Viera Wetlands

Viera Wetlands, formally known as the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, is a water treatment facility that attracts lots of birds. Berm roads criss-cross the wetlands, and on most days you can drive your car on the roads. Cars make great blinds for photographing skittish birds! Crested Caracara can regularly be seen at Viera, along with Roseate Spoonbills and many other wading birds. Nesting Great Blue Herons give great photo ops in December-January. Black-bellied Whistling Ducklings can often be found in summer (July and August).

Photography Advice

Since you'll be in your car, load up on lenses. You never know what you may find! Call ahead to find out if the berm roads are open for driving - (321) 255-4488.



Varies by month. Check the website.

Viera Wetlands Blog Archives

  • Nesting Time at Viera Wetlands

    Nesting Time at Viera Wetlands

    Late December is nesting season for Great Blue Herons at the Viera Wetlands. It's fun to photograph their breeding behaviors.
  • Nesting Underway at Viera Wetlands

    Nesting Underway at Viera Wetlands

    Nesting is underway at Viera Wetlands, where Great Blue Herons, Anhingas, and Cormorants are claiming palm trees and showing off their breeding plumage
  • Viera Wetlands is Open Again!

    Viera Wetlands is Open Again!

    My first visit to Viera Wetlands after Hurricane Irma yielded nesting Great Blue Herons, a fishing Belted Kingfisher, and first-of-fall coots!
  • Chasing a Wilson’s Snake at Viera Wetlands

    Chasing a Wilson’s Snake at Viera Wetlands

    Lots of birds at Viera Wetlands, including Wilson's Snipes, American Bitterns, an Osprey with Fish, courting egrets. Plus an elusive mystery snake!
  • Precious Moments with Sandhill Crane Colts

    Precious Moments with Sandhill Crane Colts

    Two tiny Sandhill Crane colts were just precious as they peeked out from under Mom's wing
  • Incredible Photography Morning at Viera Wetlands

    Incredible Photography Morning at Viera Wetlands

    My best morning of photography in a long time - at Viera Wetlands! Caracara, spoonies, hoodies, pelicans, oh my!
  • Rare Smooth-billed Ani at Viera Wetlands

    Rare Smooth-billed Ani at Viera Wetlands

    A rare Smooth-billed Ani at Viera Wetlands provided incredible looks and photo ops for all birders who flocked to see him.
  • Holiday Fun at Viera Wetlands

    Holiday Fun at Viera Wetlands

    A post-Christmas visit to Viera Wetlands yielded nesting Great Blue Herons, hungry warblers, lazy Hoodies, and Limpkin family with small chicks
  • Christmas Coot!

    Christmas Coot!

    The weather forecast this morning was a little frightful (mostly cloudy), but the prospect of birding was delightful, so I headed to Viera Wetlands to celebrate a wonderful day off from work!  It was great seeing Michael, Donna, and Mike as the Belted Kingfisher “Miss Viera Sushi” mocked us and evaded her favorite perch. We’ve having record hot temperatures in Central Florida – it’s expected to hit 87 tomorrow on Christmas Day!  Usually Viera mornings of watching the nesting Great Blue Herons involve extra layers, a hat, and a scarf.  Today the pale skies added to the tropical feeling as I wished I had worn shorts! The light wasn’t awesome, but the birds were fun.  I loved the nesting herons with their courtship behaviors at sunrise.  Immediately behind them was the famous Belted Kingfisher who likes to pose for photographers.  Today, though, one of the Great Blue Herons kept coming to that perch to sit.  So the Belted Kingfisher stayed farther out in the marsh.  So I trained my camera on some of the little birds in front of me… I’m out of practice with my camera!  My focusing times were pretty bad today.  So it was nice of the little birds …
  • Fogbow and a Falcon at Viera Wetlands

    Fogbow and a Falcon at Viera Wetlands

    A fogbow and a falcon started off the morning at Viera Wetlands. Then nesting Great Blue Herons and a Belted Kingfisher charmed us...
  • Great Blue Heron Silhouettes at Viera Wetlands

    Great Blue Heron Silhouettes at Viera Wetlands

    The beautiful sunrise made a great background for the nesting Great Blue Herons at Viera Wetlands. Silhouette courtship fun! :)
  • Fun with Friends at Viera Wetlands

    Fun with Friends at Viera Wetlands

    Early morning in a sewage treatment plant - fun! The Viera Wetlands Belted Kingfisher came close as Michael protested his stolen sunrise
  • Viera Wetlands and Scrub Jays with my Dad

    Viera Wetlands and Scrub Jays with my Dad

    Regular readers of my blog will know that my dad and I love to go out on photo expeditions together.  With my crazy work schedule, we haven’t been out much lately.  All winter I’ve been promising him a trip to Viera Wetlands.  Well, we finally went!  The wetlands were a little quiet, but we had some good photo ops.  Then on the way back, we stopped off to see Scrub Jays.  It was a great morning and so nice to be back out behind a camera!! The Great Blue Heron nesting season is starting wind down at Viera Wetlands.  Junior, the first baby, stood tall and proud on his nest.  I’m not sure the piggy-back rides that I saw on my last visit amounted to much. Only one pair appeared to still be nest-building.  The rest of the birds had fairly big babies.  I think stick-stealing season is over for the year. We noticed a little Green Heron sitting at the edge of the water.  They are rarely this visible, preferring to stay under cover when possible.  We hopped out of the car to take a few shots of this very cooperative subject. The ducks weren’t as plentiful at Viera …
  • Bend and Snap:  Breeding Double-Crested Cormorants

    Bend and Snap: Breeding Double-Crested Cormorants

    A few weekends ago at Viera Wetlands, I photographed this Double-crested Cormorant on a palm tree trunk in front of me.  The bird sat there staring at me with his gorgeous bright blue eye, which is one of the features of his breeding plumage.  He stared at me so long that I got tired of waiting for him to do something.  Then quickly, he bent down, scooping his neck low and reaching his wings up behind him.  Then just as quickly, he snapped back up and resumed his stare.  Silly bird!  It must have been a courtship behavior, and all I could think of was the movie Legally Blonde and the “bend and snap!” scene.   He repeated this little “bend and snap” several times throughout the morning, usually when I was focused on some other action (like the Great Blue Herons who were stealing sticks from neighboring nests!)  Finally I managed to focus fast enough to catch him in a dip. I’ve often wondered why these birds are called Double-crested Cormorants.  During most of the year, their heads are quite smooth.  It’s only during breeding season that they get two tufted crests on the sides of their heads.  This season …
  • Great Blue Herons Stealing Sticks at Viera Wetlands

    Great Blue Herons Stealing Sticks at Viera Wetlands

    The nesting Great Blue Herons were stealing sticks at Viera Wetlands last weekend. The nest's owner wasn't too happy with the thieves!
  • Great Blue Heron Sunrise at Viera Wetlands

    Great Blue Heron Sunrise at Viera Wetlands

    I almost slept in yesterday morning.  After working for six weeks straight with only two days off, I was tired.   Then I saw the radar at 5am and almost didn’t go at all.  Finally I said to myself, “Self, get out there and have fun!”  I’m so glad I did!  I met Michael Libbe at Viera Wetlands and we set up for sunrise silhouettes of the nesting Great Blue Herons.  One nest had an adult and a baby, and I begged the baby to reach up and say hi to Mom as the golden light of sunrise glowed behind him.  But Baby didn’t cooperate. So I started to beg Dad to fly in and bring in a nice fish.  You don’t get that kind of orange sunrise light very often, or for very long!  I gasped when Dad actually did what I requested… I’ll admit that the shot above is a composite of three shots from my continuous-shooting sequence (they were taken about 1/10th of a second apart).  The composite shows off the best head angles of the adult on the nest and the baby as the other adult flies in.  I love the silhouette of these graceful birds …
  • Viera Wetlands Nesting Season in Full Swing

    Viera Wetlands Nesting Season in Full Swing

    The Viera Wetlands nesting season is in full swing with Great Blue Heron fly-ins, courtship rituals, and even the first small chicks
  • Nesting Great Blue Herons at Viera 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… 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 …
  • More Birding Fun at Viera

    More Birding Fun at Viera

    In my last post I wrote about the Roseate Spoonbills roosting at Viera Wetlands in the Click Ponds.  Well, there are a bunch of other fun birds there too.  Especially during the early golden light, when the spoonies weren’t cooperating for photography, it was amazing to be surrounded by pink and yet I was photographing other subjects.  Like this Snowy Egret, who proudly strutted around with his white feathers fluffed in the gorgeous light.  He wasn’t so happy later when a spoonbill reached out and bit his leg! Viera’s not one of my favorite places for sunrise – there are too many power lines in the way.  But the sunrise and clouds did throw some gorgeous light on the water of the Click Ponds, where dozens of Great Blue Herons and Sandhill Cranes stood in the shallow water.  I really liked the colors in this silhouette: The Wood Storks were having a good morning last Saturday.  They kept pulling big fish out of the water.  One stood working his catch down his throat for at least twenty minutes.  I suspect the fish weren’t very healthy in that low water, so it was probably easy to grab them for breakfast.  At …
  • Roseate Spoonbills at Viera 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. 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. 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 …
  • If At First You Don’t Succeed…Try, Try Again!

    If At First You Don’t Succeed…Try, Try Again!

    Yesterday morning I went to the Viera Wetlands to photograph Roseate Spoonbills.  The water levels at the Click Ponds are very low, which attracts hundreds of wading birds.  Besides the spoonies, there were American White Pelicans, Wood Storks, Snowy Egrets, Sandhill Cranes, and a variety of shorebirds.  They all hang out at one corner of one of the ponds in a large flock.  It was birdy paradise, but a challenge for photography, as it was hard to isolate birds to make pleasing compositions.  I arrived home wondering if I would keep many of the images.  Then I went through them, grinned wide, and returned there today for a second try!  So I will have some spoonies to share with you in a few days, after I finish going through them, which will take me a while! In the meantime, I’m not the only one who learned the value of the old adage, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”  A Bald Eagle circled over the ponds this morning, looking for a fish for breakfast.   A group of American White Pelicans had been fighting over a dead fish that was floating near the surface of the pond.  The …
  • Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducklings at Viera Wetlands

    Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducklings at Viera Wetlands

    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 …
  • Incoming!


    This is one of my favorite Great Blue Heron nesting shots from last year. I had fun on the computer with it today, applying Fractalius and some texture to the image. I’m looking forward to getting out to the Viera Wetlands to enjoy this year’s nesting birds.
  • Cloudy HDR

    Cloudy HDR

    Did I mention that the weather was really, really bad on Sunday at Viera Wetlands? :) But it was still a great morning. I liked how the dark clouds made a backdrop for the palm trees in this landscape image. It’s an HDR composite with some Nik ColorEfex tonal magic. I couldn’t resist taking out the cell phone tower… :)
  • Bigfoot Sighting

    Bigfoot Sighting

    I think I found Bigfoot last weekend at the Viera Wetlands! Dina calls these Common Gallinule chicks “alien babies,” which is an excellent description of the newborns. This guy is starting to molt into his juvenile plumage, and so I guess he’s half-alien. He also has a very big foot!!
  • A Rainy Day First

    A Rainy Day First

    I had a photography “lifer” yesterday at Viera Wetlands – my first up-close Stilt Sandpiper. He was hanging out with some Black-Necked Stilts in a nice shallow part of the water. He’s molting into basic plumage, and look at those wings! They show a lot of wear and tear from his long trip south. Non-birding friends are often surprised to hear that fall migration begins so early in the summer. They are even more surprised to hear that these birds nest in the highest reaches of the Canadian Arctic, then fly across the planet to winter throughout South America. Talk about a long trip!
  • Cloudy Morning at Viera Wetlands

    Cloudy Morning at Viera Wetlands

    I debated whether to go out to photograph this morning. The forecast was just plain gross – 70% cloudcover, 50% chance of rain by 11:00, and over 90% humidity. Yep, that’s Florida in the summer! But I woke up early and decided that it’s been weeks since I’ve been able to get out, so I might as well go and enjoy it. I headed to Viera Wetlands, where I could stay in the air-conditioned comfort of my car and maybe see Black-Bellied Whistling Duck chicks. Well, it was gross out! The light levels were terrible. But the birds were great. The water levels at Viera were really low, which attracted hundreds of wading birds. The rookery island was pretty productive this year, and lots of fledgling Cattle Egrets covered the trail. My favorites were the several Roseate Spoonbills. Who can resist their pink wings? The wetlands echoed with the happy calls of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. I drove around hoping to find babies, but I didn’t see any. I’m pretty sure I found an active nest cavity, because two adults kept going in and out of the top of a palm tree. They never left it alone. It was amazing to …
  • Lazy Morning at the Viera Wetlands

    Lazy Morning at the Viera Wetlands

    The summer heat is definitely here in Florida, and I was too lazy to go for a hot hike last Sunday morning. So I went to Viera Wetlands, where I can bird and photograph from the air-conditioned comfort of my car! I like how I can cover more ground driving than hiking. I’ll find a good spot, set up, and photograph there for a while. Running into friends was also nice, and it was great to meet a new one. :) I arrived at the wetlands before sunrise. This Green Heron flew in on a palm tree just as I was thinking, “gee, wouldn’t it be nice for a bird to land there? It would make a great silhouette!” As I adjusted my exposure and aimed for the shot, the bird threw his head up. Perfect! I was hoping for Black-Bellied Whistling Duck flight shots, and maybe chicks. The whistlers are one of my favorite birds to photograph, and their babies are so cute! I stopped and waited by one tree where the adult whistler was clearly tending to either eggs or babies within, but the little ones chose not to make an appearance. Maybe next time. My best find …
  • Do You Miss Us Yet?

    Do You Miss Us Yet?

  • Signs of Spring at the Viera Wetlands

    Signs of Spring at the Viera Wetlands

    Last weekend I spent a morning at the Viera Wetlands.  It was a cloudy morning, with sunshine in spurts, and I was just happy to be outside.  The Great Blue Herons chicks are growing up quickly, as I wrote about last week.  There were also many other signs of springtime around the wetlands.  Sometimes the common birds are the most fun to phtoograph… I was down on the edge of the berm photographing the juvenile Great Blue Herons when this Red-Winged Blackbird hopped onto the trail.  Since I was so much lower than he was, I got a birds-eye angle on him without having to get down on my knees!  I love how his wing shines with his bright red and yellow patch.  The green grasses shine in the soft morning light. I went to Viera in hopes of photographing the babies on this nest, and I was disappointed to find that the nest no longer was there.  However, there were other juvenile Anhingas on other palms, just farther away than “my” nest.  One palm housed two juveniles, and another housed three, or so I thought.  Both families were entertaining and I enjoyed watching their antics.  There was much begging …
  • How Quickly They Grow Up!

    How Quickly They Grow Up!

    I visited Viera Wetlands yesterday morning in hopes of photographing the Anhinga babies from the nest that I observed back in March.  I caught the adults building the nest and copulating, and I was excited to pair those photos with a few baby portraits.  The nest was awesome, too – close to the berm, and the distant wetlands provided a nice blurred background.  Alas, I arrived and found the nest gone…it was an empty stump.   I photographed the nest on March 5, and incubation takes about 28 days for Anhingas, followed by a period of about 7 weeks before the babies fledge.  So that tells me something bad happened.  It’s the circle of life…but it doesn’t always have a happy ending. So instead I photographed the Great Blue Heron fledglings, who are still loafing around in their treetop nests.  They are big enough to try to fly, but young enough still to start that incessant little “feed me! feed me!” cry whenever an adult heron flies by.  I guess it’s their teenage period, and they are not particularly graceful… I love the color of the Great Blue Heron juvenile wings.  This juvie started to stretch his wings, then actually …
  • Nesting Great Blue Herons

    Nesting Great Blue Herons

    Last weekend at Viera Wetlands I had a good time watching some Great Blue Heron nests.  This first nest had two small chicks, and the parents were being careful to keep the nest built up well around their young offspring.  One particularly long stick was rather problematic.  It was so long, longer than the nest itself.  No matter how they positioned it, it stuck out on the side of the nest.  For minutes they positioned and re-positioned that stick.  I kept waiting for them to get annoyed and just toss the stick overboard, but they didn’t.  The patience of these birdies is amazing to me. This second nest had babies as well, and a frazzled mother who defended her babies from another Great Blue Heron who kept swooping in and invading the nest area.  I’m not sure if he was trying to steal sticks or chicks or what, but boy did Mama fuss at him when he came flying through!
  • Return of the Spring

    Return of the Spring

    We’ll conclude the “Lord of the Rings”-inspired post titles with the “Return of the Spring”…and of the Beast to Viera Wetlands!  The weather for Saturday morning was iffy at best, with fog and wind in the forecast.  I decided to head to Viera, figuring that the nesting Great Blue Herons and Anhingas would have to sit on their nests, rain or shine! I was hoping for some baby Great Blue Heron shots, but only two of the nests had chicks, and those chicks only stuck their heads out once or twice.  There was a nest with baby Anhingas as a consolation prize.  They were asleep in their nest on the top of a palm tree trunk when I first arrived, but after a while, the first chick stuck his long neck up and started to pester Mom for food.  His motion woke up his sibling, who sat there patiently while Antsy Chick continued to dance.  I thought he might fall off the nest at one point, he was being so pushy!  Mom just sat there and ignored him.  I guess Dad was on fishing duty that morning. Nearby, an Anhinga pair in awesome breeding plumage were working on their nest.  …
  • Bottoms Up!

    Bottoms Up!

    The most frustrating part about photographing ducks is that they give you far too many “butt-shot” opportunities.  Of course, if I was a duck and I had to dive for food, I guess I’d spend a lot of time with my head underwater as well!  I spent some time watching this Blue-Winged Teal diving, and I tried to capture her feet as she rummaged for her breakfast. I thought a shot with flailing feet would be funny.  This is as close as I got…
  • Nesting Great Blue Herons

    Nesting Great Blue Herons

    On my last day of Christmas break, Dyeyo and I went to Viera Wetlands.  The highlight of the morning were a couple of nesting pairs of Great Blue Herons.  They brought sticks in to their nests, gave us courtship shots, and then initiated the egg-making process. I was using my new 1D and having fun playing with the focus.  it is so accurate and fast, but it doesn’t have the zones that I’m used to on my 7D, so you have to be very precise in keeping the focus point on the bird’s neck or head.  The birds gave me very predictable flight shot opportunities as they brought in their sticks.  They are so gentle as the fly-in bird hands the stick off to the other bird and they both place it down in the nest.
  • Frogs for Breakfast at Viera Wetlands

    Frogs for Breakfast at Viera Wetlands

    Yesterday I wrote about my morning at the Click Ponds. Then I drove over to the Viera Wetlands, where the ducks are starting to come back. There were plenty of coots (10054 if you listen to Kathy!!), with a few Shoveler, Hooded Mergansers, and a Bufflehead mixed in. I should have started out at the wetlands. By the time I got there, the eagle had had his breakfast, and the Caracara had flown away. I joined some friends, teasing them about photographing the coots. Then a Great Blue Heron flew in with a frog! Mine wasn’t the only 500mm lens that was quickly focused on him. He kept leaning over to wash it off in the water before he tipped his head back for the final gulp. Caspian Terns were perched on palms throughout the wetlands. I usually see them in flight at Circle B Bar Reserve, so it was fun to see them a little closer. I was happy to see the Bufflehead, who has been hanging around the wetlands for the last week or so. I saw my first Bufflehead at Circle B a few weeks ago. The one came a lot closer – if only the light …
  • Early Morning at the Viera Wetlands Click Ponds

    Early Morning at the Viera Wetlands Click Ponds

    I had a great morning with friends at the Viera Wetlands. The morning started at the Click Ponds, two small ponds adjacent to the wetlands. After a post to Birdbrains yesterday about a Common Loon, which I’ve never seen, I was anxious to try for one. But we didn’t see one. We did see my first Horned Grebe, but he was so far away that I won’t embarrass myself by posting it. :) Suffice it to say that even a Beast sometimes yields pictures where the subject is a small pinpoint! I was surprised to see several Green Herons in the grasses. They stood with their necks stretched, and they reminded me of Least Bitterns. One flew in and posed right in front of me for a few seconds. The light was absolutely horrible, so I ended up sharpening this picture in Lightroom. The sun actually did come out during the “golden hour”…for about five seconds. Lucky for me, I had just found the three Redheads and single Canvasback, and the sun’s light came at the perfect time. The ducks dove, splashed, then came up “all in a row.” I exposed to the right and then adjusted the image in …
  • Three’s a Crowd

    Three’s a Crowd

    Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. A few days ago when I was at Viera Wetlands, I was waiting for a fly-in shot on a nice palm trunk perch. The birds weren’t cooperating, though, and my attention moved to a Belted Kingfisher sitting on a different palm trunk. I noticed a second small bird sharing the perch with the kingfisher, and I moved the camera over to check him out (it was a European Starling). Within seconds, a Double-Crested Cormorant flew in and displaced both the Kingfisher and the Starling. Lucky for me I had the camera on 8-frames-a-second mode!
  • Birds Posing on Palms at Viera Wetlands

    Birds Posing on Palms at Viera Wetlands

    It’s been a while since I went birding anywhere except the Circle B Bar Reserve, so I decided to head over to Viera Wetlands yesterday morning.  I’ve been following the birding news on Birdbrains and I knew that the wetlands aren’t particularly active at the moment, and that was true.  But I did end up with some nice shots, mostly of birds posing on the dead palm trunks that are scattered throughout the wetlands.  How nice of Nature to cooperate with photographers in providing such nice perches! I arrived at the wetlands right around sunrise.  The clouds obscured the sun for a good twenty minutes or so after the “sunrise”, so I put my wide-angle lens on and did some bracketed shots for HDR.  I’ve never been to Viera for a good (i.e. non-cloudy) sunrise, and I will certainly try again.  But I kinda liked the moodiness of this HDR image. The first bird that I saw was an adult Black-Crowned Night Heron.  Then I saw another one.  The light level was low, so I dialed in over a stop of exposure compensation.  The first heron flew away when I picked up The Beast, but the second obligingly posed on …
  • A Morning of Firsts at the Click Ponds

    A Morning of Firsts at the Click Ponds

    I saw several birds for the first time this morning at the Click Ponds: two Wilson’s Phalaropes, Black Terns, Stilt Sandpipers, and a Semipalmated Sandpiper.  It was a fun morning to be out! I arrived at the Click Ponds (across from Viera Wetlands) just after sunrise.  The Click Ponds have all but dried up and now have “gone green.”  It’s so strange to see grass growing where the water is supposed to be.  The migrating shorebirds don’t mind it this way, though. There were at least fifty Sandhill Cranes roosting at the ponds when I arrived.  (According to Michael Libbe, I just missed the four Roseate Spoonbills and the Egyptian Goose. Oh well!)  Donna Faylo joined us and we all stood watching the cranes as they danced in the gorgeous morning light.  Most the cranes were adults, but there were a couple of juveniles mixed in. In small family groups, the cranes began to take off and fly away for their daily routine.  Most of them flew away from us.  We talked to the cranes and encouraged them to fly towards us. The light was gorgeous!  I used my zoom lens and dialed in an extra stop for compensation.  Finally …
  • Surprise!  Another New Bird

    Surprise! Another New Bird

    I was going through my photos from Viera Wetlands from last Friday again when I realized that I had a new bird. At first I assumed this bird was a Least Sandpiper, but it was too big. In the uncropped image a Least Sandpiper was in front of this guy, and the Least Sandpiper is significantly smaller. So I started trying to identify my new bird, and I think I finally figured him out — he’s a Pectoral Sandpiper. They pass through Florida during migration. If you look at a range map, it’s amazing what these birds do. They winter in South America, all the way from Colombia to Argentina. Then they fly halfway around the globe up to the northernmost parts of Alaska and Canada to build their nests in the tundra. Pretty impressive, huh?
  • Productive Morning at the Viera Click Ponds

    Productive Morning at the Viera Click Ponds

    After hearing on Birdbrains about the early fall migrants at Viera Wetlands, I had to make a trip over there.  The wetlands itself was very unproductive, with not even the Purple Gallinules showing themselves to me.  No Black-bellied Whistling Ducks greeted me, either.  But over in the Click Ponds, there was a ton of activity.  It was the first time I’d seen American Avocets, and they are really cool.  Black-necked Stilts and their young are all over the dried-up ponds, and the sandpipers and other small birds are definitely starting to make a comeback. From what I’ve read, the Click Ponds are drained once a year as part of the water treatment activities.  They are almost completely dry right now, with green grass even starting to grow in the southern pond.  It’s strange to see.  It works out well for the little Black-Necked Stilts, though, who have a nice safe place to feed. The adult stilts are very protective of their young.  They start fussing when a human approaches, and they sometimes fuss even when you just stop your car near their kids.  In the meantime, the baby stilts wander around unconcerned.  It’s almost comical. There were a few smaller …
  • Preview:  American Avocets at Viera Wetlands!

    Preview: American Avocets at Viera Wetlands!

    I spent my off-Friday morning at Viera Wetlands, excited by the Birdbrains reports of American Avocets and pharalopes and baby Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. Of those three, all I found were the avocets. This was my first opportunity to see and photograph American Avocets. Here’s a teaser picture, with a full post to come tomorrow…
  • Cute Babies at Viera Wetlands

    Cute Babies at Viera Wetlands

    I went to Viera Wetlands on Saturday morning.  After all the rain on Friday, I wasn’t optimistic about the light level (I actually didn’t decide to make the drive until Saturday morning at 5am!)  There was virtually no sun till the very end of the morning, but the babies were cute and I was relatively pleased with my work from the morning.  I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Donna Faylo, as well as running into Kathy Urbach and Nancy Elwood.  We had a great time trying to catch a Least Bittern in flight.  :) When I first arrived at Viera at sunrise (a misnomer, as the clouds blocked all the sunlight), I went to the Click Ponds.  People have been posting on  Birdbrains that the low water levels have been attracting wading birds to roost at night.  When I drove up, there were no less than 50 Sandhill Cranes standing in the water.  There were also tons of Black-necked Stilts and little sandpipers.  Then the Sandhills started taking off in small groups of three or four.  I tried for some take-off shots, despite the low light.  This one looked pretty good after a Levels correction in Photoshop. A …
  • The Importance of Camera Angle

    The Importance of Camera Angle

    While shooting at the Viera Wetlands this weekend, I enjoyed watching some Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks landing on palm tree stumps. There was potential for beautiful background bokeh with the green trees in the distant background. At first I stood to photograph, which gave me this kind of picture: Then I realized that the background wasn’t as creamy as I wanted. I knelt down and took the same shot again, and this time, the trees all blended together to form a pretty blurred background. Sometimes all you have to do to take a better picture is try a different angle!
  • Expect the Unexpected at Viera Wetlands

    Expect the Unexpected at Viera Wetlands

    Dyeyo and I went to Viera Wetlands this morning with hopes of finding some of the babies reported on Birdbrains, and maybe the Fulvous Whistling Duck that was photographed there yesterday.   It’s summer, though, and I wasn’t optimistic that we’d find much, especially since we don’t get to Viera often and so are not as familiar with the area.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Starting with the Least Bittern that greeted us and ending with a King Rail chick, it was a great morning! Viera is known for being a place where it’s relatively easy to find Least Bitterns.  I haven’t seen a single one at the Circle B Bar Reserve this year, and I’ve yet to photograph one out in the open – ever.  Well, we arrived at Viera today, drove to the center area near the observation tower, and Dyeyo almost immediately said “Least Bittern!  Out in the open!”  I couldn’t believe it.  There were actually two birds, one still in breeding colors.  That was a first for me, too. :) But my favorite Least Bittern image came later in the morning, when I noticed one sitting up in the reeds.  It wasn’t until I aimed the Beast …
  • Spring Morning at Viera Wetlands

    Spring Morning at Viera Wetlands

    Dyeyo and I couldn’t take it anymore.  People on the Birdbrains mailing list have been going on and on this week about all the birds at Viera Wetlands.  So we drove out there this morning to see all the birds.  It was a beautiful sunny, slightly breezy morning, and it was awesome to be outside with the birds.  Except we didn’t find as many birds as had been reported!  Oh well.  I still got some good pictures. :) First there was the Green Heron posing on a dead palm tree in the first cell as we entered the wetlands.  I love all the dead trees at Viera – it makes for awesome portraits! We drove around the outside of the cells first, just to get a feel for what birds were around.  I was hoping to see some Least Bitterns, but we didn’t see much at all as we drove around.  The Common Moorhens are taking over the ponds again.  The American Coots are almost gone, and so are all the other ducks.  So I guess the moorhens figure that it’s time to reclaim their territory and get to laying eggs! We came across the Viera Sandhill Crane family on …
  • Diving Hoodies at Viera Wetlands

    Diving Hoodies at Viera Wetlands

    Dyeyo and I drove over to Viera Wetlands in search of the Ross’s Goose that has been reported there on the BirdBrainz list serve.   We didn’t see the goose, but we did see a group of happy, diving Hooded Mergansers.  It was the first time either of us had seen a female Hoodie (we don’t typically see mergansers at the Circle B Bar Reserve where we normally bird.) We got to Viera and decided to drive around the perimeter once to locate the birds.  Except we saw so many birds that the “first lap” took more than half our morning! The first bird we spotted was a Wilson’s Snipe.  He was fishing in some short reeds and obligingly came out periodically to allow us to photograph him.  This was my first opportunity for full-frame snipe photos.  Usually the snipes are far away and I’m just happy to see them at all. We paused to take a duck inventory of the many American Coots, Pied-Billed Grebes, and Ring-Necked Ducks that covered the wetlands.  A Belted Kingfisher came screeching across the landscape and landed on a dead palm tree right in front of us.  With my new 500mm lens, he was practically …
  • A New Place to Explore: Viera Wetlands

    A New Place to Explore: Viera Wetlands

    I’ve heard birders mention Viera Wetlands so often that I had to get over there to see it for myself. It reminds me of Circle B Bar Reserve in that it is a local wetlands area with great birds — and unlike Circle B, which is so dry right now, this wetlands had plenty of water and there were plenty of birds as a result! I saw my first-ever Hooded Merganser and Common Snipe, which were both cool. The wetlands were covered in American Coots and Blue-Winged Teals. I also got some pictures of a flock of Green-Winged Teals and Killdeer in flight. Then there was the usual wetlands assortment of herons, egrets, and ducks. The clouds rolled in about mid-morning, but we had a great time, and I’m looking forward to going back. We lucked out — one of the first birds we saw was the Hooded Merganser. I yelped and hopped out, then by the time we got our cameras, we didn’t see him. Dyeyo tried to tell me that I’d just seen coots…and then he popped out of some vegetation and did a little flap! So we got to see his hood. He was in Cell 4. …