Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Another beautiful morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

Dyeyo and I arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve at 6:30 am to enjoy a nice warm morning of birding!

Sunrise over Lake Hancock

Sunrise over Lake Hancock

The sunrise over Lake Hancock was gorgeous.  Since our favorite Marsh Rabbit Run trail is closed, we took the Alligator Alley trail instead.  The breeze down by the lake felt wonderful as we enjoyed the great morning light.

We saw the two owls in their usual tree, but I didn’t take many pictures of them because they weren’t posing very nicely.  Then it was so funny, I had just finished saying that I wanted to see another Black-Crowned Night Heron, and then we saw one right next to us!  (Later I tried that trick again, saying that I wanted to see a Red-Headed Woodpecker, but none appeared. Too bad, Dyeyo!)

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Usually there isn’t too much activity on the Alligator Alley trail by the time we get there in mid-morning.  It felt like a totally different trail this morning when we went there first.  There were Ospreys in the trees everywhere. I went out on the little boardwalk over the lake and saw an Osprey fishing for his breakfast.  I got a fun silhouette shot with fish in claw, but I think this was my best Osprey shot of the morning:

Osprey

Osprey

I had fun watching the Snowy Egrets as they fished for breakfast along the lake shore.  They would perch in the bushes near the edge of the lake, watching and waiting for there to be fish in a particular area.  Then they would do a “water-ski” dive:

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egrets are slightly different from other egrets and herons in that they will fly and hover over a spot before making their big dive.  I really liked this dive shot, where you can see the bird’s eye as he reaches for his breakfast.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

Then the bird flies back to the edge of the lake to digest his prey and watch for the next snack.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

As we approached the intersection of Alligator Alley and Heron Hideout, we started to notice more songbirds.  This Red-Bellied Woodpecker caught our eye because he was dragging his wing in a funny way.  I think he was a juvenile because his red patch isn’t very dark yet.  He seemed to be figuring out how to feed himself.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The lighting in this particular area was very hard to photograph, as the foreground was brightly lit by the rising sun, and the background was very dark in deep shadow.  But it makes for some dramatic black backgrounds that accentuate the bird!

It seemed like there were Great-Crested Flycatchers everywhere.  I’m pretty sure most of them were juveniles, as they seemed to have more brown on them than the adult birds.  (Plus I caught one bird posing with its mouth open, as if he was still in the habit of begging for Mama to feed him!)

Great-Crested Flycatcher

Great-Crested Flycatcher

I had to laugh as I watched a flycatcher chasing a dragonfly.  It followed the insect in circles for about twenty seconds, chasing it and chasing it, before finally giving up and returning to its tree.  (Again, a hint that these birds were juveniles and learning to feed themselves!)

We met a nice man on the trail who said that he was out to observe the dragonflies.  I hope our flycatchers don’t eat too many of his dragonflies… :)

We caught a glimpse of a Green Heron as he grabbed a shellfish from the water and then dropped it again.  I was mad at myself for missing that shot, but I like the lighting in this one as the heron poses:

Green Heron

Green Heron

At the intersection of Heron Hideout and Alligator Alley we saw a fun little scene: there was a family of Common Moorhens out on the water.  There were three generations of birds, with parents, early spring juveniles, and recently-hatched babies.  The moorhens and gallinules are unusual in that the first group of babies does stick around to help the parents raise the second clutch.

Common Moorhen juvenile and babies

Common Moorhen juvenile and babies

There seem to always be Tricolored Herons at the canals where the water flows through the marsh.  Today was no exception.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

Dyeyo and I walked all the way around the Eagle Roost to Wading Bird WAy.  The Eagle Roost was deserted; the juvenile eagle was not on his nest, and we didn’t see a single Eastern Meadowlark.  I guess they were courting a few months ago when we could see them displaying at the tops of the pine trees;  now they must be busy with nests and babies.

There weren’t too many birds on Wading Bird Way today, either.  We saw another family of Common Moorhens with fairly small chicks.  The Anhingas and herons that usually pose on the posts at the water’s edge were not there today.

I did see plenty of Apple Snail eggs, which is good news for the Limpkins who will be eating those snails this fall.  I got some close-ups of the eggs:

Apple snail eggs

Apple snail eggs

With Marsh Rabbit Run closed, we had to walk all the way up to the windmill and then all the way back to the parking lot.  It was getting pretty hot by that point!  But we couldn’t resist taking one last peek at the part of Heron Hideout that we didn’t walk.  We were glad we did — there was a family of Purple Gallinules with young babies climbing in and out of some grasses.  They were so cute!

Purple Gallinule chick

Purple Gallinule chick

So it was another great hike at the Circle B Bar Reserve, and we look forward to going again next week.  The wood warblers are supposed to start migrating in August – that’s soon!  Yay!  :)