This winter the American Bittern and the King Rail were the stars at the Circle B Bar Reserve. This spring, the Sandhill Crane colt that frequents the Heron Hideout trail is quickly becoming the newest celebrity at the park.
This morning I met Michael Libbe at sunrise and we found the Sandhill Crane family out in the grasses a few yards from the Heron Hideout trail. Then they moved up onto the trail, positioning the colt just a few feet away from us in the golden glow of sunrise. How long can you stand and photograph the same three birds? Well, we were there for about an hour and a half!
If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see the colt standing at the feet of the adult! The little guy was buried in the grass when we got there. All we could see was his head. Then the adults moved towards the trail, and he walked behind them. Except the water was high after all the rains we had, and it came up to his chin! He was so cute as he made his way across the little stream. Then he passed over a little hill of grass, then up onto the trail. Poor little guy, he was all wet and he shivered as he stood by his parents.
The little family stood on the side of the trail and ate breakfast, unconcerned by their little fan club of people that gathered on the other side of the trail to watch. A bunch of photographers were there, and lots of passersby…lots more people than are usually there at sunrise!
The adults stood rooting in the grass for bugs, and the little crane stood patiently by, waiting for them to offer him some. He’s learning how to search for food by himself, too, and he found a few bugs. But it’s so much more convenient when Mom hands you a morsel!
Click-click-click went the cameras as the little crane reached up to take morsel after morsel from his parents. I had the extension tubes on The Beast at this point, allowing me to focus closely on the interaction. I got down low with my tripod, trying to get that eye-to-eye look. But I was a little too low, because the grasses in the foreground started to obscure the food tidbits.
I wanted to get super-close and focus on just the colt’s head, but I didn’t want to scare the birds, and besides, that little guy moves a lot! So this is a crop image of the colt’s face as he begged for food. Look at that little mouth!
A picture is worth a thousand words…and I guess a video is worth a thousand pictures! Here’s the breakfast video:
We finally tore ourselves away from the cranes and moved on down the trail. The juvenile Little Blue Egret that hangs out in the ponds by the Four Corners is starting to turn into an adult. His white feathers are getting speckled with blue.
The Red-Winged Blackbirds were putting on a show every couple of feet. I know these are very common birds, but they are so pretty at this time of year with their bright red spots! They are so predictable that it is easy to get the “open mouth” shots. Just wait five seconds the the bird will fuss again!
A couple of birders asked us if we’d seen the baby Common Moorhen, then showed us where it was hanging out with its mom at the Four Corners. Our first baby moorhen of the year! There were be plenty more…
Rumors of some baby Sora led us to the southern side of Heron Hideout, where we did not find any Sora. But we did spot two Purple Gallinules on the western side of the trail, near the last culvert before Eagle Roost. There was a nest right around there last year…are there new babies on the way? :)
Our second goal of the morning was to show Michael the juvenile Barred Owl. So we turned down the Alligator Alley trail. We were greeted by a pair of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers doing a “changing of the guard” at a nest hole. I’ll have to keep an eye out on that tree!
I told Michael that it was hard to find the nest. I had given Dyeyo specific directions, and he tried twice and couldn’t find it. Well, nowadays it’s a lot easier to find! For one thing, the storm this week took down the green trees that obscured the foreground (or was that Bill with his magic lasso? ;-)) For another thing, the nest is now a photographer roosting ground! We found at least five tripods and long lenses pointing at the juvenile owl. I was really happy to see that he weathered the storm ok. Last week I saw two juveniles; this week only one was out sunning himself. We stood watching him for probably half an hour; all he did was sit there and stare at us, probably wondering why we didn’t have better things to do!
There is a Red-Shouldered Hawk nest in a tree very close to the Barred Owl nest. So there were some good hawk fly-by opportunities as we stood watching the owl. I dialed in a couple of stops of exposure compensation and shot. This one was my favorite:
Dyeyo caught up with Michael and me as we looked for migrant warblers along Alligator Alley. We heard some singing Northern Parulas, but didn’t see any. (Lucky Michael spotted a Black-and-White Warbler near the parking lot.)
Michael headed off to find the Limpkin nest (!!!!) while Dyeyo and I headed back to the parking lot. We passed a beautiful Glossy Ibis in its breeding colors. The stubborn bird insisted on posing behind a bright green branch. I think I did a pretty good job of removing it in Photoshop…can you tell that there was a branch there? :)
The Sandhill Crane colt was still posing for admiring photographers (like Dina!) on our way back. I couldn’t resist taking a few more shots…
I was very happy to see that the Osprey nest in the palm tree survived the storms. Last year it didn’t. An Osprey was sitting on the nest. As we watched, another Osprey flew in. At first I assumed it was the nest mate, but the bird incubating got up and made quite a fuss. I guess it wasn’t her mate after all? “Sorry, wrong nest….they all look alike!!”
Species List: American Bittern, American Coot, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, Black Vulture, Blue-winged Teal, Boat-tailed Grackle, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Double-crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark (heard), Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Limpkin, Green Heron, Little Blue Heron, Northern Cardinal, Osprey, Purple Gallinule, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Sandhill Crane, Savannah Sparrow, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis