Lake Jesup Sunflowers 2019

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Lake Jesup

The Lake Jesup sunflowers are blooming this year! On the shores of Lake Jesup, visible from highway 417, the grassy fields come alive with bright yellow blooms around October 1. I first photographed the beautiful fields of flowers back in 2013. In recent years, heavy summer rains have flooded the fields and kept the flowers from blooming. So I was super excited to see 2019 reports of flowers on Central Florida Photo Ops and Firefall Photography.

The last time I hiked out there, I remember thinking “I should have brought a ladder!” Well, this year I did better: I brought a tall monopod and a remote shutter release to let me get over the tall bushes of flowers. It was worth the effort. :)

Fields of Yellow Sunflowers
Fields of Yellow Sunflowers

I think the fields are a little past peak bloom, and/or not as prolific as my previous visit. It was still fun to slosh around in the marshy fields and find creative ways to photograph the scenes. My favorite photo turned out to be an iPhone snapshot:

Sunflower-Blooms
Sunflower-Blooms

As I walked through the flowers, I heard the distant calls of Sandhill Cranes. I quickly switched into video mode and watched in awe as a large flock flew over my head. It’s not often that I see that many cranes together. Rich said he counted around 35. They flew over my head and settled among the flowers.

The sun started to set, and Rich and I headed back to the car. His favorite Indian food was waiting for us. The return walk to the car took us on a trail through a gorgeous oak canopy. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a few more photos. It was a peaceful end to a fun afternoon.

Red Trail at Lake Jesup Conservation Area
Red Trail at Lake Jesup Conservation Area

If you want to visit the sunflowers yourself, don’t delay! Jeff put some great maps and tips on his blog. Check it out!

I Smell Fall – At Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Posted 2 CommentsPosted in Lake Apopka

It starts in late August. The color of the sunset begins to change. A cool breath of fresh air starts to come from the north. Even though it’s still sweltering hot in Florida, I whisper to Rich, “it smells like fall.”

Rich proceeds to tell me that I’m crazy. He’s probably right.

But on this sunny morning in late September, fall was definitely in the air at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. The warblers are back! The first thing I heard as I pulled onto Lust Road was their familiar chip-chip calls. I spent some time at the Crazy U watching the flitting movements in the treetops. I spotted several Yellow Warblers, a male and female Common Yellowthroat, and several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

As I drove along, I came across a small flock of Fulvous Whistling-ducks. They dabbled in the water, diving underneath to look for breakfast and them coming up to bicker with their friends. If you’ve never heard the happy calls of whistling ducks, turn up the volume to listen to the video below. They are such fun to listen to!

The Belted Kingfishers are back too. I spotted several of them perched high, watching the water below. The wetlands echoed with their calls as they dove for fish and came up with an empty beak.

Belted Kingfisher
Belted Kingfisher

Near the sod fields, a small flock of Red-winged Blackbirds was roosting in the bushes. Mixed with their calls was an alternate call that I couldn’t quite place. I looked a little closer and found some Bobolinks mixed in with the red-wings. The Bobolinks are migrating through Florida on their way south for the winter. They were a great find and a nice way to end the morning. :)

Bobolinks
Bobolink
Bobolinks
Bobolink