Trip Report: Sawgrass Lake Park
Every once in a while I come across places in nature that captivate my sense of wonder and brings me peace and happiness. Sawgrass Lake Park in Saint Petersburg, Florida turns out to be one of those places. Located a stone's throw from I-275 in one of the most populated areas in the state of Florida, 400-acre Sawgrass Lake Park features a mile-long boardwalk over a maple swamp that is home to many species of wildlife. The boardwalk leads to a 1/2 mile trail through an oak hammock populated by live oaks and water oaks with an understory of saw palmettos and ferns (from the Parks of Pinellas website).
When I am out in search of wildlife, I always try to photograph each area's unique habitat. After all, without suitable habitat, wildlife simply cannot survive. Here are some photographs of different habitats throughout the park:
According to the guide from the Great Florida Birding Trail, 211 species of birds have been identified in the park. The most common birds I came across were Great Blue Herons, Limpkins, Tricolor Herons, Green Herons, Anhingas, Catbirds, Cardinals, Common Moorhens, Redwing Blackbirds, and White Ibises. It appears as the birds were accustomed to human presence, making it somewhat easy for photography. Here are some bird images:
When people want to come along with me on a photographic wander, I usually advise against it. Usually they think that I may hike too quickly, leaving them behind. In fact, it's the exact opposite. When I have a camera in hand, I slow way down. Too slowly for most people. I'll take a couple of steps, stop and listen for several minutes, and if I find a spot that looks like it will be conducive for a wildlife encounter, I'll find a spot and sit - sometimes for several hours. Moving slowly and observing closely are key to finding certain species of wildlife - reptiles in particular. The nice thing about reptile photography is that if the animal is comfortable with your presence, they usually will stay quite still, especially in the morning hours while they are trying to absorb the sun's energy. Reptiles and amphibians are often overlooked when it comes to nature photography, and it's unfortunate - they make wonderful subjects and are quite interesting.
Sawgrass Lake Park is home to several Gopher Tortoises, a threatened species. I was looking all over the interior of the park for some with no luck. When I came back to the car to grab my lunch, there one was - right in the picnic area! Here are some of the reptiles I came across:
Like reptiles, insects are often overlooked. When I lived in Connecticut, I became very interested in photographing Dragonflies. Dragonflies are usually most active when the sun is out, and that will allow plenty of light for photography, which is quite helpful considering the long focal lengths often needed to avoid scaring them off. Here are some dragonflies:
This park truly fascinated me. I spent four consecutive mornings and afternoons there and barely scratched the surface of discovering the natural wonders within its boundaries. I came across several spots that would be fun to spend an entire morning just sitting and observing. If you ever find yourself in the Tampa area and want a little peace and quiet, head on over to the park and enjoy experiencing what Florida must have looked like hundreds of years ago.
For more photos of Sawgrass Lake and some shorebirds in Fort DeSoto Park, click on my Recent Work page.
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