August is generally not the best time to prowl through the swamps and woodlands of Florida in search of unique and interesting flora and fauna to photograph. There are gems to be found, but generally it’s pretty darn hot, humid and dead as far as wildlife is concerned. A group of us decided to meet at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida the last weekend of August to reacquaint ourselves with the park. It had been at least 3 months since any of us in this group had been there, so with Fall migration just around the corner, we thought it might be good to get out and see what might be waiting for us.
Sunrise wasn’t spectacular, but I did catch this Great Blue Heron waiting to see if we would get a colorful start to the day. Click an image to view larger.
The opportunities were few and far between, but we did find a flock of Snowy and Great Egrets taking advantage of a large school of fish in one of the lakes. This was the most activity we saw all morning, but it was far more than we expected and we were quite thrilled to watch and capture the action.
This Snowy Egret found a mouthful. Believe it or not, he got the fish down. It was cool to watch him after he had swallowed the fish. The fish was still fighting for life in the bird’s neck and you would see the egret’s head a neck twist suddenly as the fish continued to fight for his life.
Not only were the Snowy and Great Egrets feasting, but the local alligator population was enjoying the feast as well. The gators would lift themselves out of the water, then crash down on an unsuspecting fish. You can see the sequence in the next two images. As the gator’s mouth clamps down on his prey, you can see the other fish breaking the water’s surface as they attempt to get away.
While most of the birds were egrets, the Great Blue Herons also showed up for the feast. This guy wasn’t interested in the smaller catches the egrets were hauling in. He went for the big catfish.
With so many birds feasting, it was also a great time to get some flight shots. Although it seemed that the birds could just stand and wait for their next catch to swim by, many were getting a fish, then flying off to another area to try their luck there.
We didn’t see much else in the way of birds. This Limpkin gave us a nice opportunity however.
Spiders were plentiful along the trails too. This female Golden Silk Orbweaver looks like she needs to do a little web repair.
Snakes were plentiful as well. I saw three different snakes, but only got photos of two. Here is a Yellow Rat Snake that wouldn’t cooperate and let me get a full body image. I guess a head shot will have to do. It might have been nice if he would have at least turned towards me.
As we were leaving, we heard a strange sound in a tree and thought we might have stumbled upon a migrant warbler calling. We couldn’t find a bird, but we did find a ribbon snake with a tree frog in his mouth. We soon learned that the tree frog was making the strange sound as it struggled to free itself from the snake. Alas, the snake was ultimately victorious, but the frog didn’t make it easy for him. Here are three images that show the snake expanding his mouth and eventually overtaking the frog. In the last image, the snake’s eyes are actually even with the frog’s eyes. Although the frog was much larger than the snake’s head and mouth, the snake successfully completed his meal in about 10 minutes.
So the photography turned out to be pretty good, and the time spent with friends was excellent. By 11:00am, we were all hot, tired and beat from dragging our gear through the trails. The drive home in the cool A/C, a hot shower and a short nap afterwards made for a great day. I’m already looking forward to going back as the action only picks up from here.