Beyond the BackyardViera Wetlands

Productive Morning at the Viera Click Ponds

After hearing on Birdbrains about the early fall migrants at Viera Wetlands, I had to make a trip over there.  The wetlands itself was very unproductive, with not even the Purple Gallinules showing themselves to me.  No Black-bellied Whistling Ducks greeted me, either.  But over in the Click Ponds, there was a ton of activity.  It was the first time I’d seen American Avocets, and they are really cool.  Black-necked Stilts and their young are all over the dried-up ponds, and the sandpipers and other small birds are definitely starting to make a comeback.

From what I’ve read, the Click Ponds are drained once a year as part of the water treatment activities.  They are almost completely dry right now, with green grass even starting to grow in the southern pond.  It’s strange to see.  It works out well for the little Black-Necked Stilts, though, who have a nice safe place to feed.

The adult stilts are very protective of their young.  They start fussing when a human approaches, and they sometimes fuss even when you just stop your car near their kids.  In the meantime, the baby stilts wander around unconcerned.  It’s almost comical.

There were a few smaller chicks, like the one above, but most of the small stilts have gotten pretty big.  I watched a small family group do a flying lesson.  It was cool to see the juvenile stilts fly in circles with Mom and Dad…and it was very nice of them to do that right in front of me!  I took the 1.4x TC off the Beast for easier focus acquisition, and had a blast trying to  catch these fast birds.

The dried-up ponds were covered in small shorebirds.  My shorebird identification isn’t great, but I know I was seeing Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, both Great and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Killdeer.  This was my first opportunity to get a decent shot of a Spotted Sandpiper (when I saw on last April, he didn’t show off his spots very well!)

I’ve begun hearing Killdeer around the neighborhood again for the past two weeks or so.  They were plentiful at Viera on Friday.  I like the red ring around their eyes…now if only I could get some good flight shots!  Their wings are very pretty when spread for flight.  It’s too bad they don’t slow down very often… :)

The American Avocets were my favorite birds at the ponds.  They are fall migrants (yep, fall migration begins in July! Isn’t it great?)  These are still in breeding colors (the reddish blush on their heads is their breeding plumage).  I think it’s interesting how you can tell male and female avocets apart – the females’ beaks curve farther up than males’ beaks.  That’s different.

The birds stayed together in a pretty tight flock, but I was able to isolate a couple of groups.  I wish they’d been closer.  I’d love to have an hour to spend with one close enough to me to fill the frame.

Over at the main wetlands, I caught a group of Mottled Ducks flying overhead.  I didn’t see any babies, although some have been reported at Viera.

An Osprey posed obligingly on a palm stump for me.  I’m pretty sure this is a recently-fledged Osprey, due to the colors of his feathers, especially around his eye.  He flew off and dive-bombed a fish.  Poor fish.

I found a family of Common Moorhens with three babies.  My babies-in-isolation shots weren’t great—there was too much reflection in the water.  All summer I’ve been after a tiny just-hatched moorhen chick in nice calm blue water.  Maybe I’ll have to wait till next year!   But I did like this shot of Mom with the chick.  I had a cool feeding shot, too, but there was something about this one with their heads in the same direction.  It’s like Baby is doing everything that Mom does.

So all in all, it was a productive day at Viera.  And the best thing about Viera is that you don’t even have to leave the air-conditioning to get out and get good pictures! :)

Bird Species List: (36 total): American Avocet, American Coot, Anhinga, Black Vulture, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Black-necked Stilt, Boat-tailed Grackle, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, European Starling, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Green Heron, Killdeer, Least Bittern, Least Sandpiper, Least Tern, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Mottled Duck, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Osprey, Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-winged Blackbird, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Snowy Egret, Swallow-tailed Kite, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork