I had a rare mid-week day off last Wednesday and decided to spend the morning making photographs.
First up was a site I’ve driven by many times and always said “That looks like a great place for a photo”. It’s the boat ramp off of Highway 50 where it crosses the St. Johns river. I was there before dawn and had a good time watching the sun come up and the clouds evolve. And yes, it is a good place for a photo.
Dawn on the St. Johns River at the Highway 50 boat ramp
Next, I drove over to Viera Wetlands. I haven’t been there recently and wanted to see what’s going on.
Palms, clouds, and marsh at Viera Wetlands
There are a lot of the usual birds around: Herons, Egrets, Ibis, Anhingas, Coots, Grebes, Limpkins, Ospreys, Cormorants, a Caracarra, a Hawk, Gulls, etc. I also saw a lot of winter visitors there, including Kingfishers, Mergansers, Caspian Terns, Tree Swallows, and Northern Shovelers. By the way, another good place to find out what’s going on is the Viera Wetlands group on Flickr. I usually check it before I go so I’ll know what to watch for when I get there. Other folks are seeing Northern Harriers, Loggerhead Shrikes, Horned Grebes, American Kestrels, and many more.
Caracara with prey
The Great Blue Herons are all busy courting and building nests. This is a wonderful time to get some action shots, especially of these birds in flight. If you watch one of the couples for a while, you’ll likely see the male leave repeatedly to gather nesting material. They tend to leave and return from the same direction and this gives you a big advantage when setting up to take flight photos.
Great Blue Heron pair
You can see other photos I’ve made at Viera Wetlands in this set on Flickr. If you get some spare time over the holiday break, this would a good place to spend it.
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.
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.
Un-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.
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.
Breeding 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).
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/