This morning started out slow at the Circle B Bar Reserve. We’re getting into the time of year when there are fewer birds at the reserve, and you don’t get as many great photo ops as you do during the winter. But I find that the baby birds are just as fun to photograph as the migrants…if you know where to look to find them! :)
We started out just after sunrise on the Heron Hideout trail, hoping to see the Sandhill Crane colt that the volunteers have dubbed “Tiny Tim.” But Tiny Tim and his family were nowhere to be seen. Herman reports that the Osprey nest on the palm tree has hatched, but the babies stayed down in the nest. Sometimes it’d be nice to be Inspector Gadget and just hop up to the nest for a quick close-up!
A single Black-Necked Stilt flew overhead as we watched the Osprey nest. It’s the first stilt I’ve seen at the reserve this spring. Later we saw another fly over, and a pair of them seemed to fight in the air over Eagle Roost.
I spotted an adult Black-Crowned Night Heron hunched down in the grasses pretty far out in the marsh (thanks to the Beast!) Later he flew overhead, giving us a pretty good photo op. At the far end of Heron Hideout, where it turns into the Eagle Roost trail, we spotted a juvenile night heron fishing in the reeds. I think it’s the same juvenile we’ve seen for the past year or so. Now his head is turning black as he molts into his adult colors.
We took the Eagle Roost trail around to the Wading Bird Way trail, hoping to find some Bobolinks. Herman told us that we have about a three-week window starting at the beginning of May when we may find these migrating birds. Dyeyo has pictures from last year, but I’ve never seen one. Unfortunately we didn’t find any Bobolinks, or very many other birds either. Northern Bobwhites continued to tease Dyeyo with their calls. Eastern Meadowlarks could be heard but not seen (probably due to the presence of a Red-Shouldered Hawk in the pine tree area).
Out on Wading Bird Way, the Savannah Sparrows are gone. The Anhingas and Limpkins are the summer residents on that trail. A Limpkin stood in front of us, making an interesting call that I had never heard. From a distance, I thought it was an adult bird calling and tiny babies answering, but as we got closer I realized that all the sounds were coming from the one bird. “If I did have babies,” this guy seemed to tell us, “I sure wouldn’t show them to you!”
I figured we’d see several groups of baby Common Moorhens today, but I only saw one baby. The Common Moorhens are definitely more talkative these days (or perhaps I can hear them better, now that most of the American Coots are gone?) You know the bird activity at Circle B is getting less active when you start taking pictures of the moorhens and blackbirds…
The park is starting to be covered in dragonflies. This was a pretty one, although I don’t know what kind it is. (Herman??) Maybe this summer I’ll have to read up on dragonflies.
We turned around and retraced our steps to Heron Hideout, where we turned down the Alligator Alley trail in hopes of seeing the baby hawks on their nest. The area where the marsh curves into the Lake Hancock shore ought to be called “Nesting Central” these days. That’s where the Barred Owl nest is (the babies have fledged), where the Great Blue Herons tried to make their late nest (and it was empty today), and where the Red-Shouldered Hawks are looking more and more like adults high up in their nest. It’s also where Dyeyo and I spotted a pair of baby Limpkins!! They posed out in the open grass for a few minutes before following their parents back under cover.
Herman mentioned a second Red-Shouldered Hawk nest, which is located farther along the Alligator trail, closer to the lake but on the marsh side. We located the nest by listening to the screams of the young chicks inside. They were hungry! As we watched, a mockingbird neared the nest and Mama flew in to protect her babies. The babies weren’t too happy to see their mother without food. She left and they squawked. We kept watching the nest, and our patience brought us a reward: Mama flew back in with a nice big snake!
One baby seemed to be the dominant pig in the family. He stood in the front and devoured everything his mother passed to him. Then he seemed to decide that she wasn’t feeding him fast enough, so he lunged for the snake and began to try to eat, stretching out nice long snake guts for the happy photographers below. Farther back in the nest, a second baby’s head popped up only occasionally, as his mother passed him bites that his older brother didn’t want. “So this is a happy family meal!” remarked another photographer.
This second hawk’s nest is closer to the trail and much easier to photograph than the nest by the owls’ tree. I’m looking forward to observing it again next week!
As we left, we stopped on Heron Hideout one last time, hoping that the baby Ospreys inside their nest might be more active. Their mother stood dozing on the nest, seeming to pant a little in the heat. We didn’t see any little heads popping up over the side of the nest, though. But we did see Tiny Tim and his family cross the trail. Tiny Tim has grown! He’s trading his cute baby downy fuzz for the beginnings of his flight feathers, which he displayed for me as he ran to keep up with his mom and dad. By this time it was noon and the light was harsh, but it was still fun to have an opportunity to photograph the little guy.
Species List: American Coot, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Black Vulture, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Black-Necked Stilt, Boat-tailed Grackle, Carolina Wren, Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen (baby!), Double-crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Limpkin (baby!), Little Blue Heron, Mourning Dove, Northern Bobwhite (heard), Northern Cardinal, Northern Parula (heard), Purple Gallinule, Osprey, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk (babies!), Red-winged Blackbird, Sandhill Crane (babies!), Tricolored Heron, Tufted Titmouse (heard), White Ibis