It’s been a while since I drove the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. It’s become an Alligator Gawking drive, where impatient people don’t always enjoy stopping to enjoy the birds. But I wanted to visit my nesting summer birds, and maybe scope out some nest sites to re-visit on my bike. So I took some extra patience and headed out!
Having spent most of my recent bike rides along Lust Road, I didn’t dally at the entrance. My first good shot of the morning was an Osprey flying with his breakfast fish. I hopped out of the car and focused quickly as he flew up the canal.
Next I paused when I spotted a pair of Black-necked Stilts foraging in the marsh. With them were three tiny fuzzballs on long legs. Baby stilts! The birds are colored to blend in perfectly with their marsh habitat during their first weeks of life. They forage quite independently while staying in the general vicinity of their parents.
I was surprised to come across this female Ruddy Duck. I wonder if she forgot to migrate or if she got lost while migrating? She preened quietly in the early morning light. Does she care that all her friends left weeks ago?
A beautiful juvenile Green Heron perched out in the open. I see them nesting regularly in this area of the drive. It took him a couple of minutes before he was willing to look at the camera!
A Northern Flicker was actively feeding near the edge of the drive. He paused to perch at the top of a dead branch, then headed off in search of breakfast for his young ones. I stitched together a couple of my shots to show his flight trajectory.
Least Bitterns are easy to spot during the summer at Lake Apopka. This one was very intently focused on a fish in the water. He stretched his long neck before reaching down to grab his snack!
Common Gallinules are very common at Lake Apopka, so it’s pretty easy to find them with their babies. They are on their second clutch of the summer already. This baby gallinule was nagging his parent relentlessly.
The Barn Swallows are starting to bring their babies out. I hoped to find a branch of hungry babies with their mouths wide open as a parent flew by. Instead I ended up walking around the nesting area, photographing the parents in flight.
Then I came across a Black-necked Stilt nest. The stilts create a raised nest with mud, twigs, and leaves. Look at Mom’s long legs folded behind her as she quietly incubates her eggs in the relentless Florida sun.
My last birds of the day were a surprise, and I’m grateful to the photographer who pointed them out to me! A Black Tern had been hanging out at Laughlin and Intersector. He was in his white plumage. A Black Tern this far inland was a fun find. He perched on a branch very far out in the marsh. I added the 2x teleconverter to my Beast, then laughed as I saw the Black Tern flying near a pair of Forster’s Terns and bothering them.
Finally the Black Tern flew off on his own. What a great end to a beautiful 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!