Some pictures from our visit to the wetlands on July 21, 2011.
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This might become a longer series, now that Viera Wetlands is a day trip rather than a week-long road trip. My first such post was back in November, 2009. All of these photos were taken in late April, 2011.
Can you tell I like Viera Wetlands? We visited twice last week and it was great, much better than our previous visit mosquito-wise too. What a relief, we could drive with the windows down and not get eaten alive. We had 48 species over the two visits, including our lifer American Bittern (in flight, no photo unfortunately). Here are some other Viera highlights from 15 and 18 November.
While in Florida last week we did some birding at Viera Wetlands (while waiting out the time between shuttle launch scrubs). We wanted to go to Viera and Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge and weren’t sure which one to visit first. I mentioned our dilemma on Twitter and got this reply from Birdchick: “Do Viera, do Viera, do Viera!” This was very good advice indeed: Merritt Island was actually closed the entire time we were on the Space Coast due to the scheduled shuttle launch. (Birdchick also has some great blog posts about Viera which I would highly recommend to anyone planning a visit there: Birdchick’s Viera Wetlands posts.)
The Viera Wetlands, actually named the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, are owned by the Brevard County Utility Services and are part of a non-traditional water treatment method used by the county. We knew this going in; what we didn’t realize is that the wetlands are perfectly set up for wildlife viewing, with an observation tower and several one-way roads providing routes through the ponds that are absolutely ideal for birding from the car.
We visited two different mornings and almost melted in the heat, which we totally weren’t used to. When we visited on Friday, June 12 it was about 85°F when we arrived with 85% humidity and no wind. We decided to drive the slow dirt roads around the wetlands with our windows open – big mistake. At the end of the day there were about 80,000 mosquitoes in the car. The second time, we left the windows closed and made frequent stops to view the birds.
Signs at the entrance of the wetlands provided information and explained the rules (stay on the roads, routes are one-way, 10MPH speed limit, etc). There was a sign asking for any Purple Gallinule sightings to be reported (we didn’t see any, unfortunately).
During our visits we spotted just 30 different species, six of which were lifers. We also saw a few birds that are also present up here in Illinois. Some of these old friends are shown below; stay tuned for more in upcoming posts!
At Viera Wetlands last week, out of the 30 species we saw, six were lifers.
The Crested Caracara seems to be a symbol of the wetlands as its image was on several of the navigational signs on the roads. Both times we visited, the Caracara was perched in the same tall tree. Both times, we had good looks in bad, bad light. This photo isn’t too hot, but I think that profile is unmistakable. What a beautiful bird!
This Least Bittern was lurking in the reeds but did pop out for some great looks and mediocre photos.
We saw some groups of Mottled Ducks in a few of the ponds.
We saw lots of Black-belled Whistling Ducks flying overhead, but rarely saw them in the water – except for the one pictured below. It was totally posing for us! I think this was my favorite bird we saw in Florida. I love the colors on this bird – black, white, brown, taupe, and that bright orangey-red bill.
Finally, we added Loggerhead Shrike to our life list. We’ve actually seen this bird before, very badly, at the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve in Kissimmee a couple of years ago, but it wasn’t until recently that we noticed it was not recorded on our list. We had really excellent views of a pair of shrikes flying between two trees just a few yards from the car.
Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to go birding while in Florida last week (and even though I’m stretching out those few hours of birding into many posts, ha ha!), it was so much fun to see birds we don’t normally get to see up here where we live. Here are some of the more southern species we saw at Viera Wetlands.
Northern Mockingbirds range into northern Illinois and further during the summer, but we just don’t get to see them much here in Lake County. Once we got into Tennessee though, they were all over the place. They were hanging out at Viera Wetlands, too.
We only saw one Glossy Ibis at Viera, even though these are pretty common birds in Florida.
We also just saw this one lovely Limpkin.
And some more of the usual Florida suspects…
Coming up next… our six lifers at Viera. Stay tuned!
Here we go again! In 2014 I’ll give the Bird-a-Day Challenge another go. This blog post from Audubon Magazine explains the challenge: Bird-A-Day Challenge Begins New Years Day 2012. I previously participated in 2013, 2012, and 2011. I sometimes post updates on my Bird-a-Day progress which you can follow on the blog.
|26-APR-14||BUST!||just prior to overseas journey|
|25-APR-14||Blackpoll Warbler||Gemini Springs|
|24-APR-14||Worm-eating Warbler||Mead Garden|
|23-APR-14||Eastern Kingbird||Gemini Springs|
|22-APR-14||Rose-breasted Grosbeak||back yard|
|21-APR-14||Glaucous Gull||Lighthouse Point Park|
|19-APR-14||Ruddy Turnstone||Lighthouse Point Park|
|18-APR-14||American Redstart||Gemini Springs|
|17-APR-14||Black-throated Blue Warbler||Mead Garden|
|16-APR-14||American Coot||Gemini Springs|
|15-APR-14||Red-shouldered Hawk||back yard|
|14-APR-14||Gray Kingbird||Gemini Springs|
|13-APR-14||Carolina Chickadee||Spring-to-spring Trail|
|12-APR-14||Green Heron||Gemini Springs|
|11-APR-14||Black-necked Stilt||Gemini Springs|
|BLOG POST:||B-A-D -17|
|10-APR-14||Northern Waterthrush||Mead Garden|
|09-APR-14||European Starling||Lake Mary|
|08-APR-14||Swallow-tailed Kite||Deland (along FL-472)|
|07-APR-14||Common Ground-Dove||Gemini Springs|
|06-APR-14||Eastern Towhee||Springview, DeBary|
|05-APR-14||Chuck-will’s-widow||Blue Spring State Park|
|04-APR-14||Great Crested Flycatcher||Gemini Springs|
|03-APR-14||Brown Thrasher||Mead Garden|
|02-APR-14||Blue Jay||back yard|
|01-APR-14||Eurasian Collared-Dove||Magic Kingdom|
|31-MAR-14||Hooded Warbler||Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens|
|30-MAR-14||Savannah Sparrow||Gemini Springs|
|29-MAR-14||Barred Owl||Lake Woodruff NWR|
|28-MAR-14||Little Blue Heron||Blue Spring State Park|
|27-MAR-14||Black-bellied Whistling-Duck||Highlands Audubon Park|
|26-MAR-14||Prothonotary Warbler||Gemini Springs|
|25-MAR-14||Red-eyed Vireo||Green Spring|
|24-MAR-14||Northern Harrier||Spruce Creek Park|
|23-MAR-14||Florida Scrub-Jay||Lyonia Preserve|
|22-MAR-14||Common Yellowthroat||Gemini Springs|
|21-MAR-14||Eastern Screech-Owl||Spring-to-spring Trail|
|20-MAR-14||House Finch||back yard|
|19-MAR-14||Pileated Woodpecker||DeBary (along I-4)|
|18-MAR-14||Ring-billed Gull||Home Depot|
|17-MAR-14||Northern Parula||back yard|
|16-MAR-14||Fish Crow||back yard|
|15-MAR-14||White Ibis||Gemini Springs|
|14-MAR-14||Red-winged Blackbird||back yard|
|13-MAR-14||Great Egret||Kraft Azalea Garden|
|12-MAR-14||American Crow||Gemini Springs|
|11-MAR-14||Bald Eagle||Gemini Springs|
|10-MAR-14||Double-crested Cormorant||Gemini Springs|
|09-MAR-14||Northern Shoveler||Viera Wetlands|
|08-MAR-14||Blue-winged Teal||Gemini Springs|
|07-MAR-14||Red-breasted Merganser||Riverside Park, NSB|
|06-MAR-14||Northern Mockingbird||Audubon Center for BOP|
|05-MAR-14||Black-and-white Warbler||back yard|
|03-MAR-14||Downy Woodpecker||Gemini Springs|
|02-MAR-14||American Goldfinch||Gemini Springs|
|01-MAR-14||Hooded Merganser||Trout Lake|
|28-FEB-14||Lesser Yellowlegs||Audubon Park|
|27-FEB-14||Limpkin||Lake Monroe Park|
|26-FEB-14||Cooper’s Hawk||Hollywood Studios|
|25-FEB-14||Chipping Sparrow||Gemini Springs|
|24-FEB-14||House Wren||Gemini Springs|
|23-FEB-14||Black-crowned Night Heron||Gemini Springs|
|22-FEB-14||Cedar Waxwing||Hontoon Island SP|
|21-FEB-14||Wilson’s Snipe||Audubon Park|
|20-FEB-14||Glossy Ibis||Gemini Springs|
|19-FEB-14||Pine Warbler||Spring-to-spring Trail|
|18-FEB-14||Ruby-crowned Kinglet||Gemini Springs|
|17-FEB-14||Swamp Sparrow||Gemini Springs|
|16-FEB-14||Gadwall||Lake Woodruff NWR|
|15-FEB-14||Vermilion Flycatcher*||Orlando Wetlands Park|
|14-FEB-14||Iceland Gull||Frank Rendon Park|
|13-FEB-14||American Kestrel||Longwood (along I-4)|
|12-FEB-14||Blue-headed Vireo||Gemini Springs|
|11-FEB-14||Tree Swallow||Gemini Springs|
|10-FEB-14||Field Sparrow||Gemini Springs|
|09-FEB-14||Orange-crowned Warbler||Gemini Springs|
|08-FEB-14||Palm Warbler||back yard|
|07-FEB-14||Yellow-throated Warbler||Gemini Springs|
|06-FEB-14||Yellow-rumped Warbler||back yard|
|05-FEB-14||Greater Yellowlegs||Trout Lake, Deltona|
|04-FEB-14||Pied-billed Grebe||Gemini Springs|
|03-FEB-14||Forster’s Tern||Gemini Springs|
|02-FEB-14||Great Horned Owl||Gemini Springs|
|01-FEB-14||White-eyed Vireo||Gemini Springs|
|31-JAN-14||Common Grackle||back yard|
|30-JAN-14||Belted Kingfisher||Audubon Center for BOP|
|28-JAN-14||American Robin||back yard|
|27-JAN-14||Audubon’s Shearwater||pelagic out of Ponce|
|26-JAN-14||Eastern Phoebe||back yard|
|25-JAN-14||Lesser Black-backed Gull||Frank Rendon Park|
|24-JAN-14||Purple Gallinule||Salt Lake WMA|
|23-JAN-14||American White Pelican||Dicerandra Scrub Sanctuary|
|21-JAN-14||Wood Stork||Orlando (along I-4)|
|20-JAN-14||Marsh Wren||Gemini Springs|
|19-JAN-14||American Bittern||Gemini Springs|
|18-JAN-14||King Rail||Gemini Springs|
|17-JAN-14||Gray Catbird||Blue Spring State Park|
|16-JAN-14||Northern Flicker||Audubon Center for BOP|
|15-JAN-14||Yellow-bellied Sapsucker||Blue Spring SP|
|14-JAN-14||Painted Bunting||back yard|
|13-JAN-14||Prairie Warbler||Gemini Springs|
|12-JAN-14||Ruddy Duck||Lake Woodruff NWR|
|11-JAN-14||Wild Turkey||DeBary (along I-4)|
|09-JAN-14||Ring-necked Duck||Audubon Center for BOP|
|08-JAN-14||Bonaparte’s Gull||Lighthouse Point Park|
|07-JAN-14||Sandhill Crane||Blue Spring SP|
|06-JAN-14||Peregrine Falcon||Spruce Creek Park|
|05-JAN-14||Caspian Tern||Gemini Springs|
|04-JAN-14||Cattle Egret||Sanford (along I-4)|
|03-JAN-14||Ruby-throated Hummingbird||front yard|
|02-JAN-14||Wood Duck||Audubon Center for BOP|
|01-JAN-14||Horned Grebe||Tomoka State Park|
* indicates life bird
This is my attempt at keeping a life list of reptiles and amphibians (the study of which is called herpetology) I have identified. At this point it’s a photo life list, since I have little skill at identifying herps in the field, and rely on photos for confirmation. Maybe that will change, but for now — this is a start. Since this is *my* list, I make the rules… You may see some dead specimens shown / listed here. I’m going to include deceased and/or ill wild-found specimen on my “life list” — at least for now. If you spot a mis-ID, please contact me or leave a comment on this page.
Eastern Rat Snake | Spring-to-spring Trail, Volusia County FL | 01 April 2013 [previous]
Common Snapping Turtle | Prairie Wolf Slough, Lake County IL | 16 July 2013 [previous]
Gopher Tortoise | Gemini Springs, Volusia County FL | 28 December 2012 [previous]
De Kay’s Brown Snake (1) | Lake County IL | 11 October 2012 [another]
Broad-headed Skink | Blue Spring State Park, Volusia County FL | 22 April 2014 [also]
(1) later died of injuries
Earlier this month Arthur and I visited Viera Wetlands and the nearby Click Ponds. I had read a lot about the Click Ponds this summer, especially since they hosted some great birds in July and August, but we couldn’t get out there until September 8th. One of our best birds was a very cooperative Roseate Spoonbill, an individual that gave us our best looks ever of this magnificent species. We used our car as a blind and watched the bird preen, feed, and loaf around.
After a marathon preening session the bird fed in the shallow water. It’s always fun to watch spoonbills feed in their unique way. They move their heads back and forth with their long bills in the water; when something to eat comes in contact with the bill – snap!
And later it was time for even more preening. 🙂
I’ve submitted this post to this week’s Bird Photography Weekly. BPW is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!
While house-hunting in central Florida a few months ago, Arthur and I saved some time for birding at Viera Wetlands. The highlight of our visit on April 27 was seeing this baby Limpkin.
Although Limpkins seem very rail-like, they are more closely related to cranes. If you can’t tell from its looks, you might notice the resemblance in its song, which sounds a lot like a Sandhill Crane.
Limpkins are residents through much of Florida. Elsewhere in the United States, their range pokes a bit into southern Georgia. They are also found in Cuba and other Caribbean islands, and through parts of Central America. Their wide distribution through Florida makes them one of the state’s specialties for visiting birders.
Unlike other (wading) birds with whom they may share feeding grounds, Limpkins survive almost exclusively on a diet of apple snails. We didn’t get to see this baby eat, but it was a lot of fun to watch him preening.
This baby Limpkin was being closely attended by two adults, but I was so smitten by its cuteness that I failed to take any photos of the parents or of the whole family together. Whoops!