It’s been too long since I’ve been to Lake Morton. It’s the best time of year to go, too, with all the springtime babies and birds in breeding plumage. Last Saturday was a cloudy, overcast day but I cranked up the exposure compensation and thoroughly enjoyed my walk. :)
Most of the winter ducks have left Florida, but a few Ruddy Ducks and a couple of Ring-necked Ducks were still present at Lake Morton in early April. I love the blue beaks that form part of the male Ruddy Duck’s breeding plumage.
With the less-than-ideal lighting conditions, I opted to leave my Beast at home and use just the intermediate telephoto. The birds at Lake Morton are tame enough to allow fairly close approaches, and it felt good to leave some of the weight behind!
Did I mention cute baby ducklings? This crew was resting in the grass next to their exhausted Mallard mom.
The Mute Swans nest in March and April. The birds are very protective of their nests and babies, so it’s best to give them a wide berth. Several nests were empty as the City of Lakeland moves the birds to cages as soon as the cygnets are born. This mom was still on eggs. She looked like she was ready to get up and move around a little.
A few American White Pelicans are still hanging around at Lake Morton. They head to the northern US to breed. There’s a large colony in northern Minnesota that has yielded several tagged birds that wintered in Lakeland in years past. I love to watch them glide on the water…
…and sometimes they take a nap on the brick walls at the lake’s edge, making it easy to get close-ups of their beautiful faces and feathers.
This Limpkin had just caught an Apple Snail when I happened upon him. I immediately dropped to my knees to photograph him at eye level. He repeatedly stabbed the snail with his long beak, using it to pry the snail out of the shell. In the photo below, he looks like he’s posing with his prize.
Lake Morton is an excellent place to photograph Wood Ducks, as the usually skittish species is fairly accustomed to all the people that walk around the lake. It’s such a special place. As I walked around, I found photographers, toddlers feeding the birds, young adults out for a run, seniors out for a stroll, and a family taking early Easter portraits with a professional photographer. These ducks weren’t worried about all the passersby. They focused on preening each other, and I bet we’ll see some cute baby ducklings from them later on in the season.
A little while later, in one of the few moments of sunshine that morning, I came across another drake Wood Duck at the water’s edge. I laid down on my stomach and edged forward as he preened himself in the sunlight. His feathers sparkled. What a gorgeous bird!
The ducks weren’t the only birds forming breeding pairs. I came across this pair of American Coots preening each other. They were quite gentle as they nuzzled. It was sweet.
Muscovy Ducks are another familiar sight at Lake Morton. They have the most interesting faces. This male watched me from a distance.
The Muscovy babies are so cute! A female duck had a brood of about 5-7 ducklings. As soon as she saw me, she headed for the water, and I thought it was great that she protected her babies. Then they swam right up to me, climbed out of the water, and waddled right up to me. I can tell people feed them. I wish they weren’t quite so accustomed to people…it’s not good for them. In years past, a sweet bird affectionately dubbed Father Goose has watched over little families of Muscovies. I didn’t see him on this particular morning.
The White Ibis were starting to lose their breeding plumage, but I found a couple of individuals with bright red-orange heads still. This female walked right in front of me and even gave me a nice head angle. Then she went off to hunt for bugs in the grass.
The swans definitely enjoy their baths. Throughout the morning, I stopped to grin at the beautiful birds as they splashed in the blue water. You can see how the City trims their flight feathers to keep the birds from leaving the lake.
My last bird of the morning is a “common” bird with very striking breeding plumage. This Double-crested Cormorant sat on a brick wall, looking at me and showing off his double-crested tufts of feathers that he sports only during the breeding season. His eyes are a bright blue. His mouth also turns an electric shade of blue. I sat there watching him for several minutes, but he didn’t feel like showing off his mouth for me.
So despite the icky weather, it was a very enjoyable morning at Lake Morton. My favorite photo opportunities were with two families that will get their own blog posts soon. Come back to read more!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Lake Morton?
Check out my Lake Morton 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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Wow, that wood duck photo is amazing!