As the music writer for the Suncoast Post for the past six years, 2020 brought a standstill to national concert tours and theater that usually keeps me busy photographing and writing. So, while we all wait for shows to start up again, I decided to do some local traveling and take a look around at some places in Florida I have not been to before but have heard about. I need to keep my camera eye and myself in working order.
Lake Morton Royal Gift
A few months ago, I had read a story about the Queen of England giving a pair of swans to the City of Lakeland for Lake Morton. The lake is in the middle of downtown Lakeland and has been there since 1927. In 1954, the last swan that was on the lake was apparently attacked by an alligator. If you didn’t know this, the Queen of England owns all the mute swans in the United Kingdom. A Lakeland resident sent a letter to the Queen asking for a pair of her swans for the lake. Her highness agreed to send them as long as someone paid for transportation from England to Lakeland. The funds were raised and the two swans were sent. Since then, the swan population has become an attraction for the city.
Currently there are approximately 65 swans at the lake. There are various species of swans residing. There is the Northern Hemisphere white mute swan, so named because it is less vocal than other swans. The Southern Hemisphere rare black swans mainly located in Australia. There are also South American black neck swans and one pair of Coscoroba swans. In doing some research I found that swans can weigh up to 30 lbs., a male swan is called a cob and a female is called a pen. Black swans can be aggressive and their wingspans can go up to six and a half feet.
In walking around Lake Morton, I saw many water birds including seabirds like egrets, pelicans and seagulls. The birds of the lake are primarily the swans and several species of ducks including the mallards, wood ducks and the Pekin duck which is the white duck with the orange bill. There are several feeders that you can purchase food for the birds around the lake. People do bring bread to feed to the birds, I brought a few pieces of multigrain bread to throw. Be prepared, when you throw bread you will be surrounded quickly, they saw me and flew in from across the lake!
As I walked along the lake, I saw several pens with signs not to feed the birds. I wondered what this was about and then I saw a nest of 5 eggs that a black swan had been sitting on. The eggs take 30 to 45 days to hatch. As you walk the lake, you will find birds sitting along the lake preening their feathers, taking a rest from the water. The surrounding neighborhood is both commercial and residential but a quiet and restful spot. A great place for photographers to take family photos as well as photos of the bird life.
It’s an easy drive to Lake Morton from the Sarasota/Manatee, take exit 31 off I-4. A nice rest stop on your way to Orlando or just to take a ride and see something new. Traveling without having to go too far from home!
Photos courtesy of Vicki Sullivan