We left The Great Outdoors in Titusville on Thursday morning around 11:00 pm and headed about two hours north to St Augustine, FL where we are spending the Easter holidays at Stagecoach RV. This a wonderful park not far off I-95 but we don’t hear any traffic noise at all. Mostly pull through sites with only about 20 back in sites around the perimeter of the park. Very clean through out and nice size lots. We have a 50 amp, full hook up site and free wifi too. Our pull through site even comes with a concrete patio slab. We are here for five days using our Good Sam discount. AAA is also accepted. Because of the holiday weekend and school break, St Augustine is very busy.
The main purpose of our visit here was to spend some time at the St Augustine Alligator Farm & Zoological Park. We’ve heard lots of stories about the bird rookery and alligators at the farm and decided this was simply a “must stop” on our way back north. I bought a photographer’s pass online on Thursday night and printed off a copy of my receipt to present at the Alligator Farm at 8:00 am this morning. The park doesn’t open to visitors until 9:00 am but the photographer’s pass got me in to the bird rookery at 8:00 am, so we had the boardwalk to ourselves for an hour before the park opened. I wasn’t really sure what lenses to pack in with me so I kept it pretty simple. I rolled in my Think Tank Airport International bag with a tripod, 300 mm, and 70-200 mm lens and my flash with Better Beamer. Turns out I didn’t need my tripod at all. I had my 500 mm in the Vue just in case I needed it too. There were a dozen other photographers all waiting to enter the park at 8:00 am. The boardwalk through the rookery basically stretches over the lagoons below and winds it’s way through the trees where the birds are currently nesting. The number of alligators below was astounding with a few “monsters” swimming about that easily measured 14 feet long and likely weighed close to a ton. Lots of birds to photograph and I was quite happy to be able to use my 300 mm for most of today’s shooting, although I could have used my 500 mm to get closer to some of the higher nests in the taller trees.
The Farm really is a wonderful place and the bird rookery got me even closer to the birds than my time at Venice Rookery. I hear Gatorland in Orlando is also very good for being close to the birds. It was pretty hot and humid for most of the morning but a thunderstorm did roll through and that cooled things off a bit. I pulled my camera bag into the entrance of a presentation building during the rain but stayed outside photographing some of the birds as they huddled in the rain. I stuck with my 300mm most of the morning but even that was a little too long to get a good angle for some of the flight shots. Think next time I may just use my 70-200 instead and see how that goes. Lots of great egrets with chicks in the nest as well as some of the wood storks. Snowy egrets, cattle egrets, roseate spoonbills and tri colored herons were nest building but didn’t see any young ones yet, although there were eggs in some of the nests so it won’t be too long now.
The park opened to general admission visitors at 9:00 am but with the rain, we didn’t really see any significant amount of people arrive until almost 10:00 am. I shut it down soon after that but it took me almost 20 minutes to get off the boardwalk what with the crowds and also another great bird shot or two on the way out…..that I simply had to have. The gators are simply majestic and there is nothing more entertaining than hearing a group of them start to grunt in unison. It’s kind a really loud rumble from their throats. At first, I didn’t know where the noise was coming from but then I could see the gators sort of rear their heads up out of the water and their throats would swell up a bit while they sounded off. Wow!
I took a ton of photos and it will take a few days to get through them all. Today’s shots are just a small sample of what’s to come, so please check back for more in a day or two. The photographer’s pass is excellent value for money. It is good for a year and also gets buyers admission to the park’s annual photography contest. $80 to get this close to birds is not too bad as far as I’m concerned. You are guaranteed to get some great shots here.
On a housekeeping note, regular readers may notice I have taken down the Google Friend Connect widget from my sidebar. Early last month, Google decided to disable the Friend Connect widget for all blogs except those hosted by Blogger. Not sure of the reasoning but it is what it is. All that to say that about the only way to follow our blog now is through Facebook, Google +, RSS feed or readers can also get updates sent to them via email. So if you like what you see, why not please send a link to your friends. Maybe they will too.
Enjoy today’s photos. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. Happy Easter everyone!