Beyond the BackyardViera Wetlands

Nesting Great Blue Herons at Viera Wetlands

It’s getting to be my favorite time of year – bird nesting season!  For those of us lucky to live in Florida, spring seems to come pretty early, with owls and eagles starting to nest as early as November.  The Great Blue Herons are the first of the large wading birds to begin nesting.   A fun place to photograph nesting Great Blue Herons is the Viera Wetlands.  If you drive to the center of the wetlands, where all the cells intersect, you’ll find several groupings of palm trees.  The Great Blue Herons nest in the tops of these trees.  On my first day of Christmas vacation, I met Michael Libbe over at Viera Wetlands for a fun-filled morning of photography…

Nesting Great Blue Heron sunrise
Nesting Great Blue Heron sunrise

Michael and I planned to shoot sunrise silhouettes of these graceful birds.  The problem was, the morning was all foggy!  We got there over half an hour before sunrise, then realized we should have slept in a little longer – there wasn’t going to be any color in the sky for a good long while!  It’s always fun catching up with good friends while waiting for Nature to cooperate though. :)  After a while, the rising sun started to burn through the fog, creating some interesting lighting conditions.  I tried several different compositions in the minute or so that the sun showed itself.  The above was my favorite.

Incoming Nesting Material!
Incoming Nesting Material!

After finishing with the silhouettes, we walked a bit down the berm road to get a good front light angle on the same nests.  One set of herons was already on eggs (you could tell because one of them was always lying down on the branches).  The other herons were still in the courtship and nest-construction phases.  My first images were pretty foggy, but that’s the beauty of a Levels correction in Photoshop or Lightroom – poof! and the fog is gone.  The wind was blowing nicely at our backs, which was perfect, because it made the birds fly toward us when they were landing.   One pair of the herons was pretty active and gave us several good courtship shots…

Adding Sticks to the Nest
Adding Sticks to the Nest

I used my 5D Mark III this morning, and I am really loving that camera!  The images are spectacular and the autofocus is great.  Sometimes I wish I had my crop factor back, but on days like this, it challenged me to zoom out a bit and include more of the landscape in my portrait.  I think that actually made for stronger images.

Twig Exchange
Twig Exchange

The nesting Great Blue Herons are such fun to photograph because they are so graceful.  As the dad flew in with a twig, he kept his wings spread as he handed the stick over to Mom.  They handle those small sticks very gently and carefully.

Adding a New Stick
Adding a New Stick

Often both birds will hold onto the stick as they work together to place it onto the nest.  Small sticks usually go down with few problems.  Larger sticks are often difficult to position, and the birds will patiently stand there, placing and replacing the stick until it’s just right!

Great Blue Heron Courtship Display
Great Blue Heron Courtship Display

After placing the latest stick on the nest, this heron puffed up his chest feathers and threw his head back in a typical courtship display.  He knows he’s a gorgeous bird! :)

I never get tired of photographing nesting Great Blue Herons, but after a while, our pair seemed to settle in on their nest.  Michael and I headed off to search for the Ash-throated Flycatcher, and you can read about that in my next post.

3 thoughts on “Nesting Great Blue Herons at Viera Wetlands

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I went there also over the Xmas vacation and had a similar experience. We did see an Otter grab a Coot but it was difficult to get as good image.

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