One morning in mid-April, I took my bike to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive in search of migrants. I told myself that I was going to head straight to the Crazy U and not get distracted by the great wading birds on Lust Road. That worked for a few minutes, until I came across a pair of Black-necked Stilts who were posing in the soft morning light. Who can resist a bird on stilts?
The small chips of warblers and sparrows reminded me that my quest was for little birds, so I headed off to the Crazy U, where I’ve previously had good luck finding migrants. There were definitely little birds in the trees, although not the variety I had hoped for.
The Palm Warblers were in their springtime finest. With bright brown heads and cheerful yellow patches, these birds are sure to attract good mates when they arrive at their breeding grounds. They were stocking up on insects to get ready for their migratory flight.
The Swamp Sparrows were out in full force. This one played Hide and Seek with me for most of the morning. He spent most of his time buried in the vegetation, then he’d pop out once in a while to see if I was still there.
The marsh echoed with the songs of Common Yellowthroats. They are one of the warblers that can be found in Florida year-round. Pretty soon they will be so busy nesting that they won’t have time to play Peek-a-Boo with a photographer.
I glimpsed a flash of red, then spotted a male Painted Bunting hidden in the vegetation. I stalked him for a good 20 minutes before I got a clear picture of him. He was very busy eating grass seeds. It’s hard to migrate on an empty stomach!
A small burst of yellow flew into the tree, and I thought maybe I’d seen my first Yellow Warbler of the springtime. It turned out to be a Prairie Warbler instead. He’s molting into his breeding colors and starting to get that spiffy contrast of yellow and black in his feathers.
I was just getting on my bike to head back when I heard an unknown bird song. I traced it to the top of a tree, where a juvenile male Orchard Oriole was nectaring on a blossom. Then I blinked and he had disappeared. A fun end to a fun morning!
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!