Beyond the BackyardViera Wetlands

Roseate Spoonbills at Viera Wetlands

There are so many Roseate Spoonbills at Viera Wetlands right now!  The Click Ponds were recently drained, and the low water levels have attracted lots of wading birds, especially Roseate Spoonbills.  It’s an incredible sight to drive up and see several hundred spoonies feeding in a group right in front of you!  The Roseate Spoonbills are some of my favorite birds.  Their pink feathers and long spoonbills are such fun to photograph.  I especially like it when their feathers catch the light of the sun.

Pink Fly-In
Pink Fly-In

It may sound strange, but it’s hard to get good shots when there are so many birds!  In addition to the spoonbills, there were dozens of American White Pelicans, White Ibises, and Snowy Egrets feeding in the water.  The spoonies feed in a large group, and their proximity makes it hard to isolate single birds for pleasing images.

Spoonbill Heaven!
Spoonbill Heaven!

When I first arrived, it was a little before sunrise, and the sky was pink  and so were the birds.  I took the above shot with my iPhone since I hadn’t anticipated needing my wide-angle lens!  The last time I’ve seen so many spoonies together was last year at the Circle B Bar Reserve when the water levels there were really low.

Roseate Spoonbill Portrait
Roseate Spoonbill Portrait

It was great seeing a bunch of photographer friends that morning at the wetlands.  We all sat on the sandy beach on the edge of the pond, which offered a great angle on the pretty birds.   Nobody wanted to wade out into the water for good isolation shots!  (Never mind that the water flowing into the ponds was green…this is a waste water reclamation facility, after all!)   Then most of the other photogs headed off, and the spoonies started to get more active.  They flew in front of us, and before long, most of the group had re-gathered to our right.  The remaining birds were easy to isolate and still in pretty nice light.  I guess it pays to be patient and wait for the good photo ops!

Spoons Up!
Spoons Up!

A few of the birds were starting to get their breeding colors.  This one stood in the mud and periodically threw his head up in the air.  He was pretty fast, and I had fun trying to capture the behavior.

Spoonie with Fish!
Spoonie with Fish!

It was so special to sit there so close to these gorgeous birds.  I guess they heard that Michael got a new camera and needed a good opportunity to use it for the first time!   The birds find it really easy to feed in such low water, which has a high concentration of the little fish that they like to eat. Look closely in the shot above and you can see the fish that the bird is tossing into his mouth.  (My friends all know that I can’t take a picture of a bird without a fish in beak!)

Incoming!
Incoming!

The spoonies would occasionally get spooked and whole groups of them would fly off.  Then they’d fly back in, doing these strange turns in mid-air as they chose their landing spots.  I liked the bird’s pose in the shot above, and the bright brown spots of mud on the tips of her wings.  Didn’t her mother teach her to wash off her feathers before takeoff?

Spoonbill Takeoff
Spoonbill Takeoff

This bird was all covered in mud, too.  She was taking off, and I managed to frame the shot in time to not cut off the beautiful wings.  It’d be nice if these birds stuck around for a few more weeks as more of them change into their breeding plumage.  Their bright oranges and reds are gorgeous!

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