Beyond the BackyardLake Apopka

The First Sign of Fall at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

It’s strange to think of fall migration starting in mid-July, in the intense heat of our Florida summers.  But the birds start to leave their breeding grounds that early.  We begin to see phalaropes as they move through the state.  Shorebirds begin to return to the beaches, back from the Alaskan tundra.  And at Lake Apopka, the first Belted Kingfisher returned to the wildlife drive!

First of Fall Belted Kingfisher!
First of Fall Belted Kingfisher!

My dad came with me on this particular visit to the LAWD.  We got out at the Crazy U and walked around a bit.  We heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo but never saw it.  Then we were distracted by a family of cardinals.  The babies were very pretty in the soft morning light.

Juvenile Cardinal
Juvenile Cardinal

A Northern Flicker joined a family of Red-bellied Woodpeckers on the power lines over our heads.

Northern Flicker
Northern Flicker

Back on the drive, we saw a Least Bittern on Welland Road.  The bittern was fishing from the dead sticks sticking up in the water.  My photos always seem to make the Least Bitterns seem bigger than they actually are.  They like to move their tails in a circular pattern while they are stalking their prey. It’s very entertaining.

Least Bittern
Least Bittern

While we stalked the stalking bittern, I was surprised to see some Wood Ducks fly over.  I’ve seen them reported regularly on eBird, but I’d never seen them myself.  It appeared to be a male and a juvenile.

Wood Ducks in Flight
Wood Ducks in Flight

The Wood Ducks were not the only birds to fly over.  Some Fulvous Whistling-Ducks flew overhead shortly after.  Even though I see the Fulvous whistlers on almost every visit, I never get tired of photographing them, especially in flight.

Fulvous Whistling-Ducks in Flight
Fulvous Whistling-Ducks in Flight

As we neared Grebe Corner, we heard the persistent calls of a juvenile grebe.  He was swimming in the water made golden by the morning light and the reflection of the nearby reeds.  Such a pretty bird.  He’s growing up far too quickly.  It seemed like just yesterday that I photographed him as a baby at his nest.

Juvenile Pied-billed Grebe
Juvenile Pied-billed Grebe

We drove Laughlin slowly, but we didn’t see any orioles or cuckoos.  We heard Eastern Towhees, a Brown Thrasher, and White-eyed Vireos.  Then we came across this Green Heron perched nicely on the top of a branch.  He sat for quite a long time before flying off.

Green Heron
Green Heron

As we neared the end of the drive, we found Forky at his usual spot at the sod fields.  It’s rare that a Fork-tailed Flycatcher stays so long in Florida!  He gave us a rare treat – he flew in close and perched on the power lines right over our heads.  :)

Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Fork-tailed Flycatcher

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2 thoughts on “The First Sign of Fall at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

    1. That’s the best part of LAWD, it always leaves you with motivation to return. I’ve seen Forky on the wire several times now. Maybe he’s waiting for you!

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