Sunday, January 24, 2010

Birding on a Whim

On a whim I decided to go to Viera Wetlands to chase down the Masked Duck that had been reported there. I don't usually do these things but Viera isn't that far and it was going to be cold this weekend and Viera is a drive through place so I said "what the heck. I can bird from the comfort of my car and just maybe pick up a lifer."

Having made this decision I decided as long as I am going to Viera I might just as well go a little further north to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I told my son my plans and he decided to tag along with me. This was nice for me as he likes to do all the driving and I can sit back relax and enjoy.

So Saturday we left early and headed for Viera. It just started raining as we left but I didn't let that dismay me as someone once said to me that you often get to see more birds when it is raining then when the sun is out. I was secretly hoping that the sun would be out up there as that was what my weather thingy said. Well the sun wasn’t out and, it was raining but not too hard and luckily the compound wasn't closed due to the rains as I have heard it sometimes is. But is was cold and sometime facing into the wind and rain trying to get a shot of a bird was darn right frigid.

We had no sooner got there and were driving slowly and pulling over to the side when the truck pulled up beside us and asked if we had any luck locating the masked we said that we hadn't but that we had just got there. They said they had been around 3 times and hadn't had any luck. Then they moved on and we just kept looking at the birds where we were. Then one of the guys in the truck waved for us to move up behind them we did and we got out and they pointed out the duck to us. It was the smallest duck in the pond. I really had to strain to see it as it was a ways out but see it I did as well as the coots and Blue-winged Teals and a few Ringed-billed Ducks.

We then proceeded to work our way around the ponds looking to see what we could see. We saw a lot of the usual birds and some not to usual for me. I photographed some sparrows and I am trying to ID them but to me sparrows all look alike. I thought one had nice distinct features and would be easy to ID but he looks like the rest of them.

We saw a Northern Harrier and a Crested Caracara and got some decent shots of Caracara but the Harrier was just a fleeting glance. We also got good looks at a Red Shouldered Hawk at least Ithinks it was a Red-shouldered hawk. It looks different and its tail looks shorter and it looks smaller but probably isn't. I don't think I have ever seen one so close before and I can see red shoulders so..........

One time as we were making our way around again we saw Snipes every 3 feet. It was amazing and they just kept looking for food not even bothered by the fact that we were trying to photograph them. I have never seen so many snipes in one place and out in the open like that to boot. Everywhere we looked there was a Snipe. Here a Snipe, there a Snipe, everywhere a Snipe. The Limpkins too were out in the open that day though moving constantly but still giving us good looks. I was hoping to see a Snail Kite but alas he was not to appear.

We ended up spending the afternoon there, We pulled over at one point and pulled out our picnic lunch and ate it in the warmth of the car taking our mess with us when we left.  It was such an enjoyable day neither one of us wanted to leave in spite of the rain, cold, sleet and snow. As we drove around cell after cell we became obsessed with the Hooded Mergansers trying to get a decent picture but they were not very corporative but we had fun trying.

We drove to Merritt Island in the late afternoon. Where we booked a room and went out and had some warm food for dinner. The Following morning we headed out birding but that is yet another story for yet another time.

Click on the link below to see a list of the birds we saw at Viera.
 Birds seen at Viera Wetlands.

There were a couple of bonuses at Viera as well. We spent a few minutes watching this guy devour a fish.

Of course running into this one was a real pleasure.

and his mate?????

I always enjoy running into one of these but usually see them perching on the telephone or electrical wires.

This one puzzled me but finally settled on Scaup. I can see what must have been a little white cheek mark and I'm thinking Lesser as I think the head is pretty flat.

Another view

We got to watch this one as he captured his little delicacy and ran away from the group to protect his meal and when he felt safe he stopped and tenderized his meal before swallowing it head first.

One of the many Limpkins we saw.

There were a few killdeer around that day. this guy was working the water's edge others were seen in the open areas and working the banks around the cells. He looks cold, wet & unhappy.

I always enjoy running into this handsome guy even though he has a big