Beyond the BackyardCircle B Bar Reserve

Springtime Stroll at Circle B Bar Reserve

Last Friday my dad and I visited the Circle B Bar Reserve, taking advantage of my off-Friday to go when the crowds were a little lighter than on the weekend.  It was a gray, icky morning.  The fog settled in and it was 9am before we had any decent light.  We hiked up the Alligator Alley trail, hoping to see the baby Sandhill Crane colt that has recently been reported there.  Alas, we never saw the cranes, but we were distracted by so many other birds on the trails that we certainly didn’t come away disappointed.

At the dock, the Great Blue Herons were actively chasing each other.  Since it’s active nesting season, I suspect they were arguing over territory.

Great Blue Heron Chase
Great Blue Heron Chase

As we wound our way along the lakeside, we came across a large group of wading birds.  Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills – all in their breeding finery!  Unfortunately it was hard to get a good viewing angle, as the trees and vegetations blocked the happy shutterbugs from the feeding frenzy. But I managed to find a few holes in the branches…

Snowy Egret Courtship Gesture
Snowy Egret Courtship Gesture – This Snowy Egret was trying to attract a mate.  I love the “glub-glub-glub” sound they make as they interact with each other.  This one showed off all his lacy plumes as he threw up his head to show off!
Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill – one of my favorite birds!  There were about 10 of them mixed in with all the white birds.  

We came across a mixed flock of passerines as the trail started to curve away from the lake.  One of our first sightings was one of my dad’s favorite birds, the male cardinal.  On a gray day, his bright red colors stand out nicely against the moss.  He sang his springtime song that sounds to me like “[I want a] wife! wife! wife!”

Cardinal
Cardinal

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are fun birds to practice flight photography and quick focusing.  These active little birds hardly ever sit still!  This little guy hopped onto this branch, eyed a spider, and then fluttered in mid-air to grab it.  Sometimes I think gnatcatchers think they are hummingbirds.  Their hover is hard to capture!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Spider Snatch
Spider Snatch

Then I saw this Yellow-rumped Warbler.  There were tons of them in the trees, but what made me watch this one was his broken beak.  Poor thing, his bottom beak was pointed all in the wrong direction, prohibiting him from closing his mouth properly.  Nature amazes me with its resiliency.  Sandhill Cranes in my subdivision manage to raise babies even though they are missing a foot, and this little warbler snatched up a bug while I watched.  He’ll be ok.

Yellow-rumped Warbler with Broken Beak
Yellow-rumped Warbler with Broken Beak

We made our way up the trail, stopping briefly at the gaggle of photographers with their cameras pointed at the Great Blue Heron nests.  It’s such fun to see babies in that nest, as it failed year after year in the early 2010s.  This year two babies hatched, but only one has survived.  He stuck his head up in his mom’s face and gave the annoying nah-nah-nah sound of a hungry baby bird.  Mom didn’t seem concerned.  She was more concerned with preening her feathers than appeasing her offspring.

Great Blue Heron at Nest with Young
Great Blue Heron at Nest with Young

All morning I examined every Anhinga that I saw, asking each of them, “Are you in breeding colors?”  Finally as we approached the Four Corners intersection I found one with some color.  Their bright blue eyes are so distinctive at this time of year.

Anhinga in Breeding Colors
Anhinga in Breeding Colors – but his eye wasn’t quite the striking blue that it will be soon

Finally!  We hit the Heron Hideout trail and the sun came out.  Just in time for me to photograph this Tricolored Heron, who was also sporting his breeding colors.  Look at the wispy white feather on the back of his neck.  All the ladies are going to love him!

Tricolored Heron in Breeding Plumage
Tricolored Heron in Breeding Plumage

I love the view of the marsh from the Heron Hideout trail, and some of the trees are so distinctive.  One of my favorites was filled with birds: Anhingas, grackles, a perched Belted Kingfisher, and a couple of Great Blue Heron nests.  Yes, springtime is definitely my favorite time to visit Circle B!  If you live locally, get out there soon before it gets hot! :)

Classic Circle B Landscape
Classic Circle B Landscape