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Area 5 is a reclaimed muck farm near the Emeralda Marsh. About 10 to 12 years ago, this was a premium fishing hole for bass and blue gills.  I had one trusted hole where I could catch blue gills all day long nearly as fast as I could cast a line.  Today, the lake is mostly overgrown with weeds and grass.  Although pretty much impossible to navigate with anything other than an air boat, it is a refuge for water fowl.  On my most recent trip, the lake was filled with coots, ducks, herons, egrets and other wading birds.

Little Blue Heron
Lesser Scaup

We even encountered a water moccasin sunning along the bank of Lake Griffin.  Fortunately, he was more interested in the late afternoon sun than us and didn't even seem to notice as we walked around him.

Cottonmouth

When I bought my first DSLR in 2005, my go-to place for photographing birds was the Emeralda Marsh. With my trusty new Nikon D70 and a Sigma 500mm lens, I romped through the wetlands looking for anything that would sit still long enough for me to snap a photo. Then, the marsh was perfect with a lot of water and plenty of birding opportunities.

The next few years would not be kind to the marsh, though. A combination of drought and meddling in nature by the St Johns Water Management District, drained much of the marsh and the wet areas became overgrown with vegetation. The large areas of water frequented by so many wading birds seemed to disappear and it wasn't long before most of the birds were gone.

The above photo was taken in 2005.

This photo was taken at the same area in 2012. Although it is zoomed in, you can see that the area is completely dry...and still is today.

Much work has been done by St Johns Water Management District in the marsh over the years and there appears to be a genuine attempt to restore the marsh.  Currently, they are in the process of improving the drive and access to the marsh and reconnecting the marsh to Lake Griffin.