Friday, April 4, 2014

My Favorite Places: Vol 1: Anastasia State Park

My Favorite Places for Nature Photography: Anastasia State Park, St Augustine, FL

One of the most common questions I get asked is, "where do you take those photos?" so I decided it was high time for a post addressing that topic.

A very brief introduction about me:
I currently live in Texas for school, but I grew up in Florida, and my parents still live there. Thus I am traveling back and forth from Florida to Texas a lot to visit them.

OK, on to the actual subject: Anastasia State Park

Anastasia State Park is probably my most favorite locale for bird photography. It's less crowded than "famous" sites like Ding Darling or the Alligator Farm, but it is no less spectacular for birding. Anastasia State Park is located in St. Augustine, on the East (Atlantic) coast of Florida. The state park website is here.

What sort of habitats does the park encompass?

One of the best things about Anastasia State Park, in my opinion, is that you can visit a variety of habitats within the park borders. This varied landscape is also part of what makes the park so attractive to wildlife (and people!). 
Areas I would definitely recommend scouting out for birds are: the salt marsh and the beach. There are also a few small trails into woodland scrub habitats, if you want to look for songbirds. But I like water birds, so you can usually find me by the salt marsh.

What sort of animals should I expect to find?

Anastasia State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, so it's an excellent location for birding and bird photography. Of course, insects, small mammals and small reptiles also make the park their home. A list of the bird species that have been recorded in the park can be found here. 

Wood Stork
Favorite species include: roseate spoonbills, the american oystercatcher, osprey, and the wood stork. I have found that this park is one of the best places for seeing wood storks in north Florida. They particularly like it when people have been fishing!

Tips for Visiting the Park

If possible, I would recommend visiting the park at low tide. A quick google search will easily bring up the times for the tides. During low tide, all the little inhabitants of the salt marsh are exposed, attracting flocks of avian visitors looking for an easy meal. I generally see the largest numbers of species when I visit at low tide. However, I find that the wood storks, herons, osprey, and egrets are present even in high tide - so do not despair if you are unable to visit during the low tide.

Roseate Spoonbills


Of course, there is more to the park than the salt marsh. Anastasia State Park boasts a lovely, clean, beach that is full of wildlife. I have found this an excellent place to photograph gulls, terns, and other shorebirds. In fact, I have an entire post on shorebirds here, most of which I photographed at Anastasia.

Royal Terns
Particularly in the winter, you may be able to catch groups of migrating ocean birds stopping to rest in the park. You can generally find me sprawled out on the sand, in jeans and a t shirt, camera resting close to the ground, lens trained on an unassuming cluster of birds. Yes, that is how I visit the beach when I go to Florida.

Immature Tricolored Heron
In short, Anastasia State Park is worth the drive over if you are in the area. It boasts a wide array of wildlife inhabitants, along with recreational opportunities for fishing, hiking, and lounging on the beach. Yes, I do believe you should support your local state parks!

Equipment information:
Nikon D70 + 70-300mm Nikkor zoom lens +/- manfrotto tripod

What's your favorite spot for nature photography? Let me know!

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