It was a gorgeous morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. We arrived at 7:00, just before sunrise, and the birds put on an amazing wake-up show. The hundreds of Wood Storks and Sand Hill Cranes that roost in the marsh overnight all woke up and flew away, nicely illuminated by the rising sun. They shared the skies with hundreds of American White Pelicans, flying towards their roosting site on Wading Bird Way. I was annoyed that I hadn’t taken my second camera body — I was changing lenses constantly as I went from birdie close-ups with the 400mm to wider-angle landscape panoramas with the 70-200.
The first bird we saw was a juvenile Wood Stork, who flew over the foggy marsh with some nesting material in tow. He landed in a tree, where his stick seemed to get caught in the branches of the tree. He finally yanked his branch free and flew off. I wish the sun had been up a bit higher in order to get a sharper picture. This was right before the sunrise, and the marsh was very foggy.
Dozens of Sandhill Cranes that roosted in the marsh overnight took to the skies, honking like crazy. According to my bird CD, the call of the Sandhill Crane can be heard up to a mile away. I believe it! It’s fun to get the groups of birds in flight, but you have to wait until their wings are well lit by the sun. It also makes a better picture if the birds are not grouped together so tightly that they overlap in the picture.
The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks were in fine form this morning. They roosted very close to the path at the Heron Hideout / Marsh Rabbit Run intersection. I stood on Heron Hideout and watched them as they woke up. They slept in small groups, with one bird seeming to keep watch for the whole group. I got several pictures of the whole group with their heads tucked under their wings, with just one eye open per bird. Then they decided it was time to get up, and they all took to the skies at one, calling to each other like crazy. I stood and laughed and gawked.
I had my 400mm lens mounted, so I was only able to capture a portion of the landscape filled with birds. Then I switched to trying to capture the birds landing.
Hundreds of American White Pelicans flew over our heads as we stood on Heron Hideout. Then a lone Brown Pelican flew over. His head is still white — he hasn’t molted to his breeding plumage yet.
A Great Egret flew overhead as well, giving me the opportunity to finally take a picture of his full wingspread illuminated by the rising sun. That’s a shot I’ve been after for a while now. :-p
Of course, there were plenty of birds on the ground, too. American Coots and Pied-Billed Grebes are everywhere in the marsh. Dyeyo says he won’t take pictures of the coots anymore, because he has so many. But when one poses so nicely for you, how can you resist?
There seem to be a lot of juvenile Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. In most of the small groups of birds, there are usually an adult or two, plus a bunch of juveniles. This little group made me laugh. Almost all the birds were looking in the same direction, except for the bird in the foreground, who stood there scratching his head. Sometimes you wish you could know what these birds are thinking!
There are dead trees up and down the Marsh Rabbit Run path, and they make great perches for birds. Two Roseate Spoonbills vied for the prime spot on this branch. The loser ended up flying down to sit with the Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. Then the remaining bird posed for us. I got some nice serious shots, but my favorite was this goofy shot, where the bird was stretching and opened his mouth. He looks like he just sneezed! I thought it was cool to look inside his spoon bill and see how smooth and pink it is in there…
I did a duck inventory of the birds on the south side of the Marsh Rabbit Run trail. I saw Coots (of course), Pied-Billed Grebes, Blue-Winged Teals, and this American Wigeon. The light wasn’t great, so I adjusted the exposure and added some fill light in Lightroom.
Then I turned around and caught this Great Blue Heron with his breakfast in his mouth. Didn’t his mother teach him not to play with his food? He tossed that fish and played with it in his beak for several minutes before the final gulp…
Close to the oak trees on the west side of Marsh Rabbit Run, we spotted a bright yellow bird, then happily realized that he wasn’t a Palm Warbler, but a Prairie Warbler. The bird posed for us, standing on the outside branches of his tree. Dyeyo said he should have sat still for a few seconds, though. Maybe he’s been spending too much time with the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers. He would poke around in the leaves and come up with small bugs to eat. Like with the spoonbill, I had some great serious pictures, but my favorite was the little bird sticking his tongue out as he ate his bug…
We got to Wading Bird Way and were met with the fun sight of hundreds of American White Pelicans gathered to roost on the water. The sheer numbers of these birds are incredible. Hundreds pass over your head every hour, and when they land, you can hardly tell that the group got bigger. The only way to do the sight justice is with a panorama.
Here’s a close-up of the pelicans. Want to count beaks? :)
We saw a small group of Northern Shovelers not too far away from the trail. They didn’t want to cooperate for a picture, though. They were more intent on sticking their heads in the water to hunt for their breakfasts.
A lone American White Pelican swam a little closer than the rest of the group. He was surrounded by American Coots. Do you think he’s worried about catching cooties from the coots? ;-)
Species list: Anhinga, American Coot, American Goldfinch (heard), American Kestrel, American Robin, American White Pelican, American Wigeon, Bald Eagle, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Brown Pelican, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark (heard), Eastern Phoebe, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, House Wren, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Northern Shoveler, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Prairie Warbler, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Ring-Billed Gull, Ring-Necked Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Snowy Egret, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Wood Stork