Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Expect the Unexpected at the Circle B Bar Reserve

I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve yesterday (Friday) in hopes of a gorgeous sunrise with sun beams bursting through the clouds and reflecting over Lake Hancock.  I came home with images of a fireball and baby Limpkins!  Such is a morning at CBBR.  You never know what you’ll find out there.

I arrived about half an hour before sunrise, and I headed down to Lake Hancock.  As I approached the lake, I realized that it was too foggy for a good sunrise.  I got out to the dock and waited, and a few minutes after the expected sunrise, an orange fireball appeared the sky.  I tried some HDR bracketed shots, but I didn’t like the resulting HDR images – they didn’t do the scene justice.  Besides, even at a high frame rate, the sun moved quickly enough in the frame that Photomatix didn’t align the images very well.  But I did luck out and see my first flock of Blue-Winged Teals for this fall, and they flew right in front of the sun.  Like I wrote about yesterday, I managed to get the flock and sun in the same frame for two consecutive frames.  I played with Photoshop a little today and stitched the two frames together.  It’s a much more dramatic image this way…

As the sun rose, the reflection of the fireball appeared as a gorgeous path of light in the lake.  The bright orange color sparkled in each water ripple.

I left the dock after the sunrise.  With the fog, there wasn’t enough light to remain and photograph the flyby herons and egrets.  So I headed down the Alligator Alley trail in hopes of finding some migrant warblers.  I had taken about ten steps when I spotted this Barred Owl perched out in the open.  I was happy to see him, as I hadn’t seen any of these guys recently.  Last summer it seemed like we could always find them in the oak trees near the dock, but this year they haven’t been there as much.  Or I haven’t been in the right place at the right time.  This one let me photograph him, then he flew off to continue hunting for his bedtime snack!

It was a hard morning for the Ospreys along the Alligator Alley trail. A  bunch of them were perched in the trees as the trail curved away from the lake.  All of a sudden, they all took to the air, fussing like crazy.  I wondered what was going on, then I noticed the juvenile Bald Eagle who was chasing an Osprey with a fish.  I think the eagle won.

I kept coming across juvenile Ospreys as I made my way up the trail.  They are easy to distinguish right now in their nice fresh plumage.  This one posed nicely on the edge of a tree branch.  I used my flash, but I had sidelight conditions, and I ended up having to tweak the lighting in Photoshop.

There are almost always families of Common Moorhens Common Gallinules in the “Four Corners” area.  Today was no exception, and they were on a perfect sun angle.  One adult looked at me and just begged to have his picture taken.  Of course I had to oblige…

I didn’t take many pictures on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, which was unusual, because that’s usually where I see the best birds.  But today it was pretty quiet.  The one bird that I did see was a great find – a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo!  He was about halfway down the trail, in the same tree that I found him in early August.

Activity picked up when I got out to the Wading Bird Way trail.  First I noticed a flock of Rock Pigeons fly by.  These are very common birds, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen them at Circle B.

Then I went to find the newest celebrities at Circle B – the baby Limpkins!  I headed up Wading Bird Way and it didn’t take me long to find the babies.  They were just off the trail.  I got a few pictures, then a Circle B volunteer went by on a cart and scared them away.  I stood around a long time waiting for them to come back out.  But when they finally did come out, they came swimming right towards me!  How nice of them. :)

As I waited for the Limpkin chicks to come out, I heard a noise behind me, and turned around to find a family of Purple Gallinules.  I had thought I’d heard a new family out there a few weeks ago.  The chicks are starting to get their adult feathers.  I was shooting right into the sun, so I didn’t think I’d get good pictures at all.  But after I added tons of light in Photoshop, you can see the feathers pretty well.

Then I ran into my old science teacher, who works at Circle B now.  She took me in her cart and showed me where the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks have been nesting this year!  I’ll have to remember for next year…

Bird Species List (32 total): American Coot, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, Black Vulture, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal (FOF), Caspian Tern, Common Gallinule, Double-Crested Cormorant, Grackle sp., Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Laughing Gull, Limpkin (babies!), Little Blue Heron, Mourning Dove, Northern Cardinal, Osprey, Purple Gallinule (babies!), Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Rock Pigeon, Tricolored Heron, Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, Wood Duck, Wood Stork, Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

FOF = First of Fall