Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

The Bird Paparazzi Grows at Circle B Bar Reserve

There were TONS of people at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning! Despite the chilly and breezy weather, over a hundred birders were out to enjoy the morning.

Dyeyo and I decided to hike along Alligator Alley to look for Orange-Crowned Warblers and Blue-Headed Vireos. We hoped for a nice sunrise over the lake, too, but it was so overcast that the sun stayed behind the clouds for a really long time.

Overcast Sunrise (HDR)

Overcast Sunrise (HDR)

The sun started to come up as we headed up Alligator Alley. The trail was pretty in the morning light. The birds didn’t seem to be out of bed yet. Usually we see plenty of little birds in the trees along that trail, and today there weren’t many. This HDR image is one of my favorite places along Alligator Alley, where I had fun taking pictures of Snowy Egrets fishing this summer. Often I could find a Marsh Rabbit lurking in the bushes near the bench.

Snowy Egret Fishing Hole

Snowy Egret Fishing Hole

I spotted an Osprey in a tree above my head. I had the 400mm lens with me with no tripod, and I missed the tripod’s stability as I waited for the Osprey to fly. He seemed to be thinking about it….thinking…thinking…and I gave up on him about three seconds before he took off. Dyeyo thought that was pretty funny.

Obstinate Osprey

Obstinate Osprey

As the Alligator Alley trail curved around away from the lake, I noticed a couple of Great Blue Herons (a.k.a. “Fisherbirds”) stalking their prey in the ponds. (The recent rains have brought up the water level a tiny bit — it was good to see!) The herons were in breeding plumage, with dark black colors and the little feather tufts at the backs of their heads.

Great Blue Heron in Breeding Plumage

Great Blue Heron in Breeding Plumage

A Snowy Egret couldn’t be outdone by a fisherbird, so he flew in and posed with his feathers all puffed up. They are so pretty when they do that. I had to dial in negative exposure compensation for the white bird against the dark background. It’s a fun contrast, though.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret

All over the marshes, the Red-Shouldered Hawks are starting to build their nests. I think I’ve seen at least three under construction. Today we saw this hawk fly into a tree repeatedly, taking moss and twigs back into a bigger tree. The tree is located on the south side of the Alligator Alley trail, probably about halfway between the lake and the Heron Hideout intersection. It’s a huge overgrown oak with tons of moss. The nest appears to be hidden in the moss, so I don’t think it will be very photographable. At least until the babies start to venture out of the nest!

Red-Shouldered Hawk building nest

Red-Shouldered Hawk building nest

We reached the Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run intersection around 9:00 or so, and we were astounded at the number of people on the trails. An Audubon group was lined up on Heron Hideout, with a nice row of binoculars looking at what appeared to be another Red-Shouldered Hawk. Overhead, there were just as many American White Pelicans flying overhead…

American White Pelicans (HDR)

American White Pelicans (HDR)

A Glossy Ibis made a tasty catch among many Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks.

Glossy Ibis with fish

Glossy Ibis with fish

A King Rail has been staying in about the same spot for the last week. He’s located on the north side of Marsh Rabbit Run, about fifty feet or so away from the Heron Hideout intersection. I saw him last Sunday and was glad to see him back so that Dyeyo could get his picture, too. He’s a pretty secretive bird, and he takes cover whenever he gets startled. It was fun to get him this out in the open.

King Rail

King Rail

I don’t think I can go to Circle B without taking a picture of the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. They are such fun to watch, and to listen to! Today’s favorite shot was a group of them landing in a tree. I know their backs are to me and it’s not a great shot artistically, but there’s something fun about the “landing gear in place…” feel to it!

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

Near the end of Marsh Rabbit Run, a Prairie Warbler posed in his customary tree. His bright yellow colors stood out on such an overcast icky day.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

As we headed back, a group of river otters put on a good show for us. There were at least three of them, and they frolicked up on the dike across from us. Then one decided to pose across some branches in the water. The Birdie Paparrazi went crazy…click! click! click!

River Otter

River Otter

Species List: American Bittern, American Coot, American Goldfinch (heard), American Robin, American White Pelican, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher (heard), Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Brown Pelican, Caspian Tern, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, Fish Crow, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Greater Yellowlegs, House Wren, Killdeer, King Rail, Laughing Gull, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mourning Dove, Northern Shoveler, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Prairie Warbler, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Ring-Billed Gull, Ring-Necked Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Snowy Egret, Swamp Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, White-Eyed Vireo, Wood Stork, Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Birds I may have seen: Black and White Warbler, Carolina Wren, Painted Bunting, Orange-Crowned Warbler. (Note: I may have seen these guys, but a biker or jogger appeared to startle them while I was focusing. Oh well.)