It’s all about the light. Read any text or take any course on photography and you’ll discover this mantra. For some, taking photographs any time other than two hours before and after sunrise or sunset is illegal, immoral and bad for your teeth. The bad news? They’re usually right. Sigh. So much for sleeping in.
On Tuesday, I visited the lakes of downtown Lakeland, Florida. At this time of year, many migratory water fowl use these lakes as a stopover point on their journey northward to rest and fuel up.
I dawdled a bit before exiting the truck. Partly because there was coffee still in the cup but mostly because there was a howling wind and very low temperatures outside my nice warm metal cocoon. Okay. Let’s go. Don’t lose the light. It’s all about the light. Brrr!
My subjects appeared to agree with me. Hundreds of ducks were huddled in tight floating formations in the center of Lake Morton. You could identify the more intelligent ones by noting which ones were positioned in the middle of the flock, surrounded by all the feathers of their friends. Wading birds were not wading, hanging about instead on dry land. Not many birds were flying, likely due to the strong winds.
As the sun began to cast its rays on the water, things began to change. Wings stretched, beaks opened in protracted yawns, preening began in earnest and the noise level rose as the little lake awoke. I even imagined I felt a bit warmer.
Light in this urban setting can be interesting. The surrounding tall buildings absorb some light but the varied types of construction reflect light differently. Some of the older, brick structures reflect very little light while the more modern architecture of steel and glass reflect quite a bit. One nearly all-glass building can be blinding if you’re standing in the right (wrong?) spot as the sun strikes it in the morning.
Pictures are from two lakes in downtown Lakeland, Florida: Lake Morton and Lake Mirror. Lake Morton, the larger of the two, has a fair number of year-round residents, including the city’s famous swans (see our previous post: “The Swans of Lakeland”), ducks, wading birds and relatively large numbers of Limpkins. Lake Mirror is more of a “decoration”, with spraying water fountain, meeting buildings, formal gardens as a backdrop and a platform in the lake for displaying the city’s Christmas Tree. Both lakes play host to migratory birds during the winter and provide rest stops for those passing through in fall and spring.
Ring-necked Ducks begin to wake up after roosting on Lake Morton. I counted about 200 of these ducks on the water this morning.
As the sun’s rays reached their roosting spot, American White Pelicans began to stretch, yawn, preen and discuss where they were going to go fishing today.
A flock of 85 Ruddy Ducks spent the night on the lake. This male is transitioning from winter to breeding plumage.
The lake has several exotic species as residents. This Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) and mate have built a large nest, mostly from grass clippings they gather after the city crews mow the lawn around the lake. I didn’t see any eggs or chicks present.
This is the base of a cypress tree and I just liked the color and texture combination.
Once the sun was up, flight activity began. American White Pelicans left their roosting spots and spiraled up high above the lake to form into small groups to head southeast and search for food.
Ring-necked Ducks also began to lift off from the lake’s surface in small formations.
One of the pelicans seemed reluctant to leave the roosting area. I can relate!
Early morning light enhances the beauty of the Mute Swan. As if she needed any help!
Lake Mirror has its own beauty and attracts many of the same species as Lake Morton, but in smaller numbers. This pair of Black Swans help show off the lake’s setting.
A platform in the lake is used for various displays, including the annual city Christmas Tree. It also makes a fine roosting spot for Black Skimmers, Caspian Terns, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls and others. (Note to the purchasers of plastic owls: birds don’t appear to be scared of them.)
This Ring-billed Gull seems to prefer the soft freshly cut lawn to the cold water of the lake.
It was difficult to walk anywhere without stepping on a Palm Warbler. They were scooping up insects from the grass as well as plucking them from spider webs on light poles.
A female Lesser Scaup samples a snail found along the edge of the lake.
The city recently purchased two pairs of Mandarin Ducks (Aix galericulata) to enhance the appearance of Lake Mirror and act as an additional drawing card for potential visitors to Lakeland.
Okay, the Mandarin Duck is nice looking. However, (and I admit to being prejudiced for our native species) the Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) can certainly compete for colorfulness!
It was good to get back in the truck and out of the wind. It was almost 9:00 a.m. and official sunrise took place at 6:50. No more photos allowed, now, because – it’s all about the light!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!