Beyond the BackyardViera Wetlands

A Morning of Firsts at the Click Ponds

I saw several birds for the first time this morning at the Click Ponds: two Wilson’s Phalaropes, Black Terns, Stilt Sandpipers, and a Semipalmated Sandpiper.  It was a fun morning to be out!

I arrived at the Click Ponds (across from Viera Wetlands) just after sunrise.  The Click Ponds have all but dried up and now have “gone green.”  It’s so strange to see grass growing where the water is supposed to be.  The migrating shorebirds don’t mind it this way, though.

There were at least fifty Sandhill Cranes roosting at the ponds when I arrived.  (According to Michael Libbe, I just missed the four Roseate Spoonbills and the Egyptian Goose. Oh well!)  Donna Faylo joined us and we all stood watching the cranes as they danced in the gorgeous morning light.  Most the cranes were adults, but there were a couple of juveniles mixed in.

In small family groups, the cranes began to take off and fly away for their daily routine.  Most of them flew away from us.  We talked to the cranes and encouraged them to fly towards us. The light was gorgeous!  I used my zoom lens and dialed in an extra stop for compensation.  Finally a couple of cranes flew toward us!

A bunch of my crane flight pictures had power lines and poles in the background, and I thought I would have to do some significant Photoshop work.  I was very happy when I saw that my best shot did not have an annoying background. :)

The cranes were in the southern pond.  We moved on to the north pond, which was covered in peeps.  They are small enough that it certainly helps to have a Beast to get good pictures.  Most of the birds were the tiny Least Sandpipers – I’m good at identifying those, because they have yellow legs!  The rest are a little harder.

A couple of the sandpipers were about the same size as the Least Sandpipers, but their back feathers were more gray than brown, and they had bright yellow patches.  I got home, looked them up, and found that they could be either Semipalmated or Western Sandpipers.  The Western beaks are longer than the Semipalmated, so I’m thinking this one is a Semipalmated.  Post a comment or e-mail me if I’m incorrect!

Most of the birds are at the far western end of the ponds.  So I hiked up between the ponds to get a better look.  Michael pointed out the group of Black Terns, an unusual migrant visitor.  These terns are black all over in their summer colors, but in the wintertime, they have gray black and black patches on their faces.

The people on Birdbrains have been reporting a family of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks at the Click Ponds.  I haven’t seen them in my previous trips, but they were out today.  They kept swimming pretty far away, and it was easy to lose them.  I waited for a while, and they finally came close enough to get a few pictures with The Beast.

The sounds of Black-Necked Stilts are all over the ponds these days.  There were lots of adults and juveniles, plus a couple of babies.  They fuss a lot.  I waited until one had a good reflection, then framed a shot…

Some birders told us where to find the Stilt Sandpipers, which are a lot bigger than I expected.  As we watched, Michael noticed that one of the birds was spinning in circles.  That’s what the Phalaropes do, so we forgot the sandpipers and began watching the spinner.  Actually there turned out to be two spinners, which we identified as Wilson’s Phalaropes.  I wished I could get closer – these birds are rather pretty up close!  I put on my 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters, then used Live View to focus.  None of my still shots are very good, but the video isn’t bad…it shows the Phalaropes spinning, the Stilt Sandpipers in the background, and Black-Necked Stilts in the foreground.

Shorebird migration time is fun!  Now maybe I’ll see a migrating warbler at the Circle B Bar Reserve tomorrow… :)