The winter birds are returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve! My dad and I had a great walk yesterday morning. We saw our first-of-fall Eastern Phoebes, Gray Catbirds, Marsh Wrens, and a surprise flock of American White Pelicans flying over the marsh. It was fun to welcome our birdy friends back to the Sunshine State!
When we first arrived on the Heron Hideout trail, a very cooperative Belted Kingfisher was sitting close to the trail on some alligator flag reeds. Dyeyo was thrilled to see one so close! It was still pretty dark, so a tripod was required to get sharp shots at lower shutter speeds with a decent ISO. The bird didn’t help much – she was constantly turning her head! Each year I have to remember how to identify the Belted Kingfishers: the females have the rusty brown on their tummies, and the males don’t.
As the sun came up, the golden glow illuminated the Purple Gallinules climbing on the alligator flag reeds. Adults and juveniles alike would inch out onto the long reeds to eat the purple flowers at the tips. The reeds would sustain the birds’ weight for a while, then finally give way and go bowing to the ground. After a while Dyeyo and I started to laugh – it was like the birds were pole-vaulting! The juvie above didn’t quite hang on as his reed moved underneath him. Look at those long feet try to grab ahold of the reed as the bird flaps to hang on!
We heard the call of “phoebe, phoebe!” throughout the marsh. The Eastern Phoebes like to sit on the tops of perches and look for their insect prey. They can be challenging to photograph, exposing them such that their darks have some detail in the shadows and their whites aren’t over-exposed. We kept seeing them far out in the marsh, and then this one flew right in front of us. I had time for a quick shot before he flew off again.
The Limpkins are doing really well at the Circle B Bar Reserve! Their population is growing, helped by the abundant supply of the apple snails that are their primary food source. A fun family of Limpkins is growing up along the Heron Hideout trail. We found the four “mini Limpkins” with Mom and Dad meandering in the grasses of the marsh. They’ve gotten pretty big, and they are getting harder to distinguish from their parents.
Dyeyo and I didn’t spend much time along the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, as the mosquitoes were pretty active in the shady areas. I was happy to get down to the sunny intersection with the Wading Bird Way trail, where Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers charmed us by doing their hummingbird-flutter in the bushes. Then this Boat-tailed Grackle hopped out onto a branch and started singing, showing off his blue-black colors in the bright sunlight. The yellow flowers of his bush reminded me that the Circle B Bar Reserve will soon be covered in yellow flowers as the winter birds continue to return to the wetlands…it’s going to be a good winter! :)
Find my birding list from today on eBird.