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!
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.
A Northern Flicker joined a family of Red-bellied Woodpeckers on the power lines over our heads.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :)
Find my birding list from today on eBird.
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!
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