Every drive through reveals something different: a blue Belted Kingfisher, playful otters or a family of raccoons, a bobcat, a stunning orange sunset.
The Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, open since May 2015, has garnered quite a following, and some folks make the drive weekly, hoping to catch a glimpse of flora and fauna they haven't seen before. The Facebook page has become a popular stop, with close to 2,500 followers looking to see the latest photos posted.
A collection of these photographs will be on display in an art exhibit Jan. 31 through March 3 at the Winter Garden Library, 805 E. Plant St.
Ten of the photos from 26 amateur and professional photographers were selected by three local photographers for an exhibit at Apopka City Hall last fall. The remaining 15 were chosen by Phoebe Gonsalves, who approached the library about sharing the exhibit.
Exhibit guests can see a variety of wildlife, such as wading birds and songbirds, butterflies, a coyote, a bobcat and, of course, alligators.
Gonsalves, a Winter Garden resident and one of the photographers represented in the display, founded the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive Facebook Group a year ago. Its purpose was to give nature lovers a chance to share their sightings and adventures on the drive and in the parks that surround Lake Apopka.
“We are a different group, as my vision was to teach the community, so I recruited the best experts around on flora and fauna, conservation and restoration of the lake,” Gonsalves said. “We have all kinds of birding and butterfly experts, biologists, naturalists, an alligator expert and photography professionals who all chime in and help us ID things and teach us. As well, in the past year, the members have become so incredibly knowledgeable, it is hard to tell who is who anymore.”
Members also have started posting their “Live on the Drive” adventures to heighten the experience of being there.
“LAWD members are passionate, sometimes rounding the 11-mile drive multiple times in a day,” Gonsalves said. “It’s a little slice of paradise in their backyards. But, it is not just local folks; numbers are growing with out-of-state members and even international members.
Gonsalves has been taking photographs since she was a teenager, carrying her camera everywhere she went. She said that on one of her first visits to the wildlife drive, she captured a picture of a bobcat, surrounded by Spanish Needle, snoozing on a berm in the sun. Below it, on the water’s edge, was a large alligator.
The LAWD group is also displaying photos through May 19 at Harry P. Leu Gardens and in May and June at the Orlando Public Library. To join the group, go to facebook.com/groups/lakeapopkawd/.
“The group has helped excite the community about the LAWD, getting out and enjoying nature, and learning about the flora, fauna, conservation of the wildlife, environment and the restoration of Lake Apopka.” Gonsalves said.
Photographs will be on display were taken by these citizens: Patty Bates, Donna Bertrand, Tamar Boorstin, Robyn Churchill, Randy Clark, Sonia Durrance, Lynn Marie Folts, Phoebe Gonsalves, Glenn Hall, Suzi Harr, Karen Havling, Jennifer Hew, Ted Hollander, Kathy Johnson, Lilo Johnson, Stacey Kelly, Mary Lander, Hortensia Law, Kimberly McCumber, Michelle Nardone, Tina Pruitt, Patricia Sanders, Tiffany Skora, Sherry Straus, Robin Ulery and Michelle Wilson.
Contact Amy Quesinberry at [email protected].