Seeing the Smooth-billed Ani at Viera Wetlands on Sunday was great, but just the icing on the cake after an incredible morning of photography. There were so many birds, and everywhere I turned, there was a great photo op. I kept telling my dad, “this is how Circle B used to be!” Herons and hoodies and spoonies, oh my!
We first stopped to check for the Smooth-billed Ani, who hadn’t yet made an appearance. A mockingbird posed in the bushes as an ani stand-in. We weren’t impressed. But we turned around and spotted a Loggerhead Shrike posed in beautiful morning light. What a great start to the morning!
The Eastern Phoebe saw us admiring the shrike. “I can pose on a post too!” he said.
We drove off to the center of Viera Wetlands, where the Great Blue Herons are nesting at the tops of the palm trees. Two of the nests were under incubation and not super interesting. The birds basically just sat there. On a third tree, a lone heron was trying to attract a mate. She stood on her tree and thrust her head to the sky in a classic courtship gesture.
Below the heron nests, a juvenile Purple Gallinule charmed the paparazzi. A little Green Heron also lurked at the edge of the water. He reached down and grabbed a fish for breakfast.
We walked a little way down the path to look for Hooded Mergansers. I spotted some Roseate Spoonbills and got all excited. Then a Crested Caracara flew in and perched in one of the dead trees. The Caracara breed at Viera Wetlands and are seen regularly, but I’ve had few opportunities to photograph one in a natural-looking setting. (No, the observation tower doesn’t count!) It’s a good thing I’ve been getting back into practice because I got my camera to focus in time for the landing…
I continued on my way to the Roseate Spoonbills, who were in full breeding colors. I love their hot pink, yellow, and orange colors at this time of year. They are such pretty birds.
A lone Lesser Scaup floated in the water, then climbed up on a patch of land and sunned himself. He was one of the few ducks at the Viera Wetlands. It’s such a contrast to my visits several years ago when the waters were covered in ducks.
We did spot some Hoodies, both males and females. The males are pretty, but I couldn’t stop photographing the female. Her brown feathers sparkled in the sunshine against the brown winter background. Then she headed out into the open water and gave me a perfect reflection. I thought that photo was my favorite until she reached back and gave me a wing flap. How great!
A flock of American White Pelicans was roosting at the wetlands and the nearby Click Ponds. Groups of them hung out in the water, and all morning, birds flew over our heads. Just like the good old days at Circle B. I always chuckle when I see these large birds put down their “landing gear” as they swoop towards the water.
My final bird of the day was an Osprey flying overhead as we waited for the ani to make an appearance. He swooped down and grabbed a fish, then flew off with it. Look at those strong talons grabbing the fish! Of course I didn’t get the camera maneuvered fast enough. I don’t think I can say I clipped his wings – I chopped them! But it’s still a cool picture.
Viera Wetlands is closed this week while they remove some invasive Brazilian Pepper. But I’m already looking forward to my next adventure there!
Find my birding list from today on eBird.