As you will read in upcoming blog posts, the weather wasn’t so great over my Christmas vacation. So when the forecast called for sun today, I headed for a nice walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I wasn’t the only one, either! There were tons of people there. I took the Alligator Alley trail to look for pelicans and the bobcat kittens, but knew I’d likely never see the bobcat family with so many people around. My plan was to try for sunrise with the pelicans, but the security guy didn’t show up to open the gate until just before sunrise. So this was my sunrise shot instead. Not bad!
When I got to the dock, there weren’t that many American White Pelicans close by. But later, as I headed down the trail, I passed a huge group of them fairly close to the lakeshore. They were diving and splashing and flying, and there were so many of them that the flock sounded like a waterfall. It was amazing. Everybody who passed by commented on the pelicans. I couldn’t get good pictures there because of all the trees. My best pelican shot of the morning was a fly-by shot from a clearing on the trail.
I’d forgotten how many cardinals can be found along the Alligator Alley trail in winter and early spring. They were all over the place! This female was very busy eating, and she didn’t seem to mind me as I approached. So I lay down and hand-held the Beast to get some low-level shots. She was very accommodating and turned her head toward me as I clicked! (She needs to teach other birds that trick!)
It’s funny, some people would laugh at me for photographing common birds like cardinals and vultures. (There were hundreds of vultures roosting in the marshes today!) But I find that it’s fun to photograph all birds, not just the rare or interesting ones. Besides, cardinals often bring me good luck. Often I’ll watch a cardinal and find another fun bird, like the first time I saw a Painted Bunting at my parents’ house.
I noticed a Pileated Woodpecker fly into a tree not far from the Lake Hancock dock, and as I walked down the trail, he flew with me. So I got four or five opportunities at different trees to watch this pretty bird. He tapped away at the trees, pulling away layers of bark to reveal the insects and sap underneath. It was fun to watch his eyes close as he tapped, and see his tongue stick out to reach for insects. He’d toss away the bark clippings and keep on moving up the tree. I hope the Pileated Woodpeckers nest at the “owl tree” again this year!
I heard the baby Great Blue Heron on his nest before I saw him. He has a loud voice that echoes through the little “nesting cove” where Lake Hancock meets Banana Creek. I watched as Mom brought him some breakfast. He gobbled it down and then flapped his wings around, as if to say, “that’s all?!?”
I took the Heron Hideout trail to get back to my car. There were dozens of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flying in and out of the grasses. I don’t have a lot of good flight shots of them, so I stopped and tried to get some. This was my best:
There were at least six Hooded Mergansers in the pond closest to the parking lot as I left (one male, five females). I’ve only ever seen Hoodies at the Circle B Bar Reserve one other winter. I guess the pond is deeper this year than it has been in the past. I waited for the male and a female to pose together. What a great way to end a great walk!
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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Looks like you had a great day! Great shots too!