Im more of a landscape photographer than anything else, but occasionally I do like to photograph birds and other wildlife, and for this one of the top spots in the area is the Blue Heron Wetlands Facility, an artificial wetlands engineered for the treatment of waste-water belonging to the City of Titusville. This morning was heavy with fog and overcast, and I love photographing wetlands in the fog, especially if you get a moment where the sun breaks through and illuminates the fog over the wetlands, creating a beautiful other-worldly effect, and it was with this hope that I loaded my Nikon DSLR into the car and drove to the facility. If not, I would just concentrate on getting close-ups of wetlands birds, leaving the sky out of the photo.
Upon entering the berm which surrounds the wetlands my first sighting was an American Alligator cruising just off the shoreline. If you are a visitor and want to see an alligator, this is one of your better chances. As I drove around the wetlands it seemed that the bird life was sparse compared to previous visits, but we have had a warmer than usual winter with very few cold spells. Earlier in January this place would have been packed. However, there is always a resident population and during the spring and summer quite a bit of nesting activity can be photographed. Still, this site almost always presents itself with a few good photo ops on any given day so I drove on. It became obvious that the sun was not going to break through so I kept my longest lens, a 180 mm Nikon on the camera. Not really great for bird photography but at these wetlands photo ops will present themselves right next to your car which, by the way makes a great photo blind. Some of the locals I was able to photograph were the resident Gallinules, Herons, and Egrets. Farther off in the distance I could see Florida Mottled Ducks, Anhingas, Cormorants, and others while the trees along the berms were full of various migratory songbirds. Im not really set up to photograph them, not owning a bazooka lens, so I passed on these opportunities.
I continued along the berm and was approaching the last corner before leaving the wetlands a strange shape caught my eye.
Just ahead, partially obscured by the roadside vegetation I saw this head of a bird pointing up toward the sky, brown, with some white striped markings including one crossing its eye, an American Bittern. I had never photographed one before. In fact Im not sure Ive ever even seen one. It was right by the berm, motionless, but I could tell that if I drove any closer I was going to spook it and there was no getting out of the car. That would surely ruin my chance. I had to take a shot now. Unfortunately with the angle I had I was going to get either the passenger side rear view mirror or the frame of the windshield in the shot. I took a chance and inched the car forward until I could shoot between the two. I was lucky. He held his position just long enough for one clear shot.
At the sound of the shutter, he slowly and silently crept across the shoreline weeds into the reeds just offshore. He then found what he felt was a secure hiding place and froze, providing me one more shot of just his head. These birds are fairly common, yet are rarely seen as they are known to be very secretive blend in well with their habitats. They are more often heard, having a call that has been described as a congested pump. They are in the Heron Family and are usually most active at dusk.
So, a day I thought was going to end up being a mild disappointment turned into a chance to add a new species to my bird portfolio. I have been here when the placed was absolutely socked in with birds, including many rarely seen birds. I’ve also seen Sandhill Cranes nesting and once had to stop the car due to a family of them walking aross the berm. The young looking like little orange balls or fluff. Otters are commonly sighted here as well. Deer have even occasionally been seen. While most action will be on the drivers side of the car, keep an eye out on the passenger side as well, especially after the halfway point in the loop. Deer sightings are possible here outside of the fence surrounding the property.
If you decide to see the Blue Heron Wetlands for yourself, and I highly recommend it, heres some information you should know.
What to do; Wildlife Observation, Hiking, Biking, Running, Photography;
The City of Titusville, in creating the Blue Heron Facility for the treatment of waste-water, have also created a birding and wildlife photography hot-spot. The wetland is divided into seven cells: one pond cell, three deep marsh cells, and three shallow marsh cells, with the water levels of each cell managed to provide optimal conditions for the target vegetation types to treat the waste-water through biological processes. The cells are separated by berms while a perimeter berm surrounds the entire wetlands. The perimeter berm can be driven, biked or hiked in a counter- clockwise direction while the inner berms separating the individual cells can be walked. By virtue of various cells hosting different vegetative communities attracting different wildlife species this area attracts a huge diversity of bird species providing a tremendous opportunity for birders to add to their Life Lists while photographers can add additional species to their portfolios. The ability to shoot from a vehicle is also a tremendous asset as vehicles make great photo blinds. Be sure to stop at the office and sign out when leaving, while a logbook is also available for visitors to record unique sightings. Over 100 species have been recorded here and the wetlands are listed as a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
When to go;The Gates to the Blue heron Wetlands open at 7:00 AM and close at 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday.They do not leave the gates open on weekends as there is usually only one employee on site, but you can still visit.
To visit the wetlands on a weekend, call 321-383-5642 the Friday before and let them know what to you would like to arrive. The attendant will be sure to open the gate shortly before your scheduled time. Carry the above phone number with you in case you are running late to let them know. They will reschedule your time. It is asked that all visitors sign in at the office upon arrival and sign out when you leave. They also have a book for you to record any unusual sightings. The Blue Heron Water Reclamation Facility is located at 4800 Deep Marsh Road on the south side of Highway 50, about a half mile west of I-95 in Titusville. If driving from the east you will have to do a U-turn at the Great Outdoors entrance on Highway 50 (Plantation Drive). The entrance to the wetlands will be the next right almost immediately after the U-turn.
For more information about Fishing, Birding, Kayaking, Hiking, Biking, Backcountry Camping, Surfing, Windsurfing, Snorkeling and more along our Space Coast, Click the image at left to go to www.SpaceCoastOutdoors.Net