I have been itching to checkout a new place in Florida that I have been following on Facebook for a few months. Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive (aka Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive) is a relatively new preserve but has a lot to offer. It is only a little over an hour from home so this weekend I talked one of my photog buddies into meeting me there and we took a look!
This wildlife drive, controlled by the St Johns River Water Management District, is similar to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge’s Black Point Drive. There is a one way 11 mile road (with a couple of interesting extra loops) that winds through what used to be agricultural fields along Lake Apopka. There are many drainage canals that provide lots of habitat for waterbirds such as Coots, Moorhens, various ducks and many more species. The Raptors seem to be pretty plentiful here as we saw Ospreys, Red Tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers. We missed the Kestrel that has been posted on FB many times!
The Osprey seemed to be on every pole out to the big pumphouse by the lake but I found a few on more natural perches. They also put on quite a show competing and fighting over fish they had caught.
There was an abundance of small songbirds flitting around on many of the bushes and trees along the canals. They are a challenge to find, keep up with and photograph as they are small, fast & usually far away!
Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive helped me add to my bird life list! I saw, for the first time, and photographed an American Bittern and a Common Snipe.
There were many of our common waterbirds all over the area. I saw Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Tri-Colored Herons, Little Blue Herons, Pied Billed Grebes and Belted Kingfishers.
Every bird photographer wants to catch a kingfisher in flight but they are notoriously fast & shy. They are not an easy bird to catch but there was one that kept stopping just beyond my vehicle and so I followed him until he turned down another loop/canal where he was hovering looking for a fish. Even though he was a bit far away I was able to get one fair image!
For this time of year (December) there were many wildflowers blooming as well. So I used my telephoto lens to pick a few flowers!
The equipment I used for this, soon to be repeated, visit: Nikon D810 & Nikon 200-400mm lens. I had my new Induro Stealth GIT304 tripod with the Wemberly head but ended up using my Tahoe as my tripod most of the time. Next time, now that I know the lay of the area, I will get out of the vehicle more and use the tripod. Even at high shutter speeds & with VR Active on, the vibration of the engine was still an issue with some of my images.
If you are in Central Florida area and like nature and birds, in particular, I highly recommend the Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive. It is only open on Friday, Saturday & Sunday so schedule your visit accordingly. Check out their website for details.
Please visit my gallery to see these and additional images from this visit.
That is all for now!