I had been invited to give a 20-minute presentation on my dissertation research (which went great by the way) but I'd be damned if I was going to drive so far south without getting out to see some birds!
So I woke up early one morning and zipped out to Viera Wetland (aka Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands) for some birding appropriate for a wetland scientist.
Dozens of Black-bellied Whistlling-Ducks were nesting in hollow palm trunks all over the place.
The same was essentially true of Roseate Spoonbill, a bird I had seen only once before seen in Nicaragua.
Least Bitterns were calling everywhere and even a few showed...
|Hiding in plain view|
And then there was a pair of Sandhill Cranes...
Just more trash birds by Florida standards!
As you can see the birders in this state are spoiled rotten for cool wetland species. And the photographers who visit Viera Wetland are as well. The site consists of 5 wetland treatment cells, each with a different water level for maximum habitat diversity. And the border of each cell is a high drivable berm. The result is the ultimate lazy nature photographer's dream; simply drive along until you see the right bird in good light and fire away. No need to even leave your vehicle!
The one exception and only time I actually needed to use my scope was when a group of four Crested Caracaras flew along the treeline and landed in a distant pine.
The only bird I was hoping to see and missed was Purple Gallinule. But their "Common" cousins were ubiquitous and I even saw some downy chicks!
|Common Gallinules with chicks|
...Limpkin! This species looks like it should be a skulker like a rail, but that just isn't the case. Limpkins aren't especially shy, they just aren't very common...
|Yum! Lifer #1555|
By this point my three hours were up and I had to race back to the convention center for more concurrent sessions and important networking opportunities. But the visit to Viera Wetland was definitely worth the trip. I'm not sure if there is another spot in this area that can offer up such a complete and reliable menu of so many cool species with such great opportunities for photos.
On our way back north Katie and I dropped by Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in search of Florida Scrub-Jay, which proved to be easy enough.
The light was terrible for photos, but I was just glad to see this endemic, IUCN-listed species. And I really like Jays.
Hopefully my next trip to Florida will include the Everglades and the plethora of specialties that can be found in the nether regions of the state. But I have certainly had my wetland bird fix for now!