I hadn’t been to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in a while and decided to head over last Monday. On the way in I stopped by the pier on the west side of the A. Max Brewer Memorial Bridge. When photographing a sunrise (or anything else!) I try to stay aware of things in other directions. Looking north just before sunrise, this sail boat caught my eye. I like the subject, colors and reflections:
A pretty place to anchor
Winter is such a wonderful time to visit MINWR. The variety of “snow birds” you could spot is amazing. Here are a few I found.
I haven’t seen a Snipe in a long time – the sun’s glare hid it pretty well, but the long beak gave it away:
These enormous waterbirds hang around all over Central Florida in the winter, but it’s still nice to see them. Every one I spotted was either far away or horribly back lit.
High Key White Pelican
Northern Shovelers show up each winter:
Her and Him
Northern Pintails show up too, although I don’t run across them as often:
>Him and Her
And Willets and Lesser Yellowlegs are fairly common, although it’s unusual to see a choreographed pair and their reflections:
Definitely worth a visit – I’m glad I went! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, visit a wildlife refuge!
I headed out toward Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge with KM and KK last Friday.
We stopped by the boat ramp at the St. Johns River on US 50 for sunrise. There weren’t many clouds, so my hopes for color weren’t too high. But there was a nice pop as the sun came over the horizon and I zoomed in to capture this moment:
St. Johns Sunrise – a peaceful pasture
I had my infrared modified camera in the car. When I saw these fishermen leaving, I pulled it out and hurried over to make an image. Despite rushing, I like the way it turned out. The clarity that IR brings to this image is nice, and the wake and boat reflection are pretty too. I’m glad I had the camera all setup to go before I grabbed it!
Early departure – Monochrome, infrared
KM is an ace at spotting birds and he called out this Merganser. When I got home, I thought at first it might be a Common Merganser – which I’ve never seen before. But it turns out their range doesn’t include Florida. So this was a Red-breasted – which I have seen, although infrequently.
There are a large number of Northern Shovelers around Black Point Wildlife drive. Of course they were mostly far away and when they were close, they seemed to always face in the wrong direction. But patience paid off when this male eventually swam slowly in front of us in good light and dragged his very handsome reflection with him.
Male Northern Shoveler
Thistle plants are also all over on Black Point – this one came with a Bee on it. I made a four image panorama to record the whole subject with higher magnification and resolution. Sometimes I run into issues stitching these together. But this one turned out well:
Thistle and Bee
KK called out this Snipe in the mangroves along the canal and we of course stopped to photograph it. The light was poor, with the sun behind it. When I first looked at my photo on the computer, it was very washed out. I added some dehaze in Lightroom and was pleased with the result.
Smaller birds were flitting around near the rest stop on Black Point. I usually find these hard to photograph. The light is bad way back in the reeds and they move quickly. It’s tough to focus on them through all the obstructions. I was shooting toward the sun for this image too and it didn’t look good at first on my computer. Thankfully it’s in focus and there’s a lot of latitude for processing with a RAW format file. I used local adjustments with the radial filter in Lightroom to boost the exposure and visible detail on the bird.
When we left on this trip, I had no idea what we’d see and photograph. There are no guarantees. I’ve learned though, that Mother Nature usually rewards us when we pay attention to her – in this case with a nice sunrise and several birds that I rarely see. And a little post processing rewarded me with improved photos.
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!
Although it was very tempting to sleep in this morning, I was up early and made it over to Viera Wetlands in time to witness another one of nature’s shows. The clouds cooperated and did their part, the sun and calm water pitched in, a couple of coots made just the right ripples, and all I had to do was snap the shutter.
Sunrise at Viera Wetlands
Once the sun was up, we parked the cars and walked for a while, thinking that the slow deliberate approach would yield better photos than the quick drive method. It didn’t – we failed to find much of interest on foot. The light wasn’t very good either – due to the clouds that made the sunrise so nice. We ended up getting back in the cars and using them to find things of interest. And after a while, the clouds cleared and we had better light for bird photography.
Last week we saw several Snipes, but couldn’t get good photos since they took off and flew fast and erratic as soon as we got close. This week our luck was better (or this bird was a bit tired). He stayed still for us to make his portrait.
Wilson’s (Common) Snipe
We saw the usual Heron and Egret suspects, along with Anhingas, Hawks, Black Crowned Night Herons, American Bitterns, Savannah Sparrows, Northern Shovelers, and Sandhill Cranes. I was able to photograph two new (for me) species – Ring Neck Ducks, and Lesser Scaups.
We also took a turn ’round the click ponds and there was a great deal of activity there. This Cormorant surprised me when he came up with his breakfast.
Cormorant with fish
We had a great time. Clicking on these photos will open them on Flickr, where you can view larger versions. You can also visit my Viera Wetlands set on Flickr to see other photos I’ve made there.