Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Foggy but Interesting Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

Wow it was foggy this morning!  It was all clear as I left Orlando, but the fog started when I hit I-4, and the Polk Parkway was crazy with fog.  So I wasn’t anticipating seeing too much this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I’m glad I was wrong!  We saw tons of birds.

The Red-Winged Blackbirds must be beginning to nest.  The males are displaying and calling from the treetops, providing wonderful photo ops.  It seemed like we had a blackbird on every other little tree along Heron Hideout this morning.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

To kill time until the fog lifted, we walked around the Eagle Roost Trail out to Wading Bird Way to look for the Sandhill Crane family that has been reported there.  It was so foggy!  We couldn’t see the Bald Eagle’s nest.  We could hear Eastern Meadowlarks, but we couldn’t see them.  When we made it out to Wading Bird Way, we could see faint shadows of birds on the trail, but we had to get pretty close before we could identify them.

There were tons of little Savannah Sparrows out this morning, both on the Eagle Roost trail and along Wading Bird Way.  I got down to eye level to try to get the best shots.  (Most of the pictures this morning were taken with The Beast handheld – we hiked so much that I folded up the tripod.  Thank goodness for IS!)

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

For almost all these early-morning images, I used Photoshop Levels to adjust the coloring in the pictures.  That got rid of the gray cast to the pictures.

It’s been a few weeks since we were out at Wading Bird Way, so it was fun to say hello to the birds out there.  There were still a bunch of coots hanging around, although not as many as back in January.  Some Pied-Billed Grebes are still hanging around.  And a lone Ruddy Duck was swimming very close to the path!  Neither Dyeyo or I had ever seen a Ruddy Duck before.  Just this one bird made the hike worthwhile. :)

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

A Great Egret yawned at us from a post as we walked by…

Great Egret

Great Egret

We found two Sandhill Crane adults who seemed to be a pair.  There weren’t any babies near them, though.  We saw Limpkins with their apple snails.  Wouldn’t it be cool if the Limpkins nested at Circle B this year? :)

I almost didn’t recognize this Palm Warbler in his fresh bright colors.  Their yellow patches are so bright and yellow in the springtime!

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

It was around 9:30 and still the fog had not lifted.  That’s pretty unusual.  Finally we started to get a few glimmers of sun rays coming through the mist, and we decided to head back towards Heron Hideout.  An American Kestrel hopped up onto a treetop as we neared the Eagle Roost beginning.  He’s a pretty skittish little bird, so our best shots were from far away.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

We heard several Northern Bobwhites calling out from the brush under the pine trees along the Eagle Roost.  As we neared the big tree close to the intersection of the new Frasier bike trail, we also heard some Eastern Towhees.  These were non-discriminating towhees…their calls sounded like just “drink!” with out any mention of “your tea!” (“drink your tea” is a pneumonic for the towhee call…)  I knew that the folks on the Circle B Flickr page were looking for towhee shots for the species list, so we stopped and found the birds, who were buried in that big tree.  We lucked out and got both the male and female. :)

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee

The Eastern Meadowlarks were active this morning.  We could hear them singing along the Eagle Roost, and a few obligingly posed in the pine tree tops for us.  I’d never had the focal length to get great shots of these beautiful birds, so I was very happy to have The Beast with me today.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark

We got around to Heron Hideout just as the fog lifted – and it was like magic, it lifted really fast!  A little Pied-Billed Grebe was pretty close to the path, with a great reflection in the water.  I love these little guys in their breeding colors.

Pied-Billed Grebe

Pied-Billed Grebe

We met a few other birders who showed us two Soras near the Four Corners intersection.  As we were watching them, a Bald Eagle flew overhead.  You could tell that Dyeyo and I were photographers and the others were birders – they laughed when I fussed at the eagle for flying in the wrong direction, into the sun!  But I got a pretty good shot before he turned.  I will admit to some lightening in Photoshop.  I dialed in exposure compensation, but not enough.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

We turned down the Alligator Alley trail and found two American Bitterns stalking their breakfasts.

American Bittern

American Bittern

We found the Barred Owl’s nest area filled with photographers, who graciously let us squeeze into the “sweet spot” for viewing the nest.  Somebody remarked that we were packed more tightly than in Herman’s boat!  This nest is a bit challenging to photograph, as there is a lot of fresh green vegetation in the foreground that blows in the wind and sneaks into your shots.  The owlet had been standing out in full visibility before Dyeyo and I arrived, but he wasn’t cooperating when we got there.  So we waited and waited.  We did see the little bird come out and stretch his wings, but my favorite shot was when an adult returned to the nest and both little owlets were interacting with her.  There’s way too much green in this, but I think it captures the moment.

Barred Owlet and Adult

Barred Owlet and Adult

By this time it was 11:30, and our stomachs were rumbling.  Reluctantly we headed back to Heron Hideout to check for the Sandhill Crane colts on our way out.  There we sooo many people on the trails at this time, and I was kind of glad to spot the family off in the distance instead of up on the trail.  Unfortunately, we only saw one little colt with the parents.  We don’t know what happened to the other one.  :(

Sandhill Crane family

Sandhill Crane family

A Red-Shouldered Hawk landed on the trail right in front of us.  Then he took off, flying right at me!  I aimed and shot…what a great end to a great morning’s walk!

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Species List: American Bittern, American Coot, American Goldfinch (heard), American Kestrel, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Black Vulture, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-winged Teal, Boat-tailed Grackle, Cattle Egret, Common Yellowthroat, Common Moorhen, Double-crested Cormorant, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Towhee, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Lesser Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck, Mourning Dove, Northern Bobwhite (heard), Northern Cardinal, Northern Parula, Osprey, Pied-Billed Grebe, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Ruddy Duck, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Sora, Swamp Sparrow, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White-Crowned Sparrow, White Ibis