As a Brevard County native of 56 years, Tim Ebaugh grew up watching and admiring the wildlife and birds of the great state of Florida. In the early 90s, his father, a professional photographer for Harris Corporation, retired and gave him most of his high-end photo gear. Ebaugh says, “With his guidance, I became adept at wildlife photography, and with the advent of the DSLR digital cameras and long range lenses I became addicted to ‘photo hunting.’”
Florida is home to over 500 native and migrant bird species. Naturists, bird watchers, and photographers alike are afforded a wide variety of subjects. The Indian River Lagoon, Atlantic Ocean, and an abundance of lakes and ponds put these photo opportunities right at our fingertips. The Space Coast is routinely thought of as one of the best birding areas in the United States.
Ebaugh adds, “For me personally, I love to be out in nature. Why not take my favorite camera? It’s an awesome feeling when you spot that one particular bird or animal, click the shutter, and create a great shot.” Living on the Eau Gallie River, Ebaugh gets many shots in his own backyard. “My personal favorite is the bald eagle. While somewhat rare, they can be found in and around Brevard County.
Many people tell me they have never seen an eagle around here. My response is ‘look up!’”
“I always hope that hikers, watchers and photographers alike will respect our wildlife and bird populations. Don’t invade the animal’s space; be stealthy and quiet, get the best shot you can, then retreat carefully. Places like the Ritch Grissom Wetlands in Viera allow you to slowly drive around large retention pond cells, where you can photograph or just watch several species as they carry on with their activities. Take some time on your next outing, look around and enjoy what nature has brought to our doorstep here on the Space Coast. Make it a hobby and have some fun!
My love of birds and photography combine to give me one of the greatest pleasures in life; to be able to observe the great variety of birds and record their presence and beauty. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, and birding in Brevard county is an activity I can engage in year around. In 2008, I purchased a Nikon DSLR, and found myself at the Viera Wetlands. I was amazed at the variety of birds there. Since then I have found many more birding locations in Brevard County. I find that observing birds in their natural habitat is a very captivating activity. There is no such thing as having a bad day when you are observing great blue herons flying in with nesting material, or watching the courtship activity of these beautiful birds. To watch the graceful flight of the colorful roseate spoonbills, or the gentleness of a great horned owl taking care of her chicks makes you forget about what else is going on in the world. There is no stress, no worry.
Photographing birds has taught me patience. I have waited for long periods of time to see a bird, or to see it perform a certain activity. If it does not happen I come back another day, knowing that I’ve still had a good day outdoors. In addition to being outdoors, birding can also involve walking, carrying equipment, and enjoying the camaraderie of other birder/photographers. Often at the end of the day my friends and I enjoy a good meal and discuss the fun time we’ve had photographing at a particular location.
There is no down side to being a birder in Brevard County. It is a mecca for birders, with countless locations to choose from. It is an activity that is enjoyable, healthy for you and gets you outdoors.
Jim Boland lives on a storm water retention pond in Titusville. In 2004, a flock of black-bellied whistling ducks took up residence in the pond. That sparked the passion for him to get images of those birds in flight. Now a recognized bird photographer in Brevard, Boland says, “Brevard County provides a wide variety of birds throughout the year. I live in Titusville, so the locations I visit are mostly central and north Brevard.” From freshwater to saltwater habitats, beaches, marshes, and freshwater habitats, each offers a different bird species to photograph.
Any tips for a newbie?
Boland suggests that people hold off in spending a lot of money on equipment in the beginning. Cameras and lenses today can be quite expensive. “I suggest getting moderately-priced equipment and learn how to get the most out of it. Once you learn your camera settings and capabilities, you can make a more informed decision on the next purchase.”
As far as field suggestions, “I have two for both birders and photographers. The first is to be respectful of nature. The second tip is for places like Black Point Drive and the municipal wetlands. Stay in your car. Most of the birds at those locations are tolerant of the automobile traffic. Once you open a door to try to get out the birds will start moving away from you.”
Boland continues, “In my opinion, early morning provides a soft, golden light that is the best. Ideally, the sun and the wind will be at your back. Position the sun at your back and your shadow pointed at the subject will best illuminate the bird. Also, a wind coming from behind you is ideal. Birds take off and land into the wind. Having both sun and wind behind you will provide great light and provide more opportunities for those amazing takeoff and landing images.”
Besides Black Point Drive, his favorite spots are Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Canaveral National Seashore, Blue Heron Water Reclamation Facility Wetlands in Titusville, and Jetty Park at Port Canaveral.
Photography for me began with a cheap point-and-shoot camera taking photos of my son playing flag football in the early 90s. It has since become more than a hobby and more like an obsession. Space Coast residents have so many places close by to watch and photograph wildlife, birds in particular. This time of year, we see so many species of birds both native and migratory in Brevard County. It’s a short drive to the North Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, the Viera wetlands, Moccasin Island or the Dan Click ponds where raptors, wading birds and a host of others can be found throughout the day, and you don’t even have to get out of your vehicle. It’s a great place to take the family out for an afternoon, and the kids love it.
A bird feeder in your backyard can also entice a wide variety of visitors such as blue jays, cardinals, painted buntings and ruby throated hummingbirds too. I love to get out in the fresh air to see what birds are around in the area. It is so relaxing. Some days are better than others, and I may see an owl or bald eagle, but ospreys, herons, ibis or egrets can most always be spotted.
I have met several birders, either through social media or in the field, and all have been very friendly and all share my love of wildlife and the outdoors. Whether you are a visitor, or a resident of our county, get out there and enjoy the wildlife that we have, even if it is only on your lunch hour.