Circle B Bar Reserve

The Circle B Bar Reserve is one of my favorite places to photograph. It's located in Lakeland off Winter Lake Road, close to the USF Lakeland campus. The preserve was a cattle ranch that was restored in the early 2000s to its native wetland habitat. A series of berms give people an opportunity to hike through the wetlands and view wildlife. The area is particularly good for birds. Alligators and otters are popular with tourists.

Photography Advice

Bring a long lens and be prepared to walk! The best birding is from November through April.

Website

http://polknature.com/explore/circle-b-bar-reserve

Hours

Hours vary by season. Call the nature center to verify: (863) 534-7377

Trail Map

Map

Circle B Bar Reserve Blog Archives

  • Springtime Stroll at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Springtime Stroll at Circle B Bar Reserve

    A foggy spring morning at Circle B Bar Reserve yielded nesting Great Blue Herons, a wading bird feeding frenzy, and a flock of mixed passerines
  • Foggy Morning Walk at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Foggy Morning Walk at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Foggy mornings can still be good for photography at Circle B, especially when the birds cooperate with you!
  • A Quick Stop at Circle B

    A Quick Stop at Circle B

    Winter birds are coming back to the Circle B Bar Reserve. Our quick trip yielded Eastern Phoebes, Common Yellowthroats, and Palm Warblers.
  • Learning to Climb – Barred Owlet

    Learning to Climb – Barred Owlet

    A Barred Owlet learns how to climb as his parents share precious moments in the trees above him.
  • A Nice Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    A Nice Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Springtime at the Circle B Bar Reserve yields great birds, including a Tufted Titmouse mid-air interception and a nesting pair of Great Blue Herons
  • Springtime Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Springtime Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Springtime birds at Circle B...American Robins, the Barred Owl, Swamp Sparrows, and a huge flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers!
  • New Bird Blind at Circle B

    New Bird Blind at Circle B

    The new bird blind at Circle B will be great for viewing ducks, but on this morning, my best shot from the blind was a yawning Anhinga!
  • Long Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Long Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    My dad and I walked a ton at the Circle B Bar Reserve on Sunday. Great shots of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers!
  • Annual Search for My Pole-Vaulters

    Annual Search for My Pole-Vaulters

    Quiet morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve, in search of my favorite "pole vaulters", the Purple Gallinules on alligator flag reeds
  • Peregrine Falcon at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Peregrine Falcon at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    On a cloudy day over Christmas break, I started the morning at Lake Morton and then made a stop to look for the Peregrine Falcon at the  Circle B Bar Reserve.  The Peregrine Falcon had been hanging around for several weeks, and I wanted to get some non-captive shots of this pretty species. It was a gray, cloudy day.  I walked up the Heron Hideout trail, pausing to say hello to the Hooded Mergansers who have been hanging out in the water there.  They didn’t want to pose for the Beast.  So I put the Beast to work doing something different for him: landscape photography!  I love the marshy landscape at Circle B, and I’m trying to get good images of it throughout the seasons.  I used the Beast to take a series of portrait images, which I stitched together in Photoshop. I headed down the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, where the Peregrine has been seen frequently, sitting in a  cypress tree.  It’s actually the tree on the far right in the image above.  That’s a very active tree these days – a Great Blue Heron nest is in it, the Anhingas and Double-Crested Cormorants use it to roost, and …
  • Finally!  Nice Weather for a Walk at Circle B

    Finally! Nice Weather for a Walk at Circle B

    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 …
  • Promise of Eaglets at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Promise of Eaglets at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    On the last day of Thanksgiving break, my dad and I were excited to take his friend Dr. B to the Circle B Bar Reserve.  Dr. B has been to lots of fun places to photograph, but it was his first time at Circle B.  We arrived just before sunrise and found a gray, nasty morning.  The fog was thick and there wasn’t even a hint of the sun.  We took the Heron Hideout trail out to Wading Bird Way.  Our first good birds of the day were the Bald Eagles that nest out on the sandhill.  They put on a good display for us, mating at the top of a tree!  It was the first time I’ve seen them do that.  So the next batch of eaglets is underway!  Of course, we were so busy talking that we missed the mating shot.  My first frame was the flight shot as the birds separated.  But they did pose together nicely on a tree for several minutes. Almost as we hit the Wading Bird Way trail, I spotted a small brown fuzzball out in the marshy grasses.  Then I heard the small, weezy calls of baby Limpkins who are running toward …
  • Chasing Lifers

    Chasing Lifers

    Michael Libbe and I had two goals on our recent trip to the Circle B Bar Reserve: to photograph the yellow flowers at sunrise, and to go chasing lifers!  A group of Fulvous Whistling Ducks has started to hang out at Circle B, and while I’ve caught a few quick glimpses of them, they would have been a lifer for Michael.  Cole also found a Grasshopper Sparrow not too long ago, so we were determined to relocate it.  But as often happens with nature photography, when you go chasing one lifer, you might just stumble upon another… This is the American Bittern who distracted us from our quest for the Grasshopper Sparrow.  Why walk halfway across the preserve to chase a tiny bird when a cooperative bird is posing right in front of the yellow flowers?  Except as soon as we started photographing him, he disappeared into the bushes!  Silly bird.  Michael suggested that he fly over the yellow flowers, and even detailed a photogenic trajectory, but apparently this bird doesn’t take direction from photographers. :) As we headed up the Heron Hideout trail, we found this Green Heron stalking dragonflies on the alligator flag plants.  He walked right out …
  • Yellow Flowers are Back at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Yellow Flowers are Back at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The yellow flowers are back at the Circle B Bar Reserve!  Each year in November, the marsh landscape bursts into color with the blooms of the burr marigolds.  These flowers are of the scientific genus bidens, and another common name for them is beggartick.  They are native to Florida and grow well in swampy locations like Circle B.  Their seeds stick easily to clothing and animal fur, so they spread really easily.  Two years ago the flowers almost completely covered the marsh.  Last year they barely bloomed at all – I guess the conditions weren’t quite right.  This year they are in pretty good numbers and make great photographic subjects! My good friend Michael Libbe met me in the early morning darkness for a sunrise shoot.  We hiked out to the Wading Bird Way trail, where it’s the right time of year for the sun to come up picturesquely behind my favorite clump of trees in the marsh.  Often those trees are covered in Anhingas and Double-Crested Cormorants – the swampy version of a Christmas tree! The best colors of a sunrise are often half an hour before the sun first shows itself on the horizon.  Michael and I were excited …
  • Some Birds, the Moon, and Sensor Dust!

    Some Birds, the Moon, and Sensor Dust!

    Yesterday at the Circle B Bar Reserve, Michael and I came across a group of White Ibis in my “treasure tree” along the Heron Hideout trail.  I’ve had many lifers in that tree, but I almost passed it without a second glance when I saw just a few common White Ibises at the treetop.  Then I noticed the moon.  Then I realized I could frame a bird portrait with the moon in the background.  Then the birds started flapping and I started clicking!! I remembered to dial in a small aperture (f/45.0) so that both the bird and the moon would be in focus.  My usual birding apertures, in the f/5.6 to f/8.0 range, would have rendered the moon as a slight white blur.   I loved how the White Ibis’ wing stretches over the moon – it’s like he was victoriously celebrating being on top of the world! Anhinga are often found all over the reserve, spreading their wings to dry them after a nice swim.  This one was perched at the very top of the treasure tree.  This was the first composition I noticed with the moon in the background.  I got home and showed the picture to …
  • Better Hurry, Alligator Flags at Circle B are Fading!

    Better Hurry, Alligator Flags at Circle B are Fading!

    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 …
  • Winter Birds Returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Winter Birds Returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    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 …
  • Fall Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Fall Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Yesterday I finally made it out for a fall walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I haven’t been there in months!  It felt great to get back out on the trails.  I love photographing along the Heron Hideout trail early in the morning on these early fall days.  The light is golden and gorgeous, illuminating the birds that are starting to return to the reserve.  The Alligator Flag plants are high and in full bloom, and dozens of Purple Gallinules hop along the reeds.  Occasionally a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher or a Palm Warbler comes along to nectar from the tiny purple flowers.  So I headed for my favorite spot, knowing I’d come away with something good. Those silly Purple Gallinules!  They were on the wrong side of the trail!  A great big group of them were diving and chucking at me as I explained to them that they were on the afternoon light side of the trail.  They didn’t seem to care. :) Of course, if I hadn’t been standing there watching for Purple Gallinules, I never would have noticed this American Bittern fly by.  I’ve been trying for good flight shots of these guys for years.  They are so …
  • December 2014 will be a Good Month!

    December 2014 will be a Good Month!

    I received some good news yesterday.  The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program‘s 2014 calendar will again feature one of my images.  They picked one of my favorite sunrise shots from the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I love how the sky reflects in the water as the sun peeks out through the clouds.   Look for it in December…it’s going to be a good month! :)
  • Beast Meets Bobolink

    Beast Meets Bobolink

    I’m so behind on my blog. It’s that time of year when I’d rather be out with my camera than sitting behind a computer! Recently I wrote about my quest to see Bobolinks at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Bobolinks are migratory birds that make a stop-over at Circle B every May during their migration north. My dad has gotten incredible shots of the Bobolinks, but I hadn’t seen them at all until this year. In my post Two Lifers on a Drizzly Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve, I put up a video of a flock of Bobolinks early on a rainy day.  In some ways they remind me of Red-Winged Blackbirds (same habitat, similar sounds, comparable size and mannerisms), and that makes sense, since they are in the same family as the Red-Wings.  I was thrilled to get my video, which shows their little “leap frog” behavior as the flock feeds.  But the light was awful and I didn’t even post stills from that morning, they were so bad.  So after my trip to Blue Cypress Lake two weeks ago, I stopped at Circle B to see if I could find more Bobolinks.  I did!  There was …
  • Two Lifers on a Drizzly Circle B Bar Reserve Morning

    Two Lifers on a Drizzly Circle B Bar Reserve Morning

    Last Saturday morning I visited the Circle B Bar Reserve with the hope of seeing my first Bobolink.  Bobolinks are migratory birds that pass through Circle B during early May.  My dad has seen them several times, but I never have – I’ve missed them every year!  I knew Saturday morning would be cloudy, but when I arrived out on the Wading Bird Trail, “cloudy” was an understatement.  The air was thick with humidity and there was a slight drizzle.  But I found my Bobolinks!  There was a flock of about 100 of them across the water, north of the Marsh Rabbit Run intersection.  They weren’t close enough to photograph well, so I took a video instead.  Turn up the volume so that you can hear their song, which reminds me a lot of the Red-Winged Blackbirds. I headed farther up the Wading Bird Way trail, hoping that I might run into more Bobolinks, closer to the trail.  When I saw the lone whistling duck fly over the trail, I almost didn’t photograph him, because Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks are so common at the Circle B Bar Reserve, and lighting conditions were far from ideal.  But there have been multiple reports …
  • Sharing the Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sharing the Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Last Sunday my neighbor and good friend Carla joined me for a walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  Carla and I enjoy our backyard birds together, and she decided that she wanted to come see some of the places I photograph on weekends.  Brave lady – she was even willing to be up for sunrise!  We had a great morning together.  :) We were out on the Wading Bird Way trail a few minutes before sunrise.  Cloudy mornings can make for really good sunrises, as the clouds add interest to the sky.  A Common Gallinule stood up on a rock for me and begged me to include him in a pre-dawn composition.  How could I refuse? We continued up the trail as the sun peeked out over the cloudtops.  Carla loved the sounds of all the birds as they woke up.  Limpkins fussed, Red-Winged Blackbirds argued, Sandhill Cranes called across the marsh, and tiny warblers chipped on the side of the trail.  All sorts of birds flew over our heads.  There is something so peaceful about sunrise at Circle B! After the sun got too bright to photograph, I turned around and photographed the Black Skimmers that were again …
  • Easter Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Easter Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Easter sunrise, a lifer, and a bobcat…it was a very good morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve!! On Easter Sunday I was out on the Wading Bird Way trail approximately 45 minutes before sunrise.  I watched the pale glow of the sun as it appeared over the horizon, and finally burst up over the clouds.  I enjoyed playing with my new off-camera flash cord, which I used to illuminate the flowers and the rocks in the foreground.  It’s always fun to experiment with new techniques, and I’m not (yet) very proficient with creative flash.  The morning was supposed to be very cloudy, but the clouds were not so thick that they ruined the sunrise.  There was no one else out on the trail, and I had my own little sunrise service! As I stood enjoying the sunrise, I heard the familiar sound of Black Skimmers.  I was surprised, because I’d never seen Black Skimmers at the Circle B Bar Reserve before.  But as I looked up, yep, there was a small flock of skimmers skimming!  Their flight pattern when they skim is unmistakable, even in low light.  The nice thing about having two camera bodies is that I could …
  • More Orange Fuzzballs at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    More Orange Fuzzballs at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Two weekends ago, my friend Michael Libbe asked if I wanted to shoot together at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Little did I realize that I’d later be accused of dragging him on a long hike carrying his heavy equipment!  :-p  I perhaps should have warned him that I’m on a Sandhill Crane colt craze this year.  The little orange fuzzballs are totally worth a hike!  We found both families at Circle B on that Saturday morning. We started out on the Heron Hideout trail, where the first Sandhill Crane family tends to hang out.  The babies have gotten so big!  They are almost reaching that leggy stage when their baby cuteness is gone and their “teenage” feathers start coming in.  With their long legs and increased stamina, the babies didn’t stay in one place for very long. Michael and I followed them for a bit as they walked along the trail, stopping often to pull a nice insect from the ground.  The babies are feeding themselves now, but they will always accept a handout from Mom or Dad. With a forecast of clouds and fog, I hadn’t intended to photograph the sunrise that morning.  But as I walked along …
  • Foggy Mornings at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Foggy Mornings at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    On Saturday morning, the sunrise found me out on the Wading Bird Way trail at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I was flabbergasted when my dad also arrived for the sunrise. He’s not a sunrise photographer! As the sun peeked out over the horizon, fog was settling in over the marsh. It was really thick and very pretty. My dad commented that as he approached me on the trail, all he could make out was a dark blur. The blur laid down, got up, moved, crouched down, got up, and laid down again. “Yep, that could only be my daughter!” It’s great when your dad is one of your favorite shooting buddies! :) I enjoyed experimenting with my wide-angle lens for this sunrise. A nice raft of coots added interest, as did some flowers in the foreground (hence the lying down, to get the flowers in the shot). The rocks at the base of the culvert completed the image. I experimented with different shutter speeds, as well as some HDR. This was my favorite. The fog can make for some beautiful bird images, too. They may not be as sharp or clear as sunny shots, but the fog adds so …
  • Five Days Cuter at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Five Days Cuter at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I spent my off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve with the Sandhill Crane family. The babies are so much bigger, and so much cuter, than they were on Sunday. The weekend crowds weren’t there on Friday, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these wonderful birds! As the Sandhill Crane babies grow bigger, the adults take them for longer walks around the marsh.  I caught up with them as they headed away from the popular trails – smart birds!  The colts constantly make these little noises as they walk around.  I’m not sure if they are talking to each other, to their parents, or both.  The adult birds weren’t really making noises.  But the babies’ calls made it easy to get shots of them with their mouths open.  I thought they were really cute! I love watching the two colts interact.  One will get a grub, and the other gets jealous and runs after him to try to steal it.  It’s challenging to focus on the birds when they are running like that!  But it’s fun to try. :)  Some of the interactions are a little meaner.  I saw the older colt try to bite the younger colt …
  • Sandhill Crane Colts Crawl into my Lap at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sandhill Crane Colts Crawl into my Lap at Circle B Bar Reserve

    I had an absolutely incredible morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve on Sunday. The Sandhill Crane colts have hatched! This is a very predictable family of Sandhill Cranes that has been bringing the tiny babies up on the trail for the past four or five years. They make wonderful photo opportunities! The nest this year is way out in the marsh. I finally found it after I heard the birds calling. I tried to find it again a few minutes later, and couldn’t! The adults take the babies back to the nest at night, and then every morning they start their daily trek across the marsh. I can only imagine how big that marsh must feel to the babies! They are just little pipsqueaks, maybe 12 inches tall, and Mom and Dad drag them through plants and bushes and across the water. The babies are born knowing how to swim, so when the water gets too deep, they swim to follow their parents. They are two little golden dots in the marsh… I noticed photographers checking out the Heron Hideout trail, not seeing the cranes, and moving on too quickly. You have to be patient to wait for the …
  • Watchin’ the Wheel Go Round

    Watchin’ the Wheel Go Round

    I made this image of the windmill at the Circle B Bar Reserve back in October. I had gone to look for the Snail Kite, and after the sun set, the light levels dropped quickly. As I walked back to my car I looked back and saw the windmill starting to whirl in the breeze. I made a few images using slow shutter speeds, and this one came out just right, with the motion of the wheel blurred but the foreground in focus.
  • Dreaming of a Swampy Christmas!

    Dreaming of a Swampy Christmas!

    I’ve had a nasty flu bug for a little over a week now. It’s getting old! The weather is great (cold, but clear) and the birds are here and I’m sitting at the computer looking at pictures I took last year. It’s time to get better. So this is where I’d like to be tomorrow morning – a nice pelican sunrise at Circle B!
  • Flight School

    Flight School

    The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks are pretty active these days at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  When I visited there last weekend, there were so many ducks circling overhead making their happy calls.  I noticed a bunch of juveniles, and I think they were having a little bit of a Flight School as they circled around and around.  These silly ducks are some of my favorite birds.  I love how the light catches their feathers and makes them shine, like in this juxtaposition image.  There’s something cool to the opposite symmetry of the wings of this pair.
  • Circle B Fall Sunrise

    Circle B Fall Sunrise

    I seem to be on a bit of a landscape image kick lately.  This is a sunrise image from the Circle B Bar Reserve about a week ago.  As the sun peeked up from behind my shoulder, it bathed the marsh in gorgeous golden light.  Now all we need are some yellow flowers and a blanket of winter birds!
  • Self Portrait

    Self Portrait

    Before I got serious about photography, I never really noticed the varying positions of the sun throughout the year.  Seasons to me were just “shorts or jacket weather?”  Now I pay a lot more attention to light.  A few weeks ago at the Circle B Bar Reserve, I was photographing birds off the Heron Hideout trail.  I looked down and noticed my long shadow on the ground in the early morning light.  So I took a self-portrait with my phone.  That’s me and my Beast! :)
  • Waiting

    Waiting

    I was leaving the Circle B Bar Reserve on Saturday morning when I noticed this Belted Kingfisher perched on a branch near the Heron Hideout trail.  I was surprised that he was perched so close – usually they stay farther away.  He let me position myself at a good sun angle, then gave me a great head position before flying off to continue his morning fishing routine.  Isn’t it great when birds cooperate with you? :)
  • December 2013 Will Be a Good Month!

    December 2013 Will Be a Good Month!

    I recently received my copy of the Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program calendar, which features one of my images for December 2013.  It was so cool to see my own picture in their calendar!  The Circle B Bar Reserve is part of the Charlotte Harbor Estuary area, even though CBBR is so far inland that most people don’t associate it with Charlotte Harbor.  So we tried to submit lots of good Circle B pictures for the calendar this year.  I guess we succeeded – there are at least five other photographers whose Circle B work was included.  Nice! :)
  • It’s About Time!

    It’s About Time!

    I’ve been trying to make good images of Limpkins in flight over at least the last year.  There are certainly enough Limpkins at the Circle B Bar Reserve that you would think this would be easy.  Except the silly Limpkins are very fond of giving me butt shots.  As soon as I get ready for flight shots, they start flying — away from me!  So I was very excited to see a couple of them fly parallel to me yesterday morning.  I was standing on the Heron Hideout trail, looking out over the marsh in sweet morning light.  That’s a great place for flight shots, especially when the birds are close.  This one wasn’t, but that’s what cropping is for!  I still wouldn’t mind if the Limpkins would cooperate and give me more opportunities like this… :)
  • Comings and Goings

    Comings and Goings

    This morning I took advantage of my off-Friday to visit the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I hadn’t been there in a while, and this is the time of year when it starts to get really good.  There were no yellow flowers yet, but I did have an American White Pelican fly-over!  A group of about 30 of them flew over the Marsh Rabbit Run trail and circled around the waters of Wading Bird Way.  I think they were scoping out good roosting spots.  I hope they will settle at CBBR this year.  We missed them last winter. Of course they gave me nothing but butt shots.  But they were my first pelicans of the fall.  I saw some other cool birds, too, and I will post pictures over the next week. On a sadder note, a friend of Circle B “took flight” today.  Rest in peace, Chuck.  May all the people that you influenced carry on your message of conservation and love of nature.  You will be missed.
  • Too Close for Comfort

    Too Close for Comfort

    I photographed this Great Blue Heron in awesome morning light at the Circle B Bar Reserve back in May.  He wasn’t too sure about his neighbor.  Alligators and birds don’t mix well! I seriously need to get out this weekend and take some new pictures! :)
  • Posing Pretty

    Posing Pretty

    On my last sunrise visit to Circle B, I turned around and found this grackle sitting on a post behind me.  She looked so pretty with her feathers glistening in the sun.  She just begged me to take her picture…and even if she’s “just a grackle,” I was happy to do so!
  • More on the Snail Kite

    More on the Snail Kite

    I received information today about the banded Snail Kite that is hanging out at the Circle B Bar Reserve lately.  According to FWC, After getting in touch with the University of Florida researchers who banded the bird, I found it was born in June of 2011 on East Lake Toho in St Cloud. We’re glad to see she (?) is doing well, the notes said she was the smaller of 2 young in the nest. My guess is female because there’s a fair amount of white around the eye and chin. The cinnamon/tawny color is typical in younger birds, but the white around the face isn’t. Hopefully the expanding apple snail population at Circle B will keep this bird interested…and maybe she’ll bring a friend to help her establish a local population?  :)
  • Head Shot

    Head Shot

    I had a great morning with friends at Orlando Wetlands today. But I haven’t had a chance to go through my pictures yet, so here’s one from Circle B last weekend. This Great Blue Heron’s colors stood out nicely against the brown vegetation surrounding him. I was surprised to see so much brown in the landscape already. It’s definitely getting to be fall…and today’s weather was great! Soon it will be time for the yellow flowers…
  • The Snail Kite at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The Snail Kite at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The Circle B Snail Kite is banded, and I was pleased to get a decent shot of the band numbers on Saturday. It’s not often that I use both teleconverters on the Beast! The left band reads “2510” and the right bands read “7Z”. I tried to report this to the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, but I haven’t had any response. Maybe I don’t have enough digits off the left band. If you know a better way to get information on this bird, please let me know. It would be fun to learn where she was banded! The Snail Kite is such a beautiful bird. I was really happy when she left her feeding ground (facing into the sun) and stretched her wings over the water (away from the sun! finally!) That beak looks pretty strong – nice to admire from a distance! :)
  • Snowy Shadows

    Snowy Shadows

    This Snowy Egret was fishing in the warm afternoon light on Saturday evening at Circle B. I liked how his white feathers contrasted with the shadows behind him.
  • Everything But the Bird!

    Everything But the Bird!

    Dyeyo and I thought we were being so smart on Saturday afternoon when we returned to Circle B. We’d seen the Snail Kite in the same place two mornings in a row. It’s getting a reputation among birders for being predictable. But the light is all wrong in the morning. This stubborn bird sits right in between your lens and the sun. So we decided to make a return visit in the afternoon, when the light would be in our favor. So we got back out there about 2 hours before sunset. We took the Windmill Whisper trail “shortcut” to Wading Bird Way. There was just one problem…there was no Snail Kite to be found! I had my wide-angle lens and my Beast with me. There weren’t many birds around. All the birds that had been flying overhead in the morning were nowhere to be seen. So I challenged myself to use my wide-angle lens to photograph the “regular” stuff that I usually walk right by. Like this empty apple snail, one of the many lying on the ground… …and these apple snail eggs, which are more plentiful than I’ve ever seen at CBBR. The pink eggs are of the …
  • The Calm Before the Coots

    The Calm Before the Coots

    Each fall I look forward to the arrival of the American Coots at the Circle B Bar Reserve as a sign that our winter visitors are beginning to arrive. It’s just about time for the first groups of coots to show up at CBBR. Soon these waters will be covered in little black ducks… On Saturday morning, I found my first-of-fall Coot!
  • Sunrise, Sunset…

    Sunrise, Sunset…

    …swiftly go the days at the Circle B Bar Reserve! I ended up making three trips there this weekend. Once on Friday morning when I first saw the Snail Kite, then again on Saturday morning to show Dyeyo the Snail Kite, and then Saturday afternoon to try to catch the Snail Kite in decent light. (That didn’t work out so well. More on that later this week.) So I had several good opportunities for sunrise and sunset shots. These were my favorites.
  • First Light

    First Light

    I love photographing the sunrise out on the Wading Bird Way trail at the Circle B Bar Reserve. You’re standing on a trail between two bodies of water. You face one to photograph the rising sun. Then you turn to face the other, where birds often sit conveniently on posts and soak in the morning light. This Great Blue Heron didn’t care when I approached him and started to take head shots. I love how the blue watery background contrasts with his face and beak.
  • My First Snail Kite

    My First Snail Kite

    It was a beautiful off-Friday morning today at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I arrived before dawn and walked out to the Wading Bird Way trail for sunrise. I wasn’t really hoping for any bird in particular – it just felt so good to be there! As I walked out, I thought about the recent posting about a Snail Kite sighting in the area. I thought, “nah, I’ll never see it.” I enjoyed my sunrise opportunities, the various birds that flew overhead (Least Bittern and Caspian Terns were nice surprises, and a pair of Belted Kingfishers kept me entertained.) The morning was breezy and cool. At a glance it seemed as if there were not a lot of birds, but as I stood there watching, I realized that the sky was full of birds in flight. I tried to catch one of the many Limpkins in flight (they always flew behind me, into the backlight of the sun). Then as I turned to leave, there was the Snail Kite sitting not too far from the trail. What a fun way to end the morning! My picture isn’t great (seems like lifer shots never are!) but that’s just incentive to go …
  • Solemn Stare

    Solemn Stare

    I found this Wood Stork last weekend on a pale foggy morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. He seemed curious about me, and he kept watching my camera. These guys are like the old men of the swamp. Look at that face!
  • Fussy Birds

    Fussy Birds

    I was listening to the eagles the other morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve when I heard strange scuffling sounds. I looked up and saw this pair of Wood Storks fighting with each other at the top of a nearby tree. I guess one of them invaded the other’s personal bubble…my cats can identify with that!
  • Circle B Christmas Trees

    Circle B Christmas Trees

    At this time of year, the Wood Storks and Double-Crested Cormorants tend to roost in the tall trees in the middle of the marsh at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I often think of these as the “Christmas Trees,” except they are decorated with birds instead of ornaments. When you’re at CBBR on a sunny morning and you see decorated Christmas trees, it’s good news for you if you want to practice your flight shots. Stand on the southern end of the Heron Hideout trail just after sunrise, and wait. The birds almost always take off after sunrise and fly towards Lake Hancock, right towards the Heron Hideout trail. It’s perfect for flight shots.
  • Strike a Pose

    Strike a Pose

    I finally made it back out to the Circle B Bar Reserve yesterday morning! It felt so good to get back out there. The Marsh Rabbit Run trail is now open, and I hiked it in the cool morning breeze. It wasn’t a super-birdy day, although I did find a couple of Common Yellowthroats and a Yellow Warbler. The Bald Eagles and Belted Kingfishers are back, and their calls blended into the early morning sounds of the marsh. My best photographic opportunity was with this Purple Gallinule, who hopped up onto one of the Alligator Flag reeds right in front of me. I had a great time with him. Look at those big feet and how he wraps his toes around the reed! The sun even peeked out from behind the fog to give his feathers a little light. What a beautiful bird.
  • Migration Forecast

    Migration Forecast

    I was up early and ready to head out to look for migrants this morning…and then I heard the raindrops on the roof. My radar on my phone showed green all over the state, and a 50% rain forecast by 9am. Never mind on the birding trip… (and then it cleared up mid-morning! not fair!) So here’s a migrant picture from last fall. The Yellow Warblers are so bright and cheerful against gray icky days like today. I also wanted to share the link for this bird migration forecast website. They post predictions for migration based on weather patterns and on bird radar imagery. Check it out!
  • Labor Day Cloudscape

    Labor Day Cloudscape

    This cloudscape image was taken at Circle B about a week ago, as the clouds of Tropical Storm Isaac passed through. As it turned out, that’s pretty much all we got from Isaac – clouds and some rain. Although my dad did get a day off from school for it – lucky duck!
  • Here’s Lookin’ at You!

    Here’s Lookin’ at You!

    This is a Barred Owl from my visit to Circle B last weekend. He was sitting high in the trees near the bend where the Alligator Alley trail turns towards the marsh. It’s one of the favorite hang-outs of the owls. I actually walked right past him, but some friendly people on the trails pointed him out.
  • Circle B Awaits Tropical Storm Isaac

    Circle B Awaits Tropical Storm Isaac

    Although the center of Tropical Storm Isaac is several days away, the wind was already picking up this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It felt great! I went out to Lake Hancock for the (lack of) sunrise, then stayed on the dock photographing birds in flight for almost an hour. The breezes were wonderful. Then I made my way up the Alligator Alley trail. It was great to get out there again, and I saw my first of fall warblers, Belted Kingfisher, and Bald Eagles. :) I was surprised at the number of Black-Crowned Night Herons that were flying over Lake Hancock this morning. Chuck mentioned that these birds now have a daytime roost at Circle B. There were several Caspian Terns, too. A huge flock of White Ibis went flying off in the distance. All the usual waders were active near the dock. The juvenile Barred Owls put on a show as they flew across the trails, too. This year’s owls are very friendly and tolerant of people. As I approached the Heron Hideout/Alligator Alley intersection, I began to hear the familiar calls of warblers. It always surprises me how much I have to let my ear …
  • Passion Flower

    Passion Flower

    I came across this passion flower out on the Eagle Roost trail at Circle B a few weeks ago. The bee decided to fly in while I was shooting. How nice!
  • The Ugliest Bird?

    The Ugliest Bird?

    I was going back through some of my old images and came across this Wood Stork, taken in January at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I love how some of his wing feathers are catching the light and look iridescent.
  • Summer Sunrise at Circle B

    Summer Sunrise at Circle B

    With a slight breeze in the forecast, I spent the morning out on the Wading Bird Way trail at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  It’s been ages since I went, and it felt great to be there!  The water levels are much higher than my last visit, when the Wading Bird Way lake was basically a mud flat.  Now the water is high enough that it flows freely through all the culverts.  Little Green Herons flew about in the pre-dawn, posing on various posts.  It’s fun how the birds are less concerned about the presence of people before the sun rises. It was a hazy morning, free of clouds, but the sun was a hazy orb as it peeked up over the horizon.  The position of the sun isn’t great at this time of year — it comes up over the distant trees, not in between the more picturesque bird-scape trees. I took a walk out to where the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks nested last year.  I was hoping to find some yellow-and-black cuties, which we haven’t been able to find (yet) at Viera Wetlands this year.  But I didn’t find any at CBBR either.  :(  I did find this juvenile …
  • Dixie Iris

    Dixie Iris

    After a photograph-packed weekend last weekend, this weekend was “catch up around the house.”  So today’s image is a Dixie Iris that I photographed at the Circle B Bar Reserve back in early March.  It was so pretty, blooming along the Alligator Alley trail, that I just had to stop and get it.  Even if it doesn’t have wings! :)  
  • Put Your Best Spoon Forward!

    Put Your Best Spoon Forward!

    I spent last Sunday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  Boy it feels good to get back out there!  I was happy to find lots and lots of Roseate Spoonbills still hanging around off the Wading Bird Way trail.  I counted over 100!  These beautiful birds are some of my favorite ones to photograph.  About an hour after sunrise, they seemed to get their fill of breakfast, and they started to fly towards me in groups of one or two.  Can you say flight shot practice?  It was like when the American White Pelicans are in town, except pink! Speaking of American White Pelicans, a few of those were also still on the water.  Normally the pelicans roost on the lake in the middle of winter.  I think it’s a little unusual that they are still hanging around.  I’m certainly not complaining, though.  They are fun to watch as they toss fish back into their mouths and swallow. I had to laugh as a Great Blue Heron strutted his stuff…and then got very cautious as a small gator swam by him. We saw the newest Sandhill Crane colts feeding in the early morning.  Several Common Moorhens have families now, …
  • One More from my Visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    One More from my Visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    One more post from Sunday’s trip to the Circle B Bar Reserve… There’s a new family of Sandhill Cranes out on Wading Bird Way. The adults had the colts out on a “vegetation island” while I was there. From the pictures posted on Flickr, it looks like they later brought the babies up onto the trail. The babies are still tiny and in their “super-cute” phase. Who can resist a tiny orange fuzzball? On a related note, I saw several adult Purple Gallinules along Wading Bird Way, and I’m almost positive that I heard babies. :) There were tons of ibises flying around. This Glossy Ibis flew right in front of me. He’s in his breeding plumage – look at the blue on his face. The “great white party” continued for a good hour after sunrise, with storks and herons and egrets flapping around as they searched for breakfast in the shallow water. This Snowy Egret did a little dance for me. He seemed to drag his feet in the water as he flew along. Sometimes he would kinda fly with his face down in the water, too. He looked pretty funny. There were tons of grackles along the trail, …
  • More from Circle B Bar Reserve

    More from Circle B Bar Reserve

    As I drove to work with the rising sun in my eyes this morning, all I could think was that I’d rather be at the Circle B Bar Reserve! :) It’s unusual when I have such a good morning that I have to extend my description to multiple blog posts. This one is looking like it’ll be a three-parter… This Great Blue Heron was so pretty in the pre-dawn light. Look at the pale blueish-purple water. He was intent on watching for fish in the water below. The population of Black-Crowned Night Herons at CBBR seems to be growing. I noticed several hanging about in the early morning, both adults and juveniles. Several gave me flight shot opportunities. I think the adult birds with their wings stretched like this are so pretty. I still can’t believe how many Roseate Spoonbills were around the Wading Bird Way trail at sunrise. Lucky for me, they wanted to stretch those pretty pink wings and fly! Most stayed far enough away that I was glad to have my Beast. A few came close enough that I had way too much lens. Note to self: next time don’t be lazy and leave the intermediate telephoto …
  • Sunrise Wings at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sunrise Wings at Circle B Bar Reserve

    It’s been ages since I’ve been to Circle B.  It’s sad…I used to go there every weekend, at least!  So it felt great to spend the morning on Wading Bird Way.  The water levels are really really low.  Half of the “lake” is now a mud flat.  But the good thing is that the low water levels attract hundreds of wading birds.  A sea of white wings greeted me.  Birds were flying every which way as they searched for their breakfasts.  It was incredible.  None of my wide-angle shots did justice to the sight. I got out there about 20 minutes before sunrise, to enjoy the pre-dawn light.  There wasn’t much wind, so I could get nice reflections of the birds in the water.  Quite a few Wood Storks and Great Blue Herons were close to shore.  I love the light purpley color the water in the early dawn.  I had to use fill flash to help illuminate the bird. The sunrises over the marsh are not particularly photogenic at this time of year.  I like it better when the sun comes up behind the trees in the middle of the marsh, which are usually covered in birds.  They add …
  • Now You See Them…

    Now You See Them…

    …and now you don’t!  I guess April Fool’s is a good day for a photographer to confess to some Photoshopping. :) I was photographing the Sandhill Crane colts at the Circle B Bar Reserve last weekend.  I set my camera to the fastest frame speed, which I don’t often do, because I don’t need to waste my camera shutter or my post-processing time on images that are virtually identical.  But the little cranes were moving around quickly, and I wanted to catch their little wing-flaps, so I switched into high-speed mode.  Then they just stood there (of course). But it turned out to be a good thing that I was in high-speed mode with multiple frames of the birds.  I had a shot that I loved of the two colts standing together.  But Mom’s feet were in the way.  I don’t object to Mom’s feet being in the picture when I see her head, too, but when it’s just her legs, I find them distracting.  Mom did me a favor, though, and moved a little between my shots.  So I was able to combine the two pictures using Photoshop.  I opened the two images as layers, added layer masks to …
  • A Foggy Morning Turns Cute at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    A Foggy Morning Turns Cute at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The weather forecasters had it all wrong last weekend.  They said it would be partially cloudy on Saturday, rainy on Sunday.  Try it the other way around, guys.  So I went to Circle B on Saturday hoping for partial cloudcover, and I got thick fog until around 10:00.  But that was ok, because at 10:00, the Sandhill Crane family from the Marsh Rabbit Run nest brought their babies to the Heron Hideout trail to say hello.  Apparently they continued to the picnic area by the nature center, as if to show off their new offspring.  For the third year in a row, I had an awesome opportunity for pictures. :) But before the cuteness came fog…lots of fog.  Dyeyo and I walked up the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, and the fog settled in thicker and thicker.  I could hear the eagles at their nest, but I couldn’t see them well.  I guess this Red-Shouldered Hawk figured that the fog hid him, too, because he stayed perched out in the open as we approached. I haven’t been over to photograph this year’s eagle nest at all.  Using the Beast, I could barely make out the two dark forms of the eaglets …
  • Peek a Boo (Baby Sandhill Cranes at the Circle B Bar Reserve)

    Peek a Boo (Baby Sandhill Cranes at the Circle B Bar Reserve)

    Yesterday I took advantage of my off-Friday morning to visit the Circle B Bar Reserve, where a pair of Sandhill Cranes has been incubating a nest for the last four weeks or so.  I knew the colts were due to be born any time, and I hoped to photograph them interacting on their nest with Mom.  I’ve never seen them so young that they haven’t yet left the nest.  So I was very excited to arrive at the nest on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail and see a peculiar sort of motion in the incubating parent’s back feathers.  It was as if the feathers were being blown about in the wind, yet the breeze was still.  A few minutes later, a small head popped out… One colt is a little older than the other.  The first colt made his way out of his mother’s feathers, up her back, and then flopped down onto the ground in front of mom.  Despite his tiny size, he fearlessly maneuvered himself through the tall grasses.  Every once in a while, you’d see his wings flap as he tried to keep his balance.  When he successfully circumnavigated his mom, I named him Magellan.  The second …
  • Achoo!  Spring Cleaning Time at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Achoo! Spring Cleaning Time at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Last Saturday at the Circle B Bar Reserve, I heard a familiar drumming sound as I passed a dead tree.  In previous years, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers have made their nests inside this particular tree, and I’ve enjoyed watching the cavity hole as food is brought in for the babies.  So I stopped to watch the old hole, but after a few minutes, I hadn’t seen the bird stick his head out.  Occasionally, though, little bits of sawdust would be tossed down from above.  So I moved to a different angle and started watching a bit higher up the tree.  Soon I had photographic evidence of the new hole being dug for this year’s babies: I wonder how long it will be before eggs are laid in this new cavity?  Best wishes for a healthy brood of babies, Mr. Woodpecker!
  • The Two Turtles – Circle B Bar Reserve

    The Two Turtles – Circle B Bar Reserve

    To continue the “Lord of the Rings” titles, this post is about “The Two Turtles” (and some birds, hehe).  Rich was a very happy camper when I got home from the Circle B Bar Reserve with several pictures of turtles.  He said I had to post at least one – after all, this site is called catandturtle, even if we did name it before the bird obsession began!  So here’s the best turtle picture of the morning.  If you are interested in turtles or alligators, now is a great time to hike the Alligator Alley trail at Circle B. I finished processing images from Friday morning. Boy was the light bad!  Why is it that lately the cold fronts come through on weekends, and the only sunshine days seem to be on weekdays?  :-p My favorite ducks at Circle B are the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks.  They crack me up as they fly back and forth between tree branches, calling their happy little song to each other as they frolic.  I noticed this “three stooges” pose on one of the dead trees on Marsh Rabbit Run and shot it even though I knew the background would be gross.  The birds could …
  • The Fellowship of the Nest

    The Fellowship of the Nest

    As promised, here are more pictures from my morning at Circle B yesterday.  Although I failed to find the Great Horned Owlettes, I did find several other nests.  I love springtime at Circle B! The light was horrible (or rather, non-existent!) when I first arrived.  I noticed the Osprey on Heron Hideout gathering nesting material.  Last year he nested in the top of a dead palm tree, but I noticed that tree has been reduced to just a dead stump.  So the Osprey was gathering his material in a nearby oak tree.  He had to circle around twice with this load before he gave himself clearance for landing! The most talked-about nest at Circle B right now is probably the Sandhill Crane nets, located not too far from the Marsh Rabbit Run trail.  The cranes nest near water, counting on the water to protect them from predators.  I got to watch the “changing of the guard” as Mom stood up, stretched, and let Dad take over the nest-sitting for a while.  Cranes are interesting in that both adults share incubation responsibilities, except at night, when it’s Mom’s job.  No wonder she’s ready for a nice stretch in the morning!! I …
  • Return to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Return to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I braved the foggy weather this morning to go to Circle B for the first time in two months.  It felt so good to get out there again!  Most of the ducks have left, but the resident birds are starting to nest.  I love this time of year.  The weather wasn’t great for photography—the fog didn’t clear until around 10:00—but I had a great time with the Beast anyway.  I didn’t have time to go through all my pictures, so here’s my favorite from the morning, and I will post more later this week. This is a Savannah sparrow, one of the most common sparrows in Florida in winter.  He was hopping around at the beginning of the Marsh Rabbit trail.  He didn’t seem very concerned about me as I knelt down and aimed The Beast in his direction. Other highlights from the morning included The Sandhill Crane nest on Marsh Rabbit Run!  I think the nest has another two weeks of incubation before we can expect cute little colts.  I would love to see them still on the nest after hatching.  Or better yet, coming out of the egg! The Barred Owl is on his nest again in the …
  • On the Run at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    On the Run at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Here’s an appropriate post for my first day back to work – “on the run!”  This was an American Coot from the Circle B Bar Reserve from last Wednesday.  I love to try to catch them as they run across the water.  I got several good frames from this one, so I stitched them together in Photoshop to show the full trajectory.
  • Mirror, Mirror, in the Lake…Who’s the Most Handsome Drake?

    Mirror, Mirror, in the Lake…Who’s the Most Handsome Drake?

    Wednesday was a frigid morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. The forecast had predicted a low of 29 at 7am, but my car’s thermometer was more optimistic, measuring 34. There was very little wind, and I was quite comfortable all bundled up in my old college coat. I made my way out to the Wading Bird Way trail in anticipation of a gorgeous sunrise. I was met by fog, so dense that it sat like a cloud over the marsh. Clearly there weren’t going to be any great sunrise shots this morning. However, the skies were a beautiful pink… I was excited to see a few American White Pelicans fly off towards Lake Hancock just before sunrise. It was just two small groups of about five birds each. I couldn’t tell if they had slept off Wading Bird Way or not. I saw a large flock of white birds off in the distance, but they weren’t pelicans. They were Wood Storks! They started to fly towards me just like the pelicans did last year. I had fun trying to capture them in the early morning light against the bright pink sky. The sunrise was surreal – a big orange …
  • Circle B Bar Reserve is Pretty Quiet These Days

    Circle B Bar Reserve is Pretty Quiet These Days

    Last Friday, my dad and I headed to the Circle B Bar Reserve for the first time in several weeks. We decided to hike the Alligator Alley trail, where I had seen several Painted Buntings on my previous visit. But we were rather disappointed. We saw the usual herons and egrets, and a couple of small pelican flocks flying over Lake Hancock, but that was it. We spent most of our time trying to photograph Palm Warblers and Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, because they were the only birds around! We might have had more luck heading out to the Wading Bird Way trail, but we decided to take Herman’s advice and make a visit to Lake Morton instead. More on that soon! The weather has been so warm that some of the trees at Circle B have already started to leaf out for spring. They are going to get a shock tomorrow night when we have a hard freeze!
  • Circle B Photo Walks Cancelled For the Rest of the Spring

    Circle B Photo Walks Cancelled For the Rest of the Spring

    With regret, I will be cancelling the remainder of the Circle B Photo Walks for the season. My work has been consuming every waking moment, and I find that I can no longer dedicate the time to our photo walks. I hope to resume them next year. If you were considering attending one, you might want to attend a walk led by the Lake Region Audubon Society instead. They are held bi-weekly at Circle B and are led by some of Polk County’s best birders. I hope to be able to spend more time with “my” birds, like these American Goldfinches… :)
  • December Photo Walk at Circle B Bar Reserve

    December Photo Walk at Circle B Bar Reserve

    My dad and I held the December photo walk at Circle B Bar Reserve this weekend. We were joined by Dick and Emi, a wonderfully enthusiastic couple, as well as my husband and in-laws who were visiting from Texas. We walked the Heron Hideout trail, Marsh Rabbit Run trail up to the Wading Bird Way trail. Although Circle B is not as active as it was last year, there are still plenty of birds around, especially if you know where to look. We had a great morning. The yellow flowers (burr marigolds) are still present in the marshes. I think they are lasting longer this year because the weather is still warm. We have not yet had a good freeze to kill back the vegetation. Last year we were able to view American Bitterns and King Rails with amazing regularity in part because the vegetation was very low and that made the birds visible. So I’m kinda ready for a freeze… :) But we did see an American Bittern along Heron Hideout today, and he was posed just like last year. Then he got spooked and flew off, looking rather ungraceful as he pulled in his long neck and launched …
  • Painted Bunting at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    Painted Bunting at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    It turned out to be a beautiful morning to be at the Circle B Bar Reserve. The forecast predicted some clouds, so I decided to hike the Alligator Alley trail, which I haven’t done in a while. Sunrise over Lake Hancock was pretty, as always (and the forecasters were wrong – the clouds didn’t come until later!) Alligator Alley was pretty quiet. I saw some gulls, including my first Ring-Billed Gull of the season, as well as a bunch of Laughing Gulls. I would have liked to see the bobcat, but I guess you only see him when you least expect it! I got up to the tree where the owls/woodpeckers/ducks nested last year, and I walked right past a male Painted Bunting! I was a little disappointed that I scared him before I got a photograph. Then further down the trail I spotted another one! He was sitting on the ground, almost completely covered by the vegetation. Several passersby wondered how in the world I spotted him to begin with. He sat there posing for us for at least 20 minutes. The buntings in my backyard are certainly not that accomodating. I stopped to say hi to Chuck before …
  • Even an Icky Day is Good at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Even an Icky Day is Good at Circle B Bar Reserve

    I almost decided not to go to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. The forecast predicted a mostly cloudy morning, and the cloud cover over our house at 6am was thick. But I didn’t want to miss my last vacation opportunity to go to Circle B, so I went anyway. My dad likes to say that Circle B never disappoints, and today was no exception. I heard my first American Goldfinches of the season, and got a Redhead flight shot! This morning started out gray and the sun was behind the clouds, so I parked at the Nature Center and walked over to the new eagle’s nest. I was curious how well I’d see it with The Beast. With The Beast and the 1.4x teleconverter, I got the shot below. When I added the 2x teleconverter as well, I was full-frame on the nest. Hopefully the nest will be productive this year! The eagles were both at the nest for a little while, arranging branches down in the middle. Then one flew away while the other sat up on the branches over the nest. So they are not on eggs yet. Lately I’ve been enjoying flight shots on the …
  • My First Bufflehead at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    My First Bufflehead at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I spent a nice morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve a few days ago. I can’t believe our Thanksgiving Week is almost over. It feels like it’s lasted only one day! The marsh continues to be covered in pretty yellow flowers, called Burr Marigolds. I had only taken the Beast, so Dyeyo lent me his wide-angle lens to take some landscape shots. We hiked the Heron Hideout trail out to the Wading Bird Way trail. There were lots of ducks mixed in with the coots! I thought they made a good backdrop for the yellow flowers. The best bird of the morning was this female Bufflehead, who was on the south side of the Marsh Rabbit Run trail about a third of the way up the trail. I’ve never seen a Bufflehead before. Now that I’ve seen the female, I really want to see a male. His bright head is gorgeous! This Eastern Phoebe posed for me on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail. Dyeyo chuckled when he saw me stack my teleconverters to get a closer shot. :) Two Double-Crested Cormorants made me laugh. One came up with a fish, and the other got jealous. He chased …
  • Sunrise with a Sora – Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sunrise with a Sora – Circle B Bar Reserve

    I spent a very pleasant morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve yesterday morning.  I arrived about half an hour before sunrise and made my way out to the Wading Bird Way trail.  It’s one of my favorite sunrise locations on the reserve.   I like to watch the sun peek out from over the trees covered in birds, then I turn around and photograph the birds in flight in the golden sunrise light. I used HDR to combine three exposures of the sunrise to produce the image above.  That’s the only way that I could get proper exposure in the sun and in the yellow flowers in the foreground.  I’ve been experimenting with trial versions of two HDR programs in the past few days: Photomatix Pro and Nik HDR Efex.  I’m finding that I prefer the dials and controls in Photomatix.  Photomatix does a better job with image alignment and de-ghosting.  Nik’s results tend to be darker and less to my taste.  I’m still learning about HDR, but so far, Photomatix gets my vote. After the sunrise, I focused on birds in flight with The Beast.  The Blue-Winged Teals are roosting on the waters in pretty good numbers, and they …
  • Yellow Flowers at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Yellow Flowers at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The two questions that I hear most often about Circle B are 1) When do the white pelicans arrive? and 2) When do the yellow flowers bloom? Well, I’m pleased to report that the answers to both questions are NOW! :) Several people have reported pelican fly-overs in the past week, and the marsh is all abloom with the burr marigolds. It’s a great time to visit the reserve! I am still going through my pictures from this morning, so here’s a preview of coming attractions…
  • Flyin’ High

    Flyin’ High

    These Blue-Winged Teals were some of the many that flew over Circle B’s Wading Bird Way trail last Sunday at dawn.
  • Which One Does Not Belong?

    Which One Does Not Belong?

    Last weekend at Circle B, a lone Redhead Duck hung out in a pack of American Coots.
  • My First Northern Harrier

    My First Northern Harrier

    I got my first shot of a Northern Harrier at Circle B this weekend.  It’s not particularly well exposed, but it’s my proof – I saw him!
  • Flight Shots at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Flight Shots at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Yesterday (Sunday) was a great morning for flight shots at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The sunrise was pretty, then the birds were flying from the lake on Wading Bird Way across the trail towards Lake Hancock.  I saw Blue-Winged Teals, Green-Winged Teals, Gadwalls, American Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, and Mottled Ducks. The American Coots are by far the most common bird out on the lakes right now.  I always enjoy laughing at them as they do their “walk on water” routine.  Then one took off in flight!  I don’t seem to see them in flight very often. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had pictures of Gadwalls in flight.  They were my first of the season. The yellow flowers are in full bloom at the Circle B Bar Reserve, and the marshes are quite pretty.  After they fade, I’ll be ready for a good frost.  Then we’ll be able to better see the bitterns and rails!
  • So Many Pictures, So Little Time…

    So Many Pictures, So Little Time…

    I had a great morning at Circle B. The sunrise over the trees was spectacular, and the duck fly-overs gave me lots of flight shot practice. I’ll post more tomorrow, but here’s a teaser image…
  • A Great Morning to be Outside at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    A Great Morning to be Outside at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    It was cool and a little breezy this morning, and it felt so good to get up early and go see some “golden light!”  The Beast and I made our first trip to Circle B in several weeks.  Some ducks have settled in, but not as many as I seem to remember from last year.  The wading birds aren’t as plentiful, either.  But there are tons of little birds!  I had my first Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Savannah Sparrow, and Northern Harrier of the season. This morning I hiked Heron Hideout trail and the Marsh Rabbit Run trail out to the Wading Bird Way trail. The Alligator Flag plants on Heron Hideout have grown very tall and thick, and the little birds love to hop out on the reeds to pull seeds from the purple pods.  I love to stand on Heron Hideout at sunrise, when the golden light is just perfect.  Today I saw Common Yellowthroats, Palm Warblers, and this Swamp Sparrow on those reeds.  I like how the purple contrasts with the green in the image below. The skies were filled with Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks.  They are some of my favorite birds at the reserve, and their calls are such …
  • Circle B Sunrise

    Circle B Sunrise

    A great sunrise from Circle B a few weeks ago…
  • Calling All Birds and People to Circle B Photo Walks

    Calling All Birds and People to Circle B Photo Walks

    Our Circle B Photo Walk schedule has been updated. The November walk was cancelled due to Thanksgiving. The December walk was moved to December 10. The songbird migrants have returned to Circle B for the winter, and the ducks are starting to arrive!  My dad and I invite you to join us for a walk around the reserve, and we’ll show you our favorite birding locations and give you some photography pointers. The grackles were calling a few weeks ago at the Circle B Bar Reserve. They are common birds that some people choose not to photograph, but I thought it was fun to catch them with their heads back and their mouths open.
  • Another One from Circle B

    Another One from Circle B

    A Queen butterfly posed for me last weekend at the Circle B Bar Reserve.
  • Hello, Zorro!

    Hello, Zorro!

    This Common Yellowthroat posed for me recently at Circle B.  I like to call these guys “Zorro” because of their black masks.  They are some of my favorite winter visitors.
  • The Sun Finally Came out at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The Sun Finally Came out at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    After a long weekend of rain, the morning started out cloudy at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I set up The Beast on the Heron Hideout trail and positioned myself in the flight path of the Bald Eagles who were flying in circles over the marsh, retrieving nesting material and taking it back to their tree by the lake. I dialed in exposure compensation and used my flash with Better Beamer, but I still had to lighten the images considerably in Photoshop. This was my favorite. I like how it shows the birds grip on his branch in those strong talons. I think I stood waiting for the eagles for an hour and a half. By 9:00, the sun started to come out. It turned into a very nice morning, with cool temperatures and a little breeze. Some Palm Warblers and other small birds were hopping in and out of the vegetation along Heron Hideout, and I kept hoping some of the wrens and sparrows would make an appearance out in the open. But only the Palm Warblers obliged me… I took the Marsh Rabbit Run trail through the marsh and didnt see a whole lot. I heard lots of …
  • Turtle

    Turtle

    I got in trouble with my turtle-loving husband when I didn’t post the picture of the turtle that I took at Circle B on Saturday. So here’s the turtle. Isn’t he cute? He looks like he’s going sliding on the water.
  • I Love This Time of Year at Circle B!

    I Love This Time of Year at Circle B!

    I spent Sunday morning with The Beast at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It was hard to decide whether to head out to the marsh to catch the Bald Eagles flying with nesting material, or head to the lake to see the bobcat. The cloudless skies and great morning light made me decide on the marsh. I didn’t get many views of the eagles, but I did enjoy the time with the little birds. A lot of people are surprised when they see how high the vegetation is on the sides of the Heron Hideout trail. We need a good frost! There is one leafy green plant in the marsh right now that has put up all sorts of green reeds, and on the tips of the reeds are purple flowers. Those must be full of seeds, because all the birds are going nuts over them. I saw no less than TEN Purple Gallinules climbing the reeds and eating the seeds. (Most people are excited to see one!) Most of the Purple Gallinules were adults, but a few juveniles were showing off their pale colors. I laughed as the birds hopped around on the reeds, hanging on with those big …
  • Winter Birds are Returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Winter Birds are Returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Yesterday (Saturday) was the October photo hike at the Circle B Bar Reserve. My dad and I led three enthusiastic birders around the trails at the reserve. Last year our walks were big and we had a wide variety of birding/photography skill levels. This year our walks have been very small, and today’s group of experienced birders was a treat. We hiked the Heron Hideout trail, Marsh Rabbit Run trail, Wading Bird Way trail, and finally looped back on the Eagle Roost trail. It was a beautiful cool morning. We saw a House Wren, Common Yellowthroat, several Cardinals, and a bunch of Palm Warblers as we started up Heron Hideout. Then we spotted the Bald Eagles, who continue to carry nesting material across the marsh as they rebuild their nest by the Nature Center. We had several opportunities with the eagles throughout the morning. This was my favorite eagle shot: Most of my good pictures this morning were taken on the Wading Bird Way trail. I was excited to get out there and see small groups of American Coots in the water. Coots are very common birds, and most people tease me about getting excited about their arrival in the …
  • Tip for Photographing Little Birds in Leafy Trees

    Tip for Photographing Little Birds in Leafy Trees

    I photographed this White-Eyed Vireo this weekend on the Alligator Alley trail of the Circle B Bar Reserve. I used fill flash to illuminate him deep within a tree. I recently started training myself to use a new technique for focusing on these little birds who love to flit in and out of small trees. Using autofocus can be challenging, as the camera often chooses the leaf or branch in front of the bird as its autofocus point, leaving the bird nice and fuzzy in the shot. I set up my Canon 7D camera to allow me to push the * button to freeze the focus. Now I get the focus where I want it, then leave my thumb on the * button as I take my picture. Fewer fuzzy birds!It’s getting to be second nature to do this, although I suspect it’s easier on a tripod than if I was hand-holding.
  • Even Common Birds are Pretty

    Even Common Birds are Pretty

    I photographed this juvenile Red-Winged Blackbird at the Circle B Bar Reserve this weekend. It was a cloudy morning, so I was glad to have my flash with me. I really like how his brown tones contrast with the green vegetation and purple flowers around him.
  • Cuckoo Pose

    Cuckoo Pose

    I forgot to post the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo picture in my blog post Cuckoos Chasing Cuckoos from this weekend. Oops! So here’s the bird that caused several photographers to follow him up and down the Marsh Rabbit Run trail. He likes to bury himself in trees with lots of leaves, so I was very surprised when he hopped out onto a dead tree and posed for a few seconds. Too bad there are so many branches around him.
  • Welcome Back, Palm Warblers

    Welcome Back, Palm Warblers

    The Palm Warblers have been back for several weeks now, but between rainy weather and work, this weekend was my first opportunity to take a decent photograph of one. This one was hopping around in a tree on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It’s such fun to hear the calls of the little birds on the trails again.
  • Cloudy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Cloudy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I think the weather forecasters were a little overly optimistic this morning when they predicted “partly sunny” for 8am. I called it “mostly cloudy!” I was glad that I didn’t go to the Circle B Bar Reserve for sunrise, because there wasn’t one. The light levels were pretty low all morning. But it was great to see friends, and there is always something to see at Circle B. The American Kestrel was posing high in the Treasure Tree again this morning. He was in the same spot Friday morning. It was Dyeyo’s first kestrel sighting of the fall. The sun was nice enough to come out for a few seconds to illuminate this pretty bird. The passerines (songbirds) are starting to return to the reserve. One of my favorites is the Common Yellowthroat, or “Zorro”. His bright yellow colors brighten the marsh. They don’t usually like to sit still, so both Dyeyo’s and my cameras went click-click-click when this one posed out in the open. Yay for flash on cloudy days! We did not see the baby Limpkins on the Wading Bird Way trail today. This adult flew into some bushes as we started to leave. His landing was not …
  • Races and Bobcats at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Races and Bobcats at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I were excited to go to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning after all the good birds that I saw there yesterday.  Until we saw the clouds.  And the runners.  There were hundreds of people gathered this morning to run a 5K race right up and down the trails.  Dyeyo and I spotted a Sora before the race began, but the runners scared it off.  It was disappointing for the bird club who did not get to see it.  I think it’s great to share the reserve with people who might learn to appreciate nature, but it’s upsetting to see the birds disturbed by the people.  Dyeyo and I almost left, but we decided to check out the Alligator Alley trail instead (it was not part of the race).  We were glad we did – we came across the bobcat in mid-trail!  It was Dyeyo’s first time to see him.  He posed nicely for us!
  • Cuckoos Chasing Cuckoos at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Cuckoos Chasing Cuckoos at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    It was a gorgeous morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The temperatures were cool, there was a little breeze, and the winter birds are coming back.  The Belted Kingfishers were posed on the power lines at the entrance to the reserve, and within a few minutes of parking, I’d located my first of fall (FOF) House Wren, Eastern Phoebe, and Gray Catbirds.  The reserve was chirping with the sound of little birds, like the Palm Warblers that have recently returned.  Friends Donna, Norm, James and I chased a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo up and down the Marsh Rabbit Run trail (the cuckoo thinks his paparazzi is a little cuckoo too!).   The other highlights of the morning included a Sora (thanks Donna!), an American Kestrel, and Indigo Buntings. The Bald Eagles have begun rebuilding their nest by the nature center.  Herman found the new nest location and mentioned it on the Circle B Flickr page.  I didn’t try to find it this morning, but I did watch in awe as the eagles circled over my head.  The highlight was when one flew towards me with nesting material.  :) I found an American Kestrel posing high in the “Treasure Tree” off the Heron …
  • Three Generations

    Three Generations

    The days are getting shorter and I’m getting home later and later…not a good combination for new “In the Backyard” shots. Luckily I still have some fun pictures from Circle B last weekend to share. I think it’s supposed to rain most of the weekend. Sad news for photographers! This is a family of Common Moohens – I mean, Common Gallinules — from Circle B last week. I thought it was cool because it clearly shows three generations of birds. The black bird on the left is an adult. The bird on the far right is a juvenile, just starting to get his full red adult beak. The guys in the middle are babies-turning-into-juveniles. Common Gallinules are somewhat special in that the babies from early spring stick around to help the parents raise the second and third clutches of the summer. Their plumage clearly shows who is who. But it’s funny — often you will see the babies refusing food from their older siblings, and waiting for Mom and Dad to hand out the treats!
  • Sunrise Clouds

    Sunrise Clouds

    This is an HDR image of the sunrise at Circle B last Friday morning. I enjoyed photographing the light in the clouds until I saw the baby Limpkins emerge. That distracted me until after the sun was high in the sky! :)
  • One For Rich

    One For Rich

    I’ve been hearing complaints about the lack of turtle posts. So here’s a turtle from the Circle B Bar Reserve this weekend!
  • Soaring into the Sunrise

    Soaring into the Sunrise

    Last Friday morning the sunrise at Circle B was very cloudy and not particularly interesting, so the Beast and I focused on the flying birds and making silhouettes. I tried to catch the birds as they had interesting wing angles and as they flew against the orangey colors of the sunrise. Then in Photoshop, I used the Levels tool to color the birds black and to lighten the sky to show the color. These two were my favorites. I can’t decide which one I like better!
  • Redstarts and Warblers and Buntings, Oh My!

    Redstarts and Warblers and Buntings, Oh My!

    The cold front moved through and brought not only cooler temperatures, but lots of migrant birds!  I spent a very nice morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve with Dyeyo.  We chased lots of little birds and ended up with a pretty good migrant count, including an Indigo Bunting!! :) We hiked the Heron Hideout trail, Marsh Rabbit Run trail, and Wading Bird Way trail this morning.  We hadn’t been on Marsh Rabbit Run for more than two minutes before we spotted a male American Redstart.  I’ve only seen females before, so I was pretty excited.  We chased that little bird in and out of the oak treetops for over an hour!  Photographing him was quite challenging, for many reasons:  the light was uneven, the bird kept hiding, autofocus kept triggering on the leaves instead of the birds, etc.  So I was happy to get a few shots with the bird in focus, kinda-sorta looking at the camera. :) We heard Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers all over the place.  They are so cute!  I’m glad that they are back.  For the most part they are staying high in the trees now.  In a few weeks, they will start to come lower into …
  • Another Morning at the Circle B Water Slide

    Another Morning at the Circle B Water Slide

    I spent my off-Friday morning with the baby Limpkins at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I headed out to the Wading Bird Way trail at sunrise.  There were too many clouds for an impressive sunrise, but as I watched the light rising, I heard the baby Limpkins.  I watched and waited, and within fifteen minutes they had left the cover of their bushes and emerged onto the trail.  I spent several hours on the trail with them, and for the first time, got a few pictures of them with a decent sun angle. There were four baby Limpkins originally, but now there are only two left.  Two weeks ago I watched three of them take a trip on the “Circle B water slide” (the water flowing through the culverts underneath the trail).  Today the two remaining babies swam by the culverts and started to get pulled under by the current, but now they are big enough to swim against the water and free themselves. The babies are big enough now that their parents don’t stay with them all the time.  But Mom did show up from time to time with a tasty apple snail snack.  Then the babies fought with …
  • Birds Grow up So Quickly!

    Birds Grow up So Quickly!

    We had our first photo walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  It was a small group, but we had a nice walk.  We saw our first-of-fall Common Yellowthroats, and I’m pretty sure I heard several other warblers, but the mosquitoes were thick and we didn’t linger to watch them.  We found the baby Limpkins out on the Wading Bird Way trail, and wow, they have gotten bigger!  They spent most of their time buried in the bushes, but we got a quick glimpse of two babies as they ran across the trail.
  • Christmas in September?

    Christmas in September?

    I’m looking forward to our first photo walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve tomorrow morning.  So here’s yet another shot from a recent Circle B outing.  I took this from the Wading Bird Way trail at sunrise, on a morning when the sun shone through the fog and illuminated the marsh.  I love how the Wood Storks come back to Circle B at the end of the summer and sit in the trees mid-marsh.  They remind me of ornaments decorating a Christmas tree. I hope lots of people come to our walk tomorrow.  It’s always fun to show people around one of my favorite places to photograph!  Last year when we started our walks, I wrote a long post with advice and suggestions for photographing at Circle B.  Click here to read it.  I included links to a bunch of photography books and other great websites.  I hope it’s useful. :)
  • Order Matters

    Order Matters

    Lately I’ve been playing with Photomatix and HDR.  I went back to a sunrise panorama that I did at Lake Hancock at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  Each portion of the panorama was bracketed for HDR.  When I first processed it with Photoshop, I did the HDR on each frame individually, taking care to apply the same settings to each frame.  When I stitched them together as a panorama, the colors weren’t right.  The sunrise circles weren’t right around the trees.  When I reprocessed it with Photomatix, it did the same thing. So I tried again, this time doing the panorama merge with each exposure level, then applying the HDR.  The images didn’t line up perfectly with the second method, but Photomatix corrected it well.  The light distribution was better with the second way.  I definitely liked the Photomatix result better than the Photoshop one, and I think for sunrise and similar shots, where the light level is variable, it is best to stitch the panorama at each exposure level before applying the HDR.
  • Twins?

    Twins?

    Lots of people at the Circle B Bar Reserve this weekend commented that the famous baby Limpkins look a lot like baby Sandhill Cranes.  They do!  The colors are different, but the size, beak size, and general shapes of the babies are quite similar.  I hunted up some Sandhill colt pictures from April to compare… The babies are my favorites to photograph!!! :)
  • HDR Tip

    HDR Tip

    This sunrise HDR image was created at the Circle B Bar Reserve on Saturday morning.  I had already taken so many shots of the sunrise and the sun was pretty high in the sky.  But before I switched to the Beast for bird shots, I took one final shot of the sun and surrounding clouds.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it without any land in the picture to frame it.  But after I processed it with Photomatix, I really liked the result. I recently learned a neat trick for doing bracketed images for HDR.  A lot of cameras these days allow you to define custom presets.  If you look at your mode dial, in addition to options like TV, AV, and M, you may have C1, C2, and C3 options.  Those are the presets.  You can customize them to be whatever you want.  I set up one of mine as an HDR preset.  Basically you choose your favorite settings, then use the Camera User Setting menu to Register the setting as C1, C2, or C3.  Then just flip to the C setting on the mode dial when you want to do HDR! Here are the settings I set …
  • Awesome Morning with the Baby Limpkins at CBBR

    Awesome Morning with the Baby Limpkins at CBBR

    I had an awesome morning yesterday (Saturday) at the Circle B Bar Reserve with my dad and Michael Libbe.  We had a great sunrise and then spent some quality time with the baby Limpkins on the Wading Bird Way trail. :) The sunrise was beautiful.  We arrived on Wading Bird Way about 10 minutes before sunrise, and we stood watching as the sun peeked out over the tops of the trees on the horizon.   As it rose, it went behind some clouds, making it easier to photograph.  I had my camera set to bracket for HDR, and I dialed in a small aperture to maximize depth of field (and because I know that beam will show sunbeams as stars at small apertures!)  I love how the sun lit up the marsh and the white flowers in the foreground. After we tired of the sunrise, the light was still too low to go photograph the baby Limpkins, who were following Mom along the trail.  So I turned my attention to the flock of egrets feeding in the distance.  I had fun trying to make good flight shots, with the pretty green foliage blurred in the background.  This was my favorite. I …
  • Expect the Unexpected at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Expect the Unexpected at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve yesterday (Friday) in hopes of a gorgeous sunrise with sun beams bursting through the clouds and reflecting over Lake Hancock.  I came home with images of a fireball and baby Limpkins!  Such is a morning at CBBR.  You never know what you’ll find out there. I arrived about half an hour before sunrise, and I headed down to Lake Hancock.  As I approached the lake, I realized that it was too foggy for a good sunrise.  I got out to the dock and waited, and a few minutes after the expected sunrise, an orange fireball appeared the sky.  I tried some HDR bracketed shots, but I didn’t like the resulting HDR images – they didn’t do the scene justice.  Besides, even at a high frame rate, the sun moved quickly enough in the frame that Photomatix didn’t align the images very well.  But I did luck out and see my first flock of Blue-Winged Teals for this fall, and they flew right in front of the sun.  Like I wrote about yesterday, I managed to get the flock and sun in the same frame for two consecutive frames.  I played with Photoshop …
  • Into the Rising Sun

    Into the Rising Sun

    Work interfered with photography on this off-Friday, but I did manage to get to Circle B for a few hours this morning. I won’t have my full blog post ready till tomorrow, so here’s a teaser image of a flock of Blue-Winged Teals at sunrise over Lake Hancock. They are my first Blue-Winged Teals of the fall. Migration is so exciting, and a fireball sunrise is an added bonus! :) I managed to get two images with the birds in the sun. This was the first, and I cut off the left side of the sun. In the next image (not posted), the birds have passed the sun. I may experiment with Photoshop and see if I can combine the images. I like how the birds are flying into the sun in this shot, but I also would prefer to see the whole sun.
  • Fun with HDR

    Fun with HDR

    Long after the sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve on Sunday, I noticed a single cloud high in the sky that still had sunrise coloration to it. I thought it was pretty, and I took some bracketed shots for HDR. I didn’t realize how vibrant the colors would turn out! HDR can be quite fun. :)
  • Early Migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Early Migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    You know that the hot summer is coming to a close at the Circle B Bar Reserve when you start seeing the first Pied-Billed Grebes on the Wading Bird Way trail.  Although grebes are year-round residents in Polk, I don’t seem to see them until the very end of summer.  The same goes for the Caspian Terns.  So it was exciting to see both yesterday at the reserve.  The winter migrants are coming!! The Common Moorhens aren’t migrants, but they are fun to photograph.  There was a family that I watched for about 15 minutes.  There were two juveniles and two parents, but one parent was a little way away.  When the juveniles started to carry on, the parent came swimming toward them, fussing.  I liked how the adult’s reflection showed so nicely in the water, and I tried to hit the shutter when the bird’s mouth was open in mid-fuss.  I had two successful attempts, and this was my favorite: The juveniles continued to fuss, splashing around and carrying on.  As one ran towards me on top of the water, I managed to hit the shutter button and almost achieve good focus on his head!  It was close enough… …
  • Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    This morning the sunrise made up for the icky cloudy day yesterday.  I arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve well before sunrise.  Unfortunately I arrived at the Wading Bird Way trail about 15 minutes too late to photograph the setting moon, which was beautiful as I watched it driving across I-4.  But I did arrive with plenty of time to watch the sun as it began to peek up behind the clouds. The rays of the sun were bright, and it was unusual to see them peeking out from behind the clouds as they did this morning.  I had my wide-angle lens with me, but with the crop factor on my 40D, I couldn’t zoom as wide as I wanted.  So I shot the picture below in two sections and stitched them together in Photoshop.  Each section was an HDR combination of three exposures shot at +/- 2 EV. The sun was slow to peek out from behind the clouds to actually “rise”.  I kept moving down the trail, trying to find marsh water not covered in algae to provide a good refection.  I  continued making multiple exposures to later combine with HDR techniques.  As the light increased, I …
  • Photographers Flock Back to Circle B Bar Reserve

    Photographers Flock Back to Circle B Bar Reserve

    The temperatures were a bit cooler at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning, and the photographers and the migrant birds alike have begun to return to the reserve.  Dyeyo and I hiked the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, Wading Bird Way trail, and Alligator Alley trail this morning in search of migrant warblers.  Unfortunately, the cloudy morning was not conducive to good birding or photography.  We did find a Prairie Warbler, a bunch of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, and some Caspian Terns, who are year-round but always fun to see.  Altogether we had a nice walk and saw more species than I expected. The water levels are up!  The above picture was taken with my iPhone after I said, “gee, I wish I’d brought my wide-angle lens.”  (The Beast stayed home today, and I travelled light with just my intermediate telephoto.)  Then I realized that I had a wide-angle lens in my pocket.  Gotta love my phone! :) The water levels are high throughout the reserve.  Water is flowing through all the culverts on both Heron Hideout and Wading Bird Way.  It’s really good to see.  All this rain is giving us good results…maybe now we’ll have some water to offer the …
  • Sunrise HDR

    Sunrise HDR

    The weather has been so hot that I’ve been spending less time outside and more time playing with post-processing. I’ve rediscovered HDR recently when I began experimenting with Photomatix Pro instead of Photoshop for HDR. I’d always read that Photoshop wasn’t quite as good, and now I’m starting to see why. Here’s my HDR image of a sunrise at Circle B from this past weekend. And here are the three images that went into making that HDR. They were taken with +/-2 stop bracketing enabled (I programmed a custom function to automatically configure bracketing, a low ISO, and a high f-number for quick HDR landscape photography.) Note that the animation has some pixelation artifacts that a result of saving it as a GIF…
  • Slow motion: Turtles

    Slow motion: Turtles

    Friends often ask why our website is called “catandturtle” when most of my photographs are of birds. Well, I’ve always been a cat lover, and Rich has grown up with an obsession for turtles. Actually, it was our cat Goldilocks who started watching birds, and got us interested in them… So when I come back from photographing, Rich always asks if I’ve seen any turtles. Too often I have to say no. But on Friday at the Circle B Bar Reserve, I came across this Cooter turtle in the culverts along the Heron Hideout trail. For the first time in months, water was flowing freely under the path, and this turtle was having a good time splashing around in the water. My first shot was the “Rich, I got you a picture of a turtle!” shot. I used my standard aperture and nothing fancy with the exposure. Then I started playing with the shutter speed. I wanted to slow it down enough that the water flowing over the turtle was a blur. I experimented and found that a shutter speed of 1/5 of a second gave me a nice water blur. The turtle’s head bobbed up and down as the …
  • First of Season Warblers at CBBR!

    First of Season Warblers at CBBR!

    How are kitten care and warbler photography alike? Neither subject will stay still! This morning I enjoyed an off-Friday sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I saw my first warblers of the season!  Two Yellow Warblers and one Prairie Warbler spent a pleasant 15 minutes posing for me in the top of a tree on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail.  I know shorebird migration has been underway for about a month now, but I’ve always considered the first warblers to be the sign of fall migration. :) I arrived at Circle B just before sunrise.  It had rained there overnight, and there were large puddles on several trails.  it was great to see that the culverts on the Heron Hideout trail were all flowing with water again.  Hopefully it will keep raining, to get the water levels up before the migrant ducks arrive! While I waited for the light to be bright enough for bird photography, I experimented some with landscape HDR and my wide-angle lens.  The sun was pretty as it peeked over the horizon and shone through the clouds.  The marsh is quite pretty at this time of year, with all the trees covered in green.  But …
  • Herman Found His Cuckoo!

    Herman Found His Cuckoo!

    …except he went looking for a bird called a cuckoo, not a cuckoo photographer! He posted this picture of me with The Beast that is getting some chuckles on Flickr. Check it out! Show-Off – Hand-holding the Beast
  • Quiet Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Quiet Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Herman made me go back to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning after he posted a picture of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Flickr.  I took the Beast and set up in front of the Morning Glory vines where he saw the bird.  I waited about a half hour, but no hummers came.  So I took a picture of where the hummer should have been! (Note:  Someone else stood watching all morning long and didn’t see a hummer.  I guess maybe Herman’s bird was a passing migrant.) As exciting as it would have been to photograph a hummer at Circle B, I didn’t want to sit waiting for one all morning!  So I headed down the newly-opened Marsh Rabbit Run trail in search of my Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.  He was supposed to pose for me again, since I had The Beast in tow.  Silly bird, he didn’t cooperate.  But I saw a juvenile Osprey posed nicely in a tree: Right now, with the summer sun angle, the light is pretty good on the left side of Marsh Rabbit Run.  I noticed that the juvenile Little Blue Herons, who have been hanging out at “Four Corners” all year looking very white, are …
  • Yellow-Billed Cuckoo on Marsh Rabbit Run!

    Yellow-Billed Cuckoo on Marsh Rabbit Run!

    The Marsh Rabbit Run trail was finally re-opened!  I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning and found my very first Yellow-Billed Cuckoo!  I couldn’t believe it when he flew into a tree right over my head.  He was on Marsh Rabbit Run, about halfway down the trail.  It felt so good to be back on that trail! The water levels are low and there were not a ton of birds.  I was hoping to see some migrant warblers or maybe a Belted Kingfisher.  We didn’t.  But we did see at least five Black-Crowned Night Herons, a Purple Martin, and three Killdeer.  Compared to last week’s cloudy morning, there was a lot more bird activity today.  It was definitely worth the trip, despite the heat. The Wood Storks and Double-Crested Cormorants have returned to the reserve.  They covered the trees, looking like ornaments on Christmas trees.  A couple of cormorants posed on posts on the Wading Bird Way trail.  The lake made for good background bokeh. A Great Blue Heron also posed on a post.  He looked pretty silly with his wings spread out.  He wanted to say “hi” to all the blog readers! There’s a family of …
  • The Eagle has Landed at CBBR

    The Eagle has Landed at CBBR

    The Bald Eagle has returned to his nest on the sandhill at the Circle B Bar Reserve!  I was very happy to hear him and then confirm that he was sitting just above the nest. It’s been almost a month since Dyeyo and I went to Circle B, so we were both excited to get back there today.  We arrived at 6:30 and headed to the Wading Bird Way trail in search of Black-Bellied Whistling Duck babies.  It was a very cloudy morning, though.  There wasn’t enough light to photograph the birds well, so I concentrated on sunrise panoramas instead. A small group of otters surprised us as we reached the southern end of Wading Bird Way.  Neither of us had seen the otters up on this part of the trail before.  One otter was smaller than the others, making me wonder if it was younger.  They stood on the trail for a few seconds before diving down into the grasses. Given the heat and the minimal bird activity at Circle B at this time of the year, I left the Beast at home and traveled light, with just my intermediate zoom lens and a bottle of water.  The clouds …
  • Baby Birds Take Flight at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Baby Birds Take Flight at Circle B Bar Reserve

    It was a slow start to the morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I pulled up to the main gate at 6:30, hoping to catch the sunrise.  But the gate was closed!  All I could think was “I drove an hour to get here and it’s closed!?!?”  As Dyeyo and I chatted about where to go instead, the security guy drove up and opened the gate.  :) We hiked the Alligator Alley trail this morning.  It was really quiet – there were very few birds out, and not many of them wanted to pose for us.  I think the highlight of the morning was seeing three Sandhill Cranes fly overhead, and one of them was a baby!  I suspect it was Tiny Tim.  I wish I had gotten a picture. Our first bird of the morning was a singing Carolina Wren, but we didn’t have enough light to get a good shot.  Then as we got to the dock, we ran into a flock of Black Vultures.  There were at least fifty of them, all over the paths and the trees and the dock.  They were funny to watch as we approached.  They didn’t like us approaching, but they …
  • Why Did the Purple Gallinule Cross the Trail at Circle B Bar Reserve?

    Why Did the Purple Gallinule Cross the Trail at Circle B Bar Reserve?

    To see if the water level on the other side was higher!  It wasn’t… I’ve never seen the water levels at Circle B Bar Reserve this low.  We hiked the Wading Bird Way trail this morning.  We got there at sunrise and got in two hours of photography before the rains drove us away.  It’s a good thing that CBBR is getting some rain – it needs it very badly.  The big lake out on Wading Bird Way is one step away from being a mud flat.  The Great Egrets, Cattle Egrets, and White Ibis are gathering there in huge flocks, reminiscent of the great American White Pelican flocks in the wintertime. The Wood Storks are coming back from their rookery – we saw a group of them playing tug-of-war with a stick this morning. We saw quite a few Purple Gallinules along the trail.  We found at least two groups of babies, one at the intersection of Wading Bird Way with the (still closed) Marsh Rabbit Run trail, and the other group a little farther south.  The babies are black and look so different than the adults! Common Moorhens are raising their families, too.  I was hoping for a …
  • A Squirrel-ly Anniversary Message

    A Squirrel-ly Anniversary Message

    Dyeyo and I spotted these, um, friendly squirrels at the Circle B Bar Reserve on Saturday.  They made me chuckle and think of Rich’s and my anniversary.  So here’s an anniversary message from the squirrels… Keep your partner looking his best.  (I’ve never seen squirrels preening each others’ tails!) Lend a hand at every opportunity. When life gets tough, stick together and help each other hold on. Be cute and look at the camera.
  • Hummers and Cuckoos at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Hummers and Cuckoos at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Yes, that’s right, we saw a hummingbird at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning!  I didn’t get a picture—those guys move fast!  I couldn’t see it for long enough to tell what kind of hummer, either, although I assume it was a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  But it was most definitely a hummer!  Dyeyo and I saw him on the Alligator Alley trail just past the dock.  He flew across the trail in front of us and then up into a cypress tree. He wasn’t the only unusual bird we saw today.  Dyeyo got a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot!  And just like last year, I saw the bird in flight for a fleeting instant, but got no picture.  Now I have two nemesis birds for this vacation!  But it’s great to know that the cuckoo is back.  He flew over our heads as we watched the Pileated nest. So what did I photograph this morning?  Well, there was this very fast Northern Parula that kept hopping from one branch to another in a cypress tree near the dock.  It was pure luck that allowed me to snap the shutter just as he looked at the camera in the one frame that was …
  • Knock, Knock! Goes the Pileated Woodpecker at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Knock, Knock! Goes the Pileated Woodpecker at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    It was a good morning for baby birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I spent about an hour watching the Osprey nest on the Heron Hideout trail.  Then I moved on to the Alligator Alley trail, where I photographed the Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest.  The Northern Parulas taunted me but didn’t let me see them.  Then Dennis showed me the best nest of the morning: there’s a Pileated Woodpecker on eggs inside the old Barred Owl tree! Last week, I saw the Osprey family on my way out, in mid-day light.  So today the nest was my first stop of the morning.  I love dawn at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The light of the sun comes peeking up over the horizon and slowly bathes the marshes in soft golden light.  All the birds call back and forth to each other softly, and the soft breezes feel cool because the sun isn’t blasting out its heat yet.  You would think it would get old, but every morning is different.  As I watched the sun rise, the Osprey family enjoyed a fish for breakfast.  Finally the sun was up enough to illuminate the nest, and Junior obligingly sat up and posed …
  • Summer Heat Begins at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Summer Heat Begins at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    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.  …
  • Turtles from the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Turtles from the Circle B Bar Reserve

    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!
  • Bobolink-less Morning at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Bobolink-less Morning at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning in search of Bobolinks.  These migratory birds can only be found at Circle B for a couple of weeks a year, in the spring during their migration back north.  Various people on the Circle B Flickr page have seen Bobolinks, and Dyeyo found a whole flock of them last year, but I’ve never seen one.  Unfortunately the fog this morning kept most of the birds in bed late.  Dyeyo and I walked up the Heron Hideout trail, out the Eagle Roost trail, and up most of the Wading Bird Way trail, but we didn’t find Bobolinks.  Oh well. :( There was a Black-Crowned Night Heron in his customary spot at the south end of Heron Hideout.  He likes to sit in the low branches and fish.  This juvenile is quickly turning into an adult – he’s got his black cap, now he just needs to get his white tummy.  Getting to see baby birds grow up is one of my favorite things about Circle B. There was a controlled burn in the Eagle Roost area last week, on the side of the trail with the eagle’s nest.  The …
  • Mothers and Babies at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Mothers and Babies at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Happy Mother’s Day!  Dyeyo and I spent a few hours at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning before going to spend some time with my mom.  It seemed appropriate that we saw a bunch of baby birds with their moms today.  :) We hiked the Alligator Alley loop this morning, starting just after sunrise.  Dyeyo had to try out his new lens on the hawk’s nest that is very close to the trail!  We ran into Al and Diane at the dock, where we did some flight photography.  There were tons of gators in Lake Hancock, and tons of birds too – Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, a few Black-Crowned Night Herons.  These were my favorite flight images: A juvenile Little Blue Heron greeted us as we continued along the Alligator Alley trail.  These birds look so scruffy as they molt from their juvenal while plumage into their adult blue colors!  They remind me of little kids dressed in white who were helping paint a room blue… The hawk’s nest is popular now, and we spotted the crowd of onlookers before seeing the nest itself.  The babies have grown since last week.  People were complaining that the babies are different …
  • More Baby Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    More Baby Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    This morning started out slow at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We’re getting into the time of year when there are fewer birds at the reserve, and you don’t get as many great photo ops as you do during the winter.  But I find that the baby birds are just as fun to photograph as the migrants…if you know where to look to find them! :) We started out just after sunrise on the Heron Hideout trail, hoping to see the Sandhill Crane colt that the volunteers have dubbed “Tiny Tim.”  But Tiny Tim and his family were nowhere to be seen.  Herman reports that the Osprey nest on the palm tree has hatched, but the babies stayed down in the nest.  Sometimes it’d be nice to be Inspector Gadget and just hop up to the nest for a quick close-up! A single Black-Necked Stilt flew overhead as we watched the Osprey nest.  It’s the first stilt I’ve seen at the reserve this spring.  Later we saw another fly over, and a pair of them seemed to fight in the air over Eagle Roost. I spotted an adult Black-Crowned Night Heron hunched down in the grasses pretty far out in …
  • Circle B Says Goodbye to its Winter Migrants and Hello to the Summer Residents

    Circle B Says Goodbye to its Winter Migrants and Hello to the Summer Residents

    I spent a quiet off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  It’s always a treat to be on the trails without the weekend crowds.  I started off on the Heron Hideout trail to say hello to the little Sandhill Crane, then I turned left onto the Alligator Alley trail and hiked that loop back to the Nature Center.  It was a nice breezy morning and it felt awesome to be out! I arrived at the reserve just after sunrise, determined to catch the Sandhill Crane family as it crossed the Heron Hideout trail in its morning trek across the marsh.  Last weekend I almost missed them.  So it figures that this morning I had to wait about half an hour for them to meander across the marsh!  It was a bit cloudy, and I’m sure that contributed to the slow start for the birds. As I waited for the Sandhill Cranes, I watched the Osprey nest in the palm tree.  One bird was incubating on the nest, and the other bird was perched in a tree close by.  As I watched, the bird on the nest stretched her wings and flew off.  The other bird took her …
  • In Search of Babies at Circle B Bar Reserve

    In Search of Babies at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning on a quest to find baby birds.  The adorable Sandhill Crane colt that met us on the Heron Hideout trail was just the first.  We figured that the Barred Owlet had already fledged, so we headed out to Wading Bird Way in search of the Limpkin babies and Mottled Duck babies that someone mentioned to us.  We didn’t find either, but we did find the other Sandhill Crane family. :) The days are getting longer and the sun is rising earlier.  Dyeyo and I planned to meet at 7:30, but I ran a few minutes late.  By the time we got out to the Heron Hideout trail around 7:45, the Sandhill Crane family had already made its way up onto the trail, and they only let us take a few pictures before moving off into the marsh again.  The early bird gets the worm!  Next weekend I’ll be an early bird. Sunrise next weekend is at 7am! The colt is bigger this week.  He’s hunting for his own food more, although he’ll happily accept that tasty morsel from Mom or Dad.  I noticed that he’s allowed to wander …
  • The Newest Celebrity at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The Newest Celebrity at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    This winter the American Bittern and the King Rail were the stars at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  This spring, the Sandhill Crane colt that frequents the Heron Hideout trail is quickly becoming the newest celebrity at the park. This morning I met Michael Libbe at sunrise and we found the Sandhill Crane family out in the grasses a few yards from the Heron Hideout trail.  Then they moved up onto the trail, positioning the colt just a few feet away from us in the golden glow of sunrise.  How long can you stand and photograph the same three birds?  Well, we were there for about an hour and a half! If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see the colt standing at the feet of the adult!  The little guy was buried in the grass when we got there.  All we could see was his head.  Then the adults moved towards the trail, and he walked behind them.  Except the water was high after all the rains we had, and it came up to his chin!  He was so cute as he made his way across the little stream.  Then he passed over a little hill of …
  • Foggy but Interesting Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Foggy but Interesting Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Wow it was foggy this morning!  It was all clear as I left Orlando, but the fog started when I hit I-4, and the Polk Parkway was crazy with fog.  So I wasn’t anticipating seeing too much this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I’m glad I was wrong!  We saw tons of birds. The Red-Winged Blackbirds must be beginning to nest.  The males are displaying and calling from the treetops, providing wonderful photo ops.  It seemed like we had a blackbird on every other little tree along Heron Hideout this morning. To kill time until the fog lifted, we walked around the Eagle Roost Trail out to Wading Bird Way to look for the Sandhill Crane family that has been reported there.  It was so foggy!  We couldn’t see the Bald Eagle’s nest.  We could hear Eastern Meadowlarks, but we couldn’t see them.  When we made it out to Wading Bird Way, we could see faint shadows of birds on the trail, but we had to get pretty close before we could identify them. There were tons of little Savannah Sparrows out this morning, both on the Eagle Roost trail and along Wading Bird Way.  I got down …
  • March Photo Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    March Photo Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Today my dad and I led the final spring photo walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We had a very foggy morning, and due to the closing of the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, we took the group on the Alligator Alley trail.  Between the fog and the reduced number of birds along Alligator Alley, I was worried that this would not be a very successful walk.  However, it turned out to be one of our most productive! We had a terrific group of people, from binocular birders to point-and-shooters to DSLR beginners.  Thanks to everybody who came and participated.  I hope you had as good of a time as we did. We headed down the Shady Oak trail down to Lake Hancock, where the Alligator Alley trail begins.  (Ironically, the trail named after alligators remains open as the gator nesting season begins.)  We had barely stepped on the trail, and my dad mentioned that we should watch for Black-Crowned Night Herons.  Two steps later, somebody pointed out a Black-Crowned Night Heron sitting down at the water’s edge!  How lucky was that?  I didn’t get a picture, but it was fun to share that somewhat elusive bird. I stayed back …
  • Sunset Bobcat at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sunset Bobcat at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I went over to the Circle B Bar Reserve after work today to catch the sunset.  The good news?  I saw the bobcat for the first time ever!!  The bad news?  The Marsh Rabbit Run trail is now closed because the alligators are very active.  There’s a freaky sequence of pictures on the Circle B Flickr site showing a heron stealing a baby alligator and the mother gator following the heron up onto the trail.  While the trail closing is the safe thing to do, it’s disappointing for those of us who have come to love the preserve.  It’s probable that the Alligator Alley trail will close as well.  :( I arrived at the reserve around 4:30, heading up Heron Hideout with hopes of photographing the Sandhill Crane nest.  (Hopefully the cranes will bring the babies away from the closed trails.)   I ran into a small group of people that appeared to be staring out into an empty marsh.  Then they showed me the bobcat lurking fairly close to the trail! Not unlike our contrary housecats, this guy didn’t want to be photographed.  He stayed behind the bushes, poking his head up only occasionally.  I did get some good butt …
  • Frogs and Snakes for Breakfast at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Frogs and Snakes for Breakfast at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I spent my off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I arrived at 6:30, about 20 minutes before sunrise.  I hiked down to Lake Hancock and was on the dock for the sunrise.  It was pretty cloudy this morning, so the sun was a little late peeking out from behind the clouds.  It was pretty though.  I spent some time photographing birds flying over the lake, then hiked the Alligator Alley trail.  Then I went up Marsh Rabbit Run and up Wading Bird Way before retracing my steps back to Heron Hideout.  It was cloudy and breezy and just a great morning to be outside! I tried some HDR with my sunrise shots, but I didn’t like any of the results.  The HDR created unnatural edges around the edges of the sun and clouds.  Usually I leave my over-the-shoulder camera set to bracket exposures +/-2 EV stops when I have my wide angle lens on.  I’ve found that sometimes 2 stops isn’t enough for good HDR images with images with lots of glow, so today I tried 7 images, metered at 2/3 stops.  Even that didn’t give me good HDR results today, though. :-p So here’s a Great Blue …
  • Turtle!

    Turtle!

    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…
  • February Photo Walk at Circle B Bar Reserve

    February Photo Walk at Circle B Bar Reserve

    This morning my dad and I led another Photo Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Circle B asked us to lead people around the preserve, showing them the best trails and places to find birds. Today we had about ten or so people meet us at 8:00 (remember, photographers have to be up early to catch the early birds getting their worms!) We walked the Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run trails, picking up a couple of extra people in our group as we went along. Then a few of the group continued with us along Wading Bird Way out to the Eagle Roost, where we observed the nest and caught a glimpse of the several-week-old eaglet. It was a pretty good morning and we saw some fun birds! I actually got the preserve right around sunrise, and I walked up Heron Hideout before meeting up with the group. A small flock of White-Crowned Sparrows posed most obligingly for me in the bushes along the trail. There were three or four juveniles. I didn’t see the adults today. Juvenile White-Crowned Sparrows have brown stripes on their heads instead of the bright black stripes of the adult. However, these little …
  • You Know it’s Springtime at Circle B Bar Reserve if…

    You Know it’s Springtime at Circle B Bar Reserve if…

    You know it’s springtime at Circle B Bar Reserve if you see the following: Trees are getting their leaves back Sandhill Cranes start sitting on nests! Baby eagles peek out to say hello People flock to the marsh to enjoy the warm weather The ducks head back home — see you next year! The birds start sporting their breeding colors Earlier sunrises! Male cardinals sing for their “wives! wives! wives!” Turtles come out to sun themselves, relieved that the cold winter winds have passed Marsh rabbits and otters frolic along the trails Dyeyo and I hiked the following trails today: Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, Wading Bird Way, and the Eagle’s Roost. We did not see the baby eagle — both parents were sitting near the nest, but the baby must have been asleep. But we did see two White-Crowned Sparrows, an unusally obliging Gray Catbird, and an American Bittern that posed for all to photograph! The sunrise this morning was at 7:06am. People ask me how I can get up so early every weekend. But it’s easy — the world is magical at dawn. A huge flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds can usually be found off Heron Hideout in the …
  • Circle B Bar Reserve Woodpecker

    Circle B Bar Reserve Woodpecker

    I forgot to post a video that I took yesterday at the Circle B Bar Reserve. There is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that lives in a dead tree at the “Four Corners” intersection. He often poses, showing off his bright red feathers in the sunshine. Yesterday he was working on his cavity, drilling away at it. I hope he’s thinking about having a brood of babies to fill it! It’s a very photographable location. Unfortunately the birds don’t always take the photographers’ opinions into account when they create their nests…
  • Finally!  I Photographed a Painted Bunting at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    Finally! I Photographed a Painted Bunting at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    I had a nice walk this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It’s always great to go there to unwind after a long week. This morning I hiked the Alligator Alley trail in search of small birds, then I walked up Marsh Rabbit Run and up Wading Bird Way around to the Eagle Roost trail, where I observed the eagle’s nest. So the big question of the day…is there one baby in that nest or are there two? I didn’t quite get to the lake before sunrise. The sun was already peaking up over the trees as I approached the lake. I stopped and took a bracketed set of panorama exposures. When I got home, I combined the bracketed exposures using HDR, then stitched each image together into a panorama. Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve! I walked slowly along the Alligator Alley trail, stopping often to observe the little birds flitting from tree to tree. I was very happy to quickly come across another Orange-Crowned Warbler. It was just two weeks ago that I saw this bird for the first time, and it’s still exciting to find one! The warblers are starting to get their spring colors. …
  • Spring is in the Air at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Spring is in the Air at the Circle B Bar Reserve

      It’s amazing how different a place can look after two weeks.  The weather kept me from Circle B last weekend, and I think it’s driven a lot of the birds away too.  The ponds that used to be covered in American Coots and American Wigeons were virtually empty.  Not an American White Pelican did we see.  I counted a lone Wood Stork.  Only the Sandhill Cranes roosted as usual, but they had to move to higher ground.  All the recent rains have refilled the dry pond beds – Circle B looks like a marsh again!   Robins greeted us high in trees above the parking lot as we arrived.  I heard lots of American Goldfinches as well.  As we turned onto Heron Hideout, the American Kestrel was on a dead palm on the west side of the trail.  Blue-Winged Teals have already moved into the new ponds.  I love photographing on Heron Hideout at dawn.  The water is usually still and the sun angle is perfect for awesome reflections.  I know Blue-Winged Teals are common, but they are so pretty. There is a dead tree at the "Four Corners" intersection that houses a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and his family.  I’ve …
  • Blue-Headed Vireo at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Blue-Headed Vireo at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Ever since Cole Fredericks, a noted birdwatcher in Central Florida, commented in the Circle B Flickr species list discussion that the list was missing Orange-Crowned Warblers and Blue-Headed Vireos, I’ve been on the lookout for those birds. Last week I got the Orange-Crowned Warbler. I’ve gone up and down Alligator Alley several times in search of the vireo, but not seen it. So imagine my surprise when I flipped through my Lightroom catalog last night and saw a Blue-Headed Vireo! I took his picture on January 7, 2011, in the tall trees at the start of Heron Hideout (coming from the parking lot). I remember Herman and I paused to photograph some American Goldfinches, and I thought this bird was a White-Eyed Vireo. Now that I look closer, the face is nothing like a White-Eyed Vireo!
  • History of a Pelican

    History of a Pelican

    A few weeks ago, I took a short video of a group of American White Pelicans feeding at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I thought it was cool because you could see them tossing fish in their mouths, and see the fish bulging out of their pouches as they ate. When I got home, I noticed that at least one (maybe two?) of the birds had green markings on their wings.  At first I was annoyed that more birds had gotten into trash at Circle B, then I realized that this was no trash.  It was a wing tag marking used to identify birds.  All of a sudden that made sense – how many people get close enough to birds like pelicans to read a little number on a band around their leg?  Of course a wing tag is easier to read!  So I reported my sighting of the bird to the Bird Banding Laboratory.  They relay the information of the sighting to the original bander, who can tell you where the bird was first banded, as well as any additional sightings.   This morning I got an email back from the biologist who first banded my pelican.  Here’s what he …
  • My First Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    My First Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    It was an incredibly foggy morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I could barely make out the car in front of me as I drove in. But it turned out to be a great day for little birds. We saw a ton of warblers: Orange-Crowned, Black-and-White, Palm, Prairie, Yellow-Throated, Yellow-Rumped, Common Yellowthroat, and several Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Overall I saw over 50 species, not bad for a foggy day!! Dyeyo and I arrived before sunrise, as usual, but it was clear that the fog was not going to lift quickly for pictures. So we took a side trip up to the Lost Bridge Trail, which we haven’t walked in a long time. We were curious to see which birds were there at this time of year, and if it would be a good place to take one of our Saturday photo hikes. Thirteen Wild Turkeys, two baby hogs, and the sounds of American Goldfinches were the main highlights. I don’t think the birds had woken up yet — it was still really dark from the fog. We then took the Alligator Alley trail down to the lake. As we passed the nature center eagle nest, Dyeyo joked that we should …
  • Hoodies at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    Hoodies at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    Dyeyo and I were at the Circle B Bar Reserve at dawn this morning. It was a bit chilly at first, but it felt so great to be outside! The fog obscured the sunrise a bit, which turned out to be good, since I got this picture as a result: We hiked the Heron Hideout trail, then took Marsh Rabbit Run out to Wading Bird Way. There were tons of people there, most carrying fancy cameras with white lenses. It’s always fun to catch up on the latest nature happenings, and luckily, the birds at Circle B don’t seem to mind the crowds! I was also excited to see that the rains last week have left some water in the dried-up ponds on Heron Hideout. I think we’re supposed to get more rain next week, which will be a really good thing for the reserve and birds (and for the photographers…) Somebody whispered to us that there were Hooded Mergansers on the southern portion of Heron Hideout. We’ve never seen Hoodies at Circle B before, so we were excited to see this pair of females diving along parallel to the trail, not too far out. The water was still enough …
  • Lions and Bitterns and Rails, Oh My!   Circle B Bar Reserve Never Disappoints

    Lions and Bitterns and Rails, Oh My! Circle B Bar Reserve Never Disappoints

    A group of photographers met at the Circle B Bar Reserve for sunrise this morning. We had a blast. Circle B really is a photographer’s playground at this time of year! Dyeyo and I parked at the parking lot at the Circle B entrance, then took the Windmill Whisper trail out to Wading Bird Way. The southern half of Wading Bird Way is my second favorite sunrise spot in the reserve (Lake Hancock is my favorite). I took several bracketed shots as the sun began to peek over the horizon, and this one with the flocks of birds flying over the marsh was my favorite. There were not as many American White Pelicans out on the water as the last time Dyeyo and I went for sunrise. The small group of birds that were there today were in no hurry to fly off at sunrise. So I turned my attention to the birds that were showing off: the Ring-Billed Gulls and the American Coots. I liked the pale pink water in the two shots above, produced by the reflection of the pre-sunrise sky. We don’t normally take many pictures of the common American Coots…but if they are showing off, and …
  • The Bird Paparazzi Grows at Circle B Bar Reserve

    The Bird Paparazzi Grows at Circle B Bar Reserve

    There were TONS of people at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning! Despite the chilly and breezy weather, over a hundred birders were out to enjoy the morning. Dyeyo and I decided to hike along Alligator Alley to look for Orange-Crowned Warblers and Blue-Headed Vireos. We hoped for a nice sunrise over the lake, too, but it was so overcast that the sun stayed behind the clouds for a really long time. The sun started to come up as we headed up Alligator Alley. The trail was pretty in the morning light. The birds didn’t seem to be out of bed yet. Usually we see plenty of little birds in the trees along that trail, and today there weren’t many. This HDR image is one of my favorite places along Alligator Alley, where I had fun taking pictures of Snowy Egrets fishing this summer. Often I could find a Marsh Rabbit lurking in the bushes near the bench. I spotted an Osprey in a tree above my head. I had the 400mm lens with me with no tripod, and I missed the tripod’s stability as I waited for the Osprey to fly. He seemed to be thinking about it….thinking…thinking…and …
  • Circle B Sunset in HDR Panorama

    Circle B Sunset in HDR Panorama

    Last Saturday’s sunset at Circle B was so colorful! I took bracketed exposures for HDR, then after I created the HDR images, I stitched them together into a panorama using Photoshop.  Now I have a “virtual window” for my cubicle…
  • King Rail at Sunset at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    King Rail at Sunset at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I saw my first-ever King Rail at the Circle B Reserve tonight. I went for a sunset walk before the Lake Region Audubon Society meeting, where Fred Bassett gave an excellent talk about hummingbirds that winter in Florida. There were plenty of people out to enjoy the sunset, including a nice couple of saw me watching the rail and then asked, “Are there any bitterns around? That would be a lifer for me!” So Bill and I showed her where one of the Marsh Rabbit Run bitterns was posing not fifty feet away. Isn’t Circle B great!? I definitely prefer Circle B at sunrise, when the birds seem to be more active. In the afternoon I don’t seem to see as many birds, and I don’t like the light angles as much. Maybe that’s because I’m used to the morning light, who knows? I saw the King Rail as I turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run. It was on the north side of the trail, not far from the Heron Hideout intersection. It posed for a minute or so before it noticed me and then dove back into the vegetation. Was it something I said? I had some issues focusing with …
  • Bittern-ly Chilly Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Bittern-ly Chilly Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Bitterns were the highlight this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I arrived at sunrise, and the cloudcover was much greater than the weatherman’s “Mostly Sunny” forecast. The sun shone on the landscape for about fifteen minutes, then it went behind clouds for most of the “golden light hour.” I didn’t hike as much as usual, opting instead to stalk specific birds, especially the Sora on Heron Hideout and the American Bitterns on Marsh Rabbit Run. I enjoyed meeting Jim and Kathy Urbach and Michael Libbe — it’s fun to put Flickr usernames with faces when you meet people at Circle B! Jim has a 500mm lens like mine and we had a blast photographing a particularly cooperative bittern. I arrived around 7:15, just minutes before the sunrise. Usually I try to get there a little earlier, but it is a 1 hour drive from Orlando! :-p My jaw dropped in surprise on the Heron Hideout trail, where a huge flock of blackbirds had congregated right on the trail. They were all females and/or juveniles (striped brown birds, not the male black birds with red spots on their wings). Just as I saw them, a jogger ran down the …
  • Another Great Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Another Great Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I tried something a little different this morning.  We arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve about fifteen minutes before sunrise, and we parked in the lot right at the entrance to the reserve.  Then we hiked out to Wading Bird Way on the Windmill Whisper trail.  We got to the crossroads right at sunrise. I enjoy doing HDR at sunrise because of all the varying tones.  The skies are light, with bright patches around the sunrise.  The ground is dark, especially the immediate foreground.  I use Photoshop to combine +/-2 stop exposures into a single image, then I use Curves to adjust the light tones.  Usually I end up adding a bit of light in the mid-tone region to make the images “pop” (to me they feel a bit 3-D). I really enjoy photographing the sunrise over Lake Hancock, where the water seems to make the sunrise color more brilliant.  I wanted to get the same effect looking out over the marsh.  The marsh is covered in fog most mornings now, and it was beautiful. Dyeyo and I have noted a smaller population of American White Pelicans roosting on Wading Bird Way in the mid-mornings in the …
  • Circle B Bar Reserve: the Photographer’s Playground!

    Circle B Bar Reserve: the Photographer’s Playground!

    My dad and I had a great time this morning doing a “photo hike” at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We’d like to say thanks to the dozen or so brave people who came out early at 8:00 and braved the winds to see the birds.  We enjoyed the time, and we hope that everybody else did too.  Our group ranged in age from about 8 (hi Savannah!) to retirement age (people who rubbed in that they can bird all day, every day — lucky!)  We had some people with DSLRs, some with point-and-shoots, and one with just her eyes.  The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks put on a good show for us, flying in circles over our heads again and again.  The American White Pelicans were not as numerous as in the past few weeks, but they still cover the skies.  Wood Storks covered the trees, making them look like “Birdie Christmas Trees”.  I think the favorite shot of the day may have gone to the baby alligator sunning himself not too far off the trail! Our hike took us out Heron Hideout, past the “Four Corners” for panorama shots of the Wood Storks in the trees across the marsh, and …
  • Sunrise over Lake Hancock at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sunrise over Lake Hancock at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    We scheduled this morning’s photo hike to start at 8, recognizing that that was early for most people.  But for me, that’s late!  I arrived at Circle B at around 6:45 and hiked down to the lake to meet the sunrise.  I was happy to see that the lake wasn’t all stinky with decaying fish (I was concerned that there was a fish kill with last week’s cold weather.) As I passed the eagle’s nest next to the nature center, I saw both birds in a tree near the nest.  There’s nobody incubating on that nest yet! Yesterday I had noted that there were fewer pelicans out on Wading Bird Way, and I wondered if they were at the lake.  In the early mornings you see the pelicans flying in the direction of the lake.  Well, that’s where the birds were!  A Belted Kingfisher made his voice heard over the swishing sound of the pelican wings overhead. When I arrived at the dock, which is a great vantage point for seeing the sunrise, I happened upon this Great Blue Heron sitting on the dock railing.  I quickly backed up and got a few silhouette shots.  I turned on the flash …
  • Tips for Photographing Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Tips for Photographing Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Join Us for a Nature Hike at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  Bring your DSLR, your point-and-shoot, or just yourself, and join us for a morning’s walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve. My dad and I will share some of our favorite birding locations and photography tips. Meet outside the Nature Discovery Center on Saturday, January 8, at 8:00am so that we catch the early birds! All ages and skill levels welcome. Sign up at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Don’t forget to check out some of our Circle B photography by clicking the Circle B Bar Reserve and Dyeyo’s Pictures links. In conjunction with the photo walk that my dad and I are conducting at the Circle B Bar Reserve today, I thought I would jot down some thoughts about photographing at the reserve.  Maybe they will be of some use to people visiting the reserve for the first time. Be quiet and be patient. The birds at Circle B are used to people walking on the trails, and some are fairly tolerant of people.  Others will fly as soon as they see you.  Be quiet, so that you don’t scare them.  You have to be patient, too.  …
  • Bitterns Saying Hello at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Bitterns Saying Hello at Circle B Bar Reserve

    I headed to the Circle B Bar Reserve on my off-Friday determined to remember to check the eagle’s nest next to the Nature Center.  I always seem to forget to walk over and check it on my way out! As I arrived at the nest, I saw one Bald Eagle sitting on it.  Another eagle was perched in a nearby tree.  I got a few shots before the bird on the nest flew off to join the bird on the tree.  I had been hoping that the nest-sitting indicated that the bird was on eggs, but he wouldn’t have flown away if that were the case.  I ran into Herman as I watched the nest, and he showed me a better vantage point for the morning light.  Herman said that this pair of eagles has not been very successful in raising young over the last few years, and this is the latest that they have ever started a clutch.  (But eagle nesting can go into March.)  Herman also pointed out that this bird is sitting high on the nest.  If he were on eggs, he’d be lower in the nest, with just his head visible.  Good to know! I had …
  • A Circle B HDR Example

    A Circle B HDR Example

    I’ve been enjoying have the HDR capabilities of Photoshop CS5.  I’m no expert in HDR, and I’m learning how to adjust the controls so that the pictures look good.  I don’t try for the over-the-top color effects of some HDR photos, but instead just enjoy the additional dynamic range and color tones that make my pictures “pop.”  Here’s an HDR that I took a week or so ago at Circle B, on one of the mornings when it was so cold out and the world was covered in frost.  The sky was so blue that morning because the air was so clear after the front moved through. Following are the three images that I used to create the HDR.  I bracketed the three exposures at +/- 2 stops using AV mode.  (I usually turn on bracketing and continuous shooting, then hand-hold the camera and allow Photoshop to align the images to account for the tiny differences between frames.) The HDR combines the three images, restoring detail in the sky and the bright frost.   The HDR image isn’t all that different from the base exposure, but it has more depth to it and it’s much crisper.
  • Lots of People Enjoying the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Lots of People Enjoying the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Lots of people decided say goodbye to 2010 with a visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I’ve never seen so many people there in a morning.  It was fun to finally meet Herman and a bunch of people from the Circle B Flickr group. I took “The Beast” and had a fun time getting used to my new focal length.  I can now photograph and identify birds that I can barely see with my naked eye, which makes it easier to peer out into the marshes and find birds like the American Wigeons and the Gadwalls (which were right where Cole pointed out — thanks!!)  We looked for American Pipits, too, but didn’t see any.  Maybe next time. One of the first birds we saw as we walked up Heron Hideout was this Killdeer.  Dyeyo is still on a quest for good Killdeer pictures, so this guy was very close to the trail.  I think it’s one of my better Killdeer shots.   I enjoy watching these birds forage, then take off shrieking when they see people approaching. Jeff and his wife pointed out an American Bittern that was sitting still, right next to the trail.  He was on the …
  • Frosty Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Frosty Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    It was probably not a good morning to be a bird at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The temperature was around 28 when I arrived at 7:30 in the morning.  The ground was covered in frost.  Skies normally covered in American White Pelicans were empty.  But it was pretty in an eerie way, and by mid-morning, the frost was gone and the birds were back. I enjoyed experimenting with HDR shots this morning.  It was very foggy, and at times you could not even see the horizon for the fog.  I knew that I either needed to pull out the split neutral density filter for some pictures, or use HDR.  HDR was more fun. :) The frost was thick on the vegetation on both sides of the trail.  It was sad and pretty all at the same time.  Gone are the gorgeous yellow flowers that covered the marshes a month ago!  Many of the pools along Heron Hideout have dried up because of our lack of rain.  The black mud stands out against the rest of the colors of the marsh. Very few birds were in the water when I arrived.  Maybe the birdbrains are a little smarter than I …
  • A Circle B Christmas

    A Circle B Christmas

    Santa arrived early at the Circle B Bar Reserve today, bringing  plenty of insects and nuts for the birds for Christmas.  His reindeer are not fond of Florida weather, so the American White Pelicans volunteered to help him fly his sleigh! Santa cartoon courtesy of  Microsoft Office Clipart
  • Skies Full of American White Pelicans at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Skies Full of American White Pelicans at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The skies of the Circle B Bar Reserve were covered in American White Pelicans this morning.  We arrived at sunrise and stayed till about 11:30.  During that whole time, wave after wave of pelicans flew in.  They must be powered by Energizer…they just keep coming, and coming, and coming! This morning we walked up Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, Wading Bird Way, then doubled back and took the Shady Oak trail out to the lake.  I shot several panoramas, but I am being lazy and waiting for “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop” to create the panoramas.  Lightroom + Photoshop CS5 is much more efficient than Lightroom + Photoshop Elements. :) The marshes were full of roosting birds at sunrise.  We moved quickly to the south end of Heron Hideout (beyond Marsh Rabbit Run) to see hundreds of Wood Storks and Sandhill Cranes sleeping in a group.  They almost reminded me of the pelicans — there were that many birds! There’s one tree in particular that I enjoy photographing.  It’s often covered in birds.  I call it my “Circle B Christmas Tree” — the birds remind me of ornaments on a Christmas tree. As we headed up Marsh Rabbit Run, I …
  • Beautiful Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Beautiful Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    It was a gorgeous morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We arrived at 7:00, just before sunrise, and the birds put on an amazing wake-up show.  The hundreds of Wood Storks and Sand Hill Cranes that roost in the marsh overnight all woke up and flew away, nicely illuminated by the rising sun.  They shared the skies with hundreds of American White Pelicans, flying towards their roosting site on Wading Bird Way.  I was annoyed that I hadn’t taken my second camera body — I was changing lenses constantly as I went from birdie close-ups with the 400mm to wider-angle landscape panoramas with the 70-200. The first bird we saw was a juvenile Wood Stork, who flew over the foggy marsh with some nesting material in tow.  He landed in a tree, where his stick seemed to get caught in the branches of the tree.  He finally yanked his branch free and flew off.  I wish the sun had been up a bit higher in order to get a sharper picture.  This was right before the sunrise, and the marsh was very foggy. Dozens of Sandhill Cranes that roosted in the marsh overnight took to the skies, honking like …
  • Circle B Sunset Cranes

    Circle B Sunset Cranes

    On Thursday afternoon I took two fun pictures at Circle B: one of Sandhill Cranes flying against the sunset sky, and another of the sunset landscape.  Then I combined the two pictures in Photoshop Elements.  I think the composition is fun…as long as I admit to the Photoshopping! Here are the two original images:
  • What’s Going On Up There?

    What’s Going On Up There?

    There were plenty of birds in the skies this afternoon at the Circle B Bar Reserve! I got there around 3:30 and hiked Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, and Wading Bird Way.  The American White Pelicans are back and roosting on the water at Wading Bird Way!  Yay! When I first arrived, the skies above the parking lot were filled with Turkey Vultures.  There had to have been at least fifty swooping in the wind.  They were actually quite pretty as the sun caught their wings and made them glisten.  This was my favorite picture, because of the wings, although I wish the bird had turned his head towards me at the same time. The bushes on the edges of the paths have died back, due to the recent cold weather.  It makes it easier to spot the little birds hopping around in the brush.  The Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers stand out nicely with their gray feathers against the brown bushes.  They are so small, fast, and friendly — I’ve actually had to attach an extension tube because the birds got so close that they were within my minimum focusing distance on my 400mm lens.  I enjoyed watching this guy fluttering around, …
  • Cranes and Pelicans and a Circle B Sunset

    Cranes and Pelicans and a Circle B Sunset

    Dyeyo and I went for a quick walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve this afternoon. I’ve been wanting to photograph one of our spectacular golden sunsets that we’ve been having lately, but tonight’s wasn’t like that. It was pretty, though. I waited for the sun to start going behind a cloud, then took this picture. I should have added a split neutral density filter. So I used Lightroom to adjust the exposure of the foreground. I can’t wait for Photoshop and Merge to HDR… This evening we walked Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run out to see the sunset over Wading Bird Way. We saw Killdeer in the dried-up beds at the beginning of Heron Hideout. Dyeyo spotted them — he has good eyes! They blended in so well with the vegetation that I stared at one for about a minute before I really saw him. We saw (and heard!) several more Killdeer as we walked. My favorite pictures were a couple of flight shots, which I merged together in Photoshop. They are all the same bird, who turned a few times as he flew towards me. I tried to capture that feeling of motion as I positioned the …
  • Sunny Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sunny Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    My in-laws are visiting this weekend, and Rich and I took them for a walk to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. We were welcomed by some Killdeer on the Heron Hideout trail. This is my first sharp Killdeer picture, and I was excited to get it. :) A hawk was watching us from the “treasure tree” as we headed up Heron Hideout. We had fun watching an alligator as we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run. This Pied-Billed Grebe swam close (but not too close) to the gator. There were tons of Blue-Winged Teals out today. I liked the blue and green feather patches shown in this picture: I was excited to see Ring-Necked Ducks out on Wading Bird Way. I also saw my first Northern Harrier flying over the marsh, and a flock of Least Sandpipers said goodbye as we left. Species list: Anhinga, American Coot, American Goldfinch, Belted Kingfisher, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Black Vulture, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-Winged Teal, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Common Moorhen, Double-Crested Cormorant, Eastern Phoebe, Glossy Ibis, Gray Catbird, Great Blue Heron, Greater Yellowlegs, House Wren, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Lesser Scaup, Limpkin, Little Blue Heron, Mottled Duck,Northern Harrier, Osprey, Palm Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Red-Bellied …
  • Chased by an Otter at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Chased by an Otter at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I’ve been called the Birdie Paparazzi. But today I was the one being followed! An otter came bounding up the path after me at least twice. He was cute! This morning I decided to hike Alligator Alley, since it was foggy and I felt like taking sunrise pictures. It’s also been a while since I’ve walked that way and I wanted to see what birds are around these days. The sunrise was gorgeous. I got to the dock just after the sun came over the horizon. I was told that if I’d been there half an hour earlier, I would have seen thousands of birds taking off in the early morning glow. I’ll have to remember that! I spent about an hour on the dock, photographing the birds flying by as the sun came up. The light was very bright and the birds were quite backlit. One of these days I’ll have to head to the lake at sunset. A lone Brown Pelican was out fishing for his breakfast. I caught him diving for fish a couple of times. He was pretty stubborn and always seemed to swim with his head in the shade instead of the sun… But bright …
  • Do Coots get Cooties?

    Do Coots get Cooties?

    I had some fun pictures of the American Coots at the Circle B Bar Reserve this Sunday. So here’s a special coot-only post… I caught the coot below flapping his wings as he reached into the water for a breakfast bite. Look at those big white feet! I always have to laugh when I see coots’ feet. Too bad the plant on the water surface hides the reflection of the eye in the water… I really enjoy trying to photograph the coots as they run across the water surface. A single duck will startle and take off, and then the rest of the flock usually follows, one by one. It’s hard to frame them in the viewfinder (they move really fast!) and hard to get sharp focus on the bird. I liked the legs in the picture below, clearly showing the run. Finally — a duck ran toward me instead of away from me! That’s unusual… This coot was taking a bath around mid-morning. He was having a great time splashing around in the water. Having a nice high frame rate on the camera sure helps with these action shots. :)
  • Skies Filled with Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Skies Filled with Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I found the birds! Last Monday I was disappointed to visit the Circle B Bar Reserve and find practically no birds in the skies. Today was quite the opposite! The morning was cool and bright — a nice change from yesterday’s cloudy gloom! I walked out on Heron Hideout and immediately saw my first flock of American Robins for the season. (I thought I heard them a few weeks ago, but I never saw them to confirm.) I also heard American Goldfinches all over the marsh today, and saw a couple pass over me in flight. They are my favorite wintertime bird. :) I hiked Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, and portions of Wading Bird Way this morning. At the intersection of Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run, I saw this Black-Bellied Whistling Duck. It intrigued me because it was very close to the path, which is a bit unusual. He called to other ducks who were farther out into the marsh. Each time he called, he got many many whistles in response. It was fun to watch. The Wood Storks were flying overhead all morning. They roost in the trees behind Marsh Rabbit Run overnight, then fly out to …
  • Where are all the birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve?

    Where are all the birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve?

    Relatively speaking, there were very few birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. Usually we are greeted by flocks of White Ibis and Wood Storks flying over Heron Hideout. We see Osprey and various wading birds flying overhead. Lately a bunch of Roseate Spoonbills have been filling the marshes with pink. Today there were very few birds in the skies. A couple of the regulars were there — like the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks — but not nearly as many as usual. All the birdwatchers were asking each other, “Where is everybody?” I’m not sure if the birds are leaving the marsh because it is so dry, or if there is another explanation for their absence… This morning we hiked Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, and Wading Bird Way. As we walked out into the marsh at sunrise, we were amazed by the numbers of Red-Winged Blackbirds that were congregating in the trees. There must have been hundreds, maybe even thousands, all squawking their heads off. The first “big bird” to greet us was this Great Blue Heron, perched uncharacteristically in the top of a twiggy tree. Usually they perch lower in the branches and blend in well. This …
  • Seeing is Believing: There Really are Otters at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    Seeing is Believing: There Really are Otters at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    I’ve been going to the Circle B Bar Reserve at least once a week since June, and plenty of times before that, and I’ve never seen a River Otter. Dyeyo’s seen them plenty of times. Well, I finally got to see one today! There were otters running up and down Marsh Rabbit Run all morning. The best photo ops were when they surfaced with fish. Then we heard lots of crunching! We got to Circle B at 6:30 in hopes of a bright sunrise with some nice clouds. But it was really foggy instead. The normal birds were flying overhead as they left the marsh to seek their breakfast: Wood Storks, White Ibises, and the first Brown Pelicans of the season! Then the first rays of sun came through and illuminated the birds roosting in the marsh, making a beautiful contrast to the foggy background. At the intersection between Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run, an Eastern Phoebe posed high in a tree. All of a sudden, he darted out, grabbed a dragonfly, then returned to his perch to eat it. On a neighboring tree, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker was digging into a small hole. After a minute or so, he …
  • What’s so Great about Morning Light?

    What’s so Great about Morning Light?

    I’ve had some people asking me why I get up at the crack of dawn to go to Circle B. The answer is “to get there during the great morning light.” So what’s so great about morning light? Compare and contrast the following two pictures. Both feature a Greater Yellowlegs, taken yesterday morning on Heron Hideout, from the same angle. One was taken around 7 in the morning (sunrise was 6:47), and one was taken around 10 as I was leaving the reserve. See the difference? The picture taken in the bright glow of sunrise has a warmth and golden cast to it. The picture taken at mid-morning still shows a fun bird and a great reflection, but the color of the light is colder.
  • More Winter Birds Have Arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    More Winter Birds Have Arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I spent my off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I heard my first American Goldfinch of the season! I never saw it, but the call is unmistakable. Heron Hideout is definitely a great place to be at sunrise these days. The water levels in the marsh are extremely low, so the birds congregate on the right side of the trail, right in the great morning light. This morning there were at least one hundred birds, including five or six Roseate Spoonbills, and my first-of-season Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs. :) I had to dial in negative exposure compensation for the bright birds and the heavy sunlight reflections. The result was a dark portrait with a nicely illuminated bird. I also used a bit of fill flash. A lone Wood Stork stood in the midst of the action. It can be hard to get good reflection shots. First you have to have the right lighting conditions for the reflection to be bright, and the water has to be still for the reflection to be mirror-like. That’s hard to do when the pond is being skimmed by hundreds of birds! So I was excited when I saw that I’d gotten …
  • MFC Spirit Photography Contest Entry

    MFC Spirit Photography Contest Entry

    Our MFC Spirit magazine at work is having another photography contest and so I am entering a picture of the famous Circle B Sandhill Crane colt. I’m posting it here so that I can download it easily at work…
  • Windy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Windy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Hundreds of White Ibis took to the air this morning over the Circle B Bar Reserve. The cold and the wind kept most of the birds under cover, but the White Ibises seemed to know how to navigate despite the gusts. On Heron Hideout, the marsh on the left is completely dry, and it seems surreal. We need a good rain to get the water level back to normal. I spied a couple of small birds running around over the dry land, and took a couple of very bad pictures (looking straight into the rising sun). The birds were Killdeer, a species I’ve never seen before at Circle B (although they are pretty common.) We were happy to see the baby Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks again, at the intersection of Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run. As usual, the parents had the babies tucked away in the vegetation. I guess they are not really “babies” anymore, but “juveniles.” Birds grow up so quickly! The whistling ducks were the other birds who were not deterred by the winds. We saw several little Flight School circles, where parents and juveniles flew in circles, calling each other like crazy. There were little birds in …
  • Happy Hallo-wren at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Happy Hallo-wren at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Apparently the “Water, Wings, and Wild Things” event yesterday spooked a lot of the birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve…but the wrens stuck around and celebrated Halloween with us! The marshes were fairly quiet this morning, but there were plenty of little bids for patient photographers… We started off walking to the far end of Heron Hideout, where it turns into the Eagle Roost trail. Dyeyo had good luck there yesterday. We kept an eye out for the baby Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks that have been reported on Flickr, but we didn’t see them. I turned around and saw this Tricolored Heron fishing at one of the culverts. He didn’t mind when I snapped his picture. Hundreds of Anhingas and Double-Crested Cormorants flew overhead as they left their night roosting trees and took over off the marsh. Dyeyo and I had fun practicing our flight photography. This was my best shot: This Eastern Phoebe repeatedly called “Phoebe! Phoebe!” and perched on a nicely lit branch. We walked down Marsh Rabbit Run in search of the baby whistling ducks. About a third of the way down the trail we came across one of the dead trees that serves as a great …
  • Lots of Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Lots of Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    There were Eastern Phoebes everywhere at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. Plus a whole lot of other birds… After Al and several other people saw a Cuckoo during this past week, we headed out to see if we could find it too. Al also reports that the river otters are back along the Alligator Alley trail. So we headed out the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, circled back around the Eagle Roost, then hiked Alligator Alley, trying to cover as much ground as possible. Unfortunately we didn’t see either cuckoo or the otters, but we did see some surprises… This Sedge Wren greeted us on the Heron Hideout trail at sunrise. We’d never seen a Sedge Wren before. I was shooting handhold, and my picture isn’t super sharp, but it definitely documents our first sighting. :) We may have just missed seeing the bobcat eating a rabbit on Heron Hideout! As we walked along the Marsh Rabbit Run, we came across a tree with not one, but three Pileated Woodpeckers. Plus a couple of Downy Woodpeckers and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. Dyeyo would only have been happier if a Red-Headed Woodpecker had joined them. Luckily for us the tree was …
  • Bald Eagles and Teleconverter Magnification

    Bald Eagles and Teleconverter Magnification

    I’ve often wondered how the image quality would be if Dyeyo and I were to stack our teleconverters. I got the opportunity to do an experiment yesterday at the Circle B Bar Reserve. We had seen an adult Bald Eagle flying over the marsh several times, and it finally settled in a treetop all the way across the marsh. I used Live View to refine the focus on my tripod-mounted Canon 7D with 400mm lens. Then I added my 1.4x teleconverter, then I added Dyeyo’s as well. Here’s the result (all cropped, but to the same scale): I was pleasantly surprised by the image quality. Now if only I could turn my 400 f/5.6 lens into a 400 f/2.8 lens so that I could retain autofocus while magnifying…oh well… :)
  • The Coots have Returned to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The Coots have Returned to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Things are certainly picking up at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Besides seeing the first American Coots of the season, this morning we saw a juvenile Bald Eagle doing some nice close fly-bys, three Roseate Spoonbills, and plenty of Gray Catbirds and Eastern Phoebes. Last night when we left at sunset, we said good night to the Sand Hill Cranes, who were already on one leg and starting to fall asleep. Sure enough, they were still there this morning at sunrise. We suspect this is the family with “Dyeyo’s Baby“, although now it’s hard to distinguish the juvenile from the adults. (His red and white markings on his head are not quite as bright as his parents’…) This morning the cranes diverted us by doing a little dance in the middle of the marsh, causing the White and Glossy Ibises also feeding there to have to hop out of the way. One crane in particular seemed to take particular glee in splashing other birds…and in this picture, he reminds me of a ballet dancer…hop, hop, arabesque… Then somebody called out “Spoonbills” and suddenly all photographer attention was focused on two pink birds flying high overhead. They landed in the flock …
  • Our First Afternoon Visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Our First Afternoon Visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I made an unusual late-afternoon trip to the Circle B Bar Reserve today, hoping to get some fun sunset shots. It was strange to be there in the afternoon instead of the early morning. The differences in lighting almost made it feel like a totally new place. When we first got out to Heron Hideout, we were greeted by this Gray Catbird, who posed pretty on a nice high branch for us. We were hoping to see the tiny baby Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks posted on Flickr a few days ago. When we didn’t find them on Heron Hideout, we decided to head up Marsh Rabbit Run. We were pleased to find our set of three Indigo Buntings in their usual trees partway up the trail. Wouldn’t it be great if they hung around all winter and we got to see them turn blue in the spring? :) An Eastern Phoebe called to us from high in a tree. As we watched, he hopped down to a lower branch, grabbed something, then returned to his perch to eat it. We couldn’t figure out what exactly his dinner was, but he sure enjoyed it. (Next time, little guy, try to …
  • Fill Flash in the Outdoors

    Fill Flash in the Outdoors

    Somebody asked me this weekend why I bother to use flash outside. After all, the sun is up and there’s plenty of light, right? What I explained is that fill flash can be useful, even outside in bright sunlight. For one thing, bright sunlight tends to create harsh shadows, and a bit of fill flash can lighten those up. Flash can also illuminate a bird high in a tree:
  • Lots of Little Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Lots of Little Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    A month ago I was ecstatic to see a warbler at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Today I nonchalantly dismissed one as “just another Palm Warbler.” How quickly do the birding times change!! This morning’s hike took us up Heron Hideout and out Marsh Rabbit Run. We spent most the time chasing the little guys. Dyeyo was determined to get a good Common Yellowthroat shot, and the House Wrens teased us, showing themselves for a second and then diving into the weeds. This Savannah Sparrow made a quick appearance on Marsh Rabbit Run. I think he’s a Savannah Sparrow…he’s the first I’ve seen this season. They are usually out on the edge of Wading Bird Way. It’s not as common to see them along Marsh Rabbit Run. The sun obligingly illuminated this guy for me: With so many Palm Warblers around, it is easy to overlook other yellow-colored warblers. I didn’t realize that I’d seen this Prairie Warbler until I got home and saw my pictures. As we walked over one of the culverts on Heron Hideout, we saw the usual Tricolored Heron and Snowy Egret, plus this Glossy Ibis. I think this was the closest I’ve ever gotten to …
  • A Perfect Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    A Perfect Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The weather was cool, the sunrise was awesome, the birds were out, and there was a breeze! I couldn’t imagine a more perfect morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. There was a Tricolored Heron in his usual place, fishing where the water flows under the trail. He looked great in the morning light. The Palm Warblers are definitely back in full force! We enjoyed watching several of them hopping around on these plants with purple flowers. I’ve been seeing Wood Ducks in flight over Heron Hideout for the past few weeks. I wish I could find them when they are on the ground! We’ve never found where they hide. Lots of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers greeted us as we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run. They hopped around in the low bushes and posed for us nicely. I laughed so hard when I saw this shot: Then I saw this shot and got really excited. I’ve often compared gnatcatchers to hummers because of the way they flutter their wings and seem to hover in mid-air while they are hunting for insects. I’ve tried and tried to capture that moment, but they are so fast! I finally got it though… Then finally one …
  • The Whistler Flight School is pleased to announce the opening of Marsh Rabbit Run!!

    The Whistler Flight School is pleased to announce the opening of Marsh Rabbit Run!!

    Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve is magical. Maybe because two mornings are never alike. This morning, we were hiking on Heron Hideout when suddenly about twenty Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks took to the air around us. Calling back and forth to each other with their sweet distinctive whistle, the birds flew round and round over our heads. There were a few orange-beaked adults, but most of the crowd were juvenile birds with black bills. Dyeyo and I looked at each other, laughed, and decided that we had just witnessed a flying lesson! Nearby, a group of about ten babies whistled and cheered them on. Were they saying “good flight, big brother!” or maybe “Mama, mama, when can we do that!?” And so concluded a morning’s flying lesson at the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck Flight School! The light changes so quickly at sunrise. This sunrise picture was taken just 10 minutes or so after the one above. The Marsh Rabbit Run trail is now open!! We were excited to see that the alligators have cleared out of our favorite birding trail. Now the photographers can enjoy it again. :) Three Wood Ducks flew by just as we reached the Marsh Rabbit …
  • Circle B Migrants

    Circle B Migrants

    I felt like playing with Photoshop today, so I made another warbler and migrant bird collage. These little birds are usually high in the oak canopies, and it’s hard to get great pictures of them. They also hop around really fast. You come home with a stiff neck and then squint at your pictures, asking “is there really a bird in there?” So this is combination of a bunch of pictures from the last month, severely cropped. I think I have them all identified correctly, but they are the “confusing fall warblers”, so please tell me if you notice a mistake. Click on the image above for a higher-resolution version.
  • Quiet morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Quiet morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The sky was clear and the winds were northeast and there were not many migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. It was a bit cooler, though, and a walk through the marsh at dawn is always pleasant. Thankfully I didn’t see any alligators, either! I started out on Heron Hideout and checked for the little family of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. Actually there are several families, on both sides of the path. The ducklings from the family on the left have been losing their yellow-and-black cute baby feathers and molting into their juvenile plumage. Today I saw just one juvenile, with a parent, and as I watched they took to the air and flew away. Birds grow up so quickly! In the picture below, the adult has the bright orange beak, and the juvenile has the black beak. There were three Limpkins on Heron Hideout past Marsh Rabbit Run (still closed :(). The Limpkins at Circle B are usually fairly skittish, but I stood there quietly for a while and let them get used to me. Then they let me get closer and photograph them. One of the Limpkins must have thought he was a Sand Hill Crane, …
  • Activity Starting to Pick up at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Activity Starting to Pick up at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    I keep running into photographers at the Circle B Bar Reserve who complain that nothing is happening. They remember the thousands of pelicans and myriad of other species seen last November through April. There isn’t as much activity now, but there’s still plenty to photograph, especially if you know where to look! The plan this morning was to get to Circle B early enough to walk around to Wading Bird Way before sunrise. I had visions of sunrise pictures over the marsh. But then Dyeyo’s Sand Hill Crane family was out on Heron Hideout, and I dallied a little too long saying hello to the baby (now almost adult). So the sun was rising behind me as I hiked the Eagle Roost. I still got some fun sunrise pictures: Ten minutes later, I was out on Wading Bird Way, and the sun was already getting high in the sky. I set my lens to a high f-stop number to try to make the sun do the “star” effect. It did, and the reflection in the water was gorgeous. Small flocks of birds kept flying over my head, so I practiced my birds-in-flight photography. I was really excited to get the …
  • Quiet Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Quiet Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The Circle B Bar Reserve is my favorite place to be at dawn. The landscape is so beautiful with the sun just peeking out over it, and the critters all waking up to a new day. We were treated to an early-morning view of the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck family. They are usually not out until later in the day. It’s fun to watch how the adults take care of their brood together. It’s very rare to see a single Black-Bellied Whistling duck, and both parents are never far away from the babies. We (and several other photographers!) had some hopes that the Marsh Rabbit Run trail would be open today, but it wasn’t. The sign says that it will be closed until the end of September. :( Some of the Wood Storks have shifted their roost trees away from the lake to the marsh between Wading Bird Way and Heron Hideout. The Double-Crested Cormorants are roosting in the same trees. Two Belted Kingfishers chased each other up and down Heron Hideout as we watched. On Heron Hideout, past the Marsh Rabbit Run, we saw several baby Purple Gallinules (half-baby, half-juvenile plumage) darting around in the vegetation. I didn’t get a …
  • Is it possible for a bird to be too close to the photographer?

    Is it possible for a bird to be too close to the photographer?

    Yesterday at Circle B, Dyeyo and I said that it will be nice when we can go back on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, where the trees are not as tall and it is easier to get good pictures of warblers. Then Dyeyo teased that a warbler ought to hop down onto my camera lens and pose for him…and thereby inspired this Photoshop joke!
  • There are warblers at the Circle B Bar Reserve…if you know where to look!

    There are warblers at the Circle B Bar Reserve…if you know where to look!

    Dyeyo and I enjoyed a nice walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  It’s a time of year when finding birds is very hit-or-miss.   We felt like we hit the bull’s eye with several sightings of migrating warblers. We got to Circle B at sunrise, and as we admired the freshly mowed (and widened!) Shady Oak trail, the rising sun illuminated a flock of Wild Turkeys with great morning light.  These are turkeys that we usually see before there is enough light to really photograph them, so it was very exciting to finally get an opportunity. Then one of the turkeys did a full wing-shake and I managed to snap the shutter as he flapped!  Later, they did a little hop dance, which was pretty cute. At the beginning of the Alligator Alley trail, this White Ibis posed so pretty that I just had to stop and take his picture.  I don’t care how common a bird is, it’s fun to take their pictures!! There wasn’t much activity on the Alligator Alley trail.  We did see a Barred Owl flying around high in the branches of his usual tree (by the dock), but he was too high for …
  • Quiet Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Quiet Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Gotta love off-Fridays. I went to Circle B this morning to check on the fall migration status. It was a pretty quiet morning. Walking on Heron Hideout out towards Alligator Alley, I enjoyed watching some Glossy Ibises fly over. I got some decent flight shots. Next time I should turn on the fill flash. I saw more Double-Crested Cormorants than I have in months. Lots of them were doing fly-bys overhead, on Heron Hideout and on Wading Bird Way. Unfortunately I didn’t get a great picture. The Sandhill Crane family with “our” juvenile was honking out in the marshes. I was amused to see the “fall colors” in this image of an Anhinga sunning his wings. :) Since Marsh Rabbit Run is still closed, I hiked the Eagle Roost to get out to Wading Bird Way. I was pleasantly surprised to see several Eastern Meadowlarks back there. In the springtime there was a month or so when the pine trees were simply covered in meadowlarks. We haven’t seen many since then. The meadowlarks are pretty skittish, so it’s hard to get close for a good picture. This was my best shot from today. The Bald Eagles are definitely back to …
  • More Migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    More Migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    We were so excited by the migratory birds that we saw yesterday at the Circle B Bar Reserve that we just had to go back this morning. I was hoping to get better pictures of the migrating warblers, in non-foggy light.  But the marshes were very quiet this morning.  We saw two American Redstarts by the dock on Lake Hancock.  Those were the only warblers we saw all morning. Since the morning was still very cloudy, Dyeyo and I decided to walk the Alligator Alley trail, starting at the lake end.  We were hoping to make it around to the warbler-friendly trees at the intersection of Heron Hideout and Alligator Alley by the time the sunlight would be bright enough for lighting tiny birds. This juvenile Little Blue Heron watched me watching him by Lake Hancock.  I had to use some fill flash.  It’s fun to apply the techniques that I’m learning as I read Arthur Morris’s books on bird photography.  :) I stood for a few minutes watching the fly-bys over the lake.  I saw Osprey, Wood Storks, Laughing Gulls, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and a Black-Crowned Night Heron pass by.  I also saw a bunch of Caspian Terns, …
  • Migrants Making their Way to Circle B

    Migrants Making their Way to Circle B

    It was a cloudy, foggy, and humid morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  As we headed out Heron Hideout into more and more fog, we doubted that we would see much.  But it turned out to be our most productive species morning in several months.  The migratory birds are definitely making their way back to Circle B! We started out on Heron Hideout, where we basically observed fog.  It had just rained within the last few hours, and there were puddles everywhere. We arrived at sunrise, but there was no sun to be seen with such thick cloudcover and fog.  So we decided to avoid the mosquitoes of Alligator Alley and take the Eagle Roost over to Wading Bird Way. As always, the Common Moorhens were entertaining on Wading Bird Way.  We saw at least three generations of birds, with adults, early spring juveniles, and fairly young babies. I liked this juxtaposition image of the adult and an early spring juvenile: There was just one tiny baby, and it was swimming around a lot in open water, with just one older chick keeping an eye on it.  Earlier in the spring, there were dozens of babies, and the parents …
  • Black-Bellied Whistling Ducklings at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    Black-Bellied Whistling Ducklings at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

    Dyeyo and I spent another great morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve today.  We went with hopes of seeing some migratory warblers or wading birds.  Dyeyo did see a Northern Parula, but our major excitements today were the Yellow-Crowned Night Warbler and the baby Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks! The sunrise was slow this morning.  Dyeyo and I are used to getting to Circle B at 6:30 am, and these days, the sun is rising later and later.  There was also some cloudcover.  So we had hiked Heron Hideout and gotten around to the Eagle Roost before taking our first pictures. These Sand Hill Cranes were quite picturesque as they flew in front of the rising sun.  I wonder if Dyeyo’s baby was one of them? We saw two adult Bald Eagles sitting above the nest in the Eagle Roost.  They’re back for the winter! I’d been wanting to see the Wading Bird Way at sunrise, and today I got my wish. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve hiked around to Wading Bird Way.  It’s a long and hot walk around the Eagle Roost and/or Windmill Whisper and Shady Oak to get to Wading Bird Way right now, with Marsh …
  • Summer Birding Map – Circle B Bar Reserve

    Summer Birding Map – Circle B Bar Reserve

    I’ve been meaning to make a map of the best birding spots at the Circle B Bar Reserve. The best places vary with season, of course, so this is primarily a summertime map.   Click on the picture below for a bigger version. We’re really looking forward to the re-opening of the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, which is where we typically see the most birds.
  • Rainy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Rainy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Finally!  We got some rain!  Although it cut our morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve a little short, it also kept our hike cooler than usual.  And boy did we need the rain! The morning started out darker than usual, due to the cloudcover.  We took the Shady Oak trail and got all the way out to Lake Hancock before sunrise.  We were rewarded by a fun sunrise. I had read that if you stop down to a high f-number aperture and shoot the sun, you are more likely to get the beams of light radiating from the sun.  So I tried it…and it worked! :) We did not see the Barred Owls in their usual tree at the end of the dock.  As a matter of fact, we walked a long way before we even took our first pictures.  The rain yesterday and the cloudcover today kept the birds from their usual early-morning activity.  I stopped to look at an Osprey holding a fish, when Dyeyo noticed this Barred Owl standing right in front of us.  He flew to a nearby tree after we started watching him.  He was clearly in hunt mode, turning his head all round …
  • Another Hot Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Another Hot Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I spent a fun, but hot, morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve today. We got there just before sunrise, and watching the sun come up over Lake Hancock was spectacular.  Then the sun went behind some clouds.  We saw a juvenile Green Heron down at the start of the Alligator Alley trail, but since the sun wasn’t really out, the pictures weren’t great.  Nor did I get any impressive flight shots from the boardwalk.  It’s unfortunate that the sun can’t come and go as the photographer chooses sometimes! The trees along the Alligator Alley trail were full of birds.  I’ve never seen it this active before.  Along the shoreline, the herons and egrets were startled by our presence and they flew off squawking.  Overhead, a Carolina Wren fussed his little head off.  (I guess we were too near a nest?) We saw plenty of Wood Storks.  Some posed high in the treetops, right over the path: What was fun was seeing the number of juvenile Wood Storks that were also hanging out by the lake this morning.  Dyeyo joked that maybe they left Gatorland and moved to Circle B! A family of Sand Hill Cranes was also …
  • Lots of Green Herons at the Circle B Bar Reserve this Morning

    Lots of Green Herons at the Circle B Bar Reserve this Morning

    It’s amazing how every day at the Circle B Bar Reserve is a little bit different.  Last week we saw lots of juvenile Great-Crested Flycatchers.  Today we didn’t see a single one, but we saw five Green Herons (and we usually see one of those per visit at most).  Nature’s fun with all its surprises. We arrived in the middle of a beautiful sunrise.  It’s only first thing in the morning when the beams of light dance across the lake to illuminate the owl’s tree by the boardwalk.  This morning the owl was sitting out on a front branch, as if he was waiting for two nice photographers to come along to see him!  It was funny — every time I said “hey Mr. Owl, will you please turn your head this way for me?”, he actually did it! — at least, until Dyeyo came next to me and wanted to get his head shot! Our favorite Marsh Rabbit Run trail is still closed, due to the alligator nests right up on the trail.  The signs say that the trail might re-open at the end of August.  In the meantime, we’re spending more time on the Shady Oak and Alligator …
  • Another beautiful morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Another beautiful morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve at 6:30 am to enjoy a nice warm morning of birding! The sunrise over Lake Hancock was gorgeous.  Since our favorite Marsh Rabbit Run trail is closed, we took the Alligator Alley trail instead.  The breeze down by the lake felt wonderful as we enjoyed the great morning light. We saw the two owls in their usual tree, but I didn’t take many pictures of them because they weren’t posing very nicely.  Then it was so funny, I had just finished saying that I wanted to see another Black-Crowned Night Heron, and then we saw one right next to us!  (Later I tried that trick again, saying that I wanted to see a Red-Headed Woodpecker, but none appeared. Too bad, Dyeyo!) Usually there isn’t too much activity on the Alligator Alley trail by the time we get there in mid-morning.  It felt like a totally different trail this morning when we went there first.  There were Ospreys in the trees everywhere. I went out on the little boardwalk over the lake and saw an Osprey fishing for his breakfast.  I got a fun silhouette shot with fish in claw, but …
  • Birds and Babies and Alligators, Oh my!

    Birds and Babies and Alligators, Oh my!

    Dyeyo and I enjoyed our hike around the Circle B Bar Reserve again this morning.  We saw our usual assortment of birds and babies, plus a few surprises… The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks continue to make Circle B their summer home.  Their calls can be heard all over the marshes at all hours of the morning.  We suspect they are nesting in the marshes not too far from Heron Hideout.  Hopefully we’ll get to see the babies! We were pleasantly surprised to glance over and see a juvenile Least Bittern stalking its breakfast in a palm.  This bird was more out in the open than bitterns usually are, and the nice morning sun contributed to a good picture: It seemed like there were Common Moorhens everywhere we turned this morning.  I suspect these are the second batch of babies this spring.  The moorhens have two broods each year, and the first set of babies hangs around to help with the second set (that’s a little unusual in the birdie world.) This juvenile Common Moorhen was prancing around on top of a log, and just begging for me to take his picture.  Look at those big feet! Marsh Rabbit Run was rather …
  • How to Eat a Fish (if you’re an Anhinga)

    How to Eat a Fish (if you’re an Anhinga)

    Dyeyo got an extra Father’s Day gift today when this Anhinga posed for us at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The Anhinga surfaced with a catfish and proceeded to eat it, to the delight of the Birdie Paparazzi!  (Hey, Squirt, it’s a catfish!) So if you’ve never swallowed a fish whole before, here’s how to do it: First you have to spear the fish.  This includes a nice dive into the water. Then you beat the fish into submission: Then you toss the fish into the air and catch it in your beak.  Note: if you’re uncomfortable about your prey looking at you while you eat it, then this kind of dining may not be for you. Next you tip your head back to allow the fish to slide down your throat. Open really wide! Finally, after a nice gulp, sit there for a minute to let things settle.  Then dive into the water and start fishing again!
  • Baby Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Baby Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

    The beautiful sunrise this morning was just the start of a happy Father’s Day hike with Dyeyo at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We saw lots of baby birds!   Sand Hill Cranes, Purple Gallinules, Common Moorhens, Grackles and Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker… The Black-necked Stilt babies that we have been watching for the past few weeks were nowhere to be seen this week (they’ve gotten big enough to have fledged, though). We were disappointed to see that the newest Sand Hill Crane nest on Marsh Rabbit Run was abandoned.  Maybe the waters got too high, or maybe (not likely) the babies hatched and the parents took the colts off to drier grounds. For several weeks we have suspected that we were watching babies from two separate Purple Gallinule nests.  Some of the babies seemed slightly older than the others, so we’d been suspecting that we were observing two sets of babies, but we weren’t ever totally sure.  Today we observed babies from both sets.  They were climbing around in the swampy weeds with their parents, with their feathers glistening in the morning sun.  The slightly older babies are more gray than black, now, and they are starting to get …
  • Magical Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Magical Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

    The sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning was magnificent!  The drive over from Orlando was very very foggy, and as the sun rose and burned off the fog over the marsh, the light was just beautiful.  I looked over at a common bunch of grasses, illuminated by the sunrise.  The golden glow was gorgeous. There were dragonflies resting on top of the grasses.  I wish I had taken a little more time to get out the extension tubes for some closer-up shots, especially with the dragonflies that were backlit by the golden sunrise.  Oh well, next weekend!  This was my favorite dragonfly shot of the day: Both of the sunrise grass pictures were taken on Heron Hideout.  It was weird to walk back that way a few hours later, and see the same scene turned back into boring green grass.  Sunrise light really does work magic! As we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run, we saw a grackle fussing, and we assumed we were too close to his nest.  Then we realized that his friend on an adjacent tree wasn’t a grackle, but a Green Heron!  The Green Herons are usually hard to find, but this is the …
  • HDR Experimentation at Circle B Bar Reserve at Sunrise

    HDR Experimentation at Circle B Bar Reserve at Sunrise

    I’ve been reading a lot about High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.  Camera sensors are not capable of capturing as much dynamic range in an image as our eyes can see;  therefore, images lack the full range of tones.  HDR attempts to solve this problem by allowing you to combine images of different exposures in software, drawing out details that were not obvious in the original images. I’ve been curious to try this technique, so I took several shots of the Eagle Roost path at Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  I had wanted to do a sunrise image, but since the sun wasn’t cooperating this morning, I chose this field instead.  It’s so pretty with the wild grasses all covered in dew, and Eastern Meadowlarks posing in many of the pine tree tops.  I took five images at 1-stop intervals, from -2 stop to +2 stop exposures.  Then I combined them using a trial version of Photomatix Pro HDR software.  Here’s the result: In contrast, this was one of the original images (the “correctly” exposed one).  Note that it is darker and does not have nearly as much detail in the sky or foreground plants. So now I’m even more …
  • Slow Morning at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Slow Morning at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo and I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve at 6:30 this morning to enjoy the early morning light with our birds.  Unfortunately, the sun didn’t really come up because it was so cloudy.  We still had a good time birding. The first bird we saw was this Little Blue Heron, who posed for us before the sun had really come up.  I tried fill flash and got some birdie red eye.  So this was a non-flash image with some fill flash added in Lightroom: As the sun came up, we were on Wading Bird Way and saw a Common Moorhen family.  We’ve been watching the chicks grow up for the past few weeks, and they’ve gotten pretty big.  Then the mother posed by herself just as the sun hit her. Nearby, an Anhinga was sitting on a post, stalking fish for his breakfast.  He seemed to be thinking about flying away, and I waited for a while trying to get the flight shot, but he didn’t want to cooperate (even after Dyeyo walked towards him, “talking” to him!)  So I got a “sunning” shot instead. As we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run, we saw the same Red-Winged Blackbirds …
  • Baby Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Baby Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

    The peak bird migration is definitely past, and some would say that this is the “slow period” for birding at Circle B Bar Reserve. Dyeyo and I are finding that the babies popping up throughout the preserve still make our walks very rewarding! This morning we arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve at dawn (6:30) and headed out Heron Hideout. A family of Common Moorhens greeted us, and we spent several minutes photographing a mother feeding her chicks. We saw at least five chicks, two of which were swimming out in the water, with the remaining chicks sticking close to the reeds. I didn’t want to use my flash, and get severe reflections in the birds’ eyes, so I instead dialed up my ISO as high as possible (1600) and shot. The results are a bit grainy, but the mother-baby moment is cool. Nearby, a baby Red-Winged Blackbird was perched in some tall grass, fluttering his wings desperately as he called for food. His father hovered nearby, probably warning the baby that there were strangers with cameras nearby! We headed out to the Eagle Roost to check for Eastern Meadowlarks and Northern Bobwhites. Dyeyo’s been taking lessons from Mum-mum …
  • Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

    The increasingly hot temperatures drove Dyeyo and me to the Circle B Bar Reserve at 6:30 this morning, to allow us time for birding before the heat set in. I was amazed to see the marsh at sunrise. It was like a whole other world, with dewdrops glistening in the rising sun, and the grasses and trees giving off a friendly glow. The first birds to greet us were the Red-winged Blackbirds. As Dyeyo cautioned me about backlight, I snapped this image, intentionally wanting the bird to come out in silhouette. (It flew before I could re-meter and expose his feathers properly.) As the sun crept up behind us, Dyeyo and I headed out Heron Hideout to the Eagle Roost to look for Eastern Meadowlarks. Towards the far end of the Heron Hideout, we noticed a pair of Green Herons, quietly sitting in a tree. It’s hard to find Green Herons; they really keep to themselves. As we photographed the Green Herons, the Red-winged Blackbirds circled, fussing at us to pay attention to them, too. This one landed on a nearby branch, threw his head back, and started to sing. It’s a very characteristic pose for this piggy bird! Dyeyo …
  • Still Plenty of Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Still Plenty of Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

    It was very hot but very fun to be back at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. Dyeyo and I took a nice long hike and saw some neat birds. I saw my first Eastern Meadowlark! I’ll wait until I have a better picture to post one, though. When we first arrived, we saw this Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting up in a tree on the Heron Hideout. Dyeyo clapped to get his attention, and then he posed nicely for us. Dyeyo’s Sand Hill Crane family met us on Heron Hideout, and we had fun taking pictures of the baby that he’s been visiting since it hatched about eight weeks ago. The baby has gotten so big! He’s lost the fuzzy yellow look and is starting to get feathers. I thought the following head shots were fun of the parent and baby: As we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run (where we did see a marsh rabbit!), Dyeyo spotted this Least Bittern hiding in the reeds. He played peek-a-boo with us for a few minutes until he flew off. There were Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks flying up and down Marsh Rabbit Run the whole time we were walking on it. We tried to …
  • Baby Sand Hill Crane!

    Baby Sand Hill Crane!

    When Dyeyo called to say that he’d seen a baby sand hill crane hatch at the Circle B Bar Reserve, I was very jealous.  Then a few weeks later he reported seeing the new family at the same place several times in a row.  So I had to go and see if I could get some of my own pictures.  Lucky for me, they were there, and I got to see the baby up close.  The birds were right up on the path, less than a few feet away from me.  I could have reached out to touch the baby (of course I didn’t.) Here you can see the adult feeding the baby (look carefully and you’ll see the bug in the adult’s mouth).  The baby was dancing around, fluttering its little wings, begging for the food. Here’s a close-up of the baby.  He was so cute!  I love how the purple wildflowers around him contrast with his pale yellow colors. From this next picture, it looks like the adult was being extremely protective of the young bird.  In reality, though, I think he was just stretching his wings! There weren’t many other birds at the reserve today.  I guess …
  • Little Birds Galore at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Little Birds Galore at Circle B Bar Reserve

    The trees at the Circle B Bar Reserve were full of little birds today. The warblers are so cute.  This yellow rumped warbler wasn’t sure about the crazy photographer underneath him. There were tons of warblers today (palm, pine, yellow-rumped, and common yellowthroats), but we didn’t see or hear a single blue-gray gnatcatcher.  That was a big change.  The gnatcatchers have been very numerous in the preserve this winter. We laughed when we watched this common moorhen walking across the path on Marsh Rabbit Run.  Look at his green feet! There are usually least sandpipers on the waterfront on Wading Bird Way.  Finally one posed for me in nice light with a contrasting background. We saw several soras today.  They migrate through Polk County, so you only see them for a couple of weeks each year. This little blue heron was stalking fish in the marshy dollarweed.  When I first saw him, I thought he would better be named a gray heron, but when the light him him, his blue beak was apparent.  Too bad the dollarweed background reminds me too much of the weeds in our front yard! We saw several juvenile white ibises this morning.  I don’t think …
  • Limpkins feasting on apple snails

    Limpkins feasting on apple snails

    The recent freezing weather in Central FL had some devastating effects at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  Many of the fish died from the cold, leaving the entire place stinky and littered with dead animals.  Then the birds started to leave, probably because their food source was so greatly diminished.  So by today the smell was better, and we braved the chill to go visit the birds. All the herons, anhingas, pelicans, wood storks – in short, all the wading birds that we’d been used to seeing in November and December – left the Reserve.  It was sad to see it so empty. I sat very patiently watching this limpkin fish for his breakfast.  I wanted to catch him with the entire apple snail (including shell) in his mouth.  After a while of standing there watching him stand there looking, he finally reached down, grabbed a snail, and snap! snap!  I got his picture. :) This eastern phoebe posed nicely for Dyeyo and me over by the visitor center, as we walked back from looking at the eagle’s nest.  It’s hard to photograph the phoebe – his combination of light and dark feathers is hard to expose properly.  I think …
  • Cold Birdwatching at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Cold Birdwatching at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo, Rich, and I were very cold birdwatchers at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  My wool hat from Pittsburgh came in handy! I saw my first limpkins on Wading Bird Way today.  Look at that long spear of a beak! The limpkins were fishing for their breakfasts as we watched.  This guy had his head down for a while, and he came up with his prey wrapped around his beak. The trees that used to be covered in double-crested cormorants are almost always empty now.  I guess the cold weather agreed with them about as well as it agrees with me!  This spoonbill looked lonely all by himself. There were tons of laughing gulls on Wading Bird Way.  This one caught a big fish, then all his buddies ran after him and tried to steal it.  Go catch your own fish, silly birds! We saw these little least sandpipers running along the water’s edge on Wading Bird Way.  At first they were near a limpkin, and Dyeyo thought they might be baby limpkins (wouldn’t that have been nice!)  It’s rather deceiving, the way they posed next to the limpkin’s favorite apple snails…but no, they are sandpipers. It was …
  • American White Pelicans Roosting at Circle B Bar Reserve

    American White Pelicans Roosting at Circle B Bar Reserve

    The air was full of American White Pelicans at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. A huge flock of the pelicans is roosting on the lake at Wading Bird Way.  I took the camera and pointed straight at the sky as they flew overhead: It was cool to hear the “whoosh!” of all their wings as they flew right over our heads. The sun was out today and the sky was clear and it was a wonderful morning for bird photography.  The marshes were full of common moorhens and American coots. The coots were carrying on, jumping off their tree perches and sliding into the water to chase one another.  After a couple of tries, I caught one taking off. On Marsh Rabbit Run, I saw this yellow bird, and at first assumed that it was a pine warbler.  The pine warblers are not as common as the palm warblers, but I have seen a couple at Circle B before.  Then I got the picture home, examined it more closely, and realized that I’d seen my first-ever Prairie Warbler. :) As usual, the marshes were full of anhingas.  They are such pretty birds when the light catches the detail …
  • Bird-watching at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Bird-watching at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Now that Dyeyo, Rich, and I have discovered the Circle B Bar Reserve, we go there often.  Each time we go we see new birds and learn more about them.  It’s such fun. The first bird we saw this time was one that I usually don’t like to photograph, a black vulture.  There are tons of vultures just down the road from the Circle B entrance, near this little fishing stream.  The vultures just cover the ground there (and cars of fishermen, too!) As we walked on Heron Hideout, I saw this little bird hopping around in a tall tree.  I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but when I got the picture home, I was able to identify the American pipit. We’ve often heard sand hill cranes at the reserve, and today we saw them. This Great Egret was pretty against the background of bright yellow flowers that cover the dry portions of the reserve.  He was fishing. The Heron Hideout wasn’t as busy as our last visit, but we did see a bunch of herons, and this roseate spoonbill. There are so many anhingas at this reserve!  The line, “Hey, there’s an anhinga displaying!” has almost gotten to …
  • Where are all the birds?

    Where are all the birds?

    We’re starting to see a few more birds in the yard, but not as many as usual, and no goldfinches yet. There have been a couple of new house finches (I think the darker red ones are migratory…I never see such bright red guys in the summertime), some brown-headed cowbirds and red-winged blackbirds, the yellow-throated warbler Bow Tie still visits pretty regularly, and then our regular doves and cardinals. I’ve heard some blue gray gnatcatchers like the one pictured here, but still haven’t seen one (this picture is from the Circle B nature preserve in Polk County, where we went this morning to birdwatch). Goldy is starting to feel neglected…where are all the birds and why aren’t they eating the free birdseed at Goldy’s house?
  • Cloudy day at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Cloudy day at Circle B Bar Reserve

    Dyeyo, Rich, and I were so excited about our last visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve, we carefully watched the weather to go back on the next sunny day.  But the weathermen deceived us, telling us that today would be sunny, and it was cloudy and foggy instead! Along the Shady Oak path, we came across this pileated woodpecker.  Dyeyo has seen a pileated in his backyard a couple of times, but never this close.  Of course, he’s getting spoiled here, thinking he’s going to see one every time he comes to Circle B… We walked up to the lake, along Alligator Alley.  I wasn’t too crazy about the idea of seeing an alligator up too close and personal, but we didn’t see any.  We did hear rustling high in the trees above us, and when we looked up, we saw not a squirrel, but this raccoon, eating the leaves of the tree. (I wonder who thought who was funnier: us, watching the raccoon jump between the branches, or the raccoon, watching us strain our necks with cameras, trying to get a picture of him!) As we walked along, we came across some bushes that were filled with little …
  • Our first visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    Our first visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

    After hearing about the Circle B Bar Reserve from people in the Sierra Club, Dyeyo, Rich, and I decided that we needed to check it out.  Boy were we surprised!  People were not kidding when they said it is a wonderful place for birds.  It’s a protected reserve in Polk County, and there are paths through the marshes.  The birds are used to people and the activity on the hiking paths does not affect them.  Lots of migrating birds pass through here, and it is a great place to observe birds. We parked our cars and walked to Heron Hideout, one of the main paths.  The marshes on either side of the paths were just covered in hundreds of birds, including herons, white ibises, and some ducks that I didn’t recognize. This heron was posed nicely with the water. There were tons of white ibises around, and tons of wood storks. There were two purple gallinules near the heron, an adult an a juvenile.  I was surprised to see them balanced so easily on the branches, with their feet wrapped all the way around. The sun was rising and very bright.  It was hard to get a proper exposure of …