Sunrise with a Sora – Circle B Bar Reserve


I spent a very pleasant morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve yesterday morning.  I arrived about half an hour before sunrise and made my way out to the Wading Bird Way trail.  It’s one of my favorite sunrise locations on the reserve.   I like to watch the sun peek out from over the trees covered in birds, then I turn around and photograph the birds in flight in the golden sunrise light.

I used HDR to combine three exposures of the sunrise to produce the image above.  That’s the only way that I could get proper exposure in the sun and in the yellow flowers in the foreground.  I’ve been experimenting with trial versions of two HDR programs in the past few days: Photomatix Pro and Nik HDR Efex.  I’m finding that I prefer the dials and controls in Photomatix.  Photomatix does a better job with image alignment and de-ghosting.  Nik’s results tend to be darker and less to my taste.  I’m still learning about HDR, but so far, Photomatix gets my vote.

After the sunrise, I focused on birds in flight with The Beast.  The Blue-Winged Teals are roosting on the waters in pretty good numbers, and they tend to take off in groups.  They are really fast, though, and it is hard to get focused on them before they sweep past you.  As I tried, I noticed a small bird foraging in the vegetation right in front of me.  It was a Sora, the second that I’ve seen at Circle B this fall.  To my surprise, he continued to forage for over an hour, and even came out in the open for a while.  That was a nice surprise!

The ducks are coming back to Circle B, although not yet in the high numbers that I remember from last winter.  A few American White Pelicans have been sighted flying over the marsh, but none have yet landed to roost.  Very few Sandhill Cranes, Wood Storks, or wading birds in general were in the marshes yesterday.  I wonder where they are?  Maybe the waters are too deep?  So I chose to practice my flight shots with the birds that are readily available…the coots!  I know these are really common birds and a lot of people won’t even bother to photograph them, but I think they are pretty and I love trying to catch them as they run across the water.  Today one cooperated with me and actually flew towards me instead of away from me…

A juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron was hanging out on one of the posts as I arrived before sunrise.  I dialed in over a stop of exposure compensation due to the low light level.  Look at that bright red eye!

As the morning got hot and the light started to fade, I heard the familiar call of a fussy bird.  It took me a few minutes to find the Belted Kingfisher as he flew toward me across the marsh.  It was good to see him on the reserve itself.  Mostly this year I’ve been seeing him sit on the power lines on 540 near the entrance to the park.  He looks a lot more photogenic in mid-air!

Bird Species List (33 total): American Coot, American Wigeon, Anhinga, Belted Kingfisher, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown Pelican, Common Gallinule, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Meadowlark (heard), Eastern Phoebe, Gadwall, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, House Wren (heard), Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Red-winged Blackbird, Redhead, Sandhill Crane, Sora, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork, Yellowlegs sp

Herman also had a Ruddy Duck, which I missed.  Someone else on Birdbrains reported a Bufflehead.  I love Circle B at this time of year!

Want to learn more about nature photography at Circle B Bar Reserve?

Check out my Circle B Bar Reserve page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!

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