Tosahatchee wetlands – we’ve had a bit of rain recently
Wild Iris plants are blooming along the roadside there and I stopped to photograph one. As I was framing my image, a Swallowtail Butterfly swooped in and paused for about a second. I was startled, but had time for a single shutter press before it moved on. Thank you, Mother Nature for completing my composition!
Wild Iris (Blue Flag, Iris Virginia) and Palamedes Swallowtail
There were a lot of folks at Viera when I arrived around noon. I found one of the Sandhill Crane nests from last week’s post. I didn’t see any chicks, but all looked well. Both adults were there and standing at first so I could see one of the eggs.
I also went by the Great Blue Heron nest from last week’s post. There was one adult at that nest. Looking very closely at the images on my computer at home, I can make out a newly hatched chick.
Spring has sprung. At least in Central Florida.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
At least it is at Viera Wetlands – a wonderful place to witness bird courtship and nesting behaviors.
This Great Blue Heron was lazy. He was raiding an abandoned nest close to his and scavenging sticks to bring back to his mate. A situation like this can be a great setup for photographers. Watch for a cycle or two and you’ll get a good idea of what’s going to happen next. It’ll allow you to anticipate and get good action / flight shots.
Nesting Great blue Herons
I was back at Viera Wetlands to check on the Sandhill Crane nest that I told you about a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, that nest has disappeared. The water in that spot is much higher and the birds abandoned it when it flooded.
Sandhill Cranes seem to be a very successful species, but I wonder about their nesting habits. Building in low-lying, marshy areas seems risky. How often do they lose eggs or chicks to flooding or predators like alligators, raccoons, etc?
We did spot two other Crane nests, although we almost drove right by the one below. We heard a bird calling as it flew by and stopped to watch it land. That was when we noticed its mate and nest. A few moments later the mate rose, revealing two eggs it had been tending. It stepped away and after a quick inspection to make sure all was well, the other one carefully took its place. I hope this nest and the second one we saw will survive.
Nesting Sandhill Cranes
I didn’t think our sunrise stop along the St. Johns river was that good, but I enjoyed making this photo of fishermen leaving the boat ramp before dawn.
Let’s get an early start
The light was dim. I made a second exposure at a higher ISO to keep the shutter speed fast and the boat sharp. Then I merged the two frames in Photoshop.
Here are some photos from a trip to Viera Wetlands last week. There’s a lot to see there!
Dawn in the harbor – A sunrise stop at the Cocoa Riverfront Park on the way to Viera
Sandhill Crane and egg in nest – it’s fairly close to the berm. I think I’ll go back in a week or so and see if it’s hatched.
Deer – I’ve seen them several times hanging out at the east end of the park
Web – The spiders were busy and some of their work was catching the early morning sunlight
American Robin – Winter visitors / migrants are showing up in force
Eastern Phoebe. Ash-throated Flycatcher(?) I didn’t recognize this bird when I made the photo. and I’m still not totally sure what it is. A Great crested Flycatcher was seen at Viera Wetlands in January, but this one seems too small for that. An Ash-throated Flycatcher was seen there in previous years. Many thanks to Wally Jones for the ID help!
So I had a very nice visit to a wonderful place – if you’ve never been, now is a good time to go!
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Viera Wetlands. I had time last Wednesday, so I packed my camera gear and set out at “o-dark-thirty” to give my shutter finger some exercise.
My first stop was Rotary Park, on the Indian River in Melbourne. It’s small, but I like it because it’s open before dawn and the cochina rock formations near the shore by the pavilion can add interest in the foreground. Nature cooperated and painted in a superb sky.
Next, I headed over to Viera Wetlands. There were quite a few things to see and photograph.
Green Heron still life
Sora with a snail snack
Grackle in good light
Dragonfly in flight
The roads through the wetlands have been closed for a while because of all the rain we’ve had here in Central Florida. They’re open now, but in rough shape – lots of potholes to dodge as you drive through.
Speaking of all the rain we’ve had, I checked on the Lake Jesop Wilderness Area sunflowers again yesterday, and they’re very, very sparse this year. There are a few clumps of flowers on higher ground, but the grand fields of blooms are missing. The water’s still high and large areas are still flooded. Maybe next year.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
“There’s something on the side of that dead Palm tree.”
(Raising telephoto lens for a better look through the windshield.)
“It’s a Raccoon.”
(Checking camera settings, slightly panicked.)
“I’m getting out of the car!”
(Fumbles with seat belt and door handle)
“That’s a picture!”
(Making quite a few…)
“Oh look, it’s crawling inside!”
“Aww – you don’t see that every day!”
(Hoping the image is in focus and exposed correctly.)
Shy Raccoon disappears. Elapsed time: about 45 seconds.
No, you don’t see something like that every day. Even when you’re out looking and paying attention to what nature shows you, things like this are rare – and a treat! Coming across them is a strong motivator for me to go out as often as I can. How about you?
Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog. Now – go make some photos!
Greetings from Central Florida – the place of plentiful photo ops! I think this morning I’ll just post a few photos and comments. Hopefully you’ll find something of interest.
I found a new sunrise spot: Rotary Park At Suntree. It’s on the way to Viera Wetlands in Rockledge, Florida next to the Indian River. I like the look of coquina (very “Florida-ish”) and I wanted to see how the rocks would look at dawn. The shore line is positioned a bit awkwardly, but I think I’ll go back! An interesting point: Flickr will display a map of photos around a location. It can be a good tool for research before you go somewhere. But when I looked a Rotary Park, the coquina rocks didn’t show up in other folks photos. Hmm – maybe I’m alone in my admiration of coquina.
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers are common in Central Florida in the winter. I happened to search for them on the web yesterday and discovered that they’ll probably be split into four different species. The variety we see on the East Coast of the US are Myrtle Warblers. I guess I should pay more attention to bird taxonomy.
Taxonomy is hard though. Even though I’d seen this bird before, I couldn’t remember what it was. I use iBird on my phone and the search function sometimes isn’t very helpful. It didn’t list Phoebe as a possibility even though I entered location, size, etc. Fortunately, I have a friend that can help (thanks Kevin M!!!)
“Stay off my berry bush!”
Sometimes you take the photo anyway. Grackles are very common around here and I don’t often bother to photograph them. But this one was in good light and was squawking at me as I went by. I enjoyed imagining what he was saying!
Last time we went to Viera Wetlands we saw a Sandhill Crane couple that looked like they were building a nest. I checked that area again yesterday and didn’t see any sign of them. Since I didn’t see a nest there, I’m not sure now what they were doing – courtship behavior?
That’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
We organized a photo expedition to Viera Wetlands yesterday. I went with Kevin K., Kevin M., and Tom M. We tried a new sunrise location, Alan Shepard Park, right on the beach in Cocoa where SR 520 ends. Even though we got blocked by a train stuck on the tracks and a closed parking lot, we made it in time for the show. I was also worried that there wouldn’t be much color, but Mother Nature rewarded our efforts.
On the beach
There were a lot of shore birds on the beach with us. I have several more images to process with them in the foreground.
Our next stop was the wetlands, and this trip demonstrated the advantages of having extra eyeballs to help search for things. We went right by this Bittern until Tom saw it and got us to stop. They’re pretty reliable in the winter at Viera, but they’re hard to see sometimes. Their standard behavior is to freeze in the grass / reeds and try to blend in. They don’t spook very easy, so you can get fairly close without bothering them.
American Bittern in the grass
A little further on, Kevin M. called out a Snipe he spotted. It was on the opposite side of the car, so I got out quietly and snuck around. It took me a bit to see it even though it was only a few feet away. This one was pretty calm and let us photograph for several minutes. They’re small and usually skittish. And they fly erratically, so they’re usually hard to photograph. Again, though they seem to like to stop by Viera in the winter.
Wilson’s Snipe in the grass
Belted Kingfishers are also common around Florida in the winter. If you’ve ever seen one of these, you know how hard it can be to photograph them. You’ll see them perched on a branch and as soon as you try to get closer or even point your lens toward them, they take off and move further away. This one was more tolerant than usual and I was able to get set for it to leave. But I was over conservative with my zoom and left too much room in the frame. I did catch it, and even though it’s a little small, it’s one of my best flight shots of one. But I’ll have to keep trying.
Belted Kingfisher in flight
We spotted Red-winged Blackbirds, Black Crowned Night Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Green Herons, Egrets, a hawk, Grebes, Morehens, a juvenile Purple Galinule, and Ring Necked Ducks. And Kevin M. also called out a Ruddy Duck – which was a life bird for me but in very poor light, so I won’t post it here. Kevin K. was the first to spot a herd of deer (well four of them at least) – which I don’t see very often there. Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, Sand Hill Cranes, and Cormorants are all nesting now too.
So it was a marvelous morning. Great weather, scenery, bird watching, photography, and friends. Much better than sleeping in!
Please click on the images above to see a larger version on Flickr. And you can see many more of my photos from Viera Wetlands in this Flickr album.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
What’s Momma doing? Sand Hill Crane and chick foraging at Viera Wetlands. The chick’s concentration is fascinating.
And Great Blew Heron families (Pun intended – Windy day? Blew? Blue? ):
Breezy Blue and baby – Mom guards the nest and chicks
And caught a brief glimpse of a family of River Otters before they disappeared into the reeds:
River Otter family – 3 or 4 of them ran across the road and into the water
I have one more photo to show you. Since I started using the Olympus E-M1 II camera, I’ve been on a quest to apply its ‘pro-capture’ mode to photograph a Red-winged Blackbird in flight. Their shoulders are pretty and you can’t see them very well when they’re perched. This is my best attempt so far. I like it, but I’m going to keep trying. I’d like to catch one in a little better light and it’d be nice to have the bird facing more toward the camera. While we’re wishing, a catch light in the eyes would be wonderful too!
Red-winged Blackbird in flight –
We also looked for a different sunrise spot and stopped by a pasture on the way to Viera. Unfortunately, nature didn’t cooperate – I ended with a few uninspiring photos. You can look at one (if you must) on Flickr at this link.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some spring time photos!
It was the first Friday the 13th of the new year, but our luck wasn’t completely bad. The day started early with some challenging light and fog at sunrise. I’m glad I brought my IR modified camera and used it to cut through the limited visibility. I did get one or two pleasing photos, including this one. But it’s a B&W sunrise! What’s up with that?
The boardwalk by the boat ramp in the fog – at SR 520 and the St. Johns River
Kevin led us right to the Smooth-billed Ani (thanks Kevin!). The light was still poor and we ended up coming back later for a better look / image. These aren’t normally found this far north in Florida and they’re unusual looking with a very large beak – fun to see. People have also reported a close relative (Groove-billed Ani) on Apopka Wildlife Drive.
We saw Scaups, Mottled Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Limpkins, White Pelicans, a Wilsons Snipe, a Great Horned Owl, Coots, Moorehens, Roseate Spoonbills, and Osprey among other things.
Hooded Merganser pair
Mom and juvenile Limpkin about to enjoy escargot
The light was spotty all morning with periods of rain. There were a couple of images I tried that didn’t work out. I’m going back soon to try again. NOTE: Their website says that Viera Wetlands is closed January 16 – 20. Plan accordingly.
Based on this post and my previous one, I think you can see that the bird activity has picked up here in Central Florida. It’s time to get out and enjoy our natural wonders.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
Early morning calm – Along the St. Johns River where it crosses HW 50
On the way, we stopped at a favorite sunrise spot and even though it’s been well photographed, managed to get images we liked.
At Viera, we drove around the main cells a couple of times and saw some interesting things. This Tricolored Heron had speared a large fish and was trying to swallow it. It couldn’t hold on and dropped it just after I made this photo.
Tri-Colored Heron, this one with breakfast.
We saw a few of the regular birds there, but the ducks and other winter migrants don’t seem to have arrived yet. On the way out, Kevin M. talked us into taking a quick spin around the Click Ponds and I’m glad he did. The water’s been low there for a while and the birds are having a feast. The shallow water concentrates the fish and makes them easy prey. Birds lined up and grabbed fish out of this small stream that flowed toward the low point in the pond.
Chow line – The water level in the Click Ponds at Viera Wetlands was very low yesterday.
Over in the corner was a very large mixed flock also enjoying the banquet. I spotted Wood Storks, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Glossy and White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, Black Vultures, and a White Pelican in this one photo.
A large flock of feeding birds
So, it wasn’t a good day for fish, but the birds enjoyed it.
I have many posts about Viera Wetlands here on the blog that you can scroll through at this link, and many photos you can look through in this album on Flick.