Rick Hobbs Photography

Wildlife/Nature/Outdoor Photography

From The Field

Birds and Gators in SW Florida

In February & March I spent two weeks in SW Florida photographing a wide variety of birds and alligators. There are many places to find subjects to photograph in the area and here I will give you an update on some of the most popular hotspots.

I will begin with the Venice Rookery, I have always found this location to be very reliable and productive, this year was no different. There was constant activity with the birds building nests, courting, mating, sitting on eggs, feeding their young chicks, flying to and from the rookery, and the list goes on. You can stand (or sit) there and watch great blue herons, great egrets, and anhingas going about their daily life right in front of you. Since there are photographers, birders, or local residents there almost every day the birds are not afraid of people. In fact, this year we had four sandhill cranes walking between our tripods - less than three feet away from us. We also had opportunities to photograph ibis, wood stork, osprey, vulture, black-crowned night herons, snowy egrets, cattle egrets and more.

Great Blue Herons Fighting, Florida

When visiting the Ft. Myers area a trip to Cape Coral is always on my list. Here you can photograph the burrowing owls right next to the road. Unfortunately, they continue to build homes over the top of the owl's burrows and eliminate their habitat so each year is different, however, if you scout around you can still find some cooperative subjects. Not far from the burrowing owls is an occupied eagle's nest. We were able to photograph an adult and two eaglets in the nest.

Burrowing Owl, Florida

Of course, a trip to this area would not be complete without spending some time at Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island. At Ding we were able to photograph roseate spoonbill, brown pelicans, white pelicans, osprey, several different species of herons and egrets, ibis, alligators, raccoons, and much more. When you are working Ding you are not far from Blind Pass. This is the area where the islands of Sanibel & Captiva come together. There is a very small parking area there and a beach that often has royal tern, black skimmer, brown pelican, osprey, gulls and herons near the edge of the water. Also, when on Sanibel Island be sure to eat at the Hungry Heron - you'll love it ;-)

Royal Tern, Florida

There is a very nice causeway that runs between Sanibel Island and Ft. Myers, be sure to watch both sides for dolphins, brown pelicans and other birds that frequent this area. The brown pelicans are always hanging out around the fisherman or the marina looking for an easy score.

Brown Pelican, Florida

From Ft. Myers it is about a three hour drive to Everglades National Park, near Florida City. The drive has swamp land most of the way along the Tamiami Trail and you can photograph gators and a variety of birds along the way if you choose. The best oppportunities seemed to be at the Anhinga Trail and near Flamingo. At the Anhinga Trail we photographed anhingas, herons, cormorants, woodpeckers, vultures, wood stork, alligators and more. This is a great place to photograph herons and cormorants catching fresh fish. Down at Flamingo I found an osprey nest with adults and young in it - see the new Photo Tip entitled Patience, Patience, Patience to see images from there.

American Alligator, Florida

I also went to other locations such as Corkscrew and Myakka State Park, while I found things to photograph, these two locations were not terribly productive - you may have better luck. One important thing to remember is that every day is usually different so if you are flexible, and put your time in, I'm sure you can have a fun and productive trip there as well.