I went to Viera Wetlands on Saturday morning. After all the rain on Friday, I wasn’t optimistic about the light level (I actually didn’t decide to make the drive until Saturday morning at 5am!) There was virtually no sun till the very end of the morning, but the babies were cute and I was relatively pleased with my work from the morning. I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Donna Faylo, as well as running into Kathy Urbach and Nancy Elwood. We had a great time trying to catch a Least Bittern in flight. :)
When I first arrived at Viera at sunrise (a misnomer, as the clouds blocked all the sunlight), I went to the Click Ponds. People have been posting on Birdbrains that the low water levels have been attracting wading birds to roost at night. When I drove up, there were no less than 50 Sandhill Cranes standing in the water. There were also tons of Black-necked Stilts and little sandpipers. Then the Sandhills started taking off in small groups of three or four. I tried for some take-off shots, despite the low light. This one looked pretty good after a Levels correction in Photoshop.
A couple of Wood Storks posed in the misty light. This one is a juvenile, probably recently fledged. His face hasn’t yet acquired the “ugly wrinkles” of the adult stork.
I was surprised by the number of baby Black-necked Stilts at the ponds. At one point I found a rather chubby adult, who seemed to have too many legs. It wasn’t until I got home and blew up the image that I realized that the “chubby” adult had her wings around two little chicks! Most of the babies were rather far away, even for The Beast. But on the far side of the ponds, I found a couple of fairly young babies right at the edge of the water. There were a bunch of reeds in between my car and the babies, which is probably why the parents weren’t upset about me. I had to inch back and forth to shoot between the reeds, but I finally found a good little window…
I moved on into the wetlands, hoping to see the King Rail chicks from my last visit. All was quiet along Cell 4, though, and throughout the rest of the wetlands. I think the birds were staying in bed because of the icky weather. (Smart birds!) I drove around the perimeter without seeing much at all. When I came across the palm tree trunk with the Red-bellied Woodpecker nest in it, I parked and waited for a while. Pretty soon a little baby stuck his head out from one of the holes. I could hear little voices coming from inside the hole—these babies were hungry! Pretty soon an adult came to feed them:
After the baby was fed, he popped his head back through the hole to look out. He seemed pretty inquisitive about the world around him. Then he started to play his own little version of Peek-a-Boo. He cracked me up until I remembered to put my camera in video mode and hit “record!”
After I left the woodpeckers, I came across Donna, Kathy, and Nancy. I wondered why all the photographers were camped out on the side of the road – all I could see were American Coots! Then Donna showed me the family of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. There were about fourteen tiny chicks out for a a swim with their parents. They were adorable!! I’ve never seen whistler chicks that small before. Last year at Circle B they were a few weeks older before they made their first appearance. These ducklings grow quickly and have a pretty high mortality rate, so it was a privilege to get to photograph them, especially out in the open. I must admit to a bit of Photoshop trickery for this shot:
We wondered how the parents ever manage to keep up with a family of 14. The babies were such fun to watch as they dove head-first into the water, with their legs sticking straight up and flailing about. I couldn’t resist another little video:
Somebody noticed a Least Bittern who flew in and posed out on an open reed. The photographers must have made an interesting sight as we all aimed our cameras in his direction to shoot. He’s a male still in his breeding colors, with the dark head and bright orangey-pink lore. I wished the sun had been out!
After the bittern left and the whistling ducks swam away, I circled around in search of the Purple Gallinule family that I saw last week. I found the babies by listening – their little calls are unmistakable. I sat waiting for them to make their way out of the reeds. Donna joined me, just as the little family emerged into a clearing in the reeds. First the adult ventured to the edge of the reeds, then she was followed by the babies.
We had a fun time photographing the babies while they begged for their breakfasts. There were four chicks total, and two parents, who seemed to alternate caring for the little ones. A couple of the chicks made their way down to the water and seemed to peck at the water plants, but their primary source of nourishment was the tidbits from their parents. They sure do a cute little dance with those little winglets!
One of the adults seemed to need a break from her family, and she hopped up onto a reed. I quickly switched to vertical. Look at those big feet! I imagine those long toes come in handy when the birds make their way across the vegetation. The light was just horrible, but with exposure compensation to the right and +1EV flash, you can see the bird’s feathers glean.
As I left the wetlands, the Black-bellied Whistling Duck family was back out, and of course I had to stop for more pictures. It’s really hard to isolate the ducks with such a big crowd of babies, and they are always moving! This duck approached his mom and let me take a fun nose-to-nose sequence. The little birdie had something important on his mind. He noticed that his feathers looked nothing like his mom’s. So he just had to ask…”Mommy, was I adopted?”
Bird Species List (37 total): American Coot, Anhinga, Black Vulture, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Black-necked Stilt, Boat-tailed Grackle, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Crested Caracara, Double-crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark, European Starling, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Killdeer, Least Bittern, Least Sandpiper, Least Tern, Limpkin, Mottled Duck, Mourning Dove, Northern Bobwhite (heard), Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Osprey, Pied-Billed Grebe, Purple Gallinule, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Sandhill Crane, Snowy Egret, Swallow-tailed Kite, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork
Want to learn more about nature photography at Viera Wetlands?
Check out my Viera Wetlands page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
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Wow! you had a great day!!! Today only 13 baby chicks……….that’s 1 down.
I never got them in “good water”. So darn cute!!!