The Celery Fields, just east of Sarasota, Florida is around 360 acres owned by Sarasota County and is used as a primary flood mitigation zone. It is managed by the county Storm Water and Sarasota County Parks & Recreation departments. The Sarasota Audubon Society helps manage the area & their volunteers man the pavilions and give bird tours of the area. The area was formerly used as farmland where they grew various crops but primarily celery, hence the name! I have driven by this area many times on my way to other destinations and it looked like a great place for our Florida birds. The name of the place came up in a conversation during the week so when I contacted my photography buddy about a place to visit this weekend I included the Celery Fields. He had been there a few years ago and said there were
many birds there then so we decided to give it a try and we were not disappointed.
There are a number of ponds, lakes and canals that are all interconnected. Some are shallow and some are deeper so they accommodate various water birds. When we first arrived, prior to sunrise, we wandered around to see what birds were already there. We saw a flock of Cattle Egrets on the pavilion and some ducks in the pond by the road. As we watched and the sun came up, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Ibis, Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-Colored Herons, Roseate Spoonbills and more came flying in. Unfortunately, the birds aren’t always in the best place for photography and they also move on to other feeding areas. The birds we saw first were not that close and they quickly flew back farther from the parking lot area. My friend had not gone down into the lower area when he had been there before but I saw some other photographers a bit out there so I started walking and found a trail of sorts that had been plowed through the brush. I imagine that most of this area would be underwater in the summer when it rains every day but now it was dry so I followed along in the general direction that I thought the birds had flown and found a fairly large pond that appeared to be pretty shallow, a perfect feeding place for the waterbirds. I was amazed at the number of birds & species that were busy feeding all together! I ran back & brought my friend to see the sight!
We approached the pond and stopped about 20 feet from the edge and literally did not move from that spot for about an hour. Since we did not move around the birds came right over to the edge and were feeding right in front of us. Most of the species came fairly close to us at least once. We singled out individuals to photograph and also looked for interactions between the same and different species!
As bird photographers one of our biggest challenges is to get sharp images of birds in flight! This place was ideal for that endeavor as many birds flew in & out and due to the wind they were often circling or flying into the wind which slowed them down a bit.
Capturing that moment as they come into land is always fun as they are slowing down using their wings & feet as air brakes!
Catching them as they fly by or over head is not easy as they are speeding up but it is possible!
Oh! And guess what else we saw? Raptors! There was a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying by periodically!
A winter visitor was also hanging around. We had seen a very fleeting glimpse of a Northern Harrier last weekend at Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive but we were fortunate to see one or two of them a bit closer at the Celery Fields.
And then to top it all off, we saw two Bald Eagles. At that point, we had moved across the street to the other pavilion that goes out into one of the larger bodies of water on the property and were watching the Harrier and a couple of Osprey, when a mature Eagle came flying over. He landed an a bird platform that was out in the lake and as we watched, another eagle, this one a juvenile, came flying in. We thought this might lead to a confrontation but the juvenile circled the platform a couple of times and then landed on the platform! No excitement with the interaction but it was still pretty cool!
If you are in the Sarasota area, I highly recommend the Celery Fields. There were photographers, birders, joggers and walkers all enjoying nature! You can check out their website for more details.
Please visit my Celery Fields Gallery for these and additional images.
That is all for now!