Last week the boys and I found ourselves in central Florida with a few hours to ourselves, so we rented a car and headed up to the north shore of Lake Apopka. The lake, formerly the most polluted in Florida, has been cleaned up primarily through the restoration of 20,000 acres of wetlands along the north shore. It’s a notable rarity hotspot, and on this day turned out to be one of the birdiest places I’ve ever been.
We started at Magnolia Park, where the boys played spies/pirates on the playground structure and we found ourselves awash in warblers in a magnolia grove at the north end of the park. There were uncountable Yellow-Rumpeds and at least one Pine and one Black-and-White. Notable for me were two Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers in the scrub near a small canal. I was hoping for Ash-Throated Flycatcher, but had to settle for a very busy Eastern Phoebe. There were probably more species around, but I was distracted by repeatedly being locked up by two very small pirates.
Down by the lake shore we found a pair of Little Blue Herons, a Great Blue Heron, swirling Tree Swallows over the lake, a Common Gallinule, and flyovers by a Bald Eagle and an Osprey.
Passing through the gate onto the “Wildlife Drive” at Lust Road, we were immediately greeted by a spectacle of wading birds. The density here is overwhelming. Every stretch of canal is filled with herons, egrets, ibises, coots, gallinules, grebes, and even Limpkins. I tried to count, but I fear I was very, very low on every species.
Pied-Billed Grebes were just inside the gate, and very confiding even when we got out of the car and the boys were rambunctious.
Coming from a place with no regular ibises, White Ibises are always a treat to see in a natural setting, even if southern birders probably look past them because they see them every day.
Likewise, any opportunity to see an Osprey this close…
Heading north from the pump house on Lake Apopka’s shore, we found a few new species, including two lifers for me (Limpkin and Fulvous Whistling-Duck).
It’s such a pleasure to have enough sunshine to be able to take photos at a reasonably small aperture, low ISO, and still handhold if necessary. Overexposure was a challenge with so many white subjects, but it’s still better to fight that tendency than my normal battles with blurriness and noise.
We’d hoped to get some walking in while we were there, but as it was we didn’t have nearly enough time to do justice to the driving portion of the refuge. We had to make our way back to Lake Buena Vista and an appointment with a certain M-O-U-S-E.