Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Mirror, Mirror, in the Lake…Who’s the Most Handsome Drake?

Wednesday was a frigid morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. The forecast had predicted a low of 29 at 7am, but my car’s thermometer was more optimistic, measuring 34. There was very little wind, and I was quite comfortable all bundled up in my old college coat. I made my way out to the Wading Bird Way trail in anticipation of a gorgeous sunrise. I was met by fog, so dense that it sat like a cloud over the marsh. Clearly there weren’t going to be any great sunrise shots this morning. However, the skies were a beautiful pink…

I was excited to see a few American White Pelicans fly off towards Lake Hancock just before sunrise. It was just two small groups of about five birds each. I couldn’t tell if they had slept off Wading Bird Way or not. I saw a large flock of white birds off in the distance, but they weren’t pelicans. They were Wood Storks! They started to fly towards me just like the pelicans did last year. I had fun trying to capture them in the early morning light against the bright pink sky.

The sunrise was surreal – a big orange disk peeking through the thick fog. The marshes were covered in frost, which glistened as the light levels rose. My attention turned to the frost on the plants backlit by the rising sun. I tried to capture the little bits of ice on the edges of nearby vegetation.

Frosty Returned for New Year's

Frosty Returned for New Year's

Flocks of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks sang as they flew over my head. Then I noticed something that I see quite rarely — whistlers acting like ducks! A pair of them were swimming in the waters quite near the trail, away from all the vegetation. The water was so still that the first had a perfect reflection. I loved the contrast of the bright orange beaks against the clear cold water. Mirror, mirror, in the lake… :)

The fog took a while to burn off. The sun was fairly high in the sky and blindingly bright when I reached my favorite vantage point of several trees in the distance. I realized that a large influx of coots had come to Circle B since my last visit (10052, perhaps! one fewer than reported at MINWR!) The eagles let them rest quietly on this foggy morning…

I haven’t seen many Sandhill Cranes at Circle B this winter, but today I did. At least thirty of them were roosting with the Wood Storks on the far end of the marsh. Too far away to photograph, they called mockingly as they flew off towards the Eagle Roost trail. Then a small flock of them flew towards me!

Plenty of Great Blue Herons were fishing for their breakfasts. Some are sporting their pretty breeding plumage. As Dyeyo put it recently, “they look less scruffy than usual!” I caught one of them mid-yawn. Look at that bright beak and blue lore!

I had been hoping for some Green-Winged Teals, but all I found were Blue-Winged Teals. A couple of small flocks of them stayed close to the trail. They swam away as I first approached them, but then they came back. I loved their reflections.

All morning, Wood Storks from the big flock took off and flew towards my trail. I had plenty of flight shot opportunities. It was a great exercise in getting keeping the camera’s focus point on the bird’s head, and trying to capture a good wing position. I liked this one the best, as it shows the iridescence in the bird’s black feathers as they caught the sunlight.

All in all, it was one of the best days I’ve had at Circle B in some months, even before the weather warmed to a balmy 55 degrees! I didn’t have a very high species count because I only hiked the one trail, but the photographic opportunities were excellent. :)

Bird Species List (31 total): American Coot, American White Pelican, Anhinga, Belted Kingfisher, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Boat-tailed Grackle, Brown Pelican, Caspian Tern, Common Gallinule, Eastern Phoebe (heard), Gadwall, Glossy Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Laughing Gull, Least Yellowlegs, Limpkin, Mottled Duck, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-winged Blackbird, Ring-Billed Gull, Roseate Spoonbill, Sandhill Crane, Tree Swallow, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Wood Stork