I wish I knew how to predict what sunrise will be like. But I don’t, so I just show up and see how it’ll turn out. Here’s the first photo I made last Wednesday:
The water is wide
And this next photo is from nearly an hour later. The color and clouds were going strong the whole time!
Rays and reflection
That daybreak was remarkable. I’ve been out photographing some mornings where the colors only pop for a few moments. And I’ve been out other times where they don’t really pop at all. If any of you know how to predict this kind of thing, I really want to hear from you. If you too want to know, don’t ask me!
Well, our summer season has already arrived here in Central Florida. It’s hot and I was chased by many mosquitoes (and chewed on by a few) as I photographed the sun coming up. I think our recent afternoon thunderstorms have made the bugs worse.
And the birds seem to have moved on, or at least they’re hiding in the places I normally visit. There weren’t many to see along Gator Creek Road or Black Point Wildlife Drive. I did stop by the Green Heron nests that I bypassed on my last visit (https://edrosack.com/2020/05/17/minwr-11-may-2020/). I didn’t see any nesting activity, but this cooperative young one was still hanging around.
Youngster – This juvenile Green Heron has fledged and is out in the world fending for itself
And here’s one final image – a panorama of some trees that I thought were interesting in infrared.
Pines and palmettos
Changing the subject again – I hope all Dads out there are having a wonderful Fathers Day! Thank you for all you do – you make the world a much better place!
“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father.” Lydia M. Child
I miss you Dad. I hope we made you as proud as our families make us.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!
Like most of you, it’s been two months since I’ve been any distance from home. I’ve kept making photos on walks in our neighborhood, in our yard, or along the way on necessary trips around town. But I’ve been itching to go out on a photo specific excursion and now our stay at home orders have been relaxed here in Florida. So last Monday I drove over on a solo trip to check out Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of my favorite nature locations.
I made two circuits around Black Point Wildlife Drive. I looked for sunrise spots and landscapes on the first pass. I might’ve seen a more colorful dawn than this one, but not recently. And the calm winds made for a lovely reflection.
Tranquil bay – Along Black Point Wildlife Drive, about 15 minutes before sunrise.
On the second pass I scouted for wildlife / birds. I didn’t see a tremendous number, but there were enough to make it interesting.
A little spotty: Spotted Sandpiper and reflection. I was happy to find this one since I seldom see them.
There was a feeding frenzy in one of the canals along Black Point. Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons and Ibis were feeding on plentiful minnows. The location was really nice since it was next to a path where I could walk out to get a better angle on the action. Often when I find these, they’re far away or hidden behind mangroves and hard to photograph.
Got one! A Snowy Egret catches a minnow.
If you click on any of these photos, you’ll be able to see a larger image on Flickr. You can then click again to enlarge it even more. Look at the Snowy Egret’s beak to see the minnow it caught in that splash.
Green Heron fly by
Speaking of Green Herons, there were three cars pulled over when I went around the corner at the rest stop on BPWD. People were out and gathered by the canal photographing something I couldn’t see back in the mangroves. In “olden” times, you could find a lot of interesting things by stopping next to other photographers. You still can I suppose, but now days I’m a little pandemic paranoid and getting too close to people can make me nervous. I passed up this stop and kept going – I learned later that they were looking at Green Heron nests. I have to say though that MINWR seems about as safe as you can get. It’s not hard to maintain social distancing by staying in your car and choosing where to get out.
The next image is from a little later on Gator Creek Road. At the time, I just liked the scene / composition with two birds on one rock. I didn’t realize what I had until I got home and looked at it on the computer.
Sharin’ Stone – Hopefully, I identified these correctly: A Semipalmated Plover on the left and a Semipalmated Sandpiper on the right. If so, it’s my first photo of both species. Two life birds in one image!
Which reminds me that I’ve wanted to mention an app. It’s called Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Labs and it’s very good at identifying birds using photos. It seems to be very accurate and complete. And it’s free! It called out the species in this photo for me (but I did ask my friend Kevin M’s. opinion too).
I saw other things on this trip too. Alligators (of course), an opposum, Black Neck Stilts, Roseate Spoonbills and more. One thing I didn’t see: the rock stacks on Gator Creek Road are gone – yay!
MINWR was a very good choice for my first post lockdown photo trip. I was tired when I got back, but I felt rejuvenated. I’m very lucky that I can find many of my favorite photo subjects so close to home. And last Monday at least, they weren’t collecting fees on BPWD.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Hang in there, stay safe, and take care of each other. And if you can – make some photos!
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!
Kevin M. invited me to go out photographing with him last weekend, but I begged off since Lynn and I had just returned from Pennsylvania and I was tired. Instead we went out on Friday to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Kevin K. was in town and he tagged along too. It’s been over six months since the three of us have been on a photo excursion together. Much too long!
We met way too early and car-pooled over, stopping at Titusville Marina Park for sunrise. Riding together is great for catching up with friends!
Dawn on the Indian River
Dawn was subdued until the sun actually rose, when the color finally popped. Photoshop and the Topaz Clarity plug-in might’ve helped nature out a little too.
We saw several other photographers (and non-photographers) also out too early.
We didn’t spot any unusual birds on Friday, but we did enjoy photographing a few of the common ones. This “Swamp Chicken” was posing with its reflection in good light;
And so was this Tri-colored Heron:
… and this Green Heron too (although it wasn’t kind enough to include a reflection):
We’ve been having torrential rains nearly every afternoon. and the water is very high around Black Point. The St. Johns river is also high – the area around where it crosses SR 46 is flooded although it doesn’t come all the way up to the road. I hope we don’t get a hurricane any time soon – adding even more water could be dangerous.
And the rain has created a great environment for mosquitos – expect to get bit unless you wear some repellent.
One more (small, kind of sad) story. We saw two pigs at Black Point. The second was along the canal near the exit. I snapped a few photos of it and when I got home and looked at them the poor thing was obviously deformed. I don’t want to post my images, but if you’re curious, look at Kevin K’s photo. It doesn’t look like a recent injury – this little pig is a tough survivor. I wonder if it’s a birth defect or from an encounter with an alligator or other predator?
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Kevin K. and I went over to Black Point Wildlife Drive last Tuesday. The water levels were low and although we saw quite a few birds, many of them were far from the road and hard to photograph. Here are some images from the trip that I like.
Hunter’s Dance – A Reddish Egret stalks fish in the marsh
These Egrets have a distinctive dance they use to scare up fish. It seems to work for them!
Morning minnow meal
Green Herons use a different technique. This one was wading carefully through the mangrove roots on the side of a canal looking for a snack.
Stalking in the Mangroves
And finally, here’s a photo of a Great Egret taking off from a tree beside the trail.
Great Egret Launch
This one was a little slow – normally birds are gone by the time I get my camera ready!
Surprisingly, it’s been 2 1/2 years since I’ve been to the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida. Surprising because although it is a longer drive for me, it’s such a wonderful place. Every time I go, I realize again that it’s well worth the time.
Anyway, four of us from the Photography Interest Group woke up very early (me at 4:25 am!) and headed over. Sunrise wasn’t as colorful as some mornings are, but the calm winds made for nice reflections.
Calm morning – Looking west before sunrise
When we had enough light, we all shifted to birding mode and explored. The temperature was just right for walking around. We saw many warblers in the trees and bushes – I think most were Yellow-rumped, but I’m not so good with IDs on smaller birds.
U lookin’ at me? Yellow-rumped Warbler
And the canals were full of wading birds looking for breakfast.
In spots the surface of the water was completely covered with duckweed, but incredibly the birds still managed to grab small minnows.
Snowy Egret and minnow
I saw another egret pounce and come up with a stick, but as I watched it dropped the stick and kept and swallowed the minnow that was also in its beak – amazing skills!
On the way out we parked for a few minutes to meet some famous new arrivals.
Great Horned Owl nest and chicks
It wasn’t hard to find this nest – the tree was roped off, and a volunteer was doing a good job protecting the site and keeping all the photographers in order and back away from the birds! It was nice to see these two little ones, and it was nice that all the people were polite and respected the bird’s space.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Viera Wetlands are two of my favorite places to photograph and I had time to visit both last week. They’re each wonderful and seem similar, yet they can be very different. When I was at MINWR, it was very quiet with few birds or other wildlife around. July isn’t the best time for birds in Central Florida, so I wasn’t expecting much.
On the other hand, Viera Wetlands was full of activity. Right away, we saw a couple of Osprey fishing:
Osprey with catch at Viera – always fun to see and a thrill to get a good, in focus photo
And as we walked around we saw Sand Hill Cranes, a Caracara, Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Swamp Chickens (Common Gallinules), a Red-bellied Woodpecker, Least Bitterns, Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White Ibis, and Green Herons.
Green Heron at Viera – posing nicely in very good light
My friend Kevin M. was with me, and he saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. We also spotted a family of four otters crossing the road, and multiple Alligators.
Why did we see so much more at Viera than Merritt Island? Was it the weather (don’t think it was much different)? Time of day (we were there a bit later)? Water type (fresh vs. brackish)? Vegetation? Kevin’s luck?
I really don’t know. I’m just grateful I went to both places and got to see so much. The moral of the story: If one of your local photo spots is quiet, try a different one. You never know what you’ll see.
Next, along Gator Creek Road we found a group of preening Roseate Spoonbills. I liked the contrast between their pink and the blue sky reflected in the water.
Later at the Visitor Center, we found a great many butterflies. They seem to like these Buttonbrush plants.
And Green Herons were common too, especially at the rest area on Black Point Wildlife Drive where we saw several nests and juveniles. This one (also at the Visitors Center) drew my eye as it posed against the silver-like water while it waited to strike an unwary fish.
Green Heron in a silver pond
With the hot weather starting to arrive, there’s not as much activity at Merritt Island as there sometimes is. But there’s still a lot to see and photograph.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
Most people just call the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands near Viera, Florida “Viera Wetlands”, although I’m sure they mean no disrespect to Mr. Grissom. I hadn’t been there in a while, and since it’s one of my favorite places I took a trip down to check on things last week – it didn’t disappoint.
On the way, I stopped by Kelly Park in Merritt Island for sunrise. I’m not sure if this Great Blue Heron was really getting ready to fish, or just enjoying the beautiful, pre-sunrise light, but I was glad it waded into my photo.
The early birds get the fish – Looking east over the Banana River from Kelly Park in Cocoa, just before dawn.
At Viera Wetlands, I got to watch this otter’s antics as it enjoyed a dirt bath in the road:
River Otter dust bath – I watched it rolling around in the dirt on the road for a while. When it had enough, it stood up, shook itself off, and moved back into the water.
I also watched this scene and although I felt badly for the frog, I guess I should feel good for the bird:
Hooded Merganser catches frog at Viera Wetlands – This doesn’t end well for the frog.
I don’t see Green Herons as often as some of the other herons and egrets, so it was nice to watch a number of them in the reeds along the sides of the berms. This pose is typical of one of their hunting techniques. They’ll perch frozen on the water’s edge and wait for prey to come within striking distance. Green Herons are reportedly one of the smartest birds. I haven’t seen the behavior, but they’re said to drop small bits of food or insects onto the water to attract fish.
Concentration – A Green Heron stalks its prey.
Viera is a great place to see Great Blue Herons courting, nesting, and raising young and there are several pairs active now. I saw one nest with very small chicks already hatched. I also saw many of the regulars there including alligators, Great Egrets, Tri-color Herons, Scaups, Coots, Red-winged Blackbirds, and others. On the way out I also took a turn around the Click ponds, but didn’t notice anything I hadn’t already found in the main areas. A great trip and well worth the time!
Click on the photos to go to Flickr, where you can see larger versions (the otter photo especially where you can see all the dirt it’s flung around) . You can also see more photos from Viera Wetlands in this set on Flickr. And I have many older posts about Viera Wetlands – you can look through them from this link.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I’m extremely fortunate to live near the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and the more I learn about it, the bigger and better it seems. I’ve been going to Black Point Wildlife Drive for several years, but only recently started exploring other locations in the Refuge. If you only have a short time to visit, Black Point is a great place to see – but there’s so much more. If you have time, visit East Gator Creek Road, Shiloh Marsh Road, Bio-Lab Road, Scrub Ridge Trail and other areas. Look here for maps of these and other MINWR trails.
Kevin M., Lutfi and I were in place on East Gator Creek Road this morning in time for sunrise. It was my first time at this spot and I was very happy with the views. Highly recommended for sunrise shots!
Merritt Island Sunrise
Next, we drove up to Shiloh Marsh Road. We were able to drive in only a short distance from either end before the way was blocked by chains – I think for duck hunting season. If you decide to drive this road, check to make sure it’s open and make sure your vehicle has plenty of ground clearance. There are some grand canyon sized potholes out there.
After Shiloh, we drove Black Point Wildlife Drive. This road was resurfaced this year and is in very good shape. Not too many potholes here.
Little Green Heron in flight; I made this photo very close to the same spot a few weeks ago – is this the same bird?
Finally, we headed over to the MINWR Visitor Center to see if the Painted Buntings had arrived for the winter. But it was closed too – we’re not sure why.
Today was a wonderful day for wildlife and nature watching. We saw Spoonbills, Ospreys, Redish Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets, Little Green Herons, Belted Kingfishers, Tri-Color Herons, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, Crabs, a deer, flowers, Bald Eagles, Ibis, European Sparrows, Cormorants, Anhingas, Cardinals and butterflys among other things.
Butterfly and flower
For more info on MINWR, this search will bring up other things I’ve written about it. And you can view some other photos I’ve made at the Refuge on Flickr here, and here.