Lots of people decided say goodbye to 2010 with a visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve. I’ve never seen so many people there in a morning. It was fun to finally meet Herman and a bunch of people from the Circle B Flickr group. I took “The Beast” and had a fun time getting used to my new focal length. I can now photograph and identify birds that I can barely see with my naked eye, which makes it easier to peer out into the marshes and find birds like the American Wigeons and the Gadwalls (which were right where Cole pointed out — thanks!!) We looked for American Pipits, too, but didn’t see any. Maybe next time.
One of the first birds we saw as we walked up Heron Hideout was this Killdeer. Dyeyo is still on a quest for good Killdeer pictures, so this guy was very close to the trail. I think it’s one of my better Killdeer shots. I enjoy watching these birds forage, then take off shrieking when they see people approaching.
Jeff and his wife pointed out an American Bittern that was sitting still, right next to the trail. He was on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, very close to the intersection with Heron Hideout. We could have reached out and touched him, he was so close! He was so close that getting a good shot of him with The Beast was interesting. I settled for a head-and-shoulders shot. As we headed down Marsh Rabbit Run, we saw several more bitterns. They were unusually tolerant of people this morning.
A few feet away from the bittern, a pair of Northern Cardinals hopped into a tree and poked around in the branches. They seemed very red, so I guess they are starting to show their breeding colors. I’ve been seeing a bunch of cardinal pairs lately. They have this little “tut” call that they seem to use at this time of the year. Where is the nest going to be, guys?
Speaking of nests, Herman reports that the sand hill Bald Eagle nest is on eggs. Some of the signs that the nest is on eggs are continued incubation, including the “changing of the guard,” when one adult takes over incubation duties for the other adult. The birds also start to chase off all other raptors, including their own young from previous years. Herman participates in the Eagle Watch program, reporting on the status of both nests at the Circle B Bar Reserve. If all goes well, we might see little heads popping up out of the sand hill nest around the first of February. :-D
As we walked down the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, I kept a close eye for American Wigeons and Gadwalls along the south side of the trail (on the far side of the canal). I found them about halfway down Marsh Rabbit Run, hanging out with a group of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. It was hard to photograph because of the tall vegetation on the far side of the canal. So I aimed The Beast to shoot through the breaks in the vegetation as much as possible, and I got some decent “I’ve seen this bird!” shots of both the wigeon and gadwall.
We reached the Wading Bird Way trail and were awed by the sheer number of American White Pelicans roosting on the water there. A little girl and her mother passed us, pausing to gawk at the “big white birds”. I think the only way to do justice to the sight is a panorama shot:
You have to remember to turn down your exposure compensation when photographing the pelicans, as their bright white feathers will appear as big white blobs if you let the camera do all the metering.
The Wading Bird Way trail was covered in a record number of Limpkins. It’s strange to realize that people travel to Circle B just to see Limpkins, when to us they are common, everyday birds. It’d be fun if the population at Circle B continues to grow, and maybe we’ll see some Limpkin babies next spring.
I took a little video of a Limpkin eating an Apple Snail. Once they find the snail, they carry it to a shallow part of the pond to eat, holding the snail by the shell as shown in the picture above. When they get to the shallow water, they start stabbing the snail inside the shell with their long, pointy beaks. Eventually they remove the dead snail and eat it, little by little. You see the empty shells up and down the trails at Circle B.
Mingling in and out of the groups of pelicans were a small flock of Green-Winged Teals. As they swam and turned their heads into the light, their heads flashed with their bright green spots. They were busy feeding, so they kept sticking their heads underwater instead of posing for the photographers. Silly birds.
Somebody pointed out a Sora peeking out from under the vegetation at the Marsh Rabbit Run / Wading Bird Way trail intersection. A group of us stood waiting for the bird to come out and show its pretty colors. The Sora are fairly secretive birds, and we were lucky that the vegetation had died back with the freeze, or we might not have seen him at all.
Heading back on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, we paused to photograph a small family of raccoons who were romping high in the oak trees. Herman says that they are there often, so we’ll have to keep an eye out for them. They looked down at me as if to say “what are you guys doing down there?”
So it was a great morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I’m learning how to manage The Beast, and I had fun teasing Dyeyo that I could see every flea on the American White Pelicans flying overhead! Dyeyo and I have gone bird-watching at several places around Central Florida over our Christmas vacation, and without a doubt, the Circle B Bar Reserve is the one with the largest number and variety of birds. Next time I need to remember to walk over to the Nature Center’s eagle nest to observe that pair of eagles. They are not yet on eggs, but when the nest hatches, it is close enough for some wonderful pictures of eaglets. :-)
Species list: American Bittern, American Coot, American Goldfinch, American Kestrel, American Robin, American White Pelican, American Wigeon, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Brown Pelican, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, Fish Crow, Gadwall, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green-Winged Teal, 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, Sora, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, Wilson’s Snipe, White Ibis, Wood Stork