The peak bird migration is definitely past, and some would say that this is the “slow period” for birding at Circle B Bar Reserve. Dyeyo and I are finding that the babies popping up throughout the preserve still make our walks very rewarding!
This morning we arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve at dawn (6:30) and headed out Heron Hideout. A family of Common Moorhens greeted us, and we spent several minutes photographing a mother feeding her chicks. We saw at least five chicks, two of which were swimming out in the water, with the remaining chicks sticking close to the reeds. I didn’t want to use my flash, and get severe reflections in the birds’ eyes, so I instead dialed up my ISO as high as possible (1600) and shot. The results are a bit grainy, but the mother-baby moment is cool.
Nearby, a baby Red-Winged Blackbird was perched in some tall grass, fluttering his wings desperately as he called for food. His father hovered nearby, probably warning the baby that there were strangers with cameras nearby!
We headed out to the Eagle Roost to check for Eastern Meadowlarks and Northern Bobwhites. Dyeyo’s been taking lessons from Mum-mum — when he didn’t hear a bobwhite, he started whistling “Bob White!” and within a few minutes, a nearby bird was answering him. He and the bird conversed “Bob White! Bob White!” for about twenty minutes, but the bird didn’t want to pose. The Eastern Meadowlarks weren’t posing as much today because of a Red-Shouldered Hawk perched at the top of one of their pine trees. I did get one decent shot, though.
On Wading Bird Way, the “regulars” (the Anhingas and Great Blue Herons) were out fishing. Their feathers glistened in the rising sun light. It’s such fun to watch them hunt. They concentrate as much as our gatitos when they are stalking a lizard!
By 8:00 or so, we had made our way to Marsh Rabbit Run, where the cormorants and other birds that had covered the trees at down had already made their way out into the marsh for the day. We stumbled across a very fussy pair of Red-Winged Blackbirds, who yelled at us as we walked past. I guess they had a nest nearby. The silly birds should learn about photographers — the more fuss a bird makes, the more the photographers notice it and try to take its picture, thereby lengthening the time that the people are close to the nest!
Speaking of fussy birds, I noticed a Black-necked Stilt off in the marsh, as it chased away a White Ibis. It proceeded to fuss its little head off. Dyeyo and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, then Dyeyo notices that the bird had two tiny babies with it. They were wandering around, making their way through the reeds and grasses. It was really hard to try to focus on such little birds at a pretty good distance — thank goodness for Live View and focus refinement — and this was my best picture. At least I can prove that we saw the babies. :)
One of the other photographers remarked that the stilt babies were “little white fuzzballs.” Then a few yards down the path, he called “here are some black fuzzballs!”, which were later determined to be baby Purple Gallinules. We were in the same spot where Dyeyo and I had seen baby gallinules previously. Today the babies didn’t make much of an appearance. Other than a quick glimpse of a head, we didn’t see them at all, but we definitely heard them. There must be a nest in the bushes. It sounded pretty active! No wonder the parents were scurrying around to find food.
We heard plenty of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, and after a bunch of tries, I finally got some decent flight photos. I need to be faster at switching to auto-focus on my lens! My manual focus reactions are not fast enough for these fast fliers. I was surprised to see the ducks again, as I thought they were only migrating through Polk County. After doing a few web searches, though, it sounds as if they nest in Polk, and are seen in ever-increasing numbers since about 1999. Tom Palmer wrote a good article in The Ledger last year.
As we left around 9:30, we saw that the Osprey nest was active. The adult was feeding the babies. The nest is not exactly close to the path, and it’s pretty high in a dead palm tree, but with my Live View 10x zoom I was able to refine my focus enough to get these pictures of the babies. (One clearly shows both babies, and the other shows feeding. I couldn’t decide which I liked better!)
As Dyeyo says, “Circle B never fails to surprise.” We always seem someone new or something interesting. It’s fun to talk to the other photographers, too. From what one of them told us today, we should be heading to Fort DeSoto in Saint Pete next winter (peak months March and April) to see lots of different warblers. I also got to try another photographer’s gimbal tripod head for a few seconds. Now I see why people rave about gimbal heads! They really do let you move the camera in any direction, and best of all, it stays exactly where you positioned it. (Jess wants!)