Finally! I Photographed a Painted Bunting at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

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I had a nice walk this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It’s always great to go there to unwind after a long week. This morning I hiked the Alligator Alley trail in search of small birds, then I walked up Marsh Rabbit Run and up Wading Bird Way around to the Eagle Roost trail, where I observed the eagle’s nest. So the big question of the day…is there one baby in that nest or are there two?

I didn’t quite get to the lake before sunrise. The sun was already peaking up over the trees as I approached the lake. I stopped and took a bracketed set of panorama exposures. When I got home, I combined the bracketed exposures using HDR, then stitched each image together into a panorama. Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

Sunrise over Lake Hancock (HDR)

Sunrise over Lake Hancock (HDR)

I walked slowly along the Alligator Alley trail, stopping often to observe the little birds flitting from tree to tree. I was very happy to quickly come across another Orange-Crowned Warbler. It was just two weeks ago that I saw this bird for the first time, and it’s still exciting to find one!

Orange-Crowned Warbler

Orange-Crowned Warbler

The warblers are starting to get their spring colors. I noticed that the Palm Warblers’ colors are brighter, with more pronounced yellow and brown. The Yellow-Rumped Warblers’ blacks are blacker.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

In a dead tree (no leaves to hide birds!), I came across a little green bird. At first I assumed it was another Yellow-Crowned Warbler, but on closer inspection, I saw that it was a female Painted Bunting! I fired off a couple of shots before she flew. Finally! This was not the first time I’d seen a Painted on that trail, but I didn’t get the shot before. Today’s shot is not ideal, with the shadow and face obstruction by the branch, but it clearly shows a bunting! I waited around for a while, hoping she would come back and bring her mate, but no such luck.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting

Around “The Bend” (where the trail turns away from the lake) there are usually herons and egrets wading in the low marshy waters. Today was no exception. This Snowy Egret already has his breeding feathers, the long lacey tendrils on his head and back. He’s pretty when he arches his head back and fluffs up his feathers.

Snowy Egret, Breeding Plumage

Snowy Egret, Breeding Plumage

Just before “The Bend,” I found a Red-Shouldered Hawk’s nest last time I went to Circle B. The hawk was sitting on the nest fussing his head off at anybody who looked at him, breathed near him, thought about his… Today I hoped to see more incubation or maybe even some little heads, but all I found was a Turkey Vulture sitting on a branch adjacent to the nest. I guess that nest didn’t work out.

Behind me, the calls of the gulls on the lake made the marsh sound more like a beach. A flock of Double-Crested Cormorants was feeding, with plenty of fish visible in their hungry beaks. The gulls apparently were hungry too, but instead of fishing for their own breakfasts, they tried to steal the fish from the cormorants.

Gulls stealing fish from Double-Crested Cormorants

Gulls stealing fish from Double-Crested Cormorants

A brave House Wren posed for me on a branch right next to the path. I saw him, he saw me, I watched him, he watched me, and he decided to hop out on a nice open branch anyway! I sure didn’t complain…

House Wren

House Wren

There is a cluster of oak trees on the Alligator Alley trail, just before the junction with Heron Hideout. That’s where I typically see warblers. Today was no exception. I saw Palm, Yellow-Rumped, Pine, and Yellow-Throated warblers. No Black-and-White or Prairie warblers today, though. I stayed for a while, looking and hoping. It’s unusual because the Prairie Warblers had been pretty visible in the last month.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Yellow-Throated Warbler

Yellow-Throated Warbler

Just beyond the “Four Corners”, in its usual spot on Marsh Rabbit Run, I found the King Rail posing out in the open. How nice of him! I got several shots that I really liked, but I chose this one to post because it shows his tail so well. That black-and-white tail sticks out in contrast with his brown colors. Unfortunately, I missed the Virginia Rail, who was also out this morning (according to other birders).

King Rail

King Rail

The Marsh Rabbit Run trail was kind of quiet, probably because it was around 10:00 before I started down it. I did see this Swamp Sparrow hop up on a branch and and look right at me. I thanked him for choosing a branch with good bokeh.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

Towards the Wading Bird Way end of the trail, I started seeing Ospreys fishing. They hover in place while they look for a fish, then they make a dive and splash! This bird dove unsuccessfully several times, then hovered obligingly for about a minute. I had to dial in lots of exposure compensation to not totally cast him in shadow.

Osprey

Osprey

The American White Pelicans are almost all gone. I saw a lone pelican on Lake Hancock, and there were two on the Wading Bird Way waters. What a contrast to the thousands of birds that were there a month or two ago!

A Caspian Tern and several Ring-Billed Gulls posed on the posts along Wading Bird Way. I couldn’t resist stopping to take their pictures. I also chased some Tree Swallows and tried to photograph them. I did manage to get them in the frame, but I didn’t like the results. Those swallows move so fast!!

Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull

An Anhinga posed nearby. I took some pictures to compare the quality of the pictures taken with The Beast to the pictures taken with my 400mm lens this summer. I’ve had the Beast for over a month now, and I still am amazed every time I download my pictures. Thank you, Rich!!

Anhinga

Anhinga

The Eagle Roost trail was rather empty, like usual. I did see a lone Eastern Meadowlark at the top of a pine tree. Of course the main attraction on that trail is the eagle’s nest. The babies hatched two weeks ago, and they are now getting big enough to poke their heads up over the side of the nest. The big question is whether there are one or two eaglets. I watched the nest for a while, and even took a video. At times it appeared that there might have been two heads, but the baby was flapping his wings around, and I couldn’t see well enough to tell whether the second head was really a head or just a wing. In the picture below, look at the little blob to the right of the parent–that’s a baby!

Eagle nest

Eagle nest

 

Species List: American Bittern, American Coot, American Goldfinch, American Robin, American White Pelican, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Black Vulture, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-winged Teal, Boat-tailed Grackle, Caspian Tern, Cattle Egret, Com. Yellowthroat, Common Grackle, Common Moorhen, Double-crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Phoebe, Fish Crow, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, House Wren, Killdeer, King Rail, Laughing Gull, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Shoveler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Osprey, Painted Bunting Palm Warbler, Pied-billed Grebe, Pine Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-shoulder Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Ring-billed Gull, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Snowy Egret, Swamp Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Yellow-Throated Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler

Want to learn more about nature photography at Circle B Bar Reserve?

Check out my Circle B Bar Reserve page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!

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