Wildlife at Myakka River State Park – Sarasota, Florida

I have done many posts on Myakka River State Park over the years. However, I feel as if every time I go I find a new subject to photograph. I have talked to the rangers and Florida Wildlife Federation and they all have said the same thing, “Myakka River State Park is the nicest in the state.” Since I don’t have lots of time to travel far away to other states or other countries, this place keeps on giving. Sometimes you have to be willing to go into areas where that little voice in the back of your head tells you otherwise. One time we saw a group of Roseate Spoonbills across the river crossing. We really wanted to get a good photograph of them. However, this meant crossing some low lying water, but more nerve racking…tall snake bite grass. Grass that was as tall as I am and I’m 6’4”. I decided to lead the charge over and I figured if the tall fat one goes first, at least if there are any snakes, they will either be scared or will have some tender succulent meat to try. Lucky, we all made it over and got our photos and back again without incident. Not my brightest moment I agree. I guess I need to ask for snake proof and water proof boots for Christmas.

This trip was for a class at ACE in Sarasota. They wanted a field trip out where we would see some “wildlife”. Myakka is just down the road so this seemed logical. As with any trip you never know if it’s going to be a fruitful or a flop. This trip was fruitful as we saw quite a bit for sure. We all walked away with quite a bit of stuff.

As for the tech info, it’s pretty simple. I had my Nikon fitted with my 70mm-300mm. This lens is a full frame lens, it focuses fast and has been really sharp for me, even for a zoom. Also, it didn’t empty out my checkbook. Granted some folks like 600mm or 800mm primes and that’s great, I would love one too, as soon as Ed McMahon comes to my house! My camera is only 12mp so I’m a little short for cropping, but hey it works. All of this coupled with a RAW file and we are good to go. The weather was overcast so we couldn’t take a bad photo as the light was nice and even. A good friend of mine, Tom Lovell took his Nikon D7100 fitted with this 150mm-600mm and coupled with a 1.4 extender. If you’re having trouble with the final math, let me help you: 600 x 1.4 = 840mm. Then there is the APC Nikon 1.5 multiplier on top of that: 840mm x 1.5 = 1260mm! He was able to literally get the eyelashes on a red tailed hawk out in the field.

Spencer Pullen photographed this india shrine at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, FloridaShrine from India – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

This was a first, we stopped at the bridge to see what was going on. Of course we saw wood storks, egrets, ibis and alligators. Then on top of one of the posts was this shrine thing. I have never seen anything like this before. After I photographed all of the “normal” wildlife, I decided to take a shot of this. We thought about taking it and photographing it in the rest of the photos like the gnome, but we were not sure what the repercussions might be so we left it alone!

Spencer Pullen photographed this vulture on a stick at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, FloridaVulture – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

We were walking out to the “weir”, where I came from, we call it a dam, and you can take all the dam photos you like 🙂 Sorry, I’ve been waiting to use that one for awhile! Anyway, there were a pack of vultures in the tall grass and one was on this dead tree branch. It looks like this is a popular spot, by all of the “whitewash” on the branch. I used my rule of thirds to keep him over to one side. I also used the rule of thirds to get the horizon line of grass to the upper third. This makes a nice background for him.

Spencer Pullen photographed this smiling alligator at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, FloridaHungry Alligator – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

When we got to the weir, we noticed that the alligators has positioned themselves next to where the water was falling over some pylons. As the fish made their way from the lake down to the river they had to go through this channel. It was a buffet for the alligators. They would charge every now and then. To get the fish down, they would raise their head out of the water and chew the fish. Once I saw this a couple of times, I got into position and set up the exposure and focus ahead of time and waited. In a few minutes, they did it again and I fired off about 10 shots.

Spencer Pullen photographed these crows at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, FloridaHitchcock Birds – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

It was overcast as I mentioned, there was a tree that lost most of it’s leaves and was loaded with black crows. In my minds eye, I thought this would make a great silhouette. I exposed for the sky and the camera did what it was designed to do, find middle gray. I didn’t want gray, so I over rode the meter and made it even darker. I wanted to fill in the shadow detail and get a very graphic frame. Throw a vignette on it, done.

Spencer Pullen photographed this blue heron eating at fish at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, FloridaLunch For Blue Heron – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

At the bird walk we found a few birds out eating. This might be a “duh” statement, but I have many trips out there and got nothin’ no birds, no flowers, nothing. First we saw a red tailed hawk come in and eat what we think was a mouse. Tom with his “Bazooka Joe” lens got the shot. My 300mm coupled with my 12mp just didn’t have the oomph to get out there. However, there was this Blue Heron looking for a meal and got this fish. You might notice that the grass is a beautiful gray in the photo. I asked about this and apparently they sprayed something to kill it off as it’s evasive and was going to kill the plants that birds and animals need. This made for easy shooting as we didn’t have shrubs in the way.

That’s it. Simple trip and we got quite a bit. You just never know when you leave the house if you’re going to come home with anything or not, lots of trial and error and just being there. After shooting we had a great lunch topped off with banana splits at the commissary area. Go shooting with a buddy, even if you don’t get anything, at least you’re guaranteed to have a great time!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Always enjoy the pictures and review of the field trips. The tips are great, also…thanks for sharing!

  2. Spencer,
    I am interested in working with in the ACE classes or any other opportunity that might come available. My predicament. I live in Sarasota and do not drive. Are there any options for me to get to Miakka? Do you have any regular students who come to your classes from Sarasota?
    Your comments are appreciated.
    Cindy Hardy

  3. Thanks for sharing – Always an enjoyable read!

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