I was so excited when my friend Michael Libbe organized a boat ride on Blue Cypress Lake last weekend. Blue Cypress Lake is a huge lake near Yeehaw Junction in Central Florida. If you know Yeehaw Junction at all, you know that the location is “out in the middle of nowhere!” The only human structure on Blue Cypress Lake is Middleton’s Fish Camp, where we rented our pontoon boat. Thanks to Michael and to Mike Fitzgerald for driving the boat for our group! It was also great to see Donna Faylo and to meet Debbie Tubridy, and to have my favorite shooting buddy, my dad, along with us!
One of our reasons for visiting this lake is for sunrise images. The cypress trees are gorgeous, and it’s fun to create silhouettes with the rising sun. Last year I had great luck at our Arts in April employee art show with a sunrise from Blue Cypress. Mrs. Middleton was understandably concerned about safety, so we weren’t allowed out on the boat until it was light enough to see. So I stood watching the deepest colors of sunrise from the little bridge that overlooks the lake entry. That’s our boat coming towards me!
We picked a tree for our sunrise silhouette, and Michael puttered the boat back and forth, causing the sun to go on both sides of our tree. My favorite image included a small group of birds flying past, and the sun peeking through the tree branches. There were just a few clouds in the sky and it was a gorgeous morning!
The other reason to visit this lake is the hundreds of nesting Ospreys! As soon as the sun peeked out, we started photographing all the birds that were circling overhead. Some were bringing in fish, some had nesting material, and some were doing some really interesting aerial courtship displays. The birds would swoop after each other and nearly collide, then drop down really fast. At first we thought it was aggressive or territorial behavior, but by the end of the morning, we realized that the birds were showing off to attract a mate.
You can tell a male Osprey from a female Osprey by looking at the chest. A female has brown on her chest, and a male doesn’t. This female was posing nicely out on a tree branch as our boat approached. I love the muted greens of the cypress trees in her background.
Mike turned out to be a really good boat driver, just as good or better than our guides last year. He kept the sun at our backs as the Ospreys flew away and then circled back to return to their nests. We were careful not to disturb the birds for long, as most of them are on eggs. A lot of my shots had the birds flying against a blue sky, which gets a little boring. I really liked the trees in the background of this shot, and how the blue sky shows off the bird’s open beak.
My dad likes to tease me that I can’t photograph an Osprey unless it is carrying a fish. That’s not exactly true, especially at a place like Blue Cypress Lake! The Ospreys were certainly giving us ample opportunities for fish shots, but my favorite “carrying” shot was this branch. It’s so huge! I wonder if the Osprey realized how big the branch was before he started carrying it. He struggled to keep it in midair, and he kept circling with it because it was so bulky. I wondered how he was going to work it into his nest if he ever got it there. It wasn’t meant to be, though. He dropped it in the water. I hope he went back for a smaller one!
If there were any babies in the nests, they were too small to see. We all commented that there were fewer birds this year, but then we realized we were comparing the numbers to our last visit in May, when the juveniles were all learning how to fly. Of course there aren’t as many birds yet! Middleton’s did mention that more birds are nesting on different shores of the lake. Maybe when we go back we’ll have to visit some of those. We certainly did see behaviors that make me confident that there will be babies… :)
It was a great morning with great friends! I filled my cards. I might do a follow-up blog post with some more of my images – it was hard to pick just a few for the blog. I can’t wait to go back!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Blue Cypress Lake?
Check out my Blue Cypress Lake page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!