Beyond the Backyard

A Shrike and a Kestrel

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Loggerhead Shrike

Birding is starting to pick up again after a long hot summer.  The first day of fall was officially on September 22, although temperatures in Florida continue well into the upper 80s and 90s.  But there’s a hope in sight: the lows are forecast to dip into the 60s this week!  I’ve been working crazy hours again, so it’s been hard to find time for shooting.  But I’ve been working on a project out by where my Burrowing Owls grew up.  When I was last out there, I found two birdie surprises: a shrike and a kestrel! I haven’t seen an American Kestrel out this way since early this spring, when Dyeyo and I first visited the owls to see if they were building their burrows.  They are fairly skittish, flying away as soon as I approach.  It’s a little surprising, given that they are small falcons.  The image above was taken with the Beast and a 1.4x teleconverter, and it’s still pretty heavily cropped.  I love the red, white, and blue colors of the kestrel.  This one is a male (the females don’t have the blue on the wings).  The kestrels are so pretty that you can almost forget […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Sun Finally Came out at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cloudy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cuckoos Chasing Cuckoos at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Foggy but Interesting Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

What’s Going On Up There?

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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, […]

Beyond the Backyard

A New Place to Explore: Viera Wetlands

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I’ve heard birders mention Viera Wetlands so often that I had to get over there to see it for myself. It reminds me of Circle B Bar Reserve in that it is a local wetlands area with great birds — and unlike Circle B, which is so dry right now, this wetlands had plenty of water and there were plenty of birds as a result! I saw my first-ever Hooded Merganser and Common Snipe, which were both cool. The wetlands were covered in American Coots and Blue-Winged Teals. I also got some pictures of a flock of Green-Winged Teals and Killdeer in flight. Then there was the usual wetlands assortment of herons, egrets, and ducks. The clouds rolled in about mid-morning, but we had a great time, and I’m looking forward to going back. We lucked out — one of the first birds we saw was the Hooded Merganser. I yelped and hopped out, then by the time we got our cameras, we didn’t see him. Dyeyo tried to tell me that I’d just seen coots…and then he popped out of some vegetation and did a little flap! So we got to see his hood. He was in Cell 4. […]