Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Bitterns Saying Hello at Circle B Bar Reserve

I headed to the Circle B Bar Reserve on my off-Friday determined to remember to check the eagle’s nest next to the Nature Center.  I always seem to forget to walk over and check it on my way out!

As I arrived at the nest, I saw one Bald Eagle sitting on it.  Another eagle was perched in a nearby tree.  I got a few shots before the bird on the nest flew off to join the bird on the tree.  I had been hoping that the nest-sitting indicated that the bird was on eggs, but he wouldn’t have flown away if that were the case.  I ran into Herman as I watched the nest, and he showed me a better vantage point for the morning light.  Herman said that this pair of eagles has not been very successful in raising young over the last few years, and this is the latest that they have ever started a clutch.  (But eagle nesting can go into March.)  Herman also pointed out that this bird is sitting high on the nest.  If he were on eggs, he’d be lower in the nest, with just his head visible.  Good to know!

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

I had planned to walk down to the lake and look for little birds along the Alligator Alley path, but they had posted a fish kill sign, noting that the cold weather causes fish to die (smelly!)  Then I noticed that the recent rains had caused a tiny bit of accumulation in the nature center pond, so I took off for Heron Hideout in hopes of finding reflection pools in the good morning light.  No such luck.  The Heron Hideout ponds are still very dry.  Herman and I did see a small flock of American Goldfinch and a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet as we started down the Heron Hideout trail.  While I’ve been hearing the goldfinches at Circle B for some weeks now, and I’ve seen them occasionally in flight or high in trees, this was my first opportunity to photograph one close-up.  Unfortunately he had some vegetation in the way…but it’s still a decent “I’ve seen this bird at Circle B!” shot.  Besides, I think they need a goldfinch for the Flickr species list

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

I headed to the south end of Marsh Rabbit Run, where plenty of Wood Storks and American White Pelicans fly over the path every morning.  It’s a good place to practice flight photography.  I’m still getting used to my new focal length with my 500mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter (effective 700mm!)

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

At one point, all the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks took off at once, flying in a big crowd though the marsh.  They whistled and whistled and made quite an impressive sight as they all circled and landed.  I grabbed my other camera with 70-200 lens and got some wider-angle shots.  I guess I could have focused on single birds in flight, but really, the magic in the moment was the multitude of birds, all whistling!  I need to remember to start the movie mode next time it happens.

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck flock in flight

Black-Bellied Whistling Duck flock in flight

There were not as many American White Pelicans flying overhead, and most seemed to be heading from the direction of Wading Bird Way to Lake Hancock.  It’s easy to spend hours photographing the pelicans, who just keep coming and coming and coming…  I liked this grouping of six together.

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

As usual, there were American Coots very close to the Heron Hideout trail.  They started fussing at each other and swimming right toward me, so I started clicking!  The water there is generally smooth, so you can get good reflection shots.  I liked this one.

American Coot

American Coot

I saw Herman and a couple of other photographers with their cameras all pointed, so I went over to see what they saw.  They were in the same spot that I saw an American Bittern last week (at the beginning of the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, on the north side).  Today there was a bittern there too.  Actually I counted a total of three as I made my way down the Marsh Rabbit Run trail.  The birds are so slow in stalking their prey (they remind me of my cats!)  They are usually pretty skittish and take off when they see people, but these birds in the last week or so have been more tolerant of the Circle B Birdie Paparazzi.  Go slowly and watch close to the trail so that you don’t miss them.

American Bittern

American Bittern

A couple of Common Moorhens were climbing on some vegetation, and I couldn’t resist stopping to take some pictures.  Their feet are so cool (like the coots).  I’m so used to seeing these birds in the water that it always surprises me to see their brightly colored feet and their super long toes.  They do a very good job of climbing in vegetation.

Common Moorhen

Common Moorhen

I looked up to see a White Ibis flying with a snake in his mouth. He landed not too far from the path, although behind some annoying vegetation.  That’s been one of the challenges of the new lens, getting past all the vegetation on the trails!  The ibis landed with his snake and started tossing it around, attracting the attention of several ibis friends.  They tried to come and share the bounty, causing the guy with the snake to take it farther and farther away.  Finally I watched him toss it back in his mouth and swallow it with a nice big gulp!

White Ibis with Snake

White Ibis with Snake

Far off in the marsh, on the north side of Wading Bird Way, you can see flocks of Least Sandpipers flying back and forth.  They used to be too far for me to reach, but with The Beast, I was able to focus and get them.  I’ve always been intrigued by the white flashes of their wings as the flock turns all together.  I wonder how the birds manage to fly in such good coordination.  These birds were doing major figure eights, and nobody flew into anybody else!  (Maybe the klutz gene is limited to humans?)

Least Sandpiper flock

Least Sandpiper flock

Little birds said hello from the trees at the far end of Marsh Rabbit Run.  This Prairie Warbler stood out very well with his bright yellow feathers.  He obligingly hopped to a branch right in front of me, although in shadow, so I used flash to add some fill.  My favorite shot was where he picked out a little insect to eat.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

When I reached Wading Bird Way, I was disappointed to see just a couple hundred pelicans, significantly fewer than the thousands that were there last week.  I know they fly away to feed during the day, but still, there are usually still plenty of birds left behind!  Hopefully there will be more tomorrow, when Dyeyo and I host our little photo walk.

American White Pelican Panorama

American White Pelican Panorama

Wading Bird Way was covered in Limpkins, almost all feeding on apple snails.  A Northern Shoveler was very close to the path, closer than I’ve ever gotten one before.  Then I had to turn around and head back… :-p

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Species List: American Bittern, American Coot, American Goldfinch, 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, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, Fish Crow, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, House Wren, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Mourning Dove, Northern Shoveler, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Prairie Warbler, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Ring-Billed Gull, Ring-Necked Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Snowy Egret, Swamp Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Wood Stork

See you next time!

See you next time!