2021 was a year of photographic discovery fueled by change. While I stayed close to home and distanced due to COVID, I found a wonderful new tool that put new regions of the Lake Apopka area within the reach of my lens – my bike! 2021 also introduced me to the magic of mirrorless autofocus. I tried a Canon R5 and promptly sold most of my DSLR kit. So here are my favorite photographic moments of 2021…
In early January I found that the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher really does exist! Rich and I had visited his stakeout many times without seeing him. Turns out it helps to go in the morning…and when I finally met him, he put on quite the show for me!
Lifers were few in 2021. I had a Least Flycatcher at Apopka (thanks Sam!) and I made it over to Chinsegut to see the Purple Finches during their irruption. Later I found my lifer Barn Owlets and a Louisiana Waterthrush in Lakeland. The cats had better luck and added several birds to our backyard list, including Black-and-white Warbler, American Kestrel, and our Christmas present of a flock of American White Pelicans!
It was on a trip to Joe Overstreet in March that I discovered the R5. I was photographing a huge flock of Tree Swallows as they congregated prior to their spring migration. The sheer numbers of the birds was amazing – and then a fellow photographer started describing his new R5. A few minutes of playing with eye autofocus and I realized that this camera was a huge game-changer. Mine arrived a couple of weeks later, and I returned from my next visit to Lake Apopka more excited about photography than I’d been in a long time!
The wildlife drive is overrun with cars on weekends, though. But you can go any time on a bike! In the spring I started taking my bike to Apopka. It was great exercise for a work-from-home computer geek, and the photographic opportunities were amazing. Like the morning that I came across the Black-necked Stilt nest with a just-hatched baby still wet from the egg…
In April I discovered a new place to visit: Stick Marsh. It’s a spoonbill rookery and the flight shots were simply amazing. All year I dreamed of returning in 2022, until I saw that the area around the rookery is now a construction zone. I’ll have to find my spoonies elsewhere!
Summer visits to Florida’s Gulf Coast yielded my favorite Least Terns in all their courtship rituals, plus a few fuzzy and very cute babies! I was also rewarded to see several clutches of Snowy Plover chicks. Snowy Plovers are a state-designated threatened species. Finding adults can be a challenge, so the opportunity to watch the babies scurry along the beach is a precious gift.
I spent the better part of a weekend in June observing a family of Least Bitterns at Lake Apopka. It was my first time observing this species for an extended period (all from the long range of my Beast lens and 2x teleconverter). The babies are like fuzzy miniatures of their parents, and when Mom or Dad brings in food, the babies come running!! I’m not quite sure how everybody grew up without at least one parent losing an eyeball.
During the hot summer months, Rich and I visited the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to say hello to the nesting sea turtles. It’s always fun to watch the mother turtles lay their eggs in the soft morning light, then photograph their slow return to the sea.
Before I knew it, it was fall and I was stalking migrant songbirds from my bike at Lake Apopka. It was an especially good year for Prairie Warblers and Yellow Warblers. My regular bike rides let me observe the fall migration more closely as each species returned to Florida.
As the sun sets on 2021, I’m looking forward to the 2022 season of springtime bird photography. My favorite time of year is just around the corner! I hope that 2022 brings you health, happiness, and plenty of fun birds to enjoy. :)