Beyond the BackyardLake Apopka

Ducks and a Fish out of Water at LAWD

In late November I took a quick trip to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive one gray, icky morning. The winter birds are back and it was fun to see the Irma-enlarged expanses of water covered in ducks.

Lake Apopka is a well-known place to find Fulvous Whistling-ducks. When the wildlife drive was first put in, I’d see the ducks in the air or hear them, but they didn’t hang out close to the road. What a difference now. There were dozens of Fulvous at very close distances. Most of them were face-down in the water looking for food. This one took pity on me and let me snap his picture before he continued foraging.

Fulvous Whistling-duck
Fulvous Whistling-duck

Another wintering duck that doesn’t always come in close is the Ruddy Duck. This particular duck is leucistic, meaning that his feathers lack pigmentation. He looked a little funny as he hung out with a raft of coots.

Leucistic Ruddy Duck
Leucistic Ruddy Duck

In late November the marshes are covered in bright yellow flowers called burr marigolds. They certainly brighten the landscape on a gray morning! I took this image into Topaz Glow and played with some artistic effects.

Burr Marigolds (enhanced in Topaz Glow)
Burr Marigolds (enhanced in Topaz Glow)

As I drove through by “Grebe Corner,” I was surprised to see a Least Bittern hop between some reeds. Then I spotted this American Bittern playing peek-a-boo with me through the branches.

American Bittern
American Bittern

It’s hard to visit the Central Florida marshes in wintertime without seeing a Northern Harrier. Getting a good photograph of one is harder than just spotting one, as the birds often seem to coast along the wind far away from your lens. This bird did me a favor and came in a little closer.

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

Belted Kingfishers are very easy to spot on the wildlife drive. They make a lot of noise as they fly, then they perch out on the top of a branch while they scan the water below for fish. This male was amazingly unskittish and posed very close to my car.

Belted Kingfisher (male)
Belted Kingfisher (male)

There was a huge group of ducks along Interceptor Road. As far as you could see, there were ducks scattered along the water – mostly coots, but also shovelers, ring-necks, ruddies, and a few surprises – like this female Canvasback! I was shooting straight into the sun but how often do you get to photograph a Canvasback in Central Florida?

Canvasback (female)
Canvasback (female)

My last shot of the day was quite possibly my best. I spotted a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron standing on the trail at a distance, and as I got closer, I saw that he was tossing a fish in his beak. I got out of my car, crouched down, and took photos as I gradually edged closer. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw the fun shot – the fish positioned in mid-air just outside the bird’s beak. Rich said it looks as if the fish is swimming right into the bird’s mouth!

Fish out of Water!  Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron
Fish out of Water! Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

2 thoughts on “Ducks and a Fish out of Water at LAWD

  1. Wonderful images!! A “white” Ruddy – THAT’S different! Love that heron and catfish photograph. Hope the young heron has learned to stun or kill that armored little critter so he doesn’t get a puncture.

    Happy Holidays, Jess!

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