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Accidental photography, Lake Ida edition
osprey and fish
An osprey looks dinner in the eye, photographed along Lake Ida Road, winter 2015.

DELRAY BEACH — We've titled this feature "accidental photography" but there really isn't anything accidental about the pictures themselves.

What is accidental is the circumstances under which they were shot — the places and the times. They're illustrations of one of our favorite photographic maxims: "F8 and be there." Be where the action is, have your camera and have it ready to shoot.

The thing with nature photography, you don't always know where "there" is. When we hike a preserve or park, we never know what we'll see. We've come across black bear, gray fox, bobcats and a host of unusual or rare birds or butterflies. But in a sense, the unexpected is the expected. That's why we were there in the first place.

We shot these pictures while on our way to do other things in places where you don't expect to find anything worth shooting. However, I did have my camera with me, and critically, I had the time and opportunity to pull off the road and safely shoot some pictures.

The other accidental component to these pictures: they were all shot along Lake Ida Road in Delray Beach, although at different times. Also note: these pictures were taken at places where it was safe to pull over and exit our car safely — always the priority — and without interfering with traffic. No shot is worth risking injury and always be respectful of other drivers.

It's common to see ospreys perched atop power poles but not so much getting ready to eat dinner like this one was. We were on our way home from a shopping trip when we saw this guy with a fresh catch — fresh enough that it was still flopping.

The osprey was high enough that our presence didn't bother him a bit while close enough to present a degree of intimacy that's unusual. We were able to take our time and find the best angle and fire off enough frames to capture the best detail.

Another shot of the osprey ...

Southern flea bane is among the most common wildflowers blooming in spring. Drive along the turnpike and you'll see large patches of them.

But this patch along Lake Ida in a drainage depression near S.D. Spady Elementary School caught our eye for its huge size — we're guessing 30 yards by 30 yeards — and the density of the blooms. Add in the early evening sun illuminating at just the right angle and we had a scene we could not pass up.

Next time we passed by, the flowers were gone.

Update: We've passed this site in subsequent years without seeing a bloom anywhere near this spectacular.

flea bane
We found this field of southern flea bane while driving along Lake Ida Road on a trip to downtown.


flea bane bee
A closeup of the flea bane. We used a Nikon D3000 with a Sigma 70-300 mm lense with a macro feature.


Mexican pricklypoppy looks like a cross between a thistle and cactus if indeed you could cross the two plants. Or perhaps holly and a cactus. It has formidable thorns that say, "don't mess with me," while producing large, eyegrabbing yellow flowers. The flowers in form remind us of the California poppies we had in our yard many years ago. the foliage, however, is not even close.

prickly poppy
Mexican pricklypoppy, found — where else — along Lake Ida Road.

This is not a particularly rare plant in South Florida. It is a native, and it's found in 59 conservation areas, according to the Institute for Regional Conservation.

But this the first place we've seen it and about the last place most people would look for anything this beautiful: along the railroad right of way along Lake Ida just east of I-95. Call this find a bit of serendippity.

For the record, the plants are just off the sidewalk and far enough away from the tracks that passing trains aren't a safety threat. Also, there was an adjacent parking lot where we could safely get out of our car and take our pictures.

— David Sedore

Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.