Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

The increasingly hot temperatures drove Dyeyo and me to the Circle B Bar Reserve at 6:30 this morning, to allow us time for birding before the heat set in. I was amazed to see the marsh at sunrise. It was like a whole other world, with dewdrops glistening in the rising sun, and the grasses and trees giving off a friendly glow.

The first birds to greet us were the Red-winged Blackbirds. As Dyeyo cautioned me about backlight, I snapped this image, intentionally wanting the bird to come out in silhouette. (It flew before I could re-meter and expose his feathers properly.)

Red-winged Blackbird silhouette at dawn

Red-winged Blackbird silhouette at dawn

As the sun crept up behind us, Dyeyo and I headed out Heron Hideout to the Eagle Roost to look for Eastern Meadowlarks. Towards the far end of the Heron Hideout, we noticed a pair of Green Herons, quietly sitting in a tree. It’s hard to find Green Herons; they really keep to themselves.

Green Heron

Green Heron

As we photographed the Green Herons, the Red-winged Blackbirds circled, fussing at us to pay attention to them, too. This one landed on a nearby branch, threw his head back, and started to sing. It’s a very characteristic pose for this piggy bird!

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Dyeyo is used to getting to Circle B early, but I kept stopping to take pictures of the general landscape as the sun rose. It was fun to look across and see my “Cormorant Tree” filled with Double-Crested Cormorants and Anhingas. (When I first went to Circle B in November/December 2009, the bird-filled trees reminded me of Christmas trees, but with birds for ornaments. Then the freezing weather came and the birds took off, probably flying farther south. Finally they have started to roost at Circle B again.)

Marsh at sunrise

Marsh at sunrise

Out at the Eagle Roost, we saw the juvenile Bald Eagle in his nest. We heard the Eastern Meadowlarks before we saw them. They were very skittish and did not let us get very close to them. This was the best picture I took:

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

We heard a Northern Bobwhite, also, and caught a fleeting glimpse of his head as he burrowed into a bush. He sat there for at least 10 minutes, and Dyeyo and I stood waiting for him to come out. “Bob White! Bob White!” We listened eagerly, hoping with every call that he would come out to pose, but he never did. Crazy bird.

We rounded the bend and came up to Wading Bird Way. There was the family of Common Moorhens, with four chicks. (Dyeyo saw eight of them a couple of weeks ago, when the babies were much smaller.) The babies were feeding with their mother, who occasionally let them leave the reeds to pose for the photographers in open waters (thanks, Mama).

Juvenile Common Moorhen

Juvenile Common Moorhen

A few yards later, we came across an Anhinga sunning himself. Anhingas were very (very!) common birds at Circle B last fall, but became pretty scarce after the winter freezes. I thought it was fun to see this guy posing so nicely in the sun.

Anhinga

Anhinga

We made our way up to the Marsh Rabbit Run, where we didn’t see many birds, partly due to the fact that we were walking into the sun. About halfway across, by a bench, we saw a mass in the marsh that we at first mistook for a giant soft-shelled turtle. Then as I focused on it, I realized it was a Sand Hill Crane, lying down. On a nest! You can see the edges of the nest in my picture below. It’s a bit late in the season for a nest, and hopefully the marsh won’t get any major downpours to wash it away. (The incubation period is around 30 days.) It will be fun to see more babies! The nest is pretty close to the trail, which should provide a good photographing opportunity.

Sand Hill Crane on nest

Sand Hill Crane on nest

As we neared the end of Marsh Rabbit Run, I drove Dyeyo crazy by photographing this Viceroy butterfly over and over as it nectared from a flower. Most of the shots were not great, but I really liked the butterfly position and the bokeh of this picture:

Viceroy butterfly

Viceroy butterfly

If I focused a bit farther away from the butterfly, I could watch this Great Blue Heron fishing for his breakfast. He stalked his food for a long time, then finally made the dive. His prey was small enough to not be visible, but I liked the splash he made.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

There were dragonflies everywhere! A few Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks were still hanging around, on their way back north. (I love to hear their whistle calls!) We also saw an Eastern Kingbird, far away in a treetop. I got a picture to prove that I’d seen it, but it’s not good enough to post.

Dyeyo wanted to check on “his” Sand Hill Crane baby, so we headed up Heron Hideout and found the cranes just as they were about to head to the visitor center. They follow the same general path through the marsh each morning, so it’s fairly easy to find them. Today the juvenile was acting a bit more independent than usual, wandering away from his parents. They let him do his own thing for a few minutes, then gently reminded him to join them for their walk. After another couple of minutes, he begrudging agreed. This was rather aggravating to Dyeyo, who wanted a group shot!

Juvenile Sand Hill Crane

Juvenile Sand Hill Crane

As Dyeyo talked to his cranes, I focused on the Osprey nest in the distance. There was motion inside! I’ll post this picture not because it is flattering to the adult, but because it has two wee heads sticking up towards the left side of the nest. The nest seems to be tipping slightly in the top of the palm tree, which should offer good visibility of the chicks as they grow older.

Osprey nest with babies

Osprey nest with babies

Dyeyo and I walked the Shady Oak path out to the Alligator Alley, too, but there weren’t as many birds out that way. It had gotten later in the morning, and it was pretty hot. We were amused by the number of people we saw who were out to count alligators on that path. There certainly are plenty of small alligators, but Dyeyo and I agreed that they just weren’t as exciting as the birds.

I will definitely be back to photograph Circle B at sunrise again! How about tomorrow? :)