Nature and a Super Galaxy at Viera Wetlands

Saturday was a beautiful day at the Viera Wetlands. Wildlife wasn’t overly abundant, but then again I only made two stops and focused on three primary subjects. The wetlands were open early and I was very happy because the sky was looking like it was going to produce a spectacular sunrise. I love getting to the Viera Wetlands well before sunrise this time of year in hopes of making some silhouette images of the nesting great blue herons against the sunrise as I did in my last visit to the Viera Wetlands. With the clouds and sun looking like they would cooperate for a nice background, I was optimistic that the herons would be active on the nest.

I hit a home run on the sunrise, but only hit a single on the herons. Literally. Click the images to view larger.

Heron Silhouette - Viera Wetlands
Heron Silhouette

Seems there was just 1 great blue heron on the nests this morning. That can be both good or bad depending on how you look at it. It’s good in the sense that if only 1 nest is active, you can focus your attention on that one nest and not miss much. However, if there is only 1 nest, the opportunities can be somewhat limited. As they were this morning. Seems that the only heron on the nest couldn’t attract a mate for some morning courtship. He/she would dutifully point for me, but no mate appeared at the nest before the light became too harsh. This really presented a problem for me. In the past I had setup the camera to get as much of the sunrise and the herons in focus as possible. To do that you need a small aperture and a longer shutter speed. But when I’ve been setup for those shots, that’s when the action happens and my shutter speed is too slow. So all my courtship silhouettes are blurry because the birds are moving too fast for the shutter speed. This day I setup the camera to have a fast shutter speed so that I could capture any action that came my way. But none did. Still, the sky provided a beautiful background.

Heron Silhouette - Viera Wetlands
Heron Silhouette

After the light got too harsh to work the great blue herons, it was time to turn my attention to a cooperative belted kingfisher. I wrote about her previously and she is still at the wetlands and still returning to a perch that is close enough to get some great images of this normally camera-shy bird. I finally got a shot very close to what I’m looking for. But even at 1/2000 shutter speed I still have wing blur. Looks like I’ll have to try again with a faster shutter speed in order to get the shot I want. But this one is almost there!

Belted Kingfisher sticks the landing - Viera Wetlands
Belted Kingfisher sticks the landing

I also lucked out on a shot when she launches off the perch and dives into the water in search of breakfast. Its certainly no prize winning shot, but I thought it was a cool shot of her initial dive off the perch.

Takeoff  Viera Wetlands

After about 90 minutes with the belted kingfisher I moved down the road a bit in search of a new quarry. I found what I believe to be an early nest for a double-crested cormorant, so I decided to sit on that nest for a while and see what might come up. Before too long, a green heron flew towards me and landed on the other side of the road. As soon as he landed, another green heron popped up not far from the first one and began stalking it. I sensed that a territorial dispute was in the works, so I whipped the camera around, focused and started shooting. I got about 6 frames of the action and came away with 3 decent images that tells the story of the encounter. As you can see, the intruder was chased off quite quickly.

Green Heron Skirmish - Viera Wetlands
Green Heron Skirmish
Green Heron Skirmish - Viera Wetlands
Green Heron Skirmish
Green Heron Skirmish - Viera Wetlands
Green Heron Skirmish

I was happy that I had enough time to get setup for the action as these are opportunities that don’t come by all that often. The victor looked like he might be gloating just a bit as he settled down to begin fishing again.

The Victor! - Viera Wetlands
The Victor!

There was one other bird encounter worth noting that morning. We were able to witness a flyby of a USAF C5 Super Galaxy transport plane on its way into Patrick AFB. This baby is huge and while it was probably cruising by us at 300 MPH, it looked like it was stationary or barely moving in the sky. With a height of 65.1 feet, a length of 247.8 feet and a wingspan of 222.8 feet it can carry a payload of 285,000 pounds.

USAF C5 Super Galaxy - Viera Wetlands
USAF C5 Super Galaxy

I have always been fascinated by aircraft. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to photographing birds.


  • Margaret Kelly

    December 23, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    I have always enjoyed your photography, but today was quite hectic because Christmas is closing in on us. When I stopped for a moment to look at your photos, I stopped worrying about anything and just enjoyed the spectacular photography. Thank you for the respite and the smiles.

    • Michael

      December 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Thank you very much for your kind comments, Margaret! Merry Christmas!

  • Don Weesner

    December 23, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I see your still at it with great shots.
    Keep up the good work.
    Thanks for the new calendar & have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.
    Uncle Don

    • Michael

      December 23, 2014 at 2:26 pm

      Merry Christmas to you and Carla, Don!