February 16, 2019
Mel and I have been on a bit of a picture walk extravaganza. In the last couple of days, we have visited three different preserves in two different cities and spent an inordinate time on the road trying to find at least one of them! (Our GPS is both a blessing and a curse.)
On Valentine’s Day, we visited the nearby Sawgrass Lake Park, a 400 acre preserve with a beautiful mile long boardwalk as well as dirt trails to explore.
“Sawgrass is a large sedge plant that thrives on water and can be found on riverbanks in the southern United States, especially in Florida. Scientists consider sawgrass to be one of the oldest plant species, and the plant has tough, edged leaves that can weather year-round flooded conditions of the harsher swamps.”
This was our third or fourth visit to the Sawgrass Preserve and we keep finding new things to photograph. On this visit, we were particularly drawn to the butterflies hovering around a colorful lantana bush. There was a long-tailed skipper, which we had never seen before, and a zebra long-wing which is Florida’s official state butterfly– always a lovely subject to photograph.
The following day, Mel and I decided to drive about an hour south to the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota. Unfortunately, our GPS took us to the wrong entrance and the only way to get to the entrance that was open was to drive back and around the park almost 30 miles!! We were not happy. The Myakka park itself is nearly 60 square miles —hence the long re-route to get to the other entrance!
Needless to say, Mel and I got a much later start on our picture day than we had planned, but once on site, we enjoyed watching and photographing a variety of birds out on the ‘Birdwalk’—kingfishers, great egrets, greater yellow legs, tricolored herons, ibises, and black neck stilts.
As we were driving out of the park, I noticed a solitary sandhill crane through a thicket of mangroves and asked Mel to stop the car so that I could take a few pictures. Usually, I find cranes in pairs or large groups so I was surprised to find this one without any of his mates nearby.
At this point in our day, Mel and I had both taken enough pictures to fill a set of encyclopedias, but we decided to make just one more stop to visit another preserve that wasn’t too far away– Celery Fields.
“Celery Fields is on the Great Florida Birding Trail and is a popular destination for Sarasota Audubon field trips and outings. The more than 300 acres is also Sarasota County’s primary storm water collection zone, allowing it to serve a dual purpose of public safety and recreation.”
Although there wasn’t much time left in our day before we had to get home and let the dogs out, Mel and I still found lots of birds waiting around to have their pictures taken —or least stay in the frame long enough for us to snap a picture! The ponds were teeming with red winged blackbirds, who were making quite a din, and stunningly iridescent boat tailed grackles were joining in. Adding to the mix, were the screechy limpkins. The other birds we saw, the glossy ibis, the wood storks, and the blue winged teals were much, much quieter.
I wish we could have stayed longer.
Maybe we’ll go back again before we head home to Michigan in April.