I finally got to start out the New Year with a sunrise photo. The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive opens at sunrise, but I had enough time to get through the gate and find a location before the sun came up over the trees. My favorite shot was just before the big orb made its fiery appearance. Happy 2020!
Normally I poke slowly along Lust Road, but on this particular morning, I moved along rather quickly to give myself more time at the duck ponds with good morning light. So the first bird of the morning was the Peregrine Falcon. I first spotted him on Wally’s favorite power line. He was getting a lot of attention from photographers beneath him, and I had barely focused when he flew off. He was pretty far away from me but I enjoyed the flight shot opportunity.
Lots of wintering ducks are hanging out at Lake Apopka this winter. The most common are the Blue-winged Teals, who are easy to find and photograph near the trails. This is a female.
Another winter visitor that I love to watch is the Belted Kingfisher. This male perched on a tree branch and used it to watch for fish underneath him. He would dive repeatedly, enter the water with a big splash, then come up with an empty beak. I was trying for flight shots when an impatient car behind me forced me to move along.
Don’t look at the next one too closely if you’re squeamish. A Red-shouldered Hawk was enjoying what was left of his breakfast when I happened upon him. A hawk has to eat, too – and he certainly has an ample supply of coots to keep him nourished.
The Northern Harrier visits Florida in the wintertime. This female was sweeping low over the marsh in a slow, deliberate pattern. If you pull over and watch for a while, they will come in close enough for a good shot.
I was surprised to see this flock of Mottled Ducks flying over the marsh. I spotted them as they flew in front of me, then they criss-crossed the marsh. To my delight they flew out into the perfect sun angle. The challenge with a good flight shot is waiting for the birds to separate so that the birds don’t block each other in the photo. I liked seeing the bright blue on their wings.
As I approached the ponds with the most ducks, I traded my camera for binoculars. Looking for rarities in the thousands of ducks can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. I spotted Lesser Scaup, Gadwall, even a couple of female Canvasbacks. Not to mention the American Coots and all the Blue-winged Teals.
A pair of American Wigeon flew together for me. I had more Gadwalls than Wigeons though. I didn’t see the Green-winged Teals or the Cinnamon Teal.
Closer to the path was a Northern Shoveler. He spent most of his time with his head underwater, looking for his breakfast. I tried to time my shots when his head was up and angled towards the camera. Silly bird, he didn’t make it easy for me.
As usual, I left the drive with a big grin on my face. 2020 is going to be a good year!
Find my birding list from today on eBird.
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What a stupendous way to start the year!
Thank you, Jess, for sharing your fantastic photographs.
As for that Peregrine, we shall not speak of it …..