Viera Wetlands

Here's a great egret head.

Well, I'm in Atlanta right now and the drought is still on--the grass is very brown and there are water conservation notices in the hotel rooms. However, as I type this, there is one heck of storm raging outside, so maybe this is a sign for the better? So, time to finish up the Florida entries:

So, Viera Wetlands (again, just a fancy name for a wastewater treatment area--yeah, I mean sewage) wasn't just about the cool bittern loaf. No, there were other birds there, they were just all over shadowed by the cool brown heron like bird. What else could be so cool?

Brown ducks! This is an exciting duck since it can be found in most places around the US. It's a relative of black ducks and mallards and that plumage in the above photos is about as flamboyant as it gets for the mottled duck. I can hear Non Birding Bill smirking all the way in Minnesota.

The wetlands were chock full of herons and egrets. Above is a flock of cattle egrets threatening to block the road as we were driving through.

Here is a pair of sandhill cranes near the road. Again, I would like to point out how birds in Florida are mellower than birds up north. There's no way sandhills would stick near the road if a vehicle slowed down near them. How close were they? For one thing, I didn't digiscope this photo. Here's another comparison:

That's my buddy Clay Taylor in the driver's seat watching the cranes--these birds just don't care about humans. Maybe it's the vacation atmosphere in Florida? Everybody, even the wildife is chillin' out.

Here's another anhinga, drying out its wings in the sun while surrounded by blue-winged teal. It kind of threw me to see it with blue-winged teal, a species we have nesting in Minnesota.
Here is an adult anhinga (note the white on the wings). The anhinga is another kind of celebrity bird for me. I remember staring at their illustrations in my field guides when I was a kid, in all the books, there was at least one showing it with its wings out. It's fun to see them when I am in Texas or Florida.

Speaking of birds throwing me, here's a savannah sparrow. I wondered if I was driving Clay crazy by second guessing so many birds. I kept asking things like, "Is that really a savannah sparrow I'm seeing?" I'm so used to seeing and hearing them in open areas around the Minnesota, I wasn't expecting to find them lurking in the grasses of some wetlands in Florida.

The birds weren't all brown at the wetlands. Check out this striking fellow--kind of like a coot in drag. It's a common moorhen. These birds are very grunty, belchy and farty sounding. They make a variety of noises, but it's the grunty sounds that stick in your mind.

The moorhens were mixed in with the coots. Many of the coots formed a tight raft and fed in the water. With the black bodies and heads, accented with the white bills, it was kind of hypnotic. Here's a video:

Here's another Dr. Seuss looking bird. This is the glossy ibis. Viera was just fun, everywhere you scanned you find something cool, if not on the water, then in the grasses and shoreline. There's something for everyone. And you might be surprised what you find as you're scanning:

Oh hey, what's that on the shore? Why, it's an alligator. And this wasn't the only one, they were ALL over.

Now, these birds must like life on the edge. Here are two sizable alligators and near them on the shore is a glossy ibis and a few moorhens feeding away. Are these birds just not the brightest bulbs on the tree or does their diet make them taste so nasty that an alligator just doesn't want to bother.

You could get fairly close to the alligators. Above is a member of our group named Andy getting a photo with his point and shoot. I noted the alligator was longer than I am and decided to digiscope it from where I stood behind Andy (if the gator decided to come our way, it would get Andy first).

Not a bad photo and much like the bittern photo, I could only get a head shot of the gator to fit in my field of view. Perhaps, that means I'm too close to it.

We did see some non lethal animals like this red-bellied turtle and a river otter that came running out of the water and was entirely too fast for me to digiscope.

Here's a rabbit--this poor thing was frozen and hunkered to the ground, there was a young red-shouldered hawk hunting nearby and the rabbit was using its camo ability to evade becoming a mean for the hawk. One of the guys on our trip was a Florida naturalist and he said that this was a marsh rabbit. They can swim, although, I wouldn't advise it with all the gators in the water.