As with most of the adventures I go on, they're often last minute, and unplanned. I was scheduled to do a Prom portrait session in this area 2 Saturdays ago and decided that I was also going to try to find somewhere new to check out for the Blog. I remembered that a very good friend of mine told me about Kraft Azalea Garden in Winter Park, FL. After bribing my husband with dinner out, and no kids for the day, he agreed to join me, little did he know he was going to be my assistant for my photo session. Off we went driving down the small, winding streets of Winter Park, passing massive luxury homes, historic homes, and modern mansions. The drive alone is worth the trip to this little park. Reluctantly, we parked under a massive Oak Tree, a tree that was frequently used by the birds, if you get what I mean. Once we exited the car we were both overwhelmed by the sounds of loud, obnoxious squawking, and high pitched chirping coming from the tree. That, is when I looked up...holy moly! The tree was full of White Egrets and their tiny chicks.
Kraft Azalea Garden Rookery
Did you know that Kraft Azalea Garden is home to a Great White Egret rookery?
I know...me neither, but what the heck is a rookery? Well...my best description of what I was seeing were 2 massive oak trees basically being used as a maternity ward for about 50 or more chicks. The tree was buzzing with new parents flying in and out of the tree bringing food to the chicks, there were about 20 nests in the tree each with 2-3 chicks per nest. The rowdy chicks were loud and very hungry some where hollering from inside of the nest while the larger chicks stood outside of the nest flapping their wings in an attempt to signal Mom or Dad. I immediately grabbed my camera and started shooting. It really did not occur to me that "what goes in, must come out" and I walked under the tree in amazement while my husband watch at a safe distance. I actually got great comfort in knowing that these new "bird" parents were just as frantic as my husband and I were when we brought our first born home, LOL. It was nice to see that not much is different in the animal kingdom we all just want to quite the screaming child/chicks. After every chick in the tree was fed, the tree was once again silent and parents with small chicks could still curl up next to them, and parents with much larger chicks could no longer fit in the nest so they sat on a branch near by keeping a watchful eye. The City of Winter Park has a wonderful PDF about the rookery, take a look at it here.
Residents of the Rookery
On top of this park being a cool place to see the Great White Egret, the park is also a great place for relaxing or taking a walk under the massive Cypress trees that surround this park. These trees sore into the sky reaching a height of about 50-70 feet. While there, I saw several other birds enjoying the park as well like; the Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Anhinga and several hawks. There is a small dock on Lake Maitland perfect for taking in the view and every once in a while you see the Winter Park Boat Tour pass.
The highlights to this park are #1 the location and #2 is the Exedra that faces the lake. Kraft Azalea boarders Lake Maitland, a massive lake that is often busy on the weekend with boaters. While the lake is popular for boaters the Exedra is a popular location for weddings. The tall pillars make the perfect sunset back drop for a wedding ceremony and if this location is not hosting a wedding you will often find it being used as a prop in many photographs. This area sees hundreds of brides, kids, Prom goers and Photographers looking to capture that special moment under this unique structure.