Viera Wetlands – a birder's paradise?

Intro / Description

OK, so maybe you don’t look at the top of my blog very often, where it says “Central Florida Photo Ops – What & Where they are, and tips on how to photograph them”.  That’s the main purpose here – to let others know about all the great places to make photographs in the Central Florida area.  So I feel like I owe an apology to all my loyal readers and the wildlife / nature / bird photographers that have visited my blog in the past without finding any mention of the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, also known as Viera Wetlands.  I’m sorry and I’ll try to do better – but I do have a day job!  And there are so many fabulous places to photograph around here!

Note: you can click on any of these photos to go to my Flickr photo stream and view a larger version (click on the magnifying glass icon at the top). There’s also links at the end of this entry to the my entire set, my slide show version of the photos, and some links to other photos of Viera Wetlands.

Some winter color in the trees at Viera WetlandsViera Wetlands

Our Phototgraphy Interest Group traveled to Viera Wetlands yesterday.  Located at the west end of Wickham Road, in Melbourne, Florida (behind the water treatment plant), the Viera Wetlands offers birders and photographers a close encounter with many species from the comfort of their automobiles.  Since cars are such a good blind to photograph from, you can often get quite close to the wildlife without disturbing them.  I’ve only been there one time (so far!), but if my visit with the Photography Interest Group yesterday was any indication, this is a very nice place to watch and photograph birds.  I should have checked it out ages ago.

Great Blue Heron full closeupUn-cropped photo of Great Blue Heron.  I did get out of the car for this one!

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:  You can get photos of many of the species right from your car.  The dirt roads are fairly narrow – so if you do exit your vehicle to get a “down low” perspective, or whenever you stop to get a shot – be courteous and make sure you pull over as far as possible to one side.

The roads are one way.  The perimeter road runs counter clockwise and so most of the photo ops will be on the driver’s side, although the roads through the center of the Wetlands do have some scenery and birds out of the passenger side.

The Viera Wetlands official site has a visitor’s checklist brochure you can download that lists all the species that have been sighted in the area, along with a map and some other information.  The brochure is here:  http://www.brevardcounty.us/environmental_management/documents/VieraWetlandsChecklistV3WEB.pdf.  It’s well worth looking at before you go and gives you an indication of how common each species is in the Wetlands.

An American CootAn American Coot (the bird – not the author)

Crested CaracaraA Crested Caracara in flight. (Photo by Kevin McKinney)

Tripod/Monopod :  Definitely allowed – you can bring all the gear that will fit in your car.  You may also want to bring a bean bag so you can rest your camera on your car’s window sill.

Lenses:  Some of the birds get quite close to the side of the road.  I probably don’t have to tell you that for birds, longer lenses are better. But you can get by with a not so long lens here. I used my 70 – 300 on my D90 (1.5 crop factor = 450mm equivalent).  I also got some good frames with my 70 – 200 on the full frame D700.

Best time to visit : Now is a great time.  There’s lots of activity and the weather is what Florida is famous for.  Many of the birds are getting their breeding plumage.  In general, early February through June (nesting season) should continue to be a good time to go.  Go early in the day when the light is good and the animals are active.

Glossy IbisBreeding colors are starting to show in this Glossy Ibis.

Other : Normal hours are Monday through Sunday, Sunrise to Sunset. The dirt roads through the wetlands are sometimes closed due to heavy rains.  If this is the case, you can still walk in.  You can also call ahead to make sure the roads are open (see below).

Summary

The photos I’ve posted here are just a few of the ones we made on Saturday, and this was just some of what there is to see.  This is a place worth going to multiple times.  Check out the links below for more images of different species.  You could also visit the Photography Interest Group on Flickr to see the photos that the others made yesterday.

Also, there’s a group on Flickr that appears to be pretty active and has many photos and discussions about Viera Wetlands.  If you’re interested, you may want to visit there to learn more and even join.  Here’s the link: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1224030@N24/

My Gatorland photo set on Flickr: The set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157623223995224/

A slide show version: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157623223995224/show/

Website: http://www.brevardcounty.us/environmental_management/VieraWetlands-Home.cfm
Address / Phone: 10001 Wickham Road

Melbourne, FL 32940

Information:  321-637-5521

Current Road Conditions:  321-255-4329

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Bird fan bonanza – shoulda gone sooner!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

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