This weekend I had the rare opportunity to visit the Circle B Bar Reserve in the afternoon. I’ve been there dozens of times in the morning, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen the sun set over the marshes. It’s always disconcerting to see the dramatically different afternoon light – and I often catch myself saying “good morning” to people out of pure habit! On this particular visit my goal was to photograph the Purple Gallinules on their favorite Alligator Flag plants, the biggest clump of which stands on the “afternoon side” of the Heron Hideout trail. If you’re interesting in photographing these colorful birds in photogenic poses, you’d better hurry – the alligator flags at Circle B are fading fast!
The above picture is a juvenile Purple Gallinule, molting quickly into his colorful adult plumage. Just the pale, mottled chin gives away his juvie status. He spent the longest time feasting on the purple buds, in the shade of a big leaf that almost completely blocked him from my view! I waited a while,and he finally ventured out on a reed. This fall I’ve come to refer to these guys as my “pole vaulters,” as they will inch out step by step onto the long reeds until whoosh! the reed can no longer sustain the bird’s weight and down he goes! It’s a good thing for him that he has long skinny toes that wrap around the branches to help him hold on.
I was hoping for a picturesque sunset over the marsh, but the clouds had other plans. The afternoon golden light was cut short when the storms built and blocked the sun’s rays. The alligator flag plants are shown in the foreground of the shot above, and you can see how their green leaves are turning brown as they start to fade. I suspect they won’t last long after this week’s cold fronts.
The Purple Gallinules aren’t the only ones who like the Alligator Flag reeds. This Belted Kingfisher stopped and posed for my dad and me as we left the reserve. I’m pretty sure she was the same bird that we saw on the same plant last weekend. My dad wasn’t thrilled with his shots from the last trip, so it was very nice of Nature to give him another opportunity. Two quick shots, and then the kingfisher sped off, challenging us to visit again soon if we want more pictures of her!