Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Frosty Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

It was probably not a good morning to be a bird at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The temperature was around 28 when I arrived at 7:30 in the morning.  The ground was covered in frost.  Skies normally covered in American White Pelicans were empty.  But it was pretty in an eerie way, and by mid-morning, the frost was gone and the birds were back.

Heron Hideout trail

Heron Hideout trail

I enjoyed experimenting with HDR shots this morning.  It was very foggy, and at times you could not even see the horizon for the fog.  I knew that I either needed to pull out the split neutral density filter for some pictures, or use HDR.  HDR was more fun. :)

Frosty Heron Hideout trail

Frosty Heron Hideout trail

The frost was thick on the vegetation on both sides of the trail.  It was sad and pretty all at the same time.  Gone are the gorgeous yellow flowers that covered the marshes a month ago!  Many of the pools along Heron Hideout have dried up because of our lack of rain.  The black mud stands out against the rest of the colors of the marsh.

Heron Hideout (east side)

Heron Hideout (east side)

Heron Hideout (west side)

Heron Hideout (west side)

Very few birds were in the water when I arrived.  Maybe the birdbrains are a little smarter than I thought!  That water must have been cold.  I watched a group of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks wake up, and one brave duck was the first to stick his toe in the water and then go swimming.  I was glad it was him and not me!  This Wood Stork was in the water when I arrived.  I wonder if he realized how pretty he was with the sun backlighting the fog…

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

I was using my wide-angle lens and not paying much attention to the birds when I suddenly realized that I had a Wilson’s Snipe in plain view right in front of me!   I had to move my tripod back to get him some breathing room in the frame (sometimes 500mm is too much focal length, that’s a new concept!)   He was poking around in the mud by the culverts by Bubba’s pond.

Wilson's Snipe

Wilson's Snipe

This shot was actually quite foggy before I adjusted it with Shadows and Highlights in Photoshop.  I loved the still water and the almost-perfect reflection of the Blue-Winged Teal.

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal

The morning was quite pretty after the fog cleared up.  I took some bracketed exposures for HDR at one of my favorite locations, standing on the Heron Hideout trail looking out towards Wading Bird Way.  I did some panoramas there last week, showing all the birds roosting there and doing their morning fly-out.  Today I used the wide-angle lens and tried to fill it with landscape instead of sky.  The result shows a lot of foreground and minimizes the beautiful “bird” trees in the background.  The air was so clear and the sky was so blue this morning.  Even though it was freezing cold, it was a joy to be outside.  (I wasn’t the only photographer who thought so!)

I started down the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, hoping that the pelicans were not fogged in.  One of the first birds I ran into was this Swamp Sparrow, who obligingly perched on a tree branch with good bokeh (blurry background).  Some of the people on the Circle B Flickr site are hoping for a LeConte’s Sparrow; all I saw was Swamp and Savannah Sparrows.  The Lincoln’s Sparrow that has been sighted on this trail continues to elude me. :-p

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

A White-Eyed Vireo posed for me also.

White-Eyed Vireo

White-Eyed Vireo

Dyeyo joined me as I reached the end of the Marsh Rabbit Run trail.   The first thing we saw as we hit the Wading Bird Way (well, besides the obvious pelicans and coots!) was a Roseate Spoonbill asleep on a pile of vegetation very close to the trail.  We moved closer to take his picture, and he woke up, stretched, and preened and preened and preened.  (I guess if you’re as pretty as a spoonie, you have to keep those pink feathers as preened as possible?)

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Then the spoonbill went hopping from one vegetation island to the next (moving away from us, bad bird!)  I didn’t see this in person, but when I got home and looked at my pictures, I saw that the spoonbill displaced a rather indignant Blue-Winged Teal!

Get out of my way!

Get out of my way!

A pair of Northern Shovelers was feeding out in the water on the west side of Wading Bird Way.  I reveled in my newly extended focal length (500mm + 1.4x teleconverter on a 7D body = 1120mm effective focal length!!) and got some decent shots.  The sun was reflecting nicely off the green head of the male.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

It’s hard to spend time on Wading Bird Way at this time of year without taking dozens of pictures of the American White Pelicans.  It’s actually sometimes a bit challenging to get pleasing pictures of such a large group of birds, though.  They fly in groups of various sizes, so those can make good pictures.  Today a couple of pelicans moved closer to the trail, giving us an opportunity for some single bird portraits.  My favorite was this photo of two birds, who look like they are sharing a mid-morning snack.

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

I’ve never seen quite so many Limpkins on Wading Bird Way as there were this morning.  I saw several catching apple snails.  This guy caught his and brought him right in front of me to stab and devour.  I guess it tasted good…

Limpkin

Limpkin

I never would have thought I could visit a place so often and not get tired of it.  There’s always something new or interesting happening on the marshes at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

Species list: Anhinga, American Coot, American Goldfinch, American Robin, American White Pelican, 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 Phoebe, Fish Crow, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, House Wren, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Northern Cardinal, Northern Shoveler, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Ring-Billed Gull, Ring-Necked Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Snowy Egret, Swamp Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, Wilson’s Snipe, White Ibis, White-Eyed Vireo, Wood Stork, Yellow-Rumped Warbler

American White Pelican

American White Pelican