Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

February Photo Walk at Circle B Bar Reserve

This morning my dad and I led another Photo Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Circle B asked us to lead people around the preserve, showing them the best trails and places to find birds. Today we had about ten or so people meet us at 8:00 (remember, photographers have to be up early to catch the early birds getting their worms!) We walked the Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run trails, picking up a couple of extra people in our group as we went along. Then a few of the group continued with us along Wading Bird Way out to the Eagle Roost, where we observed the nest and caught a glimpse of the several-week-old eaglet. It was a pretty good morning and we saw some fun birds!

I actually got the preserve right around sunrise, and I walked up Heron Hideout before meeting up with the group. A small flock of White-Crowned Sparrows posed most obligingly for me in the bushes along the trail. There were three or four juveniles. I didn’t see the adults today. Juvenile White-Crowned Sparrows have brown stripes on their heads instead of the bright black stripes of the adult. However, these little guys are starting to molt into their adult plumage, as evidenced by the one or two little black feathers on their faces. The light wasn’t great, as the sun went behind clouds immediately after sunrise. I was hand-holding my 400mm lens without flash (gotta travel light when you’re leading a group.) I waited for the birds to get used to me, happy that nobody was coming behind me to startle them, and they hopped out into the open and let me take a few shots.

White-Crowned Sparrow

White-Crowned Sparrow

Savannah Sparrows are the most common sparrows at Circle B at this time of year. You can tell the difference between Savannah Sparrows and the less common (at Circle B) Song Sparrows because the Savannah have yellow coloring over their eyes. I happened to snap the shutter as this guy stuck his tongue out at me!

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks have moved closer to the Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run trails with the recent raise in water level. They flew around in circles this morning, giving nice opportunities for flight shot practice. I waited for them to move into the sunlight, then snapped this one. I should have changed from f/5.6 to f/8.0 to try to get the ducks in the back in focus.

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

The King Rail posed for the group in its usual spot along Marsh Rabbit Run. One of our group was a Circle B volunteer who had never seen the rail, so she was excited to add it (and later a Prairie Warbler) to her life list. We enjoyed stalking the bird, who likes to dart under vegetation quite quickly, then slowly poke his head out and eventually make his way out into the open. If you see a large group of people staring at the ground near the start of Marsh Rabbit Run, it’s almost definitely a rail or a bittern — we’ve been so lucky this year with these unusually cooperative birds!

King Rail

King Rail

About halfway down the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, our group paused to watch the eagle’s nest across the marsh. The baby eaglet was born at the beginning of February. We watched the parent feeding the baby. I wished I had The Beast with me! But the 400mm did a pretty good job…

Juvenile Eagle Feeding Time

Juvenile Eagle Feeding Time

After we made our way back around to Heron Hideout, this Great Egret reminded me that it’s good to “take time to smell the flowers.” Only I think he was eating them, not smelling them! The water was still and his reflection was pretty. I really liked the purple of the follows in contrast with the feathers and water.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Our group was totally disbanded by this point in the walk, but I wished they were still with us when we spotted the Wild Turkeys walking across the marsh. The male was putting on a show, strutting around with his tail feathers displayed. Again I wished I had The Beast with me! :-p

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

I was ecstatic this morning to see an Osprey pair rebuilding their nest in the old dead palm tree off Heron Hideout. Last year I watched them build the nest, and two tiny babies peeked up over its side…and then a bad rainstorm destroyed the nest and killed the chicks. It was very sad. This year they appear to be building the nest up better.

Osprey with Nesting Material

Osprey with Nesting Material

We watched as one Osprey brought nesting material in to the nest. Then a bunch of crows started to approach the nest, provoking the Osprey. She fussed at them as they swarmed around, then her mate joined her for reinforcement. They chased off the crows. I wonder if that means they already have an egg in the nest? That would certainly explain the crows’ interest.

Osprey Nest Protection

Osprey Nest Protection

We hope everybody enjoyed the photo walk — we did! If you are interested in joining us next month, we meet on the last Saturday of the month at the Nature Center at 8am. Sign up in the nature center. We hope to see you all out on the trails again soon. :)

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, Cooper’s Hawk, Double-crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Phoebe, Fish Crow, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, House Wren, King Rail, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Northern Cardinal, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-billed Grebe, Prairie Warbler, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Ring-billed Gull, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Snowy Egret, Swamp Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, White-Crowned Sparrow, Wild Turkey, Wood Stork, Yellow-rumped Warbler