Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

In Search of Babies at Circle B Bar Reserve

Dyeyo and I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning on a quest to find baby birds.  The adorable Sandhill Crane colt that met us on the Heron Hideout trail was just the first.  We figured that the Barred Owlet had already fledged, so we headed out to Wading Bird Way in search of the Limpkin babies and Mottled Duck babies that someone mentioned to us.  We didn’t find either, but we did find the other Sandhill Crane family. :)

The days are getting longer and the sun is rising earlier.  Dyeyo and I planned to meet at 7:30, but I ran a few minutes late.  By the time we got out to the Heron Hideout trail around 7:45, the Sandhill Crane family had already made its way up onto the trail, and they only let us take a few pictures before moving off into the marsh again.  The early bird gets the worm!  Next weekend I’ll be an early bird. Sunrise next weekend is at 7am!

The colt is bigger this week.  He’s hunting for his own food more, although he’ll happily accept that tasty morsel from Mom or Dad.  I noticed that he’s allowed to wander off on his own a little now, although he stays pretty close to his parents.

Sandhill Crane colt – Week 3

Sandhill Crane colt – Week 3

The marsh was fairly quiet this morning.  The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks have moved away from the trails, hopefully to start nesting.  The water levels at the reserve are higher, as a result of the recent rains.  I think the ducks have moved to higher ground, which unfortunately is not visible from the open trails.  There were still a few Blue-Winged Teals and Pied-Billed Grebes around.  A White-Crowned Sparrow said hello as we walked up the Heron Hideout trail.  Dyeyo photographed a male Wood Duck in the Treasure Tree, but the bird flew before I saw it. :-p

I watched a Glossy Ibis with a bad leg hopping around as he fished for his breakfast.  Then I spotted another bird, who scooped up a frog as I watched.  I had a great sun angle on the bird, who tossed the frog around for a few seconds before the final gulp.  Too bad he didn’t turn his head a tiny bit more towards me as he tossed the poor frog!

Glossy Ibis with Frog

Glossy Ibis with Frog

We walked up past the Four Corners intersection in search of the Limpkin nest that Michael Libbe pointed out to me last week.  We found the nest with no trouble, in a small maple tree at about eye level at the last culvert on the trail.  But the nest was empty.  A Great Egret flew to the top of the tree and offered a consolation shot…

Great Egret

Great Egret

We decided to head around to Wading Bird Way trail to search for the rumored babies.  As we ventured up to the Eagle Roost trail, we spotted this juvenile Wood Stork fly in with his breakfast. It was a pretty big fish in comparison to his beak, but he managed to toss it around until he could execute the final gulp.  I can’t help but wonder what it feels like to swallow a live fish, whole…and I rather hope that I never experience that firsthand!!

Wood Stork with Breakfast

Wood Stork with Breakfast

The light out on the sand hill was beautiful as the sun illuminated the dewy grasses.  A pair of Sandhill Cranes was feeding on the side of the trail, and I couldn’t resist taking some pictures as we passed.  (We asked them where their baby was, but they didn’t have a good answer for us.)

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

It’s been a few weeks since I walked around the Eagle Roost trail and saw the Bald Eagle nest.  The baby has left the nest, and he posed in a branch above it with his parents close by.

Bald Eagle family

Bald Eagle family

Several groups of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks flew past.  I was so happy to see them – it’s been a while since they moved away from the trails, and I miss their sweet calls.  They are my favorite birds at Circle B.

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks

The Eastern Meadowlarks called to us as we passed all the small pine trees on the Eagle Roost trail.  They fly so quickly when they decide that you’ve gotten too close (they have bigger personal bubbles than my cat Goldy!)  I was enjoying the nice sunrise light boken when the bird flew off, and I got the flight shot.  Then I took a little video of the pretty song for Mum-mum…

Eastern Meadowlark Singing

Eastern Meadowlark Singing

Eastern Meadowlark Fly Off

Eastern Meadowlark Fly Off

A pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks posed together on a dead tree.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had this productive of a walk around the Eagle Roost!  The only thing missing was a Northern Bobwhite sighting.  Those birds are tormenting Dyeyo with their calls, but we’ve yet to actually see one.  If you have a recommendation for how to get them to leave the shelter of the grass clumps and come out for a photo, please e-mail me or post a comment to the blog.

Red-Shouldered Hawks

Red-Shouldered Hawks

As we turned onto the Wading Bird Way trail, we were happily surprised to see the second Sandhill Crane family cross the trail in front of us.  These colts are a few weeks older than the colt on Heron Hideout.  Look at those long legs!  They remind me of Black-necked Stilts.

Sandhill Crane family

Sandhill Crane family

Sandhill Crane colt

Sandhill Crane colt

Sandhill Crane colts

Sandhill Crane colts

The Wading Bird Way trail was pretty quiet (although not as quiet as it will be in another month or so!)  We saw a few Limpkins, a Wood Stork, a Great Egret, and some remaining flocks of American Coots.  I had to stop and take the “farewell coot” picture – they won’t be around much longer.  Then it’s going to seem really quiet out there!

American Coot

American Coot

A nice Cattle Egret in pretty breeding colors was standing on the side of the trail as we headed towards the Windmill Whisper trail.  I love the oranges and pinks and purples of these birds in the spring.  Then a small flock of Cattle Egrets flew overhead.

Cattle Egret breeding colors

Cattle Egret breeding colors

Cattle Egrets in flight

Cattle Egrets in flight

We walked back to the parking lot by way of the Shady Oak trail, but we didn’t see the Great Horned Owls that sometimes hang out there.  We did have a Gray Catbird pose for us, and we saw some cardinals and woodpeckers.  The shade of the oaks was a welcome change from the heat and sun out on the marsh trails.

We checked the Osprey nest as we left, and I didn’t see any tiny heads peeking out over the side of the nest.  It did appear that the adult was poking down inside the nest for extended periods, though, making me wonder if she might be caring for chicks in there.  Last year the nest had a low side and I could see in better.  This year I’ll have to wait until the chicks are big enough to be seen over the nest side.

Species List: American Coot, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Black Vulture, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Blue-winged Teal, Boat-tailed Grackle, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen, Double-crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Limpkin, 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, White-Crowned Sparrow, Wood Duck