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Smyrna Dunes Park

On Christmas Eve 2018, I got off work early and wanted to go somewhere new so I ended up at Smyrna Dunes Park.   The address for Smyrna Dunes Park is 2995 N. Peninsula Ave., New Smyrna Beach and it is open from sunrise to sunset.  The cost is $10 to enter the park or $20 for an annual pass which I recommend.  For more  information on the park visit the website at https://www.volusia.org/services/public-works/coastal-division/coastal-parks/smyrna-dunes-park.stml.

I got lucky, it was a really beautiful sunny day but not too hot or cold.  It wasn’t windy either so I go some wonderful shots of birds and their reflections.   Getting to the beach is a bit of a hike, you have to walk on a long, long boardwalk.   It does the give the park an isolated feel.   Across the Ponce de Leon Inlet you can see Light House Point Park, you see my post about it here https://lilsusieq.com/lighthouse-point-park/.

I made a short video of the park from the boardwalk.   Gives you bit of idea of how isolated it is and the long walk to get the beach.   The link to the video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njp0dh55O6k&feature=youtu.be.

First set of pictures are of the entrance to the park, some of the signs and the boardwalk.  From across the Ponce de Leon Inlet you can see Light House Point Park and the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse.   Smyrna Dunes Park is a dog park and I saw quite a few people walk their fur babies. 

 

Second set of photos are from the beach.  There people were fishing off the rocks.   The weather was really nice but it was to cold for swimming and I didn’t see anyone in the water.   I guess that could have been due the date, it was Christmas Eve.   There were lots of birds out and I got some great shots.  I love the photos of the birds with their reflections.  Some pelicans fishing for dinner and an osprey flying overhead.  The was a parasailing boat across the Ponce de Leon Inlet over at Light House Point Park.  I would really like to go parasailing, it looks life fun.

 

Finally, the last two photos are of the sunset.  I took these as I was walking back to the car.

 

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

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Butterflies & Flowers

In 2018 I visited Lukas Nursery at 6 times to take pictures of the Butterflies & Flowers.  This post is a collection of some of the photos I took.   To learn more about Lukas Nursery visit https://lukasnursery.com/ or my other blog post at https://lilsusieq.com/lukas-nursery-butterfly-encounter/.

Butterflies are a lot of fun to photograph, the move fast but are so beautiful.  As I have gotten in to photography, I have been learning more about butterflies, flowers and insets.   I have grouped the butterflies by species but I still having trouble identifying them so I might gotten some wrong.

While researching the different types of butterflies I have learned quite about them.  They help pollinate some species of plants like bees.  They receive nourishment from not only flower nectar but also pollen, tree sap, rotten fruit among other sources.   Butterflies can be find all over the world except for Antarctica, I guess it is too cold for them.  There  with approximately 18,000 species of butterflies found world wide.    A butterflies life can be divided into four stages.  First, the adult butterfly lays eggs  which second hatches into caterpillars in the spring or summer.  Third, once the caterpillar is grown it develops into a chrysalis where a metamorphosis takes place changing it into a butterfly, the fourth and final stage.

The first set of photos are of monarch butterflies.  The monarch is a butterfly I seem to photograph the most.  I got some shots of two monarchs mating or maybe there are wrestling?

 

Second set of photos are of gulf fritillary.

 

Third set of photos are of queen, peacock and zebra butterflies.  The zebra longwing is the Florida State butterfly.

 

Fourth set of photos are of skipper butterflies.

 

Fifth set of photos are of swallowtail butterflies.

 

Sixth and last set of photos has some of the carpenter bees and flowers.  

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Lukas Nursery Butterfly Encounter

I always have a great time at the Lukas Nursery Butterfly & Bird Encounter, in Oviedo, Florida.   It is a really large garden supplies center and they sell tons of plants, flowers, trees, garden sculptures and just about anything else needed for gardening.  When I go, I don’t actually go gardening supplies, I go to see butterflies and insects. The Butterfly & Bird Encounter is a very hot house with plants and lot of butterflies.   For more information about Lukas Nursery visit https://lukasnursery.com/ the Butterfly & Bird Encounter is https://lukasnursery.com/butterfly-encounter/.

First set of photos is of the Lukas Nursery and the outside of the Butterfly & Bird Encounter.    The place is really huge, my pictures don’t show how big it is.   The entrance to the Butterfly & Bird Encounter is through the Gift Shop.  They also have chickens and horses on the property.  I can spend a whole afternoon walking around taking photos.

 

Second set of photos is from the inside of the Butterfly & Bird Encounter.   From what I was told, butterflies don’t seem to like cold weather and you are more likely to see them in the spring or summer.   Inside the encounter it is very humid, after spending an hour I usually end up sweating buckets.   The encounter also has little birds and you can see them fluttering all over the place.   There is Gatorade provided and you can feed some of the butterflies if you like. 

 

Third set of photos are of some of the butterflies, moth and caterpillars to be seen inside the encounter.   The have signs warning you not to steal the caterpillars, maybe people have been tempted.   The butterflies are really beautiful and fun to photograph.    They don’t really stay still long so you have to be patient and quick to shoot them.  There were so many beautiful shots that it was had to choose which to post so I have another blog post of more of the butterflies at https://lilsusieq.com/butterflies-and-flowers-at-lukas-nursery/.

 

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Lighthouse Point Park

Lighthouse Point Park is one of my favorite parks in Volusia County.   It is a beach paradise located on the southern tip of Ponce Inlet, Florida.  Lighthouse Point Park is located on the same tip as the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum and the Marine Science Center.   For more information on the park visit https://www.volusia.org/services/public-works/coastal-division/coastal-parks/lighthouse-point-park.stml and to learn about the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum visit http://ponceinlet.org/ and the Marine Science Center is http://www.marinesciencecenter.com/.

There is a fee to enter the park, I paid $20 for the annual park pass.   Once you enter there is several places to park with 4 different boardwalks that go to the beach.  The park has an isolated feel to it, I think because of its remote location  and all the trees.  You can walk on one the boardwalks and see just trees, glimpses of the ocean and no other people.

First set of photos are of the entrance to the park and the boardwalk.   So far I have only walked the southern most boardwalk but I am sure I will eventually walk all 4.  I plan on making more trips to the park. 

 

Second set of the photos show views of the beach.  There is a pier on the rocks with lots of people fishing.    Dogs are allowed in the park and you will see signs reminding the dog owner’s to pick up the poop.  

 

Third set of photos are of some other things that can be seen at the park.   Across the Ponce Inlet you can see the New Smyrna Dune’s Park which is another wonderful park. I have a blog post about Smyrna Dunes Part at https://lilsusieq.com/smyrna-dunes-park/.   From the Lighthouse Point Park you can see the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse.   I also included some photos of people surfing and parasailing.

 

Fourth set of photos are some of the various birds that can be seen at the park.  I saw an eagle but I didn’t get a photo, he was moving way to fast!

 

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

 

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Black Bear Wilderness Area

I have hiked at Black Bear Wilderness Area several times but  only made the whole 7.1 miles one time.   Black Bear Wilderness Area is located  south of the St. John’s River and in the northwest corner of Seminole County.  For more info visit the website at https://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/locations/Black-Bear-Wilderness-Area.stml.   It is a really beautiful area and of course I have taken a ton of photos.

 

 

First set of photos includes a map of the hiking trail, the parking lot and some shots of boardwalk  There are mile markers along the trail and part of the trail is boardwalk.  

 

Second set of photos show more of the trail.  These are from my favorite part the trail – the right side of the loop and where it runs parallels the St. John’s River.   There are sections that have signs explaining the ecosystem and some of the animals that live in the area.

 

Third set of photos show parts of the trail that in not on a boardwalk.  The trail can be very rugged, especially where it runs parallel to the St. John’s River.   The trail is uneven in places with big up and down sections and tree roots growing thru the middle of the trail.

 

The last set of photos are of all the wildlife photos I have taken at Black Bear Wilderness Area.  I have seen owls, hawks, snakes, alligators, limpkins, great blue heron, insects, butterflies, turtles and much more while hiking the area.  The day I had hiked the whole 7.1 mile loop there were a lot of pygmy rattlesnakes out warming up and drying out.  This hike was in October 2018 and we had alot of rain over the summer.  The area was still a little water logged and the snakes where all of along the sides of the trail.

 

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

 

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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.   Here is the video of the show:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pybojQT-DiI&index=22&list=PLoF4TKl3RY9iXB5CGg4K3PGiRVlvD36Vu.

 

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.  You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMKbs3qupcs&index=21&list=PLoF4TKl3RY9iXB5CGg4K3PGiRVlvD36Vu .

 

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!