Beyond the Backyard

Summer Heat Begins at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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It was hot this morning!  We arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve at 7:00 and hiked the Alligator Alley trail loop.  This Great Blue Heron was trying to cool himself with the funky wing position – he wasn’t the only one who was hot! We checked on the Great Crested Flycatcher nest by the Nature Center.  A very tolerant flycatcher let us get pretty close to him as he brought food in to his babies.  It’s a shame that there’s not a window on the side of the nesting box! We came across a Pileated Woodpecker down by Lake Hancock.  There were several new woodpecker holes, and we wondered if any of them would soon house babies.  This bird was pecking away at the back of a tree, and he had stripped a long section of bark away. We heard the baby hawks at their nest before we saw the nest itself.  Two weeks ago, I thought these guys were the Odd Couple, with one baby significantly older than the other.  Now that older baby has fledged, and he spent his morning sitting on a branch not far from the nest.  The small baby is still in the nest.  […]

Beyond the Backyard

Turtles from the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Every afternoon when I get home from the Circle B Bar Reserve, Rich pounces on me and asks for pictures of turtles.  Usually I haven’t seen many, or gotten great photo ops of the ones that I do see.  So this weekend when I came across a small turtle making its way across the Heron Hideout trail, Rich decided that this turtle deserved his own post.  After all, the site was called “cat and turtle” long before the birding craze began!

Beyond the Backyard

Turtle!

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Rich gets annoyed at me for not posting more pictures of turtles.  After all, our site is called “catandturtle” because I like cats and he likes turtles!  Then I did post a video of a turtle, but Rich refuses to watch it, because the turtle was being consumed by a Limpkin.  So here’s a Rich-friendly turtle…

Beyond the Backyard

Snow Geese at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge

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Dyeyo and I continued our bird-watching safari.  After we saw the Snow Bunting in Palm Coast, we went to Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Rufuge, where several Snow Geese have been reported there over the last week or so.  They were there!  They usually don’t come to Florida.  There was a mix of white morph adults and juveniles, and one juvenile blue morph. Dyeyo and I really liked Lake Woodruff.  It reminded us of the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We were there around mid-day, which is not prime bird activity time (or bird photography time!)  But there were hundreds of birds.  We’ve  never seen such large flocks of Glossy Ibis.  White Ibis, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Little Blue Herons, and Killdeer were all over the place. The first thing we saw when we walked into the refuge was a turtle.  (Happy Rich!)  He sat there sunning himself, with all four of his feet sticking out.  The turtle kind of rocked back and forth on his shell.  We saw several turtles over the course of the day. There were Killdeer all over the place at Lake Woodruff.  There were a couple of birds on the ground right in front of us as […]

Alligator Farm

Baby Roseate Spoonbills at the Alligator Farm

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The St. Augustine Alligator Farm’s bird rookery had a record-breaking four Roseate Spoonbill nests this spring.  Two sets of chicks hatched a few weeks ago, but they are not visible from the boardwalk.   The other two nests hatched last weekend, and the little guys are so cute! Dyeyo and I watched and waited for the babies to wake up, and we were rewarded for our patience by getting to watch Mama feed the babies.  The nest is easy to see (in the mulberry bush by the spotting scope), but there are lots of branches in the way of a good photograph.  I liked this pose with the baby’s beak next to the mother’s. There’s another nest on the opposite side of the boardwalk.  The babies in that nest are smaller, and they don’t pop up as much.  I was happy to get this shot: A lot of the baby birds are fledglings now, wandering from their nests and posing at the tops of trees.  There were Tricolored Heron fledglings everywhere.  Dyeyo says the baby birds are more interesting, but the fledglings sure pose prettier! We saw a Snowy Egret nest with eggs, so the hatching isn’t quite over.  This […]

Beyond the Backyard

Birding at Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area

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Dyeyo and I felt like going to a new birding spot this morning, and we’d heard good things about the Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area in Lake County, so we drove up there to check it out. It made us realize just how spoiled we are by our Circle B Bar Reserve, which is close to home and offers us such close access to all kinds of birds.  Emeralda is more wild, and the marsh grasses have already grown up so much that we really couldn’t see many birds.  Far off, we could make out a wild rookery, but we would have had to walk for miles to get there.  We should go back in the wintertime when more birds are around. We were greeted by a Carolina Wren and a Great-Crested Flycatcher.  We kept hearing the calls of little birds.  Finally we saw two Tufted Titmice, who came out to pose for us: Although we didn’t see many birds, there were tons of butterflies out.  Most didn’t sit still long enough for us to photograph, but this one did. We drove the wildlife drive through the marsh, and as we really started to get into the marshlands, we saw these […]

Beyond the Backyard

Baby Birds at Gatorland Bird Rookery

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This morning Dyeyo and I went back to the Gatorland Rookery to see if some of the nests we saw two weeks ago had any babies yet. We were happily surprised to see how many babies there are in the rookery now. We saw five types of babies:  great egrets, anhingas, snowy egrets, tri-colored herons, and wood storks. Oh, and we also saw one very fussy grackle, who had made his nest in front of the “big bird” nests and was fussing as if he was jealous that they were getting all the attention! The birds are such fun to observe in their nests. The babies fuss almost constantly with short repetitive calls. They pester their mothers all the time, poking their beaks into their mothers’ mouths to demand food. The mothers ignore them for the most part, as you can see in this little animated clip (the sequence of pictures was too cute to not string together!) I’ve noticed in my pictures that the parent birds tend to keep their eyes closed when babies are fussing for food. Smart birds! When we first arrived at the rookery, I went to the great egret nest that I’d seen last time, […]

Beyond the Backyard

Callaway Gardens Trip – Spring 2010

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Rich and I decided to take a week off this spring to go to Callaway Gardens to see the azaleas.  With the cold winter and early spring rain, the bloom was supposed to be spectacular.  It’s also very late – so the Callaway Azalea Watch was very helpful in planning our trip. The Mountain Creek Inn was full, so we ended up renting a cottage.  It was really nice.  We were right inside the gardens, and we woke every morning to bird song. One of my favorite things about Callaway is seeing flowers and plants that like colder weather, so I can’t grow them in Florida.  The flower beds were accented with pansies and tulips and daffodils. I took this picture in Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden in the morning while the gardeners were watering the flowers.  The water droplets add a fun effect. Rich asked me to take a tulip picture for his mom, and once I started trying to get good close-ups, I had trouble stopping.  Squirt says I should have gotten more close-ups of pansies while I was at it. Of course, the real reason we went this week was to see the azaleas.  Callaway has several azalea […]

Beyond the Backyard

Hummingbirds at Leu Gardens

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Rich and I took his parents to Leu Gardens while they were here in Florida.  Being turtle people, they were excited to see the turtles in the pond: I was more excited to see this female ruby-throated hummingbird nectaring.  It’s late in the year to see hummers in Orlando.  I wasn’t close enough, and there wasn’t enough light, to get a really amazing picture.  But this picture clearly serves as proof that we saw her! We heard only a single goldfinch, though, and didn’t see nearly as many birds as we have in years past.

Alligator Farm

Baby Birds at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Bird Rookery

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I read about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in a photography magazine. It’s an alligator farm, but wild marsh birds regularly make their nests in the “alligator swamp” each spring. The alligators keep their natural predators away while they raise their young. So Rich and I drove up to St. Augustine to take some pictures…and found we weren’t the only ones who made the trip! There were some other birds at the zoo as well, much more colorful, but not as cute. Rich was overjoyed to see all the turtles that were at the Alligator Farm.  Maybe the drive was worth it. :) It is an alligator farm, so maybe I should include one picture of an alligator.

Beyond the Backyard

Georgia Aquarium trip

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Happy Birthday, Rich! We went to the Georgia Aquarium to see turtles for Rich’s 29th b-day. Of course we had to check out the loggerhead sea turtle first. There was also an impressive beluga whale on exhibit. I had fun trying to get good pictures of some of the colorful fish swimming around in tanks. This jellyfish looks cool in the picture, but I don’t think I’d like to meet him up close! The Georgia Aquarium has one of the largest tanks of fish in the world. The sun was starting to come out outside, and the light flowed down through the water, making for some cool pictures.

Beyond the Backyard

A trip to the Turtle Museum for Rich

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When I was a kid visiting my grandparents in Juno Beach, we’d often go over to Loggerhead Park, the “Turtle Museum” across the street from my grandparents’ condo. So when I married a turtle freak, I told him all about the museum. We finally got to visit and Rich had a great time looking at all the turtles. A whole place dedicated to his favorite animal! This is Jonah. He is a loggerhead turtle rescued by Loggerhead Park. He is being rehabilitated and then will be released back into the wild. There was a tank of baby turtles, which had just hatched this morning. They were so cute! Some were already covered in algae.

Beyond the Backyard

Butterfly exhibit at Brevard Zoo

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Rich and I read that the Brevard Zoo was hosting a special butterfly exhibit. So we drove over to Melbourne to check it out. There were some very pretty birds in the butterfly exhibit. I’m not sure what they are, but they were very friendly and let me get very close. There were a bunch of different kinds of butterflies and they were all free-flight in the enclosed area as you enter the Asia exhibit. Rich was very patient with me as I oohed and aahed over the nectar plants, then spent a long time taking pictures of the butterflies. Rich and I had fun looking at the Lorikeets. They are so colorful! Kids bought stuff to feed them, and the birds came right up to them to eat. There were a bunch of other birds on exhibit, too. I spent a long time trying to get this parrot to pose for me. He just wouldn’t look at me! I wonder if he does that to everybody holding a camera? Rich was overjoyed to see some turtles at the zoo. I think we spent more time turtle-gazing than we did with the butterflies! Now you can’t go to a zoo […]