No two trips to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive are the same. Activity starts to wane as the summer heat sets in and the nesting birds fledge. But you never know what surprises await you!
One of my first images of the morning was of a juvenile Green Heron. He was perched out on a low branch over the water. Then as I watched, he was joined by his brother! The two juvenile herons still had downy feathers. They stood watching the world around them, contemplating that day when they’ll be able to fly off into it…
A little farther down the road was this pair of Blue-winged Teals. I looked at them in surprise, wondering if they knew that most of their friends migrated long ago. I guess these guys have decided to spend the summer in Florida. It’s cooler up north, you guys!
Least Bitterns were everywhere. Adults were fishing for breakfast, and juveniles hung out in the reeds waiting for their parents to bring them food. Least Bitterns are known for being fairly secretive birds, but at Lake Apopka, they are pretty easy to find out in the open.
I heard the distinct nagging call of a juvenile wading bird. As I scanned the trees, I located this juvenile Snowy Egret who was chasing after Mom. Mom finally regurgitated some food for the baby, who continued to dance after Mom flew away. It’s hard to please hungry birds who haven’t yet figured out that they can feed themselves!
A Black-crowned Night Heron sat out in the open on a low branch. There seem to be more night herons than in years past. This one still has the long white breeding plume on the back of his head. Look at that red eye!
I really did a double-take on this next one. Usually it’s the Limpkins and Snail Kites that fly in with Apple Snails. Their beaks are curved to accommodate extraction of the meat. But this was the first time I’d seen a Boat-tailed Grackle fly in with one! He balanced both himself and his breakfast on the tip of a branch, then proceeded to attempt to eat. He ended up dropping the shell in the process.
Then I looked up and saw another surprise. An Eastern Kingbird was flying from branch to branch, grabbing flies in mid-air. Although I’d seen reports of Eastern Kingbirds on the drive recently, I didn’t expect to find one in that particular spot. I was glad for my Beast because the bird stayed pretty far out.
I looked down and chuckled. A baby Common Gallinule was crawling on top of a lily pad. I think he wanted me to see his very large feet. I wonder if his friends call him Big Foot?
A Black-necked Stilt nesting in the distance had two tiny chicks. I had to position my car very carefully to align the camera with a break in the vegetation. Then I sat, watched, and said “aw!” Mama Stilt half-sat with those long legs of hers, and the baby came to nestle underneath her. It was very sweet.
I think this next bird is a Bank Swallow. I think. It was hanging out with the Barn Swallows. The white patch around his neck extends up around the back of his head. His voice was a little different, too. eBird shows records of Bank Swallows around the first week of June for the past years, and this visit was in that timeframe.
My last bird of the morning wasn’t particularly surprising. Red-winged Blackbirds were active throughout the wetlands, caring for their young. This female perched on a cattail and posed so photogenically that I had to take her picture.
As I left, the birds called “Bye-bye! See you soon!”
Yep, they will :)
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!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!