Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve: the Photographer’s Playground!

My dad and I had a great time this morning doing a “photo hike” at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We’d like to say thanks to the dozen or so brave people who came out early at 8:00 and braved the winds to see the birds.  We enjoyed the time, and we hope that everybody else did too.  Our group ranged in age from about 8 (hi Savannah!) to retirement age (people who rubbed in that they can bird all day, every day — lucky!)  We had some people with DSLRs, some with point-and-shoots, and one with just her eyes.  The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks put on a good show for us, flying in circles over our heads again and again.  The American White Pelicans were not as numerous as in the past few weeks, but they still cover the skies.  Wood Storks covered the trees, making them look like “Birdie Christmas Trees”.  I think the favorite shot of the day may have gone to the baby alligator sunning himself not too far off the trail!

Baby Alligator

Baby Alligator

Our hike took us out Heron Hideout, past the “Four Corners” for panorama shots of the Wood Storks in the trees across the marsh, and then down Marsh Rabbit Run and out to Wading Bird Way.  Some of our participants had never gone that far out in the marsh.

We saw this Osprey on Heron Hideout, carrying nesting material.  He seemed to be thinking about the dead palm tree that was an Osprey nest last year.  He flew off with his moss, giving us an opportunity to practice shooting into our shadows!

Osprey with nesting material

Osprey with nesting material

We saw Killdeer, White Ibises, Blue-Winged Teals, the Osprey, and a Red-Shouldered Hawk on Heron Hideout.  As we approached the “Four Corners” intersection with Marsh Rabbit Run, we started to see Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks.  It’s funny to see them flying with their faces all covered in mud after they go poking in the mud for their breakfasts.

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

Some of our group members were treated to the sight of this Anhinga eating his fish.   We watched him spear it, toss it back into his mouth, and do the fatal gulp.  Other group members got to see a different Anhinga with a fish, and he took a really long time to eat it.  He’d toss it, then hold it in his mouth, then sit with it for a while before attempting to swallow.  A Great Blue Heron came up and tried to steal it, but the Anhinga didn’t let him.  It was quite a little show they put on for us!

Anhinga with Fish

Anhinga with Fish

We turned down Marsh Rabbit Run, and we saw this Blue-Winged Teal quite close to the trail.  I turned around and saw a White Ibis eating a snake.  I know some of the photo hike participants got some good shots, because some are already on the Circle B Flickr page.

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal

The American Bittern that has been posing by the trail was there again this morning, and he let all our photographers get close-up pictures.  I’m not sure they all realized how unusual that opportunity is!  Then one sharp-eyed participant spied another bittern that even my dad and I missed.

American Bittern

American Bittern

Our group spread out as we got further down Marsh Rabbit Run, and some participants started to turn back.  It is a long walk, and it’s a good idea to bring water if you come.  Almost at the end of the trail, I spotted this Gray Catbird in a small pool of water, giving himself a bath.  These birds are fairly secretive, and you hear them more often than you see them.  He was so cute splashing around!

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

As we reached the Wading Bird Way trail, the group was awed by the three photographers who had set up with 500mm lenses.  They nicely let some of our people look through their lenses.  We saw the usual assortment of American Coots, Limpkins, a single Roseate Spoonbill, Blue-Winged Teals, and a small flock of Green-Winged Teals.

Green-Winged Teal

Green-Winged Teal

Maybe it’s a good thing that our youngest group member had turned back before we saw this pair of American Coots splashing around together.  I think they gave each other extra cooties this morning!!

American Coots

American Coots

I was really excited when we saw two Sandhill Cranes out on Wading Bird Way poking their beaks into little “grass islands” and seeming as if they were thinking about building a nest.  One sat down as if incubating an egg.  This is the same place where a pair of cranes nested last year, the same nest where Dyeyo watched the egg hatch.  Wouldn’t it be great if they built there again?  It’s pretty close to the path and very photographable!

Sandhill Crane nest site?

Sandhill Crane nest site?

Back on Heron Hideout, one of our hikers spotted an eagle waaay off in the marsh, on the ground.  He seemed to be fighting with a large animal, and Dyeyo even started to wonder if the bird was injured.  Then he took off and wowed us with the huge piece of nesting material that he carried.  He flew it across the marsh, stopping in a tree off Marsh Rabbit Run (I was jealous of the photographers there who must have had a beautiful opportunity).  He stayed in the tree for a few minutes, then flew off towards us and his nest, but without the nesting material.

Bald Eagle with Nesting Material

Bald Eagle with Nesting Material

The eagle flew over our heads, giving us a great flight shot.  I squealed when I saw this picture — I didn’t think I’d gotten any decent shots!

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Seeing the eagle made us go and watch the nature center nest for a little while.  We met a nice lady there who also watches it.  I’d seen both birds off the nest early this morning, so I knew they were not yet incubating.  But this nice lady saw both birds on the nest, right before we arrived.  Then one of the birds was down in the nest, all the way down.  All you could see was its head.  We’re hoping that it’s a good sign and an egg is forthcoming…come on, guys!

Species List: American Bittern, American Coot, American Robin, American White Pelican, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Eastern Phoebe, Fish Crow, Gadwall, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, House Wren, Killdeer, Laughing Gull, Least Sandpiper, Limpkin, Mourning Dove, Northern Shoveler, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Ring-Billed Gull, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Snowy Egret, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Wood Stork