Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Activity Starting to Pick up at the Circle B Bar Reserve

I keep running into photographers at the Circle B Bar Reserve who complain that nothing is happening. They remember the thousands of pelicans and myriad of other species seen last November through April. There isn’t as much activity now, but there’s still plenty to photograph, especially if you know where to look!

Marsh at dawn

Marsh at dawn

The plan this morning was to get to Circle B early enough to walk around to Wading Bird Way before sunrise. I had visions of sunrise pictures over the marsh. But then Dyeyo’s Sand Hill Crane family was out on Heron Hideout, and I dallied a little too long saying hello to the baby (now almost adult). So the sun was rising behind me as I hiked the Eagle Roost. I still got some fun sunrise pictures:

Sun rise over the Eagle Roost

Sun rise over the Eagle Roost

Ten minutes later, I was out on Wading Bird Way, and the sun was already getting high in the sky. I set my lens to a high f-stop number to try to make the sun do the “star” effect. It did, and the reflection in the water was gorgeous.

Sunrise over the marsh

Sunrise over the marsh

Small flocks of birds kept flying over my head, so I practiced my birds-in-flight photography. I was really excited to get the sunrise light for this group of Mottled Ducks. Someday I’m going to see them up close…so far I pretty much see them in flight only! Disclaimer: this image, and several others in this post, were tweaked in Photoshop. I downloaded the full version on trial so that I could play with it. I pretty much limit my corrections to Shadows/Highlights and Curves, and Cloning out clutter.

Mottled Ducks

Mottled Ducks

Then I noticed Dyeyo’s Sand Hill Crane family again, this time in flight. The baby has a distinctive red head, but he doesn’t yet have the full white patch behind it. It’s fun to still see him!

Sand Hill Crane family

Sand Hill Crane family

I saw several Limpkins along the path. They didn’t mind me until I got pretty close to them, then they headed for the hills. Once I was able to get a decent flight shot as a Limpkin took off.

Limpkin

Limpkin

As usual, Wading Bird Way had plenty of Common Moorhens running around, both on the path and in the water. For the past month or so, a couple of Pied-Billed Grebes have joined them. It’s fun to watch them dive for fish, then emerge from the water far away. Today I was surprised to see some fairly young Common Moorhen chicks swimming around. They are so cute, especially when they beg their parents for food.

Common Moorhen chick

Common Moorhen chick

I continued practicing my flight photography. There were small groups of Snowy and Tricolored Egrets flying overhead periodically. Here was my best Tricolored shot:

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

I walked up quietly to a Great Blue Heron (a.k.a. “Fisherbird”) and took a head shot. Then I told him that I’d really like it if he would fly away, because I would really like to take his picture. He did it!

Great Blue Heron in flight

Great Blue Heron in flight

I noticed several small groups (two and three birds) of Tree Swallows. At least, I’m pretty sure they were Tree Swallows and not Barn Swallows, given that last year there were tons and tons of Tree Swallows along Wading Bird Way. Then I spied a decent-sized flock of them ahead of me. There was also a small flock of Cattle Egrets that followed me around the reserve this morning. The bird activity is picking up again, although slowly…

Tree Swallows

Tree Swallows

Double-Crested Cormorants and Wood Storks were roosting in the trees in the middle of the marsh again this week. A couple of cormorants flew overhead. They are hard to photograph, with their dark bodies against the dull sky and bright water. Yay for fill flash.

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

I was ecstatic when the Belted Kingfishers flew across the marsh right in front of me. Then one came back by himself, fluttered in the air for a few seconds, then dive-bombed into the water for a fish. I think he came up empty-beaked, though. They announce themselves so loudly as they fly that it’s really hard to miss these guys!

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

I made my way back around to Alligator Alley in order to try to do some warbler photography mid-morning. It seems like the warblers aren’t as active at dawn. We start to see them more around 9 or so. Today I saw a Blackburnian Warbler, then I got my best shot ever of a Northern Parula:

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Then I saw a mystery bird. He flew to an open branch (yes! stay there for a few seconds!) and then stayed there for a minute or so, fluttering away to catch an insect, then always returning to the same branch. He was literally right over my head, so it was hard to get a decent shot of him (head, not just underside). When I got home and looked him up, I found that I had seen an Eastern Wood-Pewee. cool!

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Eastern Wood-Pewee

There was a Tricolored Heron posing in his favorite place where the Banana Creek merges with Lake Hancock. The dark waters made a nice backdrop for the brightly-lit bird.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

It was pretty late by the time I made it around the rest of the way on Alligator Alley, and I didn’t see all that much. At one point I looked up and saw a flock of about 20 Wood Storks flying overhead. Then a small plane flew above them, just as I snapped a picture. I thought the resulting image was pretty funny! (No Photoshop on this one! I promise!)

It's a bird!  It's a plane!

It's a bird! It's a plane!

So…two more weekends and then maybe Marsh Rabbit Run will be open again….but who’s counting? :)

Species list: Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Cardinal, Carolina Wren (heard), Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Laughing Gull, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Mourning Dove, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Parula, Osprey, Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Sand Hill Crane, Snowy Egret, Tree Swallow, Tri-Colored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Wood Stork