It’s been a long time since I’ve driven the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. Biking it on no-traffic days has been a lot more fun. But on this particular day, BirdCast forecast a good movement of migrants and there was a chance of rain, so I decided to drive it instead.
I spent some time with a fellow birder at the Lust Road entrance, where a Yellow-breasted Chat had been hanging out for a few days. At one point I thought I had the chat, but my flash of yellow with (I thought) white eye rings turned out to be a Palm Warbler! Oops.
After an hour, I moved on to the drive. One of my first birds was a Gray-headed Swamphen on the side of the trail. He was eating at the seeds of a wild daisy.
I arrived at my target location, the cluster of trees at the Crazy U that seems to be a good little migrant trap in April. I stood staring at the trees. At first there didn’t seem to be much going on, but after a few minutes, I started to make out little birds darting around. First a Gray Catbird meowed at me and showed me his red parts…
Then I found a Prairie Warbler hanging out in the shadows. He’s just starting to molt into his breeding colors. Give him a few weeks and he’ll have brilliant black spots!
I wandered around, spotting a pair of Black-necked Stilts in flight. I got a few distant shots. Then I looked down and saw this Savannah Sparrow. I doubt he’ll be here much longer.
Back to the trees. Patience is important when you’re looking for migrant birds. I spot a flash of yellow deep in the leaves and find a Yellow Warbler. He was preening. When he finished, I hoped he’d hop out where I could see him better, but he burrowed deeper into the tree. Silly bird!
After a while, I moved on again. It was already getting pretty late in the morning. Do you remember the Great Blue Heron nest I saw on my last bike ride? Well, apparently it’s been a few weeks! The baby has not only hatched, but grown up into a juvenile who is allowed to stay home alone at the nest while Mom and Dad take a break. Time flies!
Along Welland, the light is beautiful. I come across a Purple Gallinule who is very close to the road. I ask him if he has babies yet. Apparently not!
Spring is the best time to find Red-winged Blackbirds around Lake Apopka. They are all over the place! The males like to perch tall in the bushes to sing. When a bird is very close to the trail, my 600mm is too much lens, and all I get is a head shot!
I was happy to find that the Barn Swallows are still hanging out in their favorite corner. I love watching the adults feeding their juvenile swallows.
It was very late by this point, and I didn’t stop at the sod fields. I left resolved to return shortly, but on my bike. You see, the Gray-headed Swamphen left me with a very important question that I have to explore: Why did the swamphen cross the road? :)
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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Whether by car, bike or foot – the wildlife drive is filled with opportunity for nature lovers of all types. Even photographers!
What a nice “sampler” you offered us! Now it’s nesting season and even it is almost over. Time and birds fly ……