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Viera Wetlands is Open Again!

Viera Wetlands has been closed since Hurricane Irma.  It recently re-opened and I headed over there to see if I could ease the pangs of my Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive withdrawal.  It felt great to be out again but the wetlands were not particularly active.  The vegetation has grown up and filled in places that used to be prime duck-watching locations.

The Great Blue Herons are starting to nest in the tops of palm trees.  If I get there before sunrise, I usually head to the center of the wetlands to photograph the heron silhouettes against the orange sky.  The heron on the right was alone on the nest for a long time.  When I saw her stand up and arch her neck, I knew her mate was about to fly in.  I love how the detail in their feathers is accentuated in this image.

Nesting Great Blue Herons

Nesting Great Blue Herons

After the sun got too high in the sky for heron silhouettes, I turned around and looked for birds posing in the beautiful golden light.  Wading birds like this Tricolored Heron flew to the tops of dead palm trunks, posed briefly, and then flew off squawking in their quest for breakfast.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Who can resist photographing a first-of-fall coot?  They are the harbingers of a great Floridan winter birding season!

American Coot

American Coot

The wetlands were alive with the calls of birds, particularly this Belted Kingfisher, who was on the prowl for breakfast.  She flew from treetop to treetop, watching the water below her.  When the conditions were right, she flew out and hovered over the water, then dove straight down to grab her prey.  Silly bird, she always took her fish to a far-off tree to eat it.  But she did perch close enough for me to take her picture.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

The Great Blue Herons are not the only birds with nesting on the mind.  The Anhingas are starting to stake out nesting sites on the tops of dead palm trees, too.  This pair was fun to watch as they defended their location.  Want to see what happens when the male is sitting on the tree trunk and the female decides to visit?  Lots of flapping wings…I was surprised they didn’t knock each other off!

Anhinga Pair

Anhinga Pair

I look forward to returning in a few weeks as the activity picks up.  :)

Quiet Time with the Little Birds

This weekend I headed to a small park near our house for some quiet time.  The weather is finally starting to cool off, the sky was a bright blue, and the light was golden – the perfect conditions for a fun photo shoot!

Although Eastern Bluebirds are year-round residents in Central Florida, I don’t have that many images of bluebirds.  So when I heard the sweet, chortling call of the bluebird, the Beast and I set off to find it.  Turns out “it” was a pair of them.  They were on the hunt for their breakfasts.  Like a flycatcher, they would perch at the tops of the trees, then dart out and catch insects in mid-air.  They sang the whole time.

Eastern Bluebird (Female)

Eastern Bluebird (Male)

Eastern Bluebird (Female)

Eastern Bluebird (Female)

The Palm Warblers have been back for about a month now, and they were all over the place.  Also joining us now are Yellow-rumped Warblers.  When the trees are full of warblers hopping around, it’s harder to find the other little birds, like this Ruby-crowned Kinglet who popped out to say hello.  I asked him to show me his ruby crown.  He said he wasn’t feeling particularly agitated, so he didn’t show me his crown.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

I heard the Tufted Titmice before I saw them.  Then one of them hopped to a nearby branch, dug about for a few seconds in a dew-studded spiderweb, and then emerged triumphant with a small acorn.  He showed off his trophy for a couple of seconds to ensure that I got a good picture before he swallowed the acorn whole. :)

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmice weren’t the only cute little gray birds.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers hopped around and posed periodically for the camera.  I never get tired of photographing these little acrobats.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

I turned around at one point and was surprised to see a male House Finch perched close to me.  I got a few quick shots before he flew off with two of his friends.  It’s fun to see them outside of my backyard.

House Finch (Male)

House Finch (Male)

Our last bird of the day was also the one who gave me the quickest look at him. I spotted this White-crowned Sparrow, fired off two frames, and then the bird disappeared and I never relocated him.  It’s fun to see the sparrows returning to Florida.  Maybe on my next visit I’ll see more varieties.

White-crowned Sparrow (Juvenile)

White-crowned Sparrow (Juvenile)

Only two weeks until Thanksgiving and a wonderful week of birding!

Fall Walk at Orlando Wetlands Park

My Beast and I ventured out of our backyard yesterday for the first time since Hurricane Irma.  We headed to Orlando Wetlands Park and greeted all the fall birds that have moved in for the winter.

The park didn’t look all that different post-Irma.  The first birds to greet us were, as usual, the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.  They congregated on their trees and chortled out a sweet hello:

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

The whistlers are such clowns.  Four of them were lined up on a tree branch as the sun rose behind them.  They flapped and called and finally all pointed their heads towards the camera.

Black-bellied Whistling Clowns

Black-bellied Whistling Clowns

It’s easy to walk right past the little birds, who stay hidden in the reeds.  This Marsh Wren finally ventured out where I could see most of him…

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

The Savannah Sparrows are back, and they will hop out in the open and pose for you.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

After photographing turtles all summer, I was a little out of practice on fast focusing and flight shots.  This Green Heron took pity on me.  He flew past me, gave me time to focus on him, then turned around and flew right back in front of me.  What a nice bird!

Green Heron in Flight

Green Heron in Flight

It’s impossible to go to Orlando Wetlands without photographing the fishing Snowy Egrets.  Yes, Michael, I had Elton John in my head as I recalled your “tiny dancer” image!

Snowy Egret Fishing

Snowy Egret Fishing

This Sora ventured briefly out of the reeds to let me photograph him.  It was a treat that didn’t last long.

Sora

Sora

The Belted Kingfishers are back in Florida.  Two of them entertained me yesterday chasing each other around the wetlands.  Then one caught a fish and took it to a branch to eat.  Mmm, breakfast!

Belted Kingfisher with Fish

Belted Kingfisher with Fish

Two Red-shouldered Hawks were having a heated discussion over which of them should sit on a particular perch.  They ended up chasing each other across the marsh (and neither of them got the perch).  Silly birds.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

On my walk back I spotted a juvenile male Common Yellowthroat in the reeds.  You can tell he’s a juvenile male because his face mask isn’t as black as an adult male.  A Zorro in training!

Common Yellowthroat (male)

Common Yellowthroat (male)

All morning I heard the calls of Gray Catbirds and Eastern Phoebes, but I was almost back to my car before I photographed my first one.  This Phoebe was having a great time catching bugs.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

My last bird of the morning was a White-eyed Vireo who called to me as I left.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

All in all, it was a wonderful walk on a cool morning, and it felt great to be back out!

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