Florida trip: Sandhill crane, Limpkin, Crested Caracara & more

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Here are a few of the photos I took on my trip to Florida in early March. I've only been to FL one other time and now both times I've been blown away by the bird photography opportunities. I can't wait to go again.

First of all, I'm originally from Michigan. We have a LOT of Sandhill Cranes in Michigan. We hear them, we see them and ..... they are almost always at least 300 yards away and skittish. I've heard rumors about "roadside Sandhill Cranes" in Florida. Now I'm a believer! These were at Viera Wetlands:
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Next up: Limpkins. It's always been a thrill to see a Limpkin. I thought they were kind of hard to find. Not this trip! There they were at Circle B. And again at Viera. This one is about to pop its favorite snack, the Apple Snail, down the hatch:
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The bird i most wanted to see and photograph on this trip was the Crested Caracara. I saw one on my trip in Dec 2012. It was flying, distant and not in view for long. But wow, what a bird!!! Also in the category of not that easy to find. For the first few days I thought I was going to have a similar experience this trip: I saw a few but they were flying and distant. Finally, on my second day at Viera there was a brief midday rain shower. The caracara stayed just long enough on one of its favorite perches for me to set up and get a few shots:
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It didn't stay long (I was barely ready for this shot):
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Also saw some waders that I've heard and only gotten very brief looks at. But it's Florida, it's Viera, which for me is all the Magic Kingdom I could ever want. The birds just seem to be out in the open more. For example, this King Rail, which was calling. Loudly.
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I see Great Blue Herons all the time here in the Washington DC area. But they nest in rookeries that are in deciduous trees with lots of branches. What a cool thing to see them on top of palm trees in the open. These (at Viera) were doing some lovely nest-building-bonding:
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Last but not least, the Boat-tailed Grackles were out in force, calling and display for the females. Their sounds and presence were ubiquitous and I took a number of photos but every once in a while I saw them doing something I found especially entertaining. Like this competition between 3 pretty boys:
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I was also very excited to see, for the first time NOT dead by the side of the road: an armadillo. Also, at Merritt Island (which was kind of devoid of a lot of birds): Manatees!!! Plus a concentration of herons & ibis (ibi?) at Corkscrew Swamp, lots and lots of anhingas (and Limpkins and alligators) at Circle B (and Viera), Burrowing Owls in Cape Coral, not enough Spoonbills and not enough Wood Storks and several nice sunrises & sunsets. You can see them at this link:

http://sarahanderson.smugmug.com/Places/Florida-2015

Gear used: Nikon: D4, D800E, 500 f4 vr I, a rented 80-400 VR II af-s (the new-ish one), 70-200 2.8 VR II and 16-35 f4 VR. Also the tripod w/ gimbal. And various sweatshirts & jackets as makeshift beanbags.

--Sarah
 
Joined
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Thank you for sharing your experience shooting of the Florida wild life.
First time I see this Caracara bird.
 
Joined
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Thanks everyone!

I felt very fortunate to just have seen at least 3 individual caracara's on my trip - one at Viera (maybe two - it's hard to tell the male & female apart). Getting a handful of decent photos was icing on the cake.
 

Butlerkid

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So glad you had a wonderful trip!!!! Wonderful images and excellent variety! Did you use the 80-400 very much? I'm finding it a bit "short".
 
Joined
Nov 16, 2008
Messages
398
Location
Cabin John, Maryland
So glad you had a wonderful trip!!!! Wonderful images and excellent variety! Did you use the 80-400 very much? I'm finding it a bit "short".

Karen: thanks!!

I really liked the 80-400. I almost always had it on one body or the other. I even used it w/ the 1.4 tc a few times (I rented the new version of that too) which is something I could not do with the old version of this lens. For where I was in Florida it was a perfect walk-around lens (e.g. Circle B & Corkscrew where I wasn't able (due to time constraints) to walk around with the long lens setup). And at Viera, sometimes (often) the birds were too close for the 500mm.

Great pics Sarah and the narrative was very well done

Thanks Randy!
 
Joined
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West coast of FL (formerly Westchester County, NY)
LOVE the caracara. I have a place in Sarasota and have been all over the state and have never been fortunate enough to see one. I am so jealous. Cranes, limpets, etc are great to see, but regularly visible.

Very cool bird definitely on my bucket list. Right next to the Blue Footed Boobie which I have no chance to see until I get to the Galapagos.
 

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