Least Bitterns and Growing Babies at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

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A partly cloudy morning in late June was a perfect day to find Least Bitterns at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Everywhere I looked, I found one of these secretive birds. Plus a few other bird along the drive…

Lake Apopka is a great place to go to photograph these small Least Bitterns, who generally stick to the reeds and don’t show themselves much in the wetlands. At Lake Apopka, the birds venture out onto sticks sticking up from the water. They use the sticks to perch and watch for fish to catch for breakfast. This little guy didn’t care that my car was just a few feet away. I had to remove my teleconverter to fit him in the frame…

Least Bittern
Least Bittern

…and then I put the teleconverter back on to photograph another Least Bittern. This one was posed a little farther away, and his feathers glowed in the beautiful golden morning light.

Least Bittern
Least Bittern

Common Gallinules are growing up all over the wildlife drive. The first generation of juveniles is all over the marsh. The parents are working on their next broods. Common Gallinules are one of the few species of birds where the older kids help to take care of the younger kids. On this particular morning, the parents were ensuring the surival of the species…

Mating Common Gallinules
Mating Common Gallinules

Purple Gallinules are also active along the drive these days. You have to be careful as both types of gallinules will dart out in front of you at a moment’s notice. This visit was the first time I’d seen Purple Gallinule babies this year. They look nothing like the parents, and they are so cute with their black feathers and orange beaks!

Purple Gallinule Mother and Baby
Purple Gallinule Mother and Baby

There’s always a branch in the way! And have you ever seen such big feet? ;-)

Baby Purple Gallinule
Baby Purple Gallinule

The Black-necked Stilt chicks have grown up and turned into slightly smaller versions of their parents. They were fairly self-sufficient as they wandered in the marsh, but their parents were still close nearby. Soon they will migrate to their wintering grounds. It’s sometimes hard to believe how fast birds grow up!

Juvenile Black-necked Stilt
Juvenile Black-necked Stilt

Nearby, a pair of Black-bellied Whisting-ducks was hanging out close to the trail. I see Fulvous Whistling-ducks on the drive all the time, but it’s not every day that I get close-ups of the Black-bellieds. The only thing better would have been some yellow-and-black babies!

Black-bellied Whistling-ducks
Black-bellied Whistling-ducks

The Barn Swallows were active near their nesting site. A line of three juveniles waited on a branch, hoping that Mom would fly by with food. A different juvenile sat on a branch and sang. It was the first time I’d seen a juvie singing. After getting some still shots of the bird with its mouth open, I switched into video mode to capture the song. It was a great way to end my visit!

Juvenile Barn Swallow
Juvenile Barn Swallow

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!

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