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Bio Lab Road

bio lab roadThe Bio Lab Road at Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is one way 6-mile dirt road is located of off SR 3 (Kennedy Parkway) just north of the Scrub Ridge Trail.  There is a boat ramp at Bio Lab Road that provides assess to Mosquito Lagoon.  For more information visit the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Merritt_Island/visit/plan_your_visit.html.  The southern end dumps you out at Canaveral National Seashore near Playalinda Beach.

 

 

Bio lab is great for boating, fishing or suggest to view wildlife.  There is a fee to visit the Bio Lab and you can pay at the Merritt Islando Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center or pay at the kiosk.   I have visited Bio Lab road several times now, not for boating or fishing but to see wildlife.  I have seen lots of birds and alligators. Here are some of the pictures I have taken.

 

For my other post about Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge see https://lilsusieq.com/scrub-ridge-trail/ or https://lilsusieq.com/black-point-wildlife-drive/.

Remember: Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints

 

 

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Scrub Ridge Trail

The Scrub Ridge Trail is a beautiful short hike and provides the opportunity to see a variety of  wildlife.  The trail is located at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refufe off of SR 3.  The Scrub Ridge Trail is a long looping trail that is the habit to Florida Scrub Jay – a bird found only in Florida.  The scrub jay is an endangered bird and should not be fed or bothered in anyway.  For more information visit the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge website at http://www.merrittislandwildlife.org/scrub-ridge-trail.asp.  

 

 

I spent an hours or so hiking the trail and hoping to to see a scrub jay and take some wonderful photos. The trail has water along one side and you can see all kinds of other birds as well.   I also saw pelicans, vultures, turtles, butterflies in addition to the scrub jay.  Here are a few pictures I took during my walk.

 

The Scrub Ridge Trail is located at Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge,  I usually hike it whenever I visit the The Black Point Wildlife Drive – blog post at https://lilsusieq.com/black-point-wildlife-drive/.

Remember: Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints

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A fun day at Gatorland!

We had a fun day at Gatorland seeing the gators and birds.   They were having a Florida resident special so it only cost $14.99 for me and $9.99 for my daughter which I thought was really reasonable. The park is located in South Orlando off of Orange Blossom Trail.    The website is https://www.gatorland.com/.

I don’t know the square footage of the park but Gatorland didn’t appear to be nearly as large as the Disney or Universal parks. Gatorland doesn’t have the exciting rides either, but what they do have is lots and lots of alligators and birds!   The gators were separated by size and age, I believe to keep the larger gators from eating the smaller ones.  There are several different shows you can watch and some you can even participant in for a fee.   We saw the Gator Jumparoo Show and I found it amazing how high they can jump.  When you look at an alligator you don’t really expect it to be able to move so fast or jump so high.   You can also feed smaller gators with meat by dangling it with fishing poles.

 Of course I took a ton of pictures!  My daughter took this picture of me.   She tries hard to be patient when I busy clicking away.  

 

 

 

The first picture here is a map of the park.  I think it is outdated because it some of the attractions are not listed.  There are also photos of the alligators swimming in the big ponds, the Jumparoo Show, feeding the smaller ones with fishing poles and baby gator nursery.

 

There is a show called Adventure Hour where you can feed the alligators from pretty close.   We paid for the show at the entrance and it sounded exciting.  Later when I look at the pictures I could not believe I let me daughter participate in this – she is too close to the gators.  She had a lot of fun but we might not do this show next time we go.

 

My favorite part of the park is probably the Breeding Marsh.  You can walk on the boardwalk and see all the alligators and birds.  The birds are everywhere and some have chicks in their nests  – I plan on visiting next Spring, it is supposed to be a great placed to get photos.  The Breeding Marsh has over 100 female alligators and 30 males.  

 

Gatorland also has a Train, Swamp Buggy Ride, Zip Line and playground with a splash pad.  Next time we go I want to take the Swamp Buggy ride.   My daughter loves the splash pad.

 

The park also has more than just alligators and birds.  There are crocodiles but I did’t get any pictures, something for next time.   They also has have turtles, panthers, bobcats, raccoons, emus, rabbits, parrots, cockatoos and more!

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OWP birds

I have taken a lot photos of birds at Orlando Wetland Park .  OWP (Orlando Wetlands Park) is a great place to go birding, there are supposed to be over 150 different types of birds.  I haven’t seen nearly that many but I have seen quite a few.  

 

 

This is a anhinga (I believe)  and he is eating a fish.  It looks like a small catfish but plenty big for the anhinga. 

 

In these pictures , a roseate spoonbill is goofing off with this other bird.  If you know the name of it, leave me a comment and I’ll add it.   It looked like there were showing off  for us or maybe having a I grooming contest, I am not sure but they were fun to watch.   I thought the pictures were great and I wanted to share. 

 

The Orlando Wetlands Park is located in Christmas, Florida off of Wheeler Road.  For more information on the park you can see my other blog post at https://lilsusieq.com/orlando-wetlands-park/  or the Orlando Wetlands website at http://www.cityoforlando.net/wetlands/.    

Remember: Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints

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Baby alligators at OWP

On my last visit to the  Orlando Wetlands Park (OWP) I finally got to see baby alligators!    OWP is located in Christmas, Florida off of Wheeler Road.  For more information on the park you can see my other blog post at https://lilsusieq.com/orlando-wetlands-park/  or the Orlando Wetlands website at http://www.cityoforlando.net/wetlands/.    I had been to OWP prior to getting my new camera in January but this was the first time I had enough zoom to get a decent picture.   I had seen pictures others had posted on Facebook and I was dying to see them myself. 

On this trip to OWP we had taken the free tram with the tour guides and they knew just were to look to see the mama and baby alligators.  They hanging out in a small little shaded pond off of Hawk Hwy near the Education Center.  She had a couple sitting on her and more in the water.   Despite what it looks like in the picture, I didn’t get to close, I was on the bank on the other side of the water.   Mother alligators can be very protective.   A limpkin was hanging out in the pond too, I guess he wasn’t worried about getting eaten.

 

And remember: Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints!

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Oyler Overlook at OWP

 The Oyler Overlook is one of my favorite spots at the Orlando Wetlands Park (OWP).  OWP is located in Christmas, Florida off of Wheeler Road.  For more information on the park you can see my other blog post at https://lilsusieq.com/orlando-wetlands-park/  or the Orlando Wetlands website at http://www.cityoforlando.net/wetlands/

Oyler Overlook is about a 30 to 45 minute walk or longer from the parking lot.  The time really varies depending on how much you stop to enjoy the view and watch the wildlife.   You can also bike at the park which is a great way to see even more of the park.

Sometimes there are volunteers provide tours and you can ride the free tram.  That is what we did on this particular visit.   The tour guide told me the spikes on the Oyler Overlook sign are there to discourage birds from sitting on the sign.    He said they didn’t want the birds pooping on the sign but it doesn’t always work.    The hill actually changes size by small but an measurable amount.  The guide told me the hill is made from the dirt dug to make the ponds.  When it rains the hill will swell and will increase by inches.

As you can see from these pictures, the view of the OWP from hill is really breathtaking.

 

In the pond across from the hill, the Cypress Swamp, there is a Osprey nest.   You can just make out the Osprey sitting in it.      A beautiful pair of  sandhill cranes were having lunch on the hill as well.

 

And remember: Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints!

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Overlook Park

On the south shore of Lake Jesup in Seminole County is the wonderful little park called Overlook Park.  It is a small park, about 3 acres, but is great for fishing, watching birds and seeing alligators.    The address is 1988 Spring Avenue, Oviedo and the website https://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/locations/301555-Overlook-Park.stml

I live in Oviedo so I visit park fairly often, every time I go see something different.   I like to stop at Sonic and get a large milkshake to drink at the park and while this does nothing for the diet, I really enjoy it.   The park has a small parking lot, picnic tables and a boardwalk.  There are no bathrooms or playground.   Near the entrance of the park is a Seminole County Historic Marker – it gives some history of the area.

These photos are some of the park and boardwalk.  You can see SR 417 from the park and it is pretty after dark, I enjoy watching all the cars to buy with their lights.

 

 

I have seen quite a few different birds including black birds, egrets, anhinga, limpkin, red wing blackbird, vultures and osprey.  

These photographs are some of my best pictures of birds.

 

There is beautiful little limpkin family living at the park.  I have taken pictures of them over a period of a month and you can see how big the chicks are getting.

These pictures show the limpkin family, the chicks are so cute!

 

In addition to seeing birds, Overlook Park is a great place to see alligators, squirrels and some amazing sunsets.  I have gone out there six or seven times and I gotten some amazing shots. 

 

As I mentioned, this park is off of Lake Jesup and it is full of alligators.  People go fishing  off of the boardwalk which seem expected.  However there are some people who go in the water, with the alligators, to net fish.  I think they are crazy!  I have asked them and they don’t seem worried about the gators.   The are throwing nets that have weights on them to catch fish so maybe it scares the gators away.

This last set of photos are of these guys fishing in the water – did I mention I think they are crazy?

 

And remember: Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints!

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Orlando Wetlands Park

The Orlando Wetlands Park is approximately 1,220 acres  man made water treatment system.   It removes nitrogen and phosphorus from reclaimed water and which then flows in the St. Johns River.   For more information about the Wetlands, its purpose and how the water management works check out the website at http://www.cityoforlando.net/wetlands/.   The park is located off of Wheeler Road in Christmas, Florida.  The address is 25155 Wheeler Road, Christmas, FL 32709.    The Orlando Wetlands Park is a great place to go birds watching or just enjoy see all the wildlife and enjoy beautiful scenery.     At the entrance you will find plenty of parking, an education center, clean bathrooms and a picnic table.    And it is FREE which is something else I love about the park!!

This first set of photographs are some of the pictures I took at the entrance.   We signed in to the Guestbook and made a donation.

 

I have been out there 4 or 5 times now and each time I see something new.  I have gone both walking and hiking but I still haven’t gone down all the paths, it is a pretty big park.  The trails are wide and made of packed sand which are great for biking.    They have free guided tour tram rides but I think the hours / days vary.  You need to see the website for current information.    The guides are very knowledgeable and friendly and this is a great way to see the park. 

The next set of photographs includes a map of the park and the first cell you’ll see on the Birding Loop.   I also have some photos of the tram.

 

The parks has alligators, lots and lots of alligators!  I know some photographers don’t like taking pictures of alligators, they complain the gators don’t do anything.  I enjoy seeing them whether they are sunning,swimming or whatever!  These next pictures are just are my best photos of these amazing reptiles.

 

In addition to the alligators I have seen variety of birds, butterflies and flowers.   The Orlando Wetlands Park Bird checklist says you can see over 150 different types of birds, I have only seen a small portion of them. 

This next set of photos shows some of the different birds I have shot.  Unfortunately I haven’t learned all the names of the birds yet but I am working on it.

 

Lastly, photos of some lovely flowers I have seen at the park.

 

And remember: Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints!

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Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is managed by the St. Johns River Water Management District. The drive is open from sunrise to sunset and is a 11 mile one way drive that begins at Lust Road and exits as Jones Road. It is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and some holidays. Check the website at https://www.sjrwmd.com/lands/recreation/lake-apopka/wildlife-drive/ for more information. Parts of the drive had been closed during hurricane damage but it is still a great day. There is parking near the old pump house where they also have portable bathrooms.

A self guided audio tour with 11 points of interest follows along the drive. There are numbers posted along the drive the correspond with the audio tour. Access the audio tour at www.sjrwmd.com/LANS. A smartphone or some type of devise with internet is required.

This first set of photographs shows the map of the park, the entrance to the drive and the old pump house and parking.   The portable toilets are located here however there are no sinks.  I bring my own hand sanitizer and paper.

 

Park at the pump house and go hiking or biking along the Lake Apopka Loop Trail. The trail is approx. 15 miles long and goes to Magnolia Park. I have gone hiking out there several times but I still need to take my bike. I am really looking for to biking, I doubt I’ll make the full 15 miles but can I do 5 to 10.

This next set of photographs is of the Loop near the pump house, you can go either north towards McDonald Canal Boat Ramp or south to Magnolia Park.

 

The drive is approximately 11 miles but expect to be there 2 or 3 hours. Everyone drives very slow, about 5 or 10 miles per hour, so they can see the scenery and wildlife. Along the drive there are places to pull over so you can take photographs of the wildlife and beautiful scenery!  

As you can see from the photographs below, there is a lot to see on both sides of the drive. 

 

The LAWD website says there are over 360 species of birds but I have only seen a handful.  The birds move so fast, I find them hard to photograph. I have a Sony a6000 and my lens only goes up to 200 so I don’t get really good pictures of the little birds. However I have gotten some great pictures of larger birds, mostly great blue heron, egret, hawk, osprey and anhinga. I would love to get a picture of an eagle but I have yet to see one.

This next set of photographs show some of my best birds photos.

 

There is more that just birds to see such as otters, rabbits, bobcats, snakes, turtles, alligators, butterflies and flowers. So far I have only seen snakes, butterflies, alligators and rabbits.

The last set of photographs show some of the best shots I have gotten of alligators and  flowers.  

 

Overall, Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is a wonderful place to spend the day whether you are into photography or just looking for something to do. I would recommend bringing water and snacks if plan on making a day of it, it gets very hot out there.

And remember: Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, leave nothing but footprints!

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Bloom N Chalk Fest in Safety Harbor

On March 18, 2018 we went to the Bloom N Chalk Fest in Safety Harbor, Florida.  This was our first time going to a chalk fest and visiting Safety Harbor.  The city is north of Saint Petersburg and east of Clearwater.   It is a very pretty area and the part of the city we saw had a small town feel to it.   It reminded me of Mount Dora, Florida.

Bloom N Chalk Fest took place in Downtown Safety Harbor off of Main Street.  We got there about 11 am  on the second day and it was already pretty crowded.  We had a little trouble finding parking but not too much, took about 15 minutes of driving around.   I don’t know how many artists participated in the event, there were a lot, we walked from one end of the festival to the other end to see all the chalk drawings.  I took pictures of alot of the drawings but I don’t think I got them all, there were a lot of people there.

 

 

I have the pictures below and a number on the picture corresponds to the artist on this list:

  1.  Derek Ray
  2.  Mike and Marcie Bethold
  3.  Sharyn Chan
  4.  Cass Womack
  5.  Erik Greenawalt
  6.  Lester Mendoza
  7.  Mike and Pam Williams
  8.  Dave Brenner
  9.  Shellley Brenner
  10.  Rob and Nadine Nickeson
  11.  Fawne DeRosia
  12.  Beatrice Flaig
  13.  Holland King
  14.  Reese Youngberg
  15.  Ken Mullen and Hector Diaz
  16.  Genesis Allione
  17.  Damon Meri
  18.  Kimberly Wood
  19.  David Lepore
  20.  Chris Carlson
  21.  Willie Zen
  22.  Janet Tombros
  23.  Julie Garden
  24.  Tonya Youngberg
  25.  Michael Las Casas
  26.  Venessa Monenegro
  27.  Bridget Lyons
  28.  Aislynn Mullen
  29.  Maria Paula Romero

 

In addition to the chalk drawings the festival had food and craft booths.  The raspberry tea from The King’s Nut and Tea was really good.  We went back for more raspberry tea but didn’t get anything to eat.

 

Overall we really enjoyed our visit to Safety Harbor for the Bloom N Chalk Fest.  I would love to go back to Safety Harbor to see more of the town and visit the Safety Harbor Waterfront Park and Philippe Park.  Next time we might spend a few days in Safety Harbor and then go to Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island.   There is so much to do and see on the Saint Petersburg penisula, as I think of it, that you could spend a month there and not see it all.