Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

My First Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Circle B Bar Reserve

It was an incredibly foggy morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I could barely make out the car in front of me as I drove in. But it turned out to be a great day for little birds. We saw a ton of warblers: Orange-Crowned, Black-and-White, Palm, Prairie, Yellow-Throated, Yellow-Rumped, Common Yellowthroat, and several Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Overall I saw over 50 species, not bad for a foggy day!!

Dyeyo and I arrived before sunrise, as usual, but it was clear that the fog was not going to lift quickly for pictures. So we took a side trip up to the Lost Bridge Trail, which we haven’t walked in a long time. We were curious to see which birds were there at this time of year, and if it would be a good place to take one of our Saturday photo hikes. Thirteen Wild Turkeys, two baby hogs, and the sounds of American Goldfinches were the main highlights. I don’t think the birds had woken up yet — it was still really dark from the fog.

We then took the Alligator Alley trail down to the lake. As we passed the nature center eagle nest, Dyeyo joked that we should report status to Herman: “there was no activity. No eagles? No, we couldn’t even see the nest!”

When we arrived at the dock, it was freakishly foggy. It felt like walking out onto a few boards suspended in grey. You couldn’t see the horizon at all, or even make out where the fog stopped and the lake surface started. The sun was clearly up, but it was just a fuzzy point souce in the sky, with a slightly smaller point source reflection below. A few birds flew by, but I could hardly make out what they were.

Foggy Sunrise over Lake Hancock

Foggy Sunrise over Lake Hancock

A lone white feather was in the water just below the dock, probably from an American White Pelican. You see lots of feathers where the pelicans have roosted.

Lone Feather on the Lake

Lone Feather on the Lake

As Dyeyo and I walked the Alligator Alley trail, a bunch of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and Palm Warblers flitted from branch to branch in the trees right in front of us. I think you can tell whether a person is primarily a birder or a photographer in how they act around Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers. The real birders look right past these little birds, because they are very common. The photographers spend hours watching a single gnatcatcher, commenting the whole time how cute it is!

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

We’ve been noticing more Great Blue Herons (a.k.a. “Fisherbirds”) along the trails lately, in varying stages of breeding plumage. The herons are so funny, watching you as you approach, then flapping off squawking when you come too close. I guess they don’t realize that people might walk right by them without noticing them at all, if they only kept their mouths shut!

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

A pair of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers landed on the same tree near the lake. Dyeyo kept asking “Woody”, his yet-to-be-seen Red-Headed Woodpecker, to come out. But “Woody” never appeared. (I hope I’m there the day that Dyeyo finally does see one – he’s going to be so excited!!)

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Several Ruby-Crowned Kinglets mixed in with the Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers. I’ve yet to see their bright ruby crowns at Circle B. For the first time ever, I wished I had one of those bird call devices today, because I think I could have drawn the little birds closer to me. (Ok, maybe the picture that a guy showed me yesterday of a Tree Swallow that he called to him is also influencing me here…!!)

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

As Dyeyo and I rounded “The Bend” and started to head away from the lake, we kept hearing the eagles calling. Herman has a theory that the pair of eagles (that are not incubating on the nature center nest) might have an alternate nest somewhere. I hope so…

Also around “The Bend” we heard a repeated call for several minutes, which reminded me very much of the call of baby Great Egrets at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm rookery. I know it’s early for the Great Egrets to be nesting, and that they usually nest in groups, but this sound is unmistakable. Only baby birds call and call and call like that…adults have the sense to be quieter!

Dyeyo and I looked for the Painted Buntings that have been sighted several times near “The Bend”, but we did not see them today.

A Northern Mockingbird caught our eye as he landed on a bush full of berries. I took a couple of stills, then switched to video.

We were about halfway back to Heron Hideout when I saw the bushes moving in front of me, then spotted a flash of green. Dyeyo and I watched closely, and out popped my Orange-Crowned Warbler. Finally! I’ve been watching for this bird for several weeks now, after seeing others report it. He nicely posed for a split second in front of the bush before dodging back under cover. Yay for the Beast and my 1.4x teleconverter! :-D

Orange-Crowned Warbler

Orange-Crowned Warbler

We found a small flock of warblers in one of the oak trees on Alligator Alley, right before the “Four Corners” intersection with Heron Hideout. There we saw the Prairie, Black-and-White, and Yellow-Throated Warblers. I was especially excited to see the Black-and-White Warbler. They are such fun to photograph as they move up and down tree trunks.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Yellow-Throated Warbler

Yellow-Throated Warbler

Black-and-White Warbler

Black-and-White Warbler

We checked for the rails at the Heron Hideout/Marsh Rabbit Run intersection, but we only saw a Sora. Les and Herman told us that the King and Virginia Rails have not been sighted for several days. The water levels are certainly higher after last week’s rains, and I wonder if they moved to higher ground.

This Swamp Sparrow said goodbye as we left, posing on a nice open branch with good bokeh. “See you next weekend!”

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

Species List: American Bittern, American Coot, American Goldfinch , American Robin, American White Pelican, American Wigeon, Anhinga, Bald Eagle (heard), Barred Owl (heard), Belted Kingfisher, Black-and-White Warbler, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Carolina Wren, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Common Yellowthroat, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mourning Dove, Northern Mockingbird, Orange-Crowned Warbler, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Prairie Warbler, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-Winged Blackbird, Ring-Billed Gull, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Snowy Egret, Sora, Swamp Sparrow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Wild Turkey, Wood Stork, Yellow-Rumped Warbler (myrtle), Yellow-Throated Warbler