My Florida Photo Favorites

It’s been several weeks since our return from Florida. For the last few years we’ve been blessed to travel to various state parks exploring nature and the area’s natural beauty. I’ve chosen to post a few of my favorite photos from this years trip. A following post will include some of my wife’s favorite photos. Photos are favorites, when they capture the unique beauty of a creature, are of something not seen before, or contribute in some way to the story. Favorites need not always be great photographs.

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The parks visited over a period of eight weeks were: Myakka River State Park, Kissimmee Prairie State Park, Lake Kissimmee State Park, Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park,  Ochlocknee River State Park, and Three Rivers State Park. The idea was to start south and work our way north as the weather warmed going into early spring.

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This year we used bikes for the first time to initially explore trails which we could then hike if they looked promising. This coupled with the use of a canoe allowed us to spend time in a number of different Florida environments. On long hikes or bike rides our “go to” camera was the Panasonic FZ200. In the canoe or on shorter hikes we used DSLRs with telephoto zooms.

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Along the trail, typical of many of the parks visited.

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Myakka River State Park has been a favorite for the past two years primarily because of the potential for nature/bird photography. Paddling can be enjoyable if you and your partner(s) don’t mind being in close proximity to some rather large gators. The distance one can paddle within the park may be limited depending on water conditions and your determination. Hiking is good with some trails traversing more diverse habitat than others.

This Glossy Ibis gives ample reason for the name, Myakka River SP.

A Little Blue Heron strikes a rather exotic pose, Myakka River SP.

These Roseate Spoonbills were taking full advantage of the concentrated but temporary food source caused by a recent hurricane that flooded a substantial portion of the park trapping fish and other edibles in depression pools left as the water receded, Myakka River SP.

Wood Storks and Whistling Ducks seem to get along just fine, Myakka River SP.

A Wood Stork shows off it’s catch, Myakka River SP.

Momentarily startled, birds take a break from the depression pool feeding frenzy, Myakka River SP.

The Whistling Ducks in a better light, Myakka River SP.

Red Shouldered Hawks (FL morph) are very common, Myakka River SP.

This Snowy Egret provides ample proof as to why these birds were almost driven the extinction in the late 1800s and early 1900s all for the sake of fashion, Myakka River SP.

White Pelicans over Myakka River SP. Something that must be witnessed in person as a photograph does not capture their graceful flight.

Florida Tassel Flower, Myakka River SP.

Peaceful coexistence in Myakka River SP. At least until the gator grows up!

If you love gators take the hike (permit required) to the Deep Hole in Myakka River SP. A hiking partners count indicated that there were 151 along the shore and 18 in the water the day we were there.

An Anhinga dries out and in the process makes a beautiful picture, Myakka River SP.

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Kissimmee Prairie State Park was a new park for us this year. The main draw was the chance to see Crested Caracara as well as Burrowing Owls. The trails, while extensive, were often under water. A trail capable bicycle is almost essential if you really want to explore the park. While no Burrowing Owls were seen, a Black-crowned Night Heron rockery as well as other bird species made the stay worthwhile.

Numerous creatures call the park home.

While looking for the Crested Caracara we were delighted to see this Loggerhead Shrike, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

Eastern Meadowlarks were quite common in the park. Getting close enough for a really great photo was always a challenge.

A beautiful White-eyed Vireo.

Trail in Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A side by side comparison of a Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Black Swallowtails almost never seem to land but then one afternoon, as I looked at some distant birds, there it was right at my feet..

A Black-crowned Night Heron rookery of perhaps 30 or 40 birds was discovered along one of the trails. They scattered as soon as we got close.

Exploring the trail near the rookery, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While reconnoitering a new trail we found this Florida banded water snake, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Probably the most interesting bird seen during our stay was the Crested Caracara. Common in SW Texas it’s range is very limited in Florida, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Take 2.

 

Can you find the insect? Kissimmee Prairie SP.

An immature Little Blue Heron casts a lovely reflection, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

Sometimes we only saw evidence of wildlife, a Bobcat, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

One wonders how many birds fall prey to alligators, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

A lone sentinel, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

While many miles of hiking trails were advertised not all were suitable for that purpose.

Numerous White Peacock butterflies graced the trail edge as we hiked, Kissimmee Prairie SP.

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Lake Kissimmee State Park is a favorite offering fairly extensive paddling and hiking opportunities. Nature viewing, while not as concentrated an experience as Myakka River, is very good. Campsites are some of the best in Florida. The only downside is airboat noise on the weekend and make no mistake they are load.

There are many lovely trails in the park.

A Tricolored Heron poses as we paddle Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP

Not many Green Herons are seen in Florida, perhaps due to their excellent camouflage, but his one was spotted along Tiger Creek.

Take 2.

Tiger Creek, Lake Kissimmee SP.

A Snowy Egret along Tiger Creek.

While bicycling on one of the park trails this Eastern Towhee posed for a picture.

Along the lake shore this Red-shouldered Hawk almost eluded the camera’s lens.

One of the most beautiful birds in Florida, the Purple Gallinule seen along the shore of Lake Kissimmee. Supposedly not all that uncommon but we haven’t seen many over the three years we’ve been going to Florida.

A Pine Warbler seems to be checking something out.

Sure enough!

Some distance away, a solitary Bald Eagle watches as we paddle by.

In a quest to get a dramatic picture of this rather large gator we paddled a little too close. It wasn’t happy and neither was my wife!

A Northern Parula Warbler proves difficult to photograph.

Along the trail in Lake Kissimmee SP a rather large Yellow Rat Snake makes itself comfortable in the morning sun.

A closer look.

A Gopher Tortoise ambles along a park road. They can live for almost 60 years and their borrows provide habitat for numerous cretures including Burrowing Owls. Days will go by and we won’t see one and then .   .   .

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Payne’s Prairie Preserve State park was a new park for us this year. With it’s extensive area we hoped to see a variety of wildlife. Of interest is the fact that the park maintains herds of Spanish Horses as well as Bison. Many waterfowl had already departed on their journey north when we were there.

I had been trying for several days to get a good picture of a Northern Parula Warbler as they seemed to be everywhere. Then one morning sitting outside while visiting a local bakery for breakfast one just about landed on my nose, thankfully I had my FZ200.

Blue Winged Teal, Sweetwater Wetlands Park near Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Green Winged Teal???  Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A mother’s love! Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Osprey, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

Palmetto reflections, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

The Spanish horse is considerably smaller than a typical quarter horse. All have the same coat.

A Song Sparrow catches a spider, Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

A very small anole, Payne’s Prairie Preserve SP.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park.

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For a number of years Ochlocknee River SP has been one of our favorite parks due to it’s potential for paddling as will as the close proximity of other areas of interest for the birder and nature lover; Bald Point SP and St Marks NWR. Hiking in the park itself, while not extensive, does provide the opportunity to see the threatened Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

The white morph of the Gray Squirrel comprises a charming part of the park’s welcoming committee.

A small active bird, the Brown Headed Nuthatch is a challenge to photograph.

Oystercatcher, Bald Point SP near Ochlocknee River SP.

Royal Terns, Bald Point SP.

A juvenile Bald Eagle flexes it’s wings, St. Marks NWR.

Brown Pelicans, Bald Point SP.

Least Terns, Bald Point SP.

Taking a break during an eight mile paddle exploring a side creek to the Ochlocknee River, Ochlocknee River SP.

A group of Sanderlings take a great interest in something, Bald Point SP.

A Ruddy Turnstone checks out what’s left of a Horseshoe Crab, Bald Point SP.

This Brown Thrasher was a regular visitor at our campsite.

The Ruddy Turnstone is thinking; “Let someone else do the work and just as they retrieve the morsel, steal it!”

Rain Lilies along the road, Ochlocknee River SP.

Snowy Plover, St Marks NWR.

Marbled Godwit, St Marks NWR. A life bird for us!

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Ochlocknee River SP.

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Three Rivers SP was a new park for us this year and was selected primarily for it’s paddling potential. The lake was fairly open and much of the shoreline was shallow and weed choked making it less than ideal for paddling. Due to the lakes huge area wildlife was well dispersed making viewing a bit of a challenge. It was an excellent area for butterflies with some good, if not extensive, hiking trails.

Red Buckeye was in bloom at Three Rivers SP.

Taking a break during a long paddle on Lake Seminole, Three Rivers SP.

Immature Common Loon, Three Rivers SP.

A closer look.

Rain Lilies, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtails on Bull Thistle.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Zebra Swallowtail, Three Rivers SP.

Black Swallowtail.

An almost constantly in motion Pipevine Swallowtail

Osprey on nest, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Crimson clover, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

Lily pads, Apalachee Wildlife Management Area.

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That’s it for this post. Many other pictures could have been posted but if you made it this far I’m impressed with your forbearance. Looking back on our experience, we’re reminded what an unbelievably beautiful but fragile resource Florida’s natural areas are. As one drives the highways of the state signs of new or proposed development are not uncommon so pressure on limited resources continues.

Sunset, Myakka river SP.

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When I started out taking pictures years ago I was fascinated with light and composition as subjects of interest were photographed. It was rewarding to make the effort to capture what was being experienced when looking at a scene. A big fringe benefit, and true blessing, has been a heightened curiosity about the world around me. What is that bird or bug that was just photographed, what is significant about it, and why does it matter. The world is much bigger now.

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Thanks for stopped by

A Little Southwest of Ohio, part 1 of 3

Recently we took a road trip to the American southwest, visiting places such as Tucson, Arizona, Big Bend National Park in Texas, and Goose Island State Park near Corpus Christi, also in Texas. This post is about things seen at Goose Island State Park and the adjacent Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

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Given the amount of hiking we thought we’d be doing all pictures were shot with either a Panasonic FZ200 or a Canon SX40. While the additional reach of the Canon would seem to be an advantage, in real life shooting the FZ200 more consistently produced sharper more usable images even when digitally enlarged to compensate for the shorter zoom.

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We highly recommend the Goose Island State Park area if you enjoy birding and nature. The diversity of birds, even during non-migration periods, is wonderful. Also, we had the opportunity to run into old acquaintances as will as to make a number of new friends as we pursued our passion for nature. Good stuff!

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Below are pics of just some of the things seen. Hope you enjoy glancing through them.

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Crested Caracara, many were seen along the road between Big Bend and Goose Island.

Common Loon IMG_5265

Common Loon in the gulf in winter plumage. Flightless till “spring” when new flight feathers come in for the migration north.

Common Loon IMG_5259

Common Loon

Chipping Sparrows P1010271

Chipping Sparrows playing hide and seek, Goose Island State Park

Carolina Wren IMG_5175

Carolina Wren, Goose Island State Park

Brown Pelican P1010236

Brown Pelican’s, Goose Island State Park.

Black-crested Titmouse P1010396

Black-crested Titmouse, Goose Island State Park

Black-bellied Plover IMG_5289

Black-bellied Plover, Goose Island State Park

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Below are some shots of the Wooping Cranes which have been brought back from the point of extinction. However, challenges remain. The recent dry years in Texas have caused increased salinity levels in the bays along the Gulf Coast which has resulted in a decrease in the Blue Crab one of their main food sources.

Wooping Crane IMG_5248-2

Wooping Crane near Goose Island state Park.

Wooping Crane IMG_5155

Wooping Cranes near Goose Island State Park

Willet IMG_5283

Willet, Goose Island State Park

White Pelican P1010217cfix

White Pelican, Goose Island State Park.

White Ibis IMG_5309

White Ibis, Goose Island state Park

Tricolor Heron P1010231

Tricolor Heron, Goose Island State Park.

Snowy Egret P1010225

Snowy Egret, Goose island State park.

Semipalmated Sandpiper IMG_5088

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Goose island State Park.

Savannah Sparrow IMG_5183

Savannah Sparrow, Goose Island State Park.

Sandhill Cranes IMG_5218

Sandhill Cranes near Goose Island State Park.

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At low tide, extensive mud flats are a great place to see shorebirds.

Sanderlings IMG_5078

Sanderlings, Aransas Natl Wildlife Refuge

Ruddy Turnstone P1010440

Ruddy Turnstone, Goose Island State Park.

Roseate Spoonbill IMG_5313

Roseate Spoonbill making good it’s escape, Goose Island State Park

Pied-billed Grebe IMG_5123

Pied-billed Grebe, Aransas Natl Wildlife Refuge.

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1000 year old Live Oak near goose Island State Park

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The Big Tree.

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Path through Live Oaks, Goose Island State Park.

Northern Pintail P1010477

Northern Pintails, Goose Island State Park.

Lincoln's Sparrow P1010284

Lincoln’s Sparrow, Goose Island State Park.

Ladder-backed Woodpeckers P1010298

Ladder-backed Woodpecker’s, Goose Island State Park.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker (female) P1010301

Female Ladder-backed, Goose island state Park.

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We saw a number of Killdeer, a common bird adjacent to the farm fields of Ohio.

Killdeer IMG_5281

Killdeer, Goose Island State Park

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Kestrals were very numerous along the roads in the area. Looking for insects and small rodents.

Kestral (male) P1010316

Kestral (male), near Goose Island state Park

Kestral (female) IMG_5090

Kestral (female), Aransas Natl Wildlife Refuge.

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A very small beautiful dove common to southern Texas.

Inca Dove P1010483

Inca Dove, Goose Island State park.

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Pier, Goose Island State Park, great spot for birding.

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A typical area to look for shore birds.

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Aransas Natl Wildlife Refuge.

Harris's Sparrow P1010498

Harris’s Sparrow (center), Goose Island State Park

Great Egret IMG_5042

Great Egret, Aransas Natl Wildlife Refuge.

Eurasian Collared Dove P1010490

Eurasian Collared Dove, Goose Island State Park.

Dunlin P1010421

Dunlin, Goose Island State Park.

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Thanks for looking in.

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