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Florida trip, bird photography locations and wildlife refuges

It appears that I will be in Florida for a while. Nice place to do some photographic work. I am quite partial to the west coast for photographic work. I have shot a little on the east coast so this time I will concentrate on the east coast.

One of the best places to shoot is the Alligator Farm up by St. Augustine. Nice place and they let photographers buy special passes so we can get in early and stay late because the other visitors can be an issue with setting up tripods on the walk ways. They have yearly passes for those who live in the area. Best shooting is in the spring because some of the nesting sites are only a few feet of the walkways.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is another great place to shoot. It is very high on the list of places to shoot. It is part of the Space coast area which has some more interesting areas to shoot. It is a national wildlife refuge so please follow the rules.

The Everglades of course but you also need to be very careful there. The only place on the list that humans are not necessarily the top of the food chain so be careful. The sunsets and sunrises are beautiful but that is the time for the predators to be out also. You may get shots of the Florida Panther, alligators and crocodiles. Yes crocodiles. It is the only place in the US that you can find them.

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a good place to go if you have the time. This one is down by Sanibel Island so it is a long way down the state but it is well worth the effort if you have the time. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is also in the general area. It is an Audubon sanctuary. The Audubon Society also has a raptor center in the Orlando area for you to check out.

There are a couple of more places on the east coast around Ft. Pierce and Port St. Lucie that might be worth your effort. One is Hutchinson Island. The northern most part was listed as pretty good but it appears that a couple of bridges have been condemned and the areas are no longer available by land.

Port St. Lucie County has the Savannahs Preserve State Park. I have never been there. The website has a gallery of images but as much of the east coast areas it seems to be lacking some of the species or quantity of birds that many like to shoot.

Lake Okeechobee is another area that has a lot of information about birding but the shoots seem to be lacking as compared to some of the other areas. Many areas in Florida are becoming less bird friendly with the droughts and encroachment. Check out this area as it used to have a bird festival in one town that might get you some better information. I have limited knowledge about this area as the last time I shot it was back in the 70s with my Nikon F2A film camera.

This place I have not been and but would love to shoot. It is the Dry Tortugas National Park. This one is a real trip for almost anyone as it is in the Gulf of Mexico about 50-75 miles west of Key West. Needless to say it will cost more to get to as a boat or plane is a must.

I have purposely left out the beaches as the birds do not act very naturally there most of the time. Anyone can get a photo of a Great Blue eating a fish on the beach when people throw the fish to them. It is like shooting in a zoo and claiming how good you are at finding wildlife. I am not saying that you cannot get good images on the beaches because you can. I have. I just prefer places like Honeymoon Island (The image here of the sunset is mine from 2007), Caladesi Island and the Ft. Meyers area to the east coast beaches. That is not against the east coast, I just much prefer the west coast. The water is calmer and the birds are lit in the evening golden hour light every day.

If you live in the area like I did for years, you can go back and work the area a lot but if you are just going to be there for a day or two or maybe a couple of weeks, I suggest places like the Alligator Farm, Merritt Island or Pinellas County. You will have many opportunities for wonderful shots even if you only have a short time. The others are a gamble.

I may personally go the middle of the east coast and shoot just to try the areas out. I will catch some flack about them so I do have a responsibility to at least check them out. That also will give me the chance to shoot Merritt Island and the Alligator Farm. I have several friends in the Clearwater area to look up and maybe we can go shooting.

Some of them I met through photography either as students, clients, customers or just people I ran into in the parks when I was out shooting. A lady named Brown has done well since I sold her a Nikon D50 back in the day. She has won awards and probably has long since gotten rid of the D50. I have not talked to her in a couple of years so I hope she is available.

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