Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

You Know it’s Springtime at Circle B Bar Reserve if…

You know it’s springtime at Circle B Bar Reserve if you see the following:

  1. Trees are getting their leaves back
  2. Sandhill Cranes start sitting on nests!
  3. Baby eagles peek out to say hello
  4. People flock to the marsh to enjoy the warm weather
  5. The ducks head back home — see you next year!
  6. The birds start sporting their breeding colors
  7. Earlier sunrises!
  8. Male cardinals sing for their “wives! wives! wives!”
  9. Turtles come out to sun themselves, relieved that the cold winter winds have passed
  10. Marsh rabbits and otters frolic along the trails
Marsh Rabbit

Marsh Rabbit

Dyeyo and I hiked the following trails today: Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, Wading Bird Way, and the Eagle’s Roost. We did not see the baby eagle — both parents were sitting near the nest, but the baby must have been asleep. But we did see two White-Crowned Sparrows, an unusally obliging Gray Catbird, and an American Bittern that posed for all to photograph!

The sunrise this morning was at 7:06am. People ask me how I can get up so early every weekend. But it’s easy — the world is magical at dawn.

Circle B Sunrise (HDR)

Circle B Sunrise (HDR)

A huge flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds can usually be found off Heron Hideout in the early morning. It seems to be almost all juveniles or female birds. This morning they were poking around in the shallow water, providing nice pre-sunrise reflections…

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

I was very excited to see a pair of White-Crowned Sparrows in the bushes along Heron Hideout. Last weekend I saw a juvenile bird, but this is the first pair of adults I’ve seen at Circle B. They seemed to be larger than the usual sparrows. They allowed me a full two shots before they flew.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

Across the path, a Marsh Wren was posing for Dyeyo. We both watched him together as he hopped from under the brush immediately in front of us to the top of a nearby bush. They don’t usually pose like that!

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

The Marsh and Sedge Wrens are the less common wrens at Circle B. The House Wrens are common in winter, and the Carolina Wrens in summer. (Dyeyo and I found a group of Carolina Wrens nesting last summer near the nature center pond.) Today a House Wren fussed and fussed at us from a nearby palm tree. I think I caught the sentiment of his feelings pretty well!

Fussy House Wren

Fussy House Wren

A couple of juvenile Little Green Herons waded in the ponds off Heron Hideout. One took to flight and then immediately disappeared behind some bushes. When he emerged, I got one lucky shot:

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

It really was a good morning for little birds. We saw a couple of Common Yellowthroat warblers hopping around in the bushes as we neared Heron Hideout. Usually I photograph the males, but this female was so pretty. She put on quite a hopping show for us. These little birds sure don’t sit still for very long. :-p

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

We did not see the star American Bittern at his usual place, and the King Rail made only brief appearances at his “Four Corners” hangout. But then somebody called “Bittern!” and we saw this one sitting out in the open in the beautiful morning light. The conditions were almost as good or maybe even better than the day that I saw a bittern up on a log with a bunch of friends.

American Bittern

American Bittern

American Bittern

American Bittern

We saw several Northern Cardinal pairs this morning, all in breeding plumage.  I like to say that the cardinal around my house sounds like he’s calling for a “wife! wife! wife!” at this time of year.

Dyeyo and I were ecstatic when we saw a Sandhill Crane sitting on what appeared to be a nest, on the north side of the Marsh Rabbit Run trail. The countdown for this year’s babies begins! (We asked the birds to make sure that we have two babies this year. We were so spoiled with the one last year! )

Sandhill Crane on Nest

Sandhill Crane on Nest

I spotted a couple of American Goldfinches feeding high in some oak trees. They love oak pollen. The males were starting to get their bright yellow and black colors back. This female is a little less showy.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

You would think I’d get bored with taking pictures of Great Blue Herons, my favorite “fisherbirds” that can be found year-round at Circle B. But I don’t. Especially at this time of year, when they are in their pretty breeding colors. This one’s fave stands out against the pattern of palm fronds behind him.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

I heard a “meooow! meoaaaaw!” call coming from a tree, and stopped to find the Gray Catbird that was calling me. These birds are usually pretty secretive. They don’t usually come out and pose for the photographers. But this bird must have known that I have a kindred Gray Cat at home! He sat out in the open for a nice long time, even allowing me to adjust my tripod to remove some vegetation in the way. (and I had to move back…gotta love The Beast!)

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

The Gray Catbird lost my attention when the Prairie Warbler hopped by…and then the Prairie Warbler was forgotten as this Ruby-Crowned Kinglet came along.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

An Osprey was feeding in the waters off Wading Bird Way. He hovered for tens of seconds at a time, allowing me time to focus and shoot. Look out below!

Osprey

Osprey

Dyeyo spotted a Great Egret feeding on a snake, off Wading Bird Way.  Poor Dyeyo, his card filled on him just as he started to shoot!  I switched into video mode to capture the live-action…the snake did not want to be eaten, and he wrapped himself around the egret’s beak in protest.  So the egret flew away with him.

After our walk around the Eagle Roost, we stopped back at the King Rail hideout to check one last time for the Virginia Rail. (Still haven’t seen him — silly bird!) But the King Rail popped out for just a quick second, as he caught his mid-day snack…

King Rail

King Rail

Species List: American Bittern, American Coot, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Black Vulture, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-winged Teal, Boat-tailed Grackle, Cattle Egret, Common Yellowthroat, Common Moorhen, Double-crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark (heard), Eastern Phoebe, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, House Wren, King Rail, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Marsh Wren, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-billed Grebe, Prairie Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Ring-billed Gull, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Snowy Egret, Swamp Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, White-Crowned Sparrow, Wilson’s Snipe, Wood Stork, Yellow-rumped Warbler

Squirrel

Squirrel

Don’t forget — next weekend is the February Photo Hike at Circle B! Sign up at the Polk Discovery Center.