Beyond the Backyard

Christmas Coot!

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Christmas Eve Sunrise at Viera Wetlands

The weather forecast this morning was a little frightful (mostly cloudy), but the prospect of birding was delightful, so I headed to Viera Wetlands to celebrate a wonderful day off from work!  It was great seeing Michael, Donna, and Mike as the Belted Kingfisher “Miss Viera Sushi” mocked us and evaded her favorite perch. We’ve having record hot temperatures in Central Florida – it’s expected to hit 87 tomorrow on Christmas Day!  Usually Viera mornings of watching the nesting Great Blue Herons involve extra layers, a hat, and a scarf.  Today the pale skies added to the tropical feeling as I wished I had worn shorts! The light wasn’t awesome, but the birds were fun.  I loved the nesting herons with their courtship behaviors at sunrise.  Immediately behind them was the famous Belted Kingfisher who likes to pose for photographers.  Today, though, one of the Great Blue Herons kept coming to that perch to sit.  So the Belted Kingfisher stayed farther out in the marsh.  So I trained my camera on some of the little birds in front of me… I’m out of practice with my camera!  My focusing times were pretty bad today.  So it was nice of the little birds […]

Beyond the Backyard

Fall Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Even an Icky Day is Good at Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Sunrise with a Sora – Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Flight Shots at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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!

Beyond the Backyard

Winter Birds are Returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]