Things are certainly picking up at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Besides seeing the first American Coots of the season, this morning we saw a juvenile Bald Eagle doing some nice close fly-bys, three Roseate Spoonbills, and plenty of Gray Catbirds and Eastern Phoebes.
Last night when we left at sunset, we said good night to the Sand Hill Cranes, who were already on one leg and starting to fall asleep. Sure enough, they were still there this morning at sunrise. We suspect this is the family with “Dyeyo’s Baby“, although now it’s hard to distinguish the juvenile from the adults. (His red and white markings on his head are not quite as bright as his parents’…) This morning the cranes diverted us by doing a little dance in the middle of the marsh, causing the White and Glossy Ibises also feeding there to have to hop out of the way. One crane in particular seemed to take particular glee in splashing other birds…and in this picture, he reminds me of a ballet dancer…hop, hop, arabesque…
Then somebody called out “Spoonbills” and suddenly all photographer attention was focused on two pink birds flying high overhead. They landed in the flock of ibises who were breakfasting off Heron Hideout. I saw a single Roseate Spoonbill a few weeks ago, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen them roosting with the other birds. It’s fun to see the birding activity picking up again!! :)
I’ve been trying to get good pictures of White Ibises in flight all summer. The birds are so pretty when they spread their wings in mid-air, and you can see the black feathers at the very tips of their wings. Today a couple of birds flew overhead, but right into the sun (figures). The backlighting made for an interesting effect, though:
Then a couple of Wood Storks flew in. I had been having issues with my off-camera flash cord and bracket, and unfortunately my flash took a little tumble off the tripod (it’s fine) — but I was glad that I tossed it aside and kept shooting, because I got this interesting shot of the Wood Storks. I like the silhouette style, and their relative positioning is unusual.
We turned our attention the warblers that were hopping up and down the vegetation along Heron Hideout. Their small calls fill the air, such a nice contrast to the still summer days! I managed to snag a “flutter” shot as one pulled some seeds out of a bush.
We could hear the calls of Eastern Phoebes all up and down the marsh, and as we neared the Heron Hideout / Marsh Rabbit Run intersection, a Phoebe posed for us in a treetop. It’s funny how quickly you get used to having these birds around. It was just a few weeks ago that I got all excited for seeing my first-of-season Palm Warblers, Gray Catbirds, and Eastern Phoebes!
Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are everywhere now. They hop around in the low vegetation, making fun (but fast!) subjects. I never get tired of photographing the gnatcatchers. They are so cute, and no two pictures are alike.
Our regular route has again become Heron Hideout to Marsh Rabbit Run to Wading Bird Way, now that Marsh Rabbit Run is open (yay!!) We were to the first set of dead oak trees on Marsh Rabbit Run when we noticed a bird fly into the oaks and stop. At first I thought it was just a Red-Shouldered Hawk, but as we got closer, we realized this hawk was much smaller. He kept in the shadow of the branches, and when I asked him to hop out into the sun, he did — for a split second, then he hopped right back into a shadow! (silly bird) Several photographers gathered around him, guessing who he was. I’m pretty sure he’s a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.
At the last clump of big trees on Marsh Rabbit Run, we came across this Yellow Warbler. We had seen a bunch of these guys a few weeks ago, but had not seen any since. It’s nice that at least one is still around.
We did not see the Indigo Buntings on Marsh Rabbit Run this morning. At one point I thought I might have heard them, but I never confirmed it (and I know better than to trust my ear — it is very easily fooled!) But I’m sure they are still around, since we saw them last night.
The Palm Warblers love the low, dead vegetation along Marsh Rabbit Run. They are too cute to not photograph. We were surprised not to see Common Yellowthroats today. They were pretty active last weekend. Dyeyo got a great picture of a male Common Yellowthroat with a spider in his mouth.
It seems like there are more Pied-Billed Grebes in the water each time we go to Circle B. They are fun to watch, disappearing to fish in one place, and re-surfacing minutes later halfway across the pond.
Dyeyo and I had been wondering when the Coots would start to come back. They were so widespread last year that they symbolize “winter migrants” to me. So I was quite happy to look out over the marsh at Wading Bird Way and see this flock of American Coots. I’d forgotten how well they mix with the Common Moorhens.
There were tons of Black-Bellied Whistling Duck heads sticking up among the marsh vegetation off Wading Bird Way. I laughed when I saw this small family — the babies were stretching their wings and seemed to be saying “I can fly! Let’s go flying! Come on, Mom and Dad!”
Then the parents started to lead their flight-anxious youngsters away, crossing paths with a Limpkin, who had just caught an Apple Snail and was guarding it carefully. Usually it’s the Black-Bellied Whistlers who try to keep their families away from other birds. So everybody did a little hop-skip-jump, and the babies still flapping their wings joyfully. “Let’s go fly! We’re gonna go fly!!”
I have such a good time laughing at the whistling ducks that I took a short video of them splashing around in the marsh. It’s nothing spectacular, but it captures their sweet calls back and forth to each other. Note: the file size is about 10MB, so it may take a minute to download.
I caught sight of a few ducks flying out high over the marsh. They didn’t quite seem like Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks, and after I took their picture, I zoomed in and realized that I didn’t recognize them at all. I think I’ve identified them as American Wigeons, a new species for me. My book says they are fairly common in Florida during the winter. Now I want to see one up close. :-p
We saw the Bald Eagles several times, flying over the marsh, and posing in trees near their nest site. Sometimes at a distance it can be easy to mistake Eagles and Osprey, but after seeing the Eagles and then seeing this Osprey, I wondered how I can ever get confused. The Osprey are so much smaller.
But the best birding and photography moment came at the very end of our outbound walk, when we were about ready to turn around and head back to the parking lot. The juvenile Bald Eagle flew over to us and did a few circles right over our heads. At first glance, I thought he was a hawk, because of his dark streaks on his chest. But one glance at those talons and that beak, and I jumped to my feet and started firing shots. I was so excited when I saw this picture. :)
Species list: Anhinga, American Coot (First of Season), American Wigeon, Bald Eagle, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue Jay, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Caspian Tern, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Cooper’s Hawk, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, House Wren, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Laughing Gull, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mourning Dove, Northern Mockingbird, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Prairie Warbler, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Roseate Spoonbill, Sand Hill Crane, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, White-Eyed Vireo, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Yellow Warbler
Conspicuously Absent: Belted Kingfisher, Common Yellowthroat