Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

More Winter Birds Have Arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve

I spent my off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I heard my first American Goldfinch of the season! I never saw it, but the call is unmistakable.

Heron Hideout is definitely a great place to be at sunrise these days. The water levels in the marsh are extremely low, so the birds congregate on the right side of the trail, right in the great morning light. This morning there were at least one hundred birds, including five or six Roseate Spoonbills, and my first-of-season Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs. :)

Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs

I had to dial in negative exposure compensation for the bright birds and the heavy sunlight reflections. The result was a dark portrait with a nicely illuminated bird. I also used a bit of fill flash.

Roseate Spoonbills

Roseate Spoonbills

A lone Wood Stork stood in the midst of the action.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

It can be hard to get good reflection shots. First you have to have the right lighting conditions for the reflection to be bright, and the water has to be still for the reflection to be mirror-like. That’s hard to do when the pond is being skimmed by hundreds of birds! So I was excited when I saw that I’d gotten a good reflection shot with this Greater Yellowlegs…

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

A Great Blue Heron caught a catfish, then spent about 15 minutes parading it around in front of all the other birds. The Snowy Egrets especially watched him very carefully, just in case he happened to drop it. The heron picked at the fish for the longest time, then finally tilted back his throat and did the final gulp.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

A small flock of Least Sandpipers flew in and joined the party. I put on my 1.4x teleconverter and used Live View to refine the focus on this picture:

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

I think my camera card was half full before I left Heron Hideout and turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run! The little birds were not as active today, maybe because there was a bit of a breeze. I saw the usual wrens, warblers, and gnatcatchers. The marsh is covered in the bright yellow flowers that I remember so well from my first visit to Circle B, a year ago now.

Marsh at sunrise

Marsh at sunrise

I did several exposures of the landscape above, so that I can HDR it in Photoshop…hurry up, Santa!!

I was halfway down Marsh Rabbit Run when I heard a huge flock of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. They were calling to each other like crazy. I took another video for Mum-mum. The ducks were not really visible due to the vegetation, so the video isn’t great, but the sounds are awesome.

Off in the distance behind the whistlers, I saw this male Blue-Winged Teal. In previous weeks I’ve only seen the females. I used the teleconverter and Live View again.

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal

I reached Wading Bird Way and saw hundreds of American Coots. They were roosting in huge groups. The birds would line up and then do this funny walk/skip/swim across the water. I tried to catch that in my camera, but didn’t really do justice to it. This was my best shot:

American Coots

American Coots

An Anhinga was in his usual place on the buoys halfway down the trail. When he suddenly jumped into the water, I figured he’d gone fishing, and sure enough, he came up with a fish a few seconds later. After eating the first one, he went back down for two more. Then he hopped back up on a perch to sun himself and dry off.

Anhinga with fish

Anhinga with fish

Nearby, a Boat-Tailed Grackle posed for me, then hopped down to the ground and started picking at a dead fish. The fish was as big as he was, but he yanked it around as if it was weightless.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

An Eastern Phoebe didn’t see me and landed right up close.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

It’s fun to see the winter birds coming back! Circle B is an entirely different place than it was in the summer

Oh, Rich says I can’t forget to note: I saw a turtle today, for the first time since spring!

Species list: Anhinga, American Coot, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, Glossy Ibis, Goldfinch (heard) (FOS), Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Greater Yellowlegs (FOS), House Wren, Laughing Gull, Least Sandpiper (FOS), Lesser Yellowlegs (FOS), Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mallard, Mourning Dove, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Red-Winged Blackbird, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Snowy Egret, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Wood Stork