Saturday was a great morning to be outside at Viera Wetlands. A bunch of photography buddies and I ended up in a line of tripods for several hours, our lenses pointed at one bird: the very cooperative Belted Kingfisher who would periodically fly in and perch on a nice close tree. As Michael observed, it takes a
special strange kind of person to get up super early on a weekend, drive over an hour, and spend the morning in a sewage treatment plant. But the birds are so awesome there!!
I arrived just before sunrise and promptly set up my tripod. The sky was orange and the sun was coming up behind a palm tree, where a Great Blue Heron was staking his claim to a future nest site. It was a wonderful composition, but the silly bird refused to turn around and show me his head! So I got a sunrise bird butt. I did manage to inadvertantly steal the shot from Michael, who had set up his tripod half an hour before in the wrong spot. I don’t think I’ll ever hear the end of it… :)
After the sun was up, we turned our tripods and pointed them in the opposite direction, where an incredibly cooperative Belted Kingfisher has been charming photographers in recent weeks. The bird flies in regularly to a nearby tree. It takes some patience to stand and wait for the bird, but when he flies in, it’s so worth it!! Belted Kingfishers are usually very skittish and won’t let you get too close to them. This one seemed to delight in showing off his fish to the cameras. Then a mockingbird flew in and tried to compete for the perch. Can you guess who won?
Nearby, a Pied-billed Grebe swam in the clear water. I knelt down low and got some shots almost at the water level, which turned my average snapshot into a pretty image. The grebe amazed me with his long dives below the water as he searched for his breakfast. Often he’d stay down for 30 seconds or more. It was fun to try to anticipate where he’d emerge.
I was testing out my new 7D Mark II camera at Viera Wetlands, and I was ecstatic to have the APS-C 1.6x crop factor back in a body with amazing autofocus. When two Wilson’s Snipes flew in front of us, I almost didn’t even try to photograph them because they were moving too quickly and too far away. But what better way to test out the new autofocus? I aimed and fired off a few shots, and wow, they were in focus! The image below is a crop of two tiny birds who were very far away. :)
A little Green Heron flew in to the grebe’s pond right in front of me. Back I went down the bank to kneel by the water’s edge. The Green Heron stood with one foot in the air as he contemplated his next move. He blends in very well to his surroundings.
It was not a good day to be a fish at Viera Wetlands. On my way out, I passed this Anhinga with his breakfast impaled on his beak. He was beating the fish against the tree in order to facilitate the final gulp. Again I was in awe of the 7D Mark II’s autofocus as I hand-held my Beast and snapped away.
Overall it was a great morning, and fun to spend time with photography friends! It’s great how the birds are coming back to Florida. I look forward to more expeditions over Thanksgiving Break. My first stop: taking my dad to see the Belted Kingfisher at Viera Wetlands!! :)
Find my birding list from today on eBird.
Want to learn more about nature photography at Viera Wetlands?
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Looks like you guys had some fun! I need to get up there one day. :-)
Wait a month or so and come for the nesting Great Blue Herons. The kingfisher should still be around then, too!
Great story and photos!
Such a fun morning! What could be better than sunrise at a sewage treatment plant? Well certainly a cooperative kingfisher would come close. I guess I’ll be seeing you and Paul on Saturday for more frivolity!
Great seeing you again, Jess. I finally got my blog finished. Check it out…www.justintheclickoftime.com
I enjoyed your blog post, Jay. You got the kingfisher and mockingbird together! That was such a fun morning. :)