Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Skies Full of American White Pelicans at the Circle B Bar Reserve

The skies of the Circle B Bar Reserve were covered in American White Pelicans this morning.  We arrived at sunrise and stayed till about 11:30.  During that whole time, wave after wave of pelicans flew in.  They must be powered by Energizer…they just keep coming, and coming, and coming!

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

This morning we walked up Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, Wading Bird Way, then doubled back and took the Shady Oak trail out to the lake.  I shot several panoramas, but I am being lazy and waiting for “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop” to create the panoramas.  Lightroom + Photoshop CS5 is much more efficient than Lightroom + Photoshop Elements. :)

The marshes were full of roosting birds at sunrise.  We moved quickly to the south end of Heron Hideout (beyond Marsh Rabbit Run) to see hundreds of Wood Storks and Sandhill Cranes sleeping in a group.  They almost reminded me of the pelicans — there were that many birds!

Circle B Sunrise

Circle B Sunrise

There’s one tree in particular that I enjoy photographing.  It’s often covered in birds.  I call it my “Circle B Christmas Tree” — the birds remind me of ornaments on a Christmas tree.

Christmas tree?

Christmas tree?

As we headed up Marsh Rabbit Run, I saw this Common Moorhen and apologized to it.  During the summertime, they were the only birds around to photograph.  Now that the winter birds have arrived, I’ve been overlooking the poor moorhens.  Maybe that’s why they make so much noise — they don’t want to be forgotten!  This bird’s beak has started to turn bright red as he begins the change into his breeding plumage.

Common Moorhen

Common Moorhen

The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks had moved to the north side of Marsh Rabbit Run, and they posed in the grasses made bright by the rising sun.  A group of three of them jumped up onto a small branch close to the ground.  One seemed to be tickling the foot of another (accompanied by much whistling).  Then two of the three hopped down to the ground, leaving this guy to stretch his wings and think about jumping down with them.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

A small flock of Wood Storks were sitting in one of the dead trees on the south side of Marsh Rabbit Run.  They took off as I approached, but this brave juvenile stayed.  The lighting wasn’t great here, and I used fill flash to try to fill in some of the shadows, but I liked the pose with the wings spread.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

We heard the calls of eagles all morning.  At one point, I looked across the marsh in the direction of the Eagle Roost nest, and I saw these two juvenile Bald Eagles perched together.  I added my 1.4x teleconverter and used Live View to refine the focus.  I think these are two juvenile birds, and the left one is a year older and starting to molt into his adult plumage.  That’s why he looks so scruffy.  (See this page about the stages of eagle plumage.  I think our left bird is three years old and the right bird is one.)  An adult eagle perched in the top of a tree a little way down the marsh.  After seeing the adult run off the juvenile a few days ago, I was surprised that everybody was sharing the perches and co-existing quite peacefully…

Juvenile Bald Eagles

Juvenile Bald Eagles

A White Ibis flew by, going into the direction of the sun.  The sun shone through the bird’s wings and accentuated the nut that he had in his mouth.  Look at those black wing tips — the white ibises are such pretty birds.

White Ibis

White Ibis

When we made it down to Wading Bird Way, were pleasantly surprised to see a single male Redhead in a group of American Coots and Northern Shovelers.  This was my first Redhead.  They are uncommon winter visitors to Polk.  Very cool. :)

Redhead

Redhead

There were about a dozen Northern Shovelers with the coots, and a small group of Green-Winged Teals, too.  Dyeyo and I decided that we wanted 800mm lenses and 2x teleconverters.  Santa, are you listening?

Of course I took pictures of the pelicans…here’s my best shot of the day.  It’s hard to get the exposure right with the side lighting of early morning sun.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican

As we headed back on Marsh Rabbit Run, three River Otters popped out of the water and onto the far bank.  They kind of wrestled with each other for a minute or so, alternating which otters were up on the bank and which in the water.  Photographing these guys is tricky, and not just because they move so quickly.  Usually they don’t pop up till mid-morning, when the light is high and they are backlit by the sun.  Then they dart between areas of sun and areas of shadow.  Plus they are dark and wet, with glistening fur.  I add flash and try to get the exposure right — then I usually end up add exposure compensation and additional fill light in Lightroom.

Otters

Otters

The light illuminated three Sandhill Cranes quite nicely as they posed near Heron Hideout.  A group of cranes from across the marsh called them, and they called back, throwing their heads back to honk.  Then they took off and flew to join their friends.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

As we headed back to the parking lot on Heron Hideout, we spotted a Greater Yellowlegs in one of the ponds, along with about a half dozen Blue-Winged Teals.  At least I think this is a Greater Yellowlegs.  He’s bigger than the Lesser Yellowlegs that we had seen previously.  I know calls distinguish the two yellowlegs species, but this guy didn’t open his mouth.

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

We hiked down to the lake to see the pelicans and gulls that are wintering there.  The birds were on the far side of the lake, so I took a lot of panorama shots.  I will post those after Santa brings me Photoshop tomorrow!

Species list: Anhinga, American Coot, American Goldfinch (heard), American Robin, American White Pelican, Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Green-winged Teal, House Wren, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Northern Cardinal, Northern Shoveler, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Redhead, 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