Birding in Florida

A recent trip to Marco Island and Key West in Florida during spring break was a short but wonderful (and much needed) getaway for the family after the forced stay-at-home for a year. We thoroughly enjoyed the warm weather, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, relaxing on the beaches, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and even paddle boarding near the Florida keys.

For me, an added plus was the variety of wildlife, especially birds, that we got to see on this trip. Spring is mating, nesting, and migration season for many birds and we happened to be in the right place at the right time. We took a boat tour to the white sandy beaches full of seashells on Marco Island, and then hiked into the Everglades where we spotted so many colorful and unique species of birds along with dozens of lazy alligators tanning themselves out in the sun.

Though I have been photographing birds for a while now, bird photography for me has been typically restricted to my back yard where I have put up some feeders with bird food to try and lure pretty birds into obliging me with their portraits.

The biggest constraint for me is carrying around the size and weight of the super telephoto lens that are typically used for making bird photos. Another constraint is my fear of everything reptilian 😨 Typically bird habitats also include other wildlife and my absolute fear of stepping on snakes, frogs and other rodents and reptiles frequently overcomes my great desire to explore wildlife refuges and nature centers to photograph birds. This trip though, accompanied by family, I was able to bravely step foot into bird sanctuaries, and put my Canon RF 100-500mm lens to a lot of use.

On a boat tour near Marco Island, we saw osprey nests with baby ospreys, colonies of brown pelicans and royal terns besides ruddy turnstones and reddish egrets wading in the waters (click on images to view larger size).

The hike into Everglades was even more magical – enroute to Miami airport we stopped for a hike into a North Cypress mangrove that led us to a pond surrounded by teeming wildlife. There probably were 6-10 alligators in those marshy waters and several species of birds (little blue heron, great blue heron, american black vulture, barred owl, great egret – check out the slideshow below). The light was just right to capture a clear reflection of the birds and the whole atmosphere was one of peace and tranquility even though we were surrounded by wild predators!

After the North Cypress hike, we stopped by the Oak visitor center and right upfront we saw a dozen alligators lying around in the sun; seemed like a great idea and would have loved to join them but alas, we had a flight to catch to perennially cold Cincinnati. (P.C. Abhi Goel)