal with the clouds reflecting in the water behind it and flowers blooming in front. I stayed in the car so I wouldn’t bother it and shot a series of single frames while we watched. This one was the best one of the series.
Nice catch! – an Anhiga tosses a fish it caught along a canal on the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.
On this trip, I brought my micro four thirds cameras. I’ve used the system for about four years and they’ve worked very well. The dynamic range and noise performance are not as good as larger sensor cameras, but it’s “good enough”. And the noise is not an issue for me. DxO Optics Pro does an outstanding job processing the RAW files. The focusing capabilities have been fast for static subjects – but I’ve never been able to do very well with continuous focus. Well, I recently traded up to a used Olympus E-M1, which has phase detect sensors built into the image sensor and it’s been doing a great job with continuous focus. So much so that even for birds in flight it’s working “good enough” too. Here’s an example from Friday:
Checking me out – A hawk in flight looking at the camera
Kevin K., Kevin M., and I went round the Wildlife Drive on the Lake Apopka North Shore yesterday. This 11 mile long section of dirt roads opened to the public earlier this year and provides access to a large part of the restoration area near the lake.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive Entrance.
This was mostly a scouting trip as Kevin K. and I had never been, and since it’s the middle of the summer we didn’t expect to see a lot of wildlife. But similar to Viera Wetlands, there was lot going on. We saw many of the usual Florida birds and even some unusual ones like Least Bitterns. About half way through, we stopped behind another car observing a tree full of birds that turned out to be swallows.
My experience with swallows is that they’re very erratic flyers and seldom sit still – which makes them hard to photograph or even identify. But these were happily perched in the tree and later on power lines. This allowed us to get some good photos and recognize several species. Two (Bank Swallow and Barn Swallow) were lifers for me. I even got both of them in the same frame – how cool is that?!!