The last time I visited Viera Wetlands was in March of 2019, so I’ve been wanting to go back. Each time I checked the road conditions hotline, it said they’re closed to vehicles. But the message hasn’t been updated since mid-November and I suspected (hoped?) it wasn’t accurate. This week I decided to go down anyway.
I started the morning with a pretty sunrise at the River Lakes Conservation Area Boat Ramp where the St. Johns crosses SR 520.
A very calm morning
Then I headed down to Viera. The hotline is correct – the wetlands roads are closed to vehicles and there’s some repair work going on. I haven’t found any info posted about when they expect to allow cars again. Anyway, I took off on foot with my camera and had a nice walk around the east half of the park closest to the parking area. Here are some of the things I saw.
“Who are you lookin’ at?” (3). These early morning deer were very alert and very suspicious of me and my long lens. I saw about a dozen of them and there were probably more. I liked the light on this group and how they were all staring right at me.
Redwing Blackbird launch. I managed to catch it just as it as it took off.
Cormorant in flight – There were a great many there that morning.
Sunning Anhinga. There were a large number of anhingas too, and this lady was enjoying the early morning light.
I heard lots of Sandhill Cranes but only saw them in the distance and there was one Spoonbill that was too far away for a photo, I didn’t see anything rare or exotic on my walk, but there were plenty of smaller birds, water birds, vultures and alligators. And I enjoyed my time out in nature and got some steps too!
And Eastern Meadowlarks declined by ~70% (73 million):
A Messy Molting Meadowlark – Joe Overstreet Road, Osceola County
The study is based on multiple independent data sources including bird counts and radar information. This particular study didn’t investigate causes, but habitat loss and degradation are seen as the biggest overall drivers of the decline.
The news isn’t all bleak. Raptors have increased by 15 million since 1970 due to banning some pesticides, and waterfowl gained 35 million because of wetland regeneration. This shows we can make a difference.
I haven’t been on a photo expedition recently, so this week I’ll cheat a bit and show some images that haven’t been on the blog before.
Orlando Wetlands Park, October 2017. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama converted to B&W. I don’t convert sunrise photos to B&W very often, but the light in this one is pretty.
Space View Park, February 2018. An alternate view to the one posted back then. Looking east at dawn. You can see the hurricane damage to the dock that hasn’t been repaired. Olympus hi-res, two frame panorama.
Red-winged Blackbird, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017. Common around here, but those epaulettes are attractive!
A gull and the ocean, Cocoa Beach, January 2018. This is also an alternate view to the one posted back then. I bracketed exposure due to extreme contrast and to get some detail on the bird. Blended in Photoshop
Please click on any of these to see a larger version on Flickr. And thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos! I will too!
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!
I realize this post comes a little late for Earth Day. But I usually only publish once a week on the weekends, and on April 22nd I was out enjoying the Earth.
“Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970″ Wikipedia
I haven’t written anything here about Viera Wetlands lately and decided to head down and see what’s going on there. On the way, I ran into this scene. I really liked the clouds, the way the their edge leads to the sun, the reflections in the calm water, and the illumination on the flowers in the foreground.
Earth Day sunrise by the Arlington / St. Johns River at SR 50, east of Christmas, Florida
I think Viera Wetlands is an proper place to celebrate Earth Day. It’s a water reclamation facility and the very clean water provides a home for many birds and animals. Here’s a link to a chart showing the 233 kinds of birds sighted there, organized by month. Last Thursday, I saw: Alligator, American Coot, Anhinga, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Double-crested Cormorant, Osprey, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron,Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Limpkin, Pied-billed Grebe, Common Gallinule, Grackle, Northern Cardinal, Mockingbird, Least Bittern, and Red-winged Blackbird.
This next photo is interesting. The bird was hiding in the reeds and severely back-lit. I couldn’t really tell what it was but managed to focus through the plants and get a good exposure. At the time I thought it was probably a Green Heron since I’ve seen many of them at Viera. When I got home and could check it on the computer, I realized it was a Least Bittern, a much rarer sighting (for me anyway).
Had I realized it then, I’d have spent more time trying to get a better photo. Two teaching points (remember these, Ed): 1) The camera is a good tool for extending your eyesight. It can see what you sometimes can’t. 2) Always take the photo – you can’t be sure what you’ve got until later.
Least Bittern – I found this little one hiding in the reeds at Viera Wetlands. It was extremely back-lit and hard to see.
Here’s one more somewhat interesting photo from that day. To me, these look like a large sparrow, but they’re actually female Red-winged Blackbirds. If you start trying to ID it by comparing it to different types of sparrows, it’ll take you a while to climb back out of that rabbit hole. The good news is that once you do learn this ID you’re more likely to remember it next time. If you’re interested, here’s a photo of a male.
Female Red-winged Blackbird
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!