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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!