Two weeks ago I went out in search of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducklings at Viera Wetlands. Usually the wetlands are quiet during the summertime, and it’s a great place to stay in your air-conditioned car while you wait for birding action. But on this visit, I quickly found several families of the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, and their cuteness made me very happy to sit out in the hot sun and photograph them!
The little ducklings are striped yellow and black for the first few weeks of their lives. They look so different than their parents! This was a very sweet family to watch. The two parents were very attentive to their little ducklings. They swam all over together, and the babies never got far from the parents. The babies spent most of the morning feeding themselves. Mom and Dad’s job was to chase off any predators.
Speaking of dangers, a small alligator sleeping on a log was a constant reminder that the marsh is not an easy place for a tiny duckling. Predators lurk at every turn. I was surprised to see how close the little family swam to the alligator. The alligator just laid there dozing.
Not all of the families were so attentive to the babies. A pair of two babies seemed to be fending for themselves. They stayed really close to the other family, but when they got too close, the parents would chase them away from their own three babies. I guess it’s “survival of the fittest,” but I was annoyed that the parents wouldn’t take a few extra chicks under their wings!
These ducks nest in cavities in the many palm trees around the wetlands. One of these days I hope to be lucky enough to see the babies as they emerge from their nest, making that leap of faith down to the water below. They do that when they are just a day old! It’s incredible. I didn’t get my wish on this visit, although I think there were babies in a close palm tree. Mom and Dad got awfully protective any time another bird flew by that tree!
The whistling-ducks are some of my favorite birds, because of their bright colors and because of that sweet joyful call that resonates throughout the marsh. I made a few little videos of them, including their calls:
I spent most of the morning photographing the ducks. But I did see some other birds while I was there, too. A bunch of Barn Swallows were roosting in the reeds, and they’d fly by, enticing me to try flight shots. The swallows are so small and fast that they are really hard to photograph well. I didn’t have my flash with me, but I still enjoyed the challenge!
I did some sunrise shots when I first arrived. The palms are very scenic as the sun reflects in the lake. But there are too many power lines in the background! I shamelessly edited out the electrical tower in Photoshop…
A pair of Roseate Spoonbills also visited while I was there. They flew in mid-morning, landing on the palm stumps to take a nap. After watching them nap for at least half an hour, I got a five-second flight shot opportunity as they left! That’s summertime nature photography in Central Florida for you! :)