Black Friday at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

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When I woke up early on Black Friday, I headed not to the mall but to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, to enjoy a quiet morning of nature.  It was my first chance to get out with my camera in weeks, and it felt awesome!  The sky was blue and clear, the temperatures nice and cool, and the bushes full of birds.

The Lust Road entrance to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is more of an afternoon photography spot.  The morning light shines on the bushes across the canal, where the birds are farther away than the ones on the driver’s side.  I was surprised not to see many ducks in the waters of the canals.  There were plenty of Pied-billed Grebes though, and some of them were very photogenic.

Pied-Billed Grebe at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Pied-Billed Grebe

Little birds were everywhere!  I heard the calls of Marsh Wrens all over the place.  A few even hopped out into the open for a quick photo.

Marsh Wren at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Marsh Wren

Tiny Palm Warblers bobbled their tails as they hopped from branch to branch.  This little guy hopped onto a branch just a few feet away from my camera on its beanbag.  He jumped from branch to branch and grabbed at small insects.  When I viewed the image on the computer, I saw that he was plucking a small spider from its web.

Palm Warbler at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Palm Warbler

I saw an eagle fly in with a fish to a nearby telephone pole.  An Osprey circled near and tried to grab the fish.  By the time I got closer, the fish was gone.  This isn’t the most natural perch, perhaps, but it’s always fun to see an eagle up close.  He gave me a nice yawn for the camera.  A few minutes later, I was back in the car driving along as I saw his mate fly in and land for a piggy-back ride.  The down side to shooting from the car is that you have to be responsible and stop moving before you leap out with the camera.  By the time I got the Beast focused on the action, the mate was flying off.  Silly bird!

Bald Eagle at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Bald Eagle

It’s freezing cold up north, and here in Florida we just had our first cold snap (lows in the upper 40s, yep, that’s a Florida cold snap!)  But our wading birds are already thinking of springtime and courtship.  I saw Great Egrets sporting their lacy breeding plumes, although they didn’t yet have their fancy green lores.  The Snowy Egrets had some lace too.  This one posed out in the open for me, on a good sun angle!  A very cooperative bird indeed. :)

Snowy Egret at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Snowy Egret

As I drove the next mile or two, the bushes were in terrible light.  So when I saw this Eastern Phoebe perched out in the open, on a good sun angle, I immediately stopped and started shooting out the open passenger window.  Never mind that he’s sitting on top of another very photogenic perch!  In my hurry to grab the camera before he flew, I accidentally tapped the horn, and the bird still posed for me!  Gotta love car photography…

Eastern Phoebe at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Eastern Phoebe

If you want to see Belted Kingfishers, head to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.  They were everywhere!  Except they weren’t very nice to the poor photographer.  As soon as I’d get close, they flew off.  They inevitably positioned themselves between me and the sun.  And their favorite perches were the power lines!  So I was ecstatic when this guy landed not too far away.  At least I had proximity in my favor, even if the silly bird was at a terrible sun angle.  Expose +2 EV for the bird, fix the background in Photoshop, and here’s my kingfisher for the day!

Belted Kingfisher at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Belted Kingfisher

Want to learn more about nature photography at Lake Apopka?

Check out my Lake Apopka 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!

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