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Viera Wetlands (Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands) - Florida

Joe Kegley | E-Mail | Updated 02-10-09

Pied-billed Grebe chicks

Pied-billed Grebe chicks, Viera Wetlands
- Joe Kegley

Introduction

Located conveniently off of I-95 in Brevard County Florida, Viera Wetlands is part of a water reclamation facility managed by the county. The 200 acres of wetlands are divided into 4 cells at various water levels, each cell offering a different and unique environment for specific wildlife. A deep water lake is positioned in the middle and is surrounded by all 4 cells.

The dikes surrounding the cells and lake offer an exceptional wildlife auto touring experience. Other popular activities on the dikes include walking, biking, birding, and photography. Amenities are limited to a parking area with two port-a-johns.


In addition to the wetlands area, there are a couple of ponds off Four Mile Road directly north of the facility that also provide wildlife habitat. These ponds are the original storage ponds of the treated effluent at the facility and are still used today. They are referred to by locals as the "click" ponds.

Hooded Merganser with preyn

Hooded Merganser with prey, Viera Wetlands
- Joe Kegley

Nature Perspective

This area is a mecca for birding, especially waterfowl, long legged waders, and raptors. Obviously winter time will be the best time for wintering waterfowl. Expect to see other birders.

Blue-winged Teal were the most dominant duck species observed. Also easily accessible for viewing were Mottled Ducks, Ring-billed Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers. Ring-billed Ducks were usually found in cell #4, while the Blue-winged Teal, Mottled Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers were usually found in cells #1 and #2.


Pied-billed Grebe with chick

Pied-billed Grebe with chick, Viera Wetlands
- Joe Kegley


Pied-billed Grebes were readily found in cells #1, #2, and #3. In fact, on my February 2009 trip, I was fortunate enough to be able to photograph some Pied-billed Grebe chicks in cell #1.

The Caracara and Northern Harrier were very interested in these chicks. I repeated saw both raptors investigate the area with the chicks over and over.

The Northern Harrier would fly very low over the chicks area while the Caracara actually landing on the bank and started walking toward the chicks. The Caracara was scared away three times from concerned photographers.

From what I understand, two of the chicks were taken the day before my observation.


Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier, Viera Wetlands - Joe Kegley


Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier, Viera Wetlands
- Joe Kegley

Raptors seen frequently on a daily basis included Osprey, Crested Caracara, and Northern Harrier. Bald Eagles were sighted only occasionally during my 2009 visit.

Anhinga, Double-breasted Cormorants, and Belted Kingfishers could be encountered in cells #1, #2, and #3. While Moorhens and American Coots made their home in all the cells.

Frequently seen waders included Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Tricolored Herons. Less frequently observed but usually sighted daily were Glossy Ibis and Green Herons. The south side of Cell #1 was particular fruitful for observing Green Herons. The more secretive American Bittern, Least Bittern, and Limpkin were seen only occasionally.


Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara, Viera Wetlands
- Joe Kegley


Like all cattle areas in Florida, Sandhill Cranes passed through the area frequently, sometimes stopping to graze. It's always a pleasure to hear their bugling call.

Other birds observed daily included Yellow-rumped Warblers, Red-winged Blackbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Common Snipe, Killdeer, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Birds I did not see, but others have seen at Viera, were Black-necked Stilts, Roseate Spoonbills, Northern Shovelers, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and Purple Gallinule.

Mammals observed included armadillos, raccoons, white-tailed deer, and otters.

Reptiles observed included alligators and various water snakes.

Wilderness Experience Perspective

There was no wilderness experience to speak of. This small wetlands environment is popular with birders, photographers, bikers, and walkers. You will not find solitude here.

If you are in need of a fix for some private time, I suggest following Four Mile Road to the end and you can hike or bike to Moccasin Island, Lake Winder, or the Upper St Johns Marsh. No cars allowed on these trails.


Anhinga with prey

Anhinga with prey, Viera Wetlands
- Joe Kegley

Photography Perspective

Besides being a good location for birding, Viera Wetlands is also a mecca for nature photographers. Amateur through professional enjoy the wide diversity and availability of wildlife found in the wetlands. It can be quite busy during the winter weekends.

This area is a good place for fine art portraits, documentary style action, and in-flight shots.

Suggestions:

Bring a focal length of 300mm up to 800mm.

Get out of your car! Park and walk some. You will be surprised at what you missed by being in your vehicle. Especially true for Green Herons, Least Bitterns, American Bitterns, and Limpkin.

Spend some time at the wetlands, don't just drive the dikes once. Spend the day. While midday may not have the light a photographer would like, the more you learn about this environment and the wildlife that inhabits it, the better your next day will be.

Gear/equipment Suggestions

  • Food/water - You will want to hang out here for a while. Bring your lunch.

Location and Points of Interest

  • From I-95 take Exit 191 (Wickham Rd.) heading west, drive approximately 2.5 miles.
  • Enter into the Waste Water Treatment Facility. (Yes you actually drive into and thru the facility to get into the wetlands.)

Viera Wetlands Map (Google interactive map)

left double click to zoom in
right double click to zoom out
click and drag to move
hover over markers to see descriptions


Additional Information



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