I've been looking for a local nature area that has an abundance and wide variety of wildlife, I believe I've found one. I met a person that is an expert in "birding" and asked if there was a local sanctuary that was representative of the everglades. He resoundingly recommended the Wakodahachee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida. I was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed my adventure.
I arrived at the park at approximately 7:30AM. Unfortunately I missed the sunrise, but do plan to return now that I have the lay-of-the-land. The wetlands has an elevated walkway that traverses about a mile through the park. At every turn there were wonderful opportunities to photograph the wildlife and vegetation. I was not fifty yards into my walk when I encountered what appeared to be a very stealth ten foot alligator on the prowl for breakfast. While I was watching, the gator slowly stalked a nearby white egret. With amazing speed the gator made a failed attempt at grasping the bird in it's powerful jaws. The quick and agile thrash of the gator alerted all of the nearby wildlife and caused a sudden flurry of various birds to quickly reposition themselves to perceived safer locations. Having given up it's position, the gator slowly swam toward me and then under the protected walkway passing within about three feet. This was exciting to watch but to my dismay I was not completely ready to shoot the action. I had my camera and telephoto lens trained on different aspects of the wildlife, I was shooting images as well as observing all the players in this natural game of "Let's Have Breakfast Together". My instincts told me that something was about to happen and I got caught up in observing as opposed to documenting. To my own defense, the action event happened in the blink of an eye. As a photographer I need to trust my instincts and not get caught up in the moment and anticipate what may happen next.
The rest of my walk was not as exciting and eventful, even though I was able to clearly identify the presence of two additional large alligators. I was surprised by the start of a series of very loud growls that even made the seasoned early morning exercisers on the walkway stop in their tracks. Across the waterway at about one hundred yards, too far to photograph effectively with my 70-300mm telephoto lens, was a very large gator on the surface with it's snout in the air and arching it's back. Regulars at the park were not sure if it was a mating call or a warning to stay away. For me it meant stay away, it was loud and extremely ominous.
As the morning progressed more people began to arrive, most of whom had their cameras. What I liked about the people I observed was that everyone respected the wildlife and environment they were observing. People talked and walked quietly. This human quietness enhanced my experience because I noticeably focused on the natural sounds of the birds, crickets, and gators. Many of the visitors acknowledged my presence by saying good morning and giving me hints on where there may be some current activity. My walk was a very pleasurable activity. I walked the entire wetland course photographing as much as I could access and started my return home about 9:30AM.
If you're interested in photographing a wide variety of birds and some alligators in a natural environment, I recommend visiting the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Florida. I will be returning. My next visit will most likely be in the late afternoon so that I can get a different photographic perspective of the park with the sun coming from the west as opposed from the east. I anticipate the experience to be just as gratifying.
I'm always looking for new nature sites to photograph. Please share any locations you think would be interesting to photograph.
Enjoy and remember,
"Moments in time are lived once. Images of those moments live forever."