I often visit Lake Morton in Lakeland, but I had never ridden over to nearby Lake Mirror. Several photographer friends keep asking me if I have photographed the Mandarin Ducks there. The City of Lakeland introduced the mandarins and a couple of Shelducks, which are both exotic species (not native to Florida). I finally stopped at Lake Mirror this weekend. It was great! I can’t believe it took me so long to finally visit.
Lake Mirror is smaller than Lake Morton, fully surrounded by downtown Lakeland. The city has a nice little sidewalk and park around the lake. I was surprised to see a flock of Black Skimmers in the middle of the lake when I first arrived. That familiar call is unmistakeable after spending so many hours at the Black Skimmer nesting colony! The skimmers flew back and forth between the lake edge and the landing in the middle of the lake. It was fun to find them so far inland.
Though not as birdy as Lake Morton, there were plenty of winter migrants on Lake Mirror. I found coots and Ring-necked Ducks. The first ducks that I noticed were actually the Shelducks. They are a very pretty pair. They were more interested in feeding than in posing for me. Silly birds.
I looked around for the mandarins, and I finally spotted them as they swam up right in front of me. What gorgeous little birds! Though I’ve seen them in zoos before, this was my first good photo op. The Mandarin Ducks were surprising small. They are only about the size of coots. The male Mandarin is very pretty with showy colors. I was glad that the sun was out to give his feathers that beautiful shine. His wife is pretty in her own right, with brown and white feathers like a Wood Duck female. Both mandarins posed for a few minutes before settling down in the shade of a tree.
Michael was jealous when the male Mandarin Duck did a wing flap and I got the shot. But when I got home and saw my pictures, I was less than impressed. The city of Lakeland clips the birds’ wings to keep them from flying off, and a wing-flap shot with most of a wing missing is not a great picture. I almost feel sorry for these little birds, purchased because they are pretty but not given the freedom to move about like normal birds.
The White Ibises were as plentiful at Lake Mirror as they were earlier at Lake Morton. One walked right in front of me, giving me an easy opportunity for a head shot with that gorgeous bright red breeding beak. It’s going to be a good spring, which will definitely include some return trips to Lake Mirror!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Lake Mirror?
Check out my Lake Mirror 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!