Central Florida Wildlife Pt.2

It was time to depart the Merritt Island area and move on south to stay with other friends in Vero Beach, didn’t want to wear out my welcome. Bob and Machiko had arranged an airboat tour of the Blue Cyprus Conservation Area located about and hour inland of Vero. Having only seen airboats whiz through the swamps on TV, I must say I was looking forward to the experience but why the hell did it have to be so cold in Florida. Within minutes of our launch, I was so transfixed on all the wildlife action that it could have been zero and I probably would not have noticed. Nesting Osprey, Osprey with their catch, Alligators everywhere, Peregrine Falcon circling overhead, wading birds taking flight, it was a photographer’s paradise, well, almost.

The airboat turned out to be a very challenging platform from which to photograph. Between the peaks and troughs of the wakes and the vigorous vibration of the air propeller, it took tremendous effort to control the bobbing and weaving of my long lens even with the aid of the monopod I had attached. With a 1.4 extender added to my long 500mm lens, the viewing angle was greatly reduced making it very difficult to find a moving object in the viewfinder. Of course, this is what gives you the magnification necessary for closeup photos. This is why I think photography is a lot like golf. When you pick your head up to peek, you miss the shot!

Well, the captain of the airboat was more concerned about putting on a good show than worrying about my photographic headaches. Knowing the circling Peregrine Falcon was searching for lunch, he purposely maneuvered the boat to flush a Coot into the air. For a brief moment, I tried to focus my lens on the descending Falcon before admitting that I didn’t stand a chance of completing the shot. After all , that bird was traveling well in excess of 100 miles per hour. I lowered my camera and watched in amazement as the midair collision resulted in the Falcon flying off with its talons sunk deep into its much larger dead prey. Had the Coot fallen to the water, the Peregrine Falcon would not have had the capacity to retrieve it. And what did I photograph? The final pose of course.

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Osprey usually take a mate for life returning to the same nest year after year.

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Osprey with hound fish. Eating only when hungry, they will not put their catch down staying at the perch for whatever time it takes to finish .

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The Anhinga is another superb fishing bird that dives for its food. This male’s eyes have turned from brown to turquoise indicating he is ready to mate. Once the female’s eye have changed he will get his chance.

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This Anhinga’s eyes have yet to change. Its neck reflects why it is sometimes referred to as the Snakebird.

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The captain of the airboat spotted this alligator as we breezed through the reeds at probably 30 miles per hour. Even after we doubled back, I could only see this eye. I don’t know how the captain ever saw it.

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Alligators simply were everywhere so the mystery eye was the exception not the rule.

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Floating grass and reed masses looked like solid land until the airboat just blew through them spooking wading birds like this Great Blue Heron.

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Up

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Up

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And away.

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So after a very action packed hour and a half, it was time to leave the wildlife, the vegetation, and our extremely cool ride behind as we headed east to return to the coast.

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After a great meal and a good night’s sleep, Bob and I set out to find the very obscure Indian River County Wetland Treatment Facility. Lots of Florida sewerage  treatment plants have large recharging ponds and wetlands that attract tons of wildlife. After an hour of stumbling around, I was forced to stop for directions. It was painfully obvious that Bob was not completely informed on the “workings” of his community. I am glad we made the effort as we were able to photograph a few previously unseen birds.

Common Gallinule

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Sora (small Rail)

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Strong winds ruffle the feathers of this perched juvenile Bald Eagle.

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American Coot

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Sticking with the theme of not wearing out my welcome, I thanked Bob and Machiko and backtracked north along the coast. I had read about wetlands in Viera but did not have time to check them out as I passed by on the way to Vero Beach. Not wanting to miss anything, I decided the effort would be worth while. I was not to be disappointed as you will see in installment 3 to follow.

3 responses

  1. great pics! I esp like the shots of the peregrine falcon. FYI, the silver fish is a houndfish, member of the needlefish family…..

    March 5, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    • Thanks Jim…I am quite sure that will not be the only clarification I need as I go forward!

      March 6, 2014 at 12:00 am

  2. Rubn Eduardo

    Wow and Wow again! AMAZING PHOTOS STEVE!!!!

    March 6, 2014 at 7:11 pm

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