Posts Tagged With: anhinga

Lake Apopka Addiction

“Are you sure you don’t mind? We were just there a couple of weeks ago.” We are blessed to have many potential great birding destinations within a fairly reasonable driving distance. Having said that, we seem to gravitate toward some spots more often than others. Lake Apopka is one of those “special” places.

Once again, I found myself on the receiving end of “The Look“. How can such an attractive face launch such a devastating glance?

“Besides”, Gini reminded me, “we can have lunch at Yalaha.” That in itself was motivation. Yalaha, Florida is a small (population ca. 1400) village not far from Lake Apopka which is the home of Yalaha German Bakery. Equipment imported from Europe, old country methods, no preservatives, fresh breads, tortes, kuchen, brotchen… ¬†And a small delicatessen serving German sausage, kraut, potato salad, gulasch … And music at an outdoor patio …

Oh. Where was I? Birding. Yes, we decided to go birding.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive takes one through 11 miles of extensive wetlands adjacent to Lake Apopka, Florida’s fourth-largest lake (+30,000 acres). More and more, we’re treating this as a drive-and-walk as we see so much by combining the driving with a bit of footwork.

The car does perform well at times as a blind and many of the resident birds have become accustomed to the traffic so one can get quite close to a subject. Walking along the canal banks or the road adjacent to the wetlands provides a different perspective. Tracking birds flying overhead becomes simpler, a closer inspection of reeds can reveal a partially hidden Marsh Wren or Least Bittern. Snakes, frogs, turtles and an incredible collection of insects are easily missed when driving but more likely observed when walking slowly (which is my normal speed).

Once again, we marveled at the astounding diversity of life we encountered! It took us almost six hours to cover only 11 miles and even at that, Gini whined — uhh, I mean she suggested we go around one more time. We opted to head for Yalaha and lunch. Currywurst and kraut under shady oak trees. Stocking up on a few goodies for later, we motored home and consoled ourselves that all of this was only an hour away when next we needed to feed our Lake Apopka addiction.

By the entrance gate, we found a bird that likely would have been missed if not for using that walking strategy. A small Grasshopper Sparrow blends in so well with the foliage it would have remained invisible if it hadn’t moved. (This is a migratory northern bird as opposed to one of Florida’s endemic sub-species, which are uncommon and found in different habitat.)

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

The shallow waters of much of the wetlands attracts many shorebirds and waders. Here, a Greater Yellowlegs heads over the marsh to join a couple dozen of its closest friends for breakfast.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

A pair of Blue-winged Teal display the wing patches for which the bird is named. A single male looks quite handsome in the morning sun.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Overhead, a flock of Fulvous Whistling-ducks searched for a suitable landing spot. Several hundred of these large tan ducks were present this morning. A few even posed for a portrait.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

The Anhinga must continually dry its feathers and preen thoroughly to maintain enough water resistance to retain buoyancy while swimming.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Based on overall plumage and eyes that appear more orange than red, this is likely a second year Black-crowned Night Heron. The long white plumes on the head are present during breeding season.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

Native to Asia and the Middle East, the Gray-headed Swamphen (Porphyrio poliocephalus) has found Florida to its liking. Unintended releases in the mid-1990’s resulted in a population being established in southeast Florida. The species has gradually expanded and the ones we saw at Lake Apopka may be the northernmost limit for the Florida group to date.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

A Florida Red-bellied Turtle enjoys the sun.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

This Red-shouldered Hawk is an immature bird very close to adulthood. Remnants of the vertical tear-drop breast plumage is transitioning into the horizontal reddish barring indicative of the adult.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

It is increasingly difficult to identify “true” Mottled Ducks with certainty due to extensive hybridization with Mallards. This pair seems to exhibit all Mottled Duck traits.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Mottled Duck – Male

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Mottled Duck – Female

 

How enjoyable to observe animals as they hunt! The Green Heron locates her prey, patiently waits … and … plunges through the weeds. Success! It may be a small minnow but it is essential for survival.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

When a duck takes a bath, it is often followed by a glorious wing-flap to help dry the feathers. When I point a camera at a duck engaging in this behavior, chances are excellent there will be a nearby coot who can’t wait to “photo-bomb” my masterpiece. This series of a female Ring-necked Duck was typical of my efforts.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

 

 

Our Apopka addiction was temporarily sated. A lunch at our favorite German bakery was a great exclamation point on the day! We are already plotting our return to both.

 

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

 

Additional Information

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Yalaha Bakery

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Jump-Starting The Day

Modern automobiles are fairly reliable things. A little regular maintenance and they perform well and seldom give us pause for concern. It was not always thus. Once upon a time, we didn’t dare leave the driveway without a few basic tools, a can of oil and jumper cables.

That sickening “click-click-click” when you turn the ignition key makes you close your eyes and turn it again, knowing full well you will hear the same sound. You open the hood, twist the cables to be sure they’re tight and gaze around for a minute pretending you know what you’re doing. With older batteries, you would check for water in the cells. In the end, you find a healthy vehicle or call road service, hook up the cables and smile when the engine roars to life!

Our days can be like that. We get busy with work, family, chores, bills – we run down. Late in the day we find ourselves sighing heavily and looking out the window. We seem to be ready to go to bed earlier than normal. Morning arrives sooner than we hoped. Getting out of bed takes effort. The coffee has no taste and the caffeine does nothing to provide a boost.

We need a jump-start!

Setting foot on the trail as the sky begins to lighten about a half-hour before dawn and taking in one long, deep breath – that will do it. Add the trumpeting of a pair of Sandhill Cranes overhead, the chattering of a coot, a distant Barred Owl call answered by another, a light fog hugging the surface of the lake. The serene atmosphere is abruptly disturbed as the eerie screeching of Limpkins signals it’s time for all creatures to be awake!

I am one of the luckiest of mortal men as one glance at Gini each morning provides all the jump starting I could ever handle. When we combine our mutual electricity with Nature’s, it is an awesome experience!

A few days before Christmas, a wander around Tenoroc Fish Management Area helped jump-start a fabulous day. Some images from the morning follow.

 

An Anhinga silhouetted against the pre-dawn sky prepares for a day of fishing.

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

Heard long before they were seen, a pair of Sandhill Cranes loudly announced they were heading to the day’s feeding grounds.

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

As the sun dries the night’s dew, a Yellow-rumped Warbler is ready as insects ¬†begin to emerge from their night-time hiding places.

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

New fencing has recently been erected (and looks really dangerous!) and a Loggerhead Shrike can’t wait to impale his breakfast bugs on some of those shiny new barbs!

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

Central Florida in late December means we get to enjoy some insects not active in cooler climates. An early morning Barred Yellow (Eurema daira) visits a Beggarticks (Bidens alba) for a bit of nectar.

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

Keeping an eye on me from within the brush a Gray Catbird constantly “mewed” to let others know I was in the area. Tattletail.

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

A Limpkin hung onto a grass stem by the lake side as it scanned for an Apple Snail.

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

The shimmering iridescent plumage of a Glossy Ibis was a pleasant sight as the sun began its climb from the horizon.

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

My normal view of the migratory Sharp-shinned Hawk is a brown streak as it zips past at supersonic speed chasing a songbird. This one circled overhead for almost 15 seconds before disappearing into a nearby wooded area.

Tenoroc FMA, Bridgewater

 

Sufficiently jump-started, I was reminded of the only downside to beginning a day in Nature like this. It is addictive. I still highly recommend it for anyone feeling the need for recharging. Wait! I highly recommend it for everyone!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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