With so much to experience, the passage of time was of little importance. Indeed, the only way we realized it was nearing noon was the increase in temperature. The sun directly overhead combined with our ubiquitous humidity was steaming the wetlands.
The final leg of our tour (see “Additional Information” for link to a map) took us alongside an area of open water, a canal and a commercial sod farm. The latter can be a good area for spotting migrating shorebirds. Late summer, however, found us staring at a lot of nice green grass devoid of bird life. The air space above those fields was a different story!
As summer draws to a close, Swallow-tailed Kites begin forming into migratory groups in preparation for their journey to South America for the winter. These sleek aerialists will return around the second week of February to breed. Watching them twist, turn and dive as they catch flying insects and eat them on the wing is fascinating.
Not to be outdone in the aerobatic department, swallows swooped low above the sod fields and wetlands scooping up bugs for lunch. We only saw Barn Swallows on this trip but Bank and Northern Rough-winged had recently been reported. Barn Swallows breed in the area and we have had some very enjoyable days watching the never-ending cycle of young swallows begging as the adults trudged back and forth stuffing waiting maws with small winged morsels.
Speaking of babies. We found a bumper crop of Fulvous Whistling-Duck families on the open water today. Little striped balls of fluff were constantly diving as mom and dad watched over them. Also, several new families of Black-necked Stilts were out and about. We watched one pair of adults work with two new youngsters showing them how to forage in the shallow water.
As we neared the exit gate, two events which almost always occur at this point played out again. First, we both sighed deeply and commented that it had been a wonderful morning. We just saw so much! Second, and this is quite rare, Gini whined. Normally, she is more of a “declarative” person, leaving no doubt about what she means. Now, however, it seemed a little girl was looking at me with expectant beautiful brown eyes, pleading: “Can we go around again?”.
The Florida Mottled Duck is one of the only ducks in North America which does not migrate. Populations have been in trouble for over 30 years due to habitat loss, drought and hybridization with introduced Mallards. Biologists are concerned that, with continued hybridization, Florida’s Mottled Duck may become extinct in the not-too-distant future.
A large lens is not very effective for landscape images, but this may give you an idea of what a portion of the wetlands looks like. The Great Blue Heron has declared this green spot is HERS!
We were fortunate to see several new families of Black-necked Stilts throughout the area. One group was near the road. As we watched, an adult and one juvenile waded about 50 yards away and the adult watched as the new stilt foraged in the shallow water. Closer to us, the second adult did the same with the other juvenile. At one point, a hawk flew overhead and the juvenile instinctively ducked and looked up. The adult let out a call and the young one immediately ran to his side. Nature’s classroom – right in front of us.
Several families of Fulvous Whistling-Ducks were cruising the open water with Mom and Dad keeping watch as the ducklings dove for food, bobbed on the surface, preened and enjoyed the day. And we appreciated it.
Nearing the sod field area, we counted 36 Swallow-tailed Kites, swooping, swirling, soaring, scooping up flying insects. What a display!
Another spectacular day at Lake Apopka! If you’re in the area, stop by and be impressed.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!