Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (2/4)

(Welland Road, Roach Road)

About this time two years ago, Florida was raked with winds and rain thanks to a rude lady named Irma. The hurricane downed trees and utility lines, dumping up to two feet of water in some areas as she stomped up the peninsula. The north shore of Lake Apopka experienced a breach in one of the levees built to protect 20,000 acres of wetland from being inundated by water from the main lake. After Irma, it’s estimated 75% of that area was under a couple of feet of water.

One of the results of that storm for the Wildlife Drive was a change in topography. Many trees were uprooted by the storm’s winds and some water flows were altered. Biologists report that, overall, wildlife in the area suffered no long-term ill effects. Hopefully, they are correct. For observers, there is now more open water area to scan and may result in more winter waterfowl being seen.

It is not winter now. Florida in summer can be oppressive, even for us natives. Temperatures in the high 90 F range with humidity percentages the same. Drink plenty of water, wear a hat, enjoy your vehicle’s air-conditioning. Watch out for sudden storms. In all that wonderful open space, lightning seeks the highest point to strike. Thankfully, we are not tall people.

Gini makes even fruit and simple sandwiches into something special. Enjoying our meal while watching birds fly around us, frogs grunting in the duckweed, alligators cruising the canal – what heat?

A short way along Welland Road, Gini’s sharp ears heard the grunt/chuckle of a King Rail. Two of the secretive birds struck up a conversation and I waited in vain for one to make an appearance. While I was waiting, a small colorful movement caught my eye. Laying in the grass allowed me to capture a few images of Rambur’s Forktail, in three of its color stages.

More movement. Dragonflies, butterflies, moths. Overhead, Ibises, Ospreys, a flock of ducks. The rails clucked behind me. A curious alligator poked his snout from under a lily pad. Delirious from the heat? Nah, just enjoying our small slice of Nature’s paradise.

We ambled along as slowly as possible, stopping often, pulling over to gawk at more of the same. Making the turn onto Laughlin Road we wondered what else could we possibly hope to see?

Stay tuned.

(Click on the link below for information on the drive and then click on the map to see the road references.)


A combination of gold and black fluttering low above the ground is eye-catching. A Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) finally took mercy and posed on a grass top for a quick photo op.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive


Ungainly-looking on the ground as they probe the mud with long bills, the White Ibis is beautiful and graceful in flight.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive


Very small damselflies are easy to overlook as they hide in the weeds and try to keep a low profile to avoid predators. One of the more unusual of these fascinating insects is Rambur’s Forktail (Ischnura ramburii). The male has a green and black thorax, a black and gold abdomen and blue tail. The female can look similar to the male but with a blue and black thorax or she can sport a couple of totally different appearances. To make it even more fun, all of the combinations can look different in different geographical regions. Whew!

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive


Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Andromorph Female

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Immature Heteromorph Female


Even in mid-summer, the wetlands are full of flowering plants. One that is especially prominent is the American White Waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) .

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive


Easy to mistake for a wasp, the tiny Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) catches the light of the sun and reflects pure gold wherever it flies. The wings of the male are fairly plain while those of the female have dark spots. (Surprise! There can be significant variation is these patterns.)

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive



Fresh catfish is on this Osprey’s brunch menu. I was very fortunate to go fishing with my Dad a lot when I was growing up. He would look up from the boat, point out an Osprey and say: “Wish we were as good as that Fish Hawk at catching ’em!” Me, too.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive


Laughlin Road lay stretched out before us like a straight white arrow. Wetlands on each side extended nearly to opposing horizons.

What would we find?

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!


Additional Information

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (2/4)

  1. Shot. Good grief. I meant shot. Stupid fingers!

  2. Great shit of the “fish-hawk”. . I miss Ospreys and look forward to seeing them again when we get back. (We used to see them fairly often here in Oregon too, but never do any more. I can’t find anyone who knows why.)

  3. Hello from Greece. Here for a few more days. We enjoyed your leisurely discourse Wally, not to mention those beautiful insects and of course the majestic Osprey. Too hot for many birds here, but hey, who’s bothered.

    • Thank you for the kind comments, Phil! Enjoy your time in the sun. Happy to hear you’re hot but not bothered.

      Northern England has issued a proclamation to place migration on hold until your return.
      (The bad news is they must vote on it. )

      Have fun!

  4. I really love all the damselflies. I particularly like the first one of those with the greens, blues on the insect and the yellow green background. The colors work well in all of them, I just favor that one. Perhaps when I visit Lake Apopka I can work harder on dragonflies and damselflies images!!

    Insects are fun to photograph and you see so much more in the way of detail..maybe even expression…once enlarged in the computer view compared to onsite.

    • I have so much to learn about insects as well as photography! Oh, well. Learning is fun!

      • I think it is one of the beauties of digital photography and computer display that we can take a picture and see so much more later which informs the next trip out. Everything from detail to messing around with composition after the fact then doing it from the get go in the field.

  5. Now you’ve got me really excited again with your wonderful odonata images, Wally. They put me in mind of a delightful book I finished reading a few days ago – ‘Dragonflies & Damselflies – a natural history’ by Dennis Paulson (Princeton University Press). If you don’t have this book, I strongly recommend it – beautifully written and superbly illustrated. – Hang on a minute – Dennis Paulson isn’t a pseudonym for Wally Jones is it?!

    My very best wishes to you and Gini. Take good care – – – – Richard

    • Mr. Paulson’s book is wonderful and I’m constantly referring to his guide for damsels and dragons of the east (U.S.).
      Hope you’re feeling great today!

  6. edro123

    Hi Wally,

    Your photos of and comments about the Rambur’s Forktail are very interesting. I can’t say that I’ve ever noticed them – but I’ll be on the lookout for them now.


  7. Another lovely set of images, your dragons certainly have lovely coloured wings ours are quite plain.

  8. As always I loved wandering with you and Gini (without the heat and humidity). I really, really loved your insect macro, and suspect every fisherman/woman the world over envies the skill of the birds.

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