I finally got over to the Lake Apopka North Shore while visiting Florida earlier this year. This area is part of the St. Johns River Water Management District or SJRWMD, for short. The SJRWMD covers an 18-county region in northeast and east-central Florida and is tasked with the management of the water and land related resources to benefit people and
the environment. One of the benefits for people is outdoor recreation and the Lake Apopka North Shore has hiking trails, picnic areas, kayaking, boating and wildlife viewing. Lake Apopka North Shore also offers extraordinary bird-watching and photography opportunities. It is one of the top three birding areas in the entire state of Florida. During the winter months, more than 150 species can be seen.
The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, which is only open between sunrise and sunset on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and on U.S. federal holidays, was the reason for my interest. The drive is an 11 mile (17.7km) one-way, well maintained gravel road through wetlands filled with wildlife from birds to reptiles.
Riding in the back of an SUV driven by my daughter while my wife rode shotgun, I was accompanied by my 2 year old grandson who took great delight in grandpa’s maneuvering around to photograph out the windows on each side of the vehicle. Nevertheless, I did accomplish to get a few good photos along the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.
There were many Great Egrets (Ardea alba) about hunting along the shore line. Vegetation was lush making for nice backgrounds behind the white wading birds.
I have rarely seen Tricolored Herons (Egretta tricolor) in upstate New York and was thrilled to see several along the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive.
This Green Heron (Butorides virescens) was leaning in for a strike which I missed “by that much”. This bird was not in a good position to the Sun so I switched to Spot Metering.
I have been photographing Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), or GBH, for decades and I have never witnessed the behavior you see below.
The explanation is simple. Birds do not sweat or pant so they need ways to cool off. This GBH is cooling off by drooping his wings and letting air movement to do so. Maybe it’s hotter in Florida than where I live in upstate New York.
This GBH had his mouth full of a fish still very much alive and not liking his current position in life. Eventually, the fish would stop struggling and would be eaten whole.
All these photos were taken between 11am and 12:30pm on a hot day. I hope to visit this place again far earlier in the day in the future for better light and more wildlife subjects.
The links in the first paragraph will take you to websites with more information and maps for planning a trip to the Lake Apopka North Shore and Wildlife Drive.