Beyond the BackyardViera Wetlands

Expect the Unexpected at Viera Wetlands

Dyeyo and I went to Viera Wetlands this morning with hopes of finding some of the babies reported on Birdbrains, and maybe the Fulvous Whistling Duck that was photographed there yesterday.   It’s summer, though, and I wasn’t optimistic that we’d find much, especially since we don’t get to Viera often and so are not as familiar with the area.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Starting with the Least Bittern that greeted us and ending with a King Rail chick, it was a great morning!

Viera is known for being a place where it’s relatively easy to find Least Bitterns.  I haven’t seen a single one at the Circle B Bar Reserve this year, and I’ve yet to photograph one out in the open – ever.  Well, we arrived at Viera today, drove to the center area near the observation tower, and Dyeyo almost immediately said “Least Bittern!  Out in the open!”  I couldn’t believe it.  There were actually two birds, one still in breeding colors.  That was a first for me, too. :)

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

But my favorite Least Bittern image came later in the morning, when I noticed one sitting up in the reeds.  It wasn’t until I aimed the Beast at him that I realized that he’s a recent fledgling.  He still has down on the top of his head and back.  I really like how the pale green background contrasts with his brown feathers.

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks were active this morning, calling to each other as they hopped from palm tree to palm tree.  The dead stumps were perfect perches for these silly birds.  While I have fun shots of the whistlers from Circle B, the Viera pictures are different because of the great background bokeh that comes from the green trees in the distance.  I didn’t see any ducks that seemed to stick to one tree only, so I’m not sure if they are nesting.  Nor did we find the Fulvous whistler, either.  Maybe next time!

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

There were Common Moorhens (or I guess Common Gallinules, as they are now called) everywhere, with chicks of all ages.  I’ve been wanting to find recently-hatched chicks up close.  At that age they are so ugly that they are adorable!  We lucked out and found a whole family that was out in the open.

Common Moorhen

Common Moorhen

We also came across a family of Purple Gallinules with tiny babies.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen gallinule babies this small.  They can’t be but a day or two old.  We had met a really nice lady on a golf cart, who is lucky enough to live five minutes away from Viera.  She comes almost every day, and today she was looking for the gallinules.  I hope she found them along the west side of Cell 1.  (If she makes it to my webpage, leave a comment or e-mail me.  I’d like to know your name!)

Purple Gallinule chick

Purple Gallinule chick

But the best surprises of the morning were the King Rails.  First we came across the adult, making his way along the north side of Cell 4.  He moved so fast!  We had to run to keep up with him.  He gathered quite the crowd of onlookers, and had no less than 4 500mm+ lenses pointed at him.  He didn’t seem intimidated by the people.  Given that rails are usually so secretive, it was a treat to be able to observe him for so long.  His fan club was mostly photographers who had heard of or seen the pictures of the rail family taken a few days ago.  We kept asking the adult where his babies were!

King Rail

King Rail

We finally gave up on seeing babies.  When we circled back around to the rail location, the fan club was still assembled, but for all their watching, they still hadn’t seen the chicks.  So we drove on.  Then I spotted a little black fuzzball running along the cell edge, just where the adult had run earlier.  I got a few quick shots and realized that this fuzzball was neither a Common Moorhen nor a Purple Gallinule.  So I had a feeling it was a baby rail.  But the bad thing was that it was clearly a chick separated from his parents.  He ran quickly, calling a distress signal, trying to locate his family.  For all my excitement in seeing a baby rail, it was also a little sad to do so under these circumstances.

King Rail chick

King Rail chick

As we drove to Viera this morning, I remarked to Dyeyo that Viera is so much smaller than Circle B.  But to this small King Rail chick, I suspect the wetlands felt as big as an entire universe.  Can you imagine being only three inches tall, unable to feed yourself, plowing through grasses and reeds to try to find the only two adults who will take care of you?  It’s no wonder that the poor little guy cried and cried.  “Find me!  Feed me!  Where are you?”  He finally made his way back into the reeds, where we’d seen an adult disappear not too long before.  Of course we can’t know for sure, but I’m going to believe that he found his mom.  Poor little guy, I hope he doesn’t stray away from his family again!

Bird Species List (20 total): American Coot, Anhinga, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, European Starling, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, King Rail, Least Bittern, Mourning Dove, Osprey, Pied-Billed Grebe, Purple Gallinule, Red-Winged Blackbird, Sandhill Crane (heard), Tricolored Heron, White Ibis