My bike ride on Monday was glorious. Beautiful cool temperatures, bright blue skies, and little birds hopping out of the landscape everywhere to say hello to me. I was so grateful to just be out there! :)
My first bird of the morning was a Northern Flicker, perched on an electric wire on Lust Road. While I see flickers there regularly, they aren’t always in good light. This one peered suspiciously at the photographer on the bike.
The sun was peeking out as I got the Crazy U. There I spotted a sleepy juvenile Cooper’s Hawk in the trees, which quickly explained the lack of little birds. A few minutes later, the hawk flew to the ground and started to stalk. I think he was looking for lizards or snakes for breakfast. His hunger was stronger than his suspicion of the crazy photographer who knelt down to get his photo.
After the hawk departed, the little birds started to show themselves. I heard the Painted Buntings before I saw them. Their sharp call notes are familiar to me after many winters of hosting them in my backyard. After a few minutes, I spotted the bright red beauty perched out in the open. Welcome back, little guy!
I spent a while at the U, since new and interesting birds kept hopping out of the treetops. A female American Redstart splayed her tail as she hopped from branch to branch. She was a challenge to photograph!
Thee usual Prairie Warblers were hanging around, and I kept focusing my camera on anything that moved, hoping to turn up a different kind of warbler. I wasn’t disappointed. I got a glimpse of gray-black, and after a few minutes, the Black-throated Blue Warbler hopped out into the open for a split second.
This little White-eyed Vireo is pretty common at Lake Apopka, but I still had to take his picture as he peeked out from the bush.
I must have spent an hour at the U. Finally I pedaled down to the trails by the lake, where I was excited to see my first Marsh Wren of the season. There were two of them, and they flitted in and out of the grasses on the edge of the canal.
My last bird put the biggest grin on my face. I watched as a small hawk-like bird darted out across the marsh. He was hunting, and he flew fast enough that I had trouble focusing. Then he turned around and came back toward me, giving me time to get a few shots. My first-of-fall Merlin in a beautiful flight shot – what a great way to end my visit!
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!
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A great collection of winter visitors! Terrific capture of the Merlin! That would make me smile, too.