Why a Wonder: One of the best places in the United States to photograph osprey. More than 200 pairs of these magnificant birds flock to the shores of this beautiful lake every Spring to build nests, lay eggs, feed and fledge their young. The lake is studded with spectacular Bald Cypress trees and Cypress knees that are decorated by Mother Nature with beautiful Spanish Moss. This peaceful lake is the largest lake in Florida's Treasure Coast.
When: Late March to early April to photograph nest building, and April to May to photograph feeding and fledging chicks.
Where: The lake is located on Florida's East Coast about 30 minutes west of Vero Beach. It is accessed off Florida SR 60. There is a signed entrance to Middleton's Fish Camp (be on the lookout, it's easy to miss) where you turn and take the 5-mile graded road through pasture and wetland that leads to the fish camp and lake boat ramp and dock.
The lake is popular with fishermen seeking Large Mouth Bass, Speckled Perch, Bluegill and Catfish. Accommodations can be found in Vero Beach and there are also a number of cabin rentals right on the lake. Contact Blue Cypress Lakeside Cabins. Middleton's may be able to accommodate RVs and some camping. Check with the fish camp.
Photography: You need a boat to access the nesting sites. Pontoon boats are recommended, as they are the most stable for photography, even with a tripod. Most pontoon boats are hired with a captain guide who is knowledgeable about the lake and the nesting sites. The boats, depending on the size, generally accommodate 4 to 6 photographers. Group pontoon rentals can be arranged through Don and Barbara Buhr of Blue Cypress Lake Tours or at Middleton's Fish Camp through Roy Bass.
There also are numerous photographer-led workshops that include a boat and provide instruction on bird photography. These can be found on-line. Most trips start with a sunrise shot of the stunning cypress trees. Ideally you will want a fast wide-angle lens, but may also want a telephoto lens to capture tree details such as branches hung with Spanish Moss against the rising sun.
For osprey, a long telephoto in the 400-800mm range will help you capture birds in flight carrying with nesting material or fish, nesting birds and chicks.
Pontoon boats can approach fairly close to the nests, but not close enough so the birds will take flight.
You will want a jacket for cool morning sunrise shots, a good sun hat, water and snacks. Most trips run two-three hours and some include both morning and evening sessions. Workshops may run over several days.
© Fran Gallogly
This post sponsored by Adorama.
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