Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Chased by an Otter at the Circle B Bar Reserve

I’ve been called the Birdie Paparazzi. But today I was the one being followed! An otter came bounding up the path after me at least twice. He was cute!

This morning I decided to hike Alligator Alley, since it was foggy and I felt like taking sunrise pictures. It’s also been a while since I’ve walked that way and I wanted to see what birds are around these days.

The sunrise was gorgeous. I got to the dock just after the sun came over the horizon. I was told that if I’d been there half an hour earlier, I would have seen thousands of birds taking off in the early morning glow. I’ll have to remember that!

Sunrise over Lake Hancock

Sunrise over Lake Hancock


Sunrise over Lake Hancock

Sunrise over Lake Hancock

I spent about an hour on the dock, photographing the birds flying by as the sun came up. The light was very bright and the birds were quite backlit. One of these days I’ll have to head to the lake at sunset.

Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull

A lone Brown Pelican was out fishing for his breakfast. I caught him diving for fish a couple of times. He was pretty stubborn and always seemed to swim with his head in the shade instead of the sun…

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

But bright light sometimes does work in the photographer’s favor…I liked the effect of shooting into the bright sunrise in this picture:

Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull

The lake was full of Double-Crested Cormorants. I watched many fish being eaten (but I wasn’t close enough to get super pictures). I turned up the flash exposure to 2 full stops, plus added a little fill light in Lightroom, to get this image:

Double-Crested Cormorant

Double-Crested Cormorant

I finally tore myself away from the lake and continued along the Alligator Alley trail. I did not stop to look for the Barred Owls, but they can often be found in the oak trees at the end of the dock. I think I forgot to look because I was startled by the grunts of these wild hogs (who were in turn startled by the click of my camera shutter!) I never did see the wild hog babies this summer, but this may have been one of them. They quickly forgot about me and concentrated on nosing around in the mud at the other side of the bank. I liked this mother/baby shot the best.

Wild Hogs

Wild Hogs

There was plenty of little bird action in the trees along Alligator Alley. Palm Warblers and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers called to each other and hopped around from tree to tree. I was happy to see this Pine Warbler hopping around among them. It’s the first Pine Warbler I’ve seen at Circle B this winter (although I suspect I could have found one sooner if I had hiked the right trails.)

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

The herons and egrets along the Alligator Alley trail are so skittish compared to the Marsh Rabbit Run birds. The birds near the lake take off squawking any time they hear the slightest noise from a person on the trail. I tried to walk as quietly as possible, and I still scared birds left and right. The Little Blue Herons are especially easy to startle.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

I was surprised to find this Turkey Vulture just standing quietly on the ground, poking at some flowers. I guess even vultures benefit from taking time to smell the flowers? The bird seemed a bit wary of me coming closer to take a picture, but he tolerated my camera clicks bravely. I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten this detail in their heads before. They are almost interesting birds to watch, if you can forget what they normally eat. It’s interesting how nature works — vultures have no feathers on their faces in order to minimize the bacteria that sticks to their faces when they eat dead animals.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

The water levels along Alligator Alley are disturbingly low (just like the rest of Circle B). Places that I remember being underwater this summer are now totally dry. So I was happy to follow the trail away from the lake and start to see some little ponds again, complete with ducks. There were a bunch of Mottled Ducks that obligingly swam into the light for the camera…

Mottled Ducks

Mottled Ducks

Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers called to me from almost every tree. They are so tame and so fun to watch! I like it when they hop down to eye-level in the bush right in front of the camera. It’s easy to get full-frame pictures that way.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

This White-Eyed Vireo moved along the trail with me, staying just a bush or two ahead of the camera. He seemed so big in comparison to the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers! I was happy when he too posed in the sun.

White-Eyed Vireo

White-Eyed Vireo

Next time I’ll probably go back to hiking on Marsh Rabbit Run, but Alligator Alley does have a pretty good bird selection, if you go in the early morning. By the mid-morning to early afternoon, most of the little birds are significantly less active, causing the trail to seem very quiet. I like Marsh Rabbit Run the best though. :)

Species list: Anhinga, American Bittern, American Coot, American Goldfinch, Belted Kingfisher, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Brown Pelican, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Caspian Tern, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, House Wren, Killdeer (heard), Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Pine Warbler, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Ring-Billed Gull, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, White-Eyed Vireo, Wood Stork, Yellow-Rumped Warbler