It’s been a while since I’ve been to Viera Wetlands. I had time last Wednesday, so I packed my camera gear and set out at “o-dark-thirty” to give my shutter finger some exercise.
My first stop was Rotary Park, on the Indian River in Melbourne. It’s small, but I like it because it’s open before dawn and the cochina rock formations near the shore by the pavilion can add interest in the foreground. Nature cooperated and painted in a superb sky.
Next, I headed over to Viera Wetlands. There were quite a few things to see and photograph.
Green Heron still life
Sora with a snail snack
Grackle in good light
Dragonfly in flight
The roads through the wetlands have been closed for a while because of all the rain we’ve had here in Central Florida. They’re open now, but in rough shape – lots of potholes to dodge as you drive through.
Speaking of all the rain we’ve had, I checked on the Lake Jesop Wilderness Area sunflowers again yesterday, and they’re very, very sparse this year. There are a few clumps of flowers on higher ground, but the grand fields of blooms are missing. The water’s still high and large areas are still flooded. Maybe next year.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I spotted this large fish (~2 1/2 feet long) resting near the shore. My long lens was stowed in my backpack and I knew it wouldn’t stay there long, so I quickly made a photo with my IR camera. If you click through to the larger version on Flickr, you can better see the small minnows swimming nearby.
Dragonflies are out and about. This is the first time I’ve noticed them this year.
And finally, here’s a photo of my walking companion. This bird joined me for a bit on my stroll around the park.
The park offers free Tram Tours on weekends – check their site for details. I much prefer to walk so I can pause and photograph any time I want and get a little exercise too.
Thanks for stopping by the 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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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. It doesn’t look too much like a plow horse to me.
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
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*.
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).
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.
It did a double take, decided it didn’t like what it saw, and took off pretty quickly.
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!