June 15: It’s Nature Photography Day!

Today is a special day for those that like to connect with nature and wildlife, and capture those awesome moments on camera. From the National Day Calendar website:

“The North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) along with millions of photographers and photography lovers across the nation observe Nature Photography Day on June 15th. Nature lovers and photographers alike celebrate this day with enthusiasm. They capture the breath-taking beauty all around us and encourage others to see the wonders of our natural Earth.”

Here are some photos and videos we have taken along or near A1A over the past few months.

Once known as Confederate Oak, this majestic live oak is located at Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens in Port Orange. This botanical garden has allowed nature to take over manmade existence twice; once after the sugar plantation was destroyed during the Second Seminole War in 1836, and after the 1952 closing of Bongoland, a failed amusement park that featured dinosaur statues throughout (a few still remain on the grounds). Though maintained, the gardens offer lush trails to walk through natural habitat.

A visit to Ponce Inlet provides an opportunity to see dolphins, manatees, and birdlife with Ponce Inlet Watersports. They offer a eco-tour by boat that takes you around the inlet and enjoy the mangrove scenery, often with the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in the background. The two-person boat crew was knowledgeable on where to locate dolphin pods; on our June 14 tour, we sighted several dolphins, a couple of manatees, snowy egrets, and blue herons. My travel buddy for the day, Priscilla, was able to capture the dolphin (above), with her iPhone, breaking the surface.

She also took this shot of some birdlife within a grove of red mangroves: egrets and a blue heron.

At Ponce Inlet, we found this pelican relaxing on its perch and a flock of egrets nesting among the mangroves in the background. Of course, the plane flying overhead added some contrast.

Driving A1A along Flagler Beach in the early morning provides some awesome sunrise views, even with clouds overhead. For much of this section of A1A, there is little to no development on the beachside.

The Spanish Pond Trail, part of the massive Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve in Jacksonville, is a two-mile round trip hike through hardwood hammock, wetland, and salt marsh that takes you to an observation deck. Though considered an urban hike, there is nothing city-like about this trail. It is a beautiful hike, with a haunting feel to it—Spanish Pond was the site of a bloody encounter between the French and the Spanish in 1565 that led to the Spanish capturing nearby Fort Caroline.

On my hike, my reptile sightings were limited to lizards scattering through the leaves along the trail. But do take care, eastern diamondback and pygmy rattlesnakes do inhabit the park area.

A hike here would not be complete without knowing about the life of Willie Browne, whose cabin location and family gravesite can be accessed on the trail. Check out this Florida Times-Union article, “Willie Browne’s enduring gift to Jacksonville: Nature” by Mark Woods (December 25, 2010).

A gem in the Florida state parks system is Washington Oaks Garden, where on our last visit, we did see three snakes: the beautiful eastern indigo. Non-venomous, each were basking in the sun along the garden trails.

Along with the history of Washington Oaks, this park features the namesake oak tree, native and non-native fauna surrounding the oak, and its famous rose garden created by the original owners of the park. From the website:

“In 1936, the land known today as Washington Oaks Gardens State Park was bought and given to Louise Powis Clark by her husband, Mr. Owen D. Young. Clark was a designer from New York and Young was an attorney and industrialist who had been chairman of the board of General Electric Corporation and RCA. He also advised the federal government on international monetary issues and was named 1929 Time Magazine “Man of the Year.” The house, built in 1938, became a winter retirement home for Clark and Young.”

A short walk through the Black Rock Trail at Big Talbot Island State Park brings you to Boneyard Beach, a shoreline scattered with sun-bleached remains of live oaks.

Boneyard Beach is also a great spot to capture a sunrise.

Although located within the Jacksonville Zoo, this rookery brings a large flock of wood storks each year during its late spring nesting season, This rookery over the years has nelped increase the population of these birds, resulting in an upgrade in status from endangered to threatened—it is considered one of the most productive rookeries for word storks in the Southeast United States.

Fairchild Oak, located in Bulow Creek State Park, is one of the featured sites along the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail, an approximately 30-mile drive that goes through several Florida state parks, along the Atlantic Coast, and on roads canopied with live oaks. Over 400 years old, Fairchild Oak has a haunting legacy involving the deaths of James Ormond II and Norman Haywood, and some reported apparition sightings. Mainly, it is a beautiful tree located in a beautiful setting.

When traveling A1A , you know you have have arrived in South Florida when sighting these beautiful Royal Poinciana trees. This tropical evergreen tree was photographed in Key West.

When driving the Overseas Highway, make sure you explore the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key. Though endangered, a little patience will pay off—we have seen more than several key deer each time we have visited.

And speaking of deer, here is a doe and her fawn at Tomoka State Park, located within the Ormond Loop.

A visit to the Florida Keys guarantees wonderful sunsets. This one was captured at Lorelai Restaurant and Cabana Bar in Islamorada. The most well-known spot to see a sunset is at Key West’s Mallory Square, but the Florida Keys offers many locales for both sunrise and sunset photo ops.

One of the many beautiful state parks along A1A, Fort Pierce Inlet State Park provides a chance to enjoy a day in a natural coastal area. Along with beach activities, visitors can explore nature and wildlife, which includes a wide range of birdlife. Over 300 bird species visit Fort Pierce Inlet each year.

If you have any awesome nature shots, especially but not limited to A1A, please share. And while you are at it, we’d love for you to subscribe to our Rode A1A blog.

Happy Traveling!

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