Beyond the Backyard

Springtime Walk at Lake Morton

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American White Pelican Head Shot

Last weekend I visited Lake Morton in hopes of photographing swan courtship.  My friend Kim recently posted an amazing image of two “love birds” whose necks came together to form a heart on the lake.  It’s a touching reminder that it’s my favorite time of the year: baby bird season!  I can’t wait for the cygnets to grace the shores of the lake with their sweetness and their antics.  Alas, the swans did not cooperate for me on my visit.  But I did see so many other fun things to photograph that I can’t be disappointed.  Nature shares with me what it wants to share, and if I could always anticipate what I’ll see, there would hardly be any fun in it! So my morning started off with sunrise and American White Pelicans.  Small groups of pelicans were clustered on the brick walls lining the lake.  I quickly realized that they would fly off soon after sunrise, and that I had a few fleeting minutes to photograph them while the sun cast gorgeous orange light on the lake behind them.  So I did what you’re not supposed to do: I shot into the sunrise and added lots of exposure compensation […]

Beyond the Backyard

Finally! Nice Weather for a Walk at Circle B

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American White Pelican

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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Promise of Eaglets at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Bald Eagles

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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

More Birding Fun at Viera

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A Bite to Eat

In my last post I wrote about the Roseate Spoonbills roosting at Viera Wetlands in the Click Ponds.  Well, there are a bunch of other fun birds there too.  Especially during the early golden light, when the spoonies weren’t cooperating for photography, it was amazing to be surrounded by pink and yet I was photographing other subjects.  Like this Snowy Egret, who proudly strutted around with his white feathers fluffed in the gorgeous light.  He wasn’t so happy later when a spoonbill reached out and bit his leg! Viera’s not one of my favorite places for sunrise – there are too many power lines in the way.  But the sunrise and clouds did throw some gorgeous light on the water of the Click Ponds, where dozens of Great Blue Herons and Sandhill Cranes stood in the shallow water.  I really liked the colors in this silhouette: The Wood Storks were having a good morning last Saturday.  They kept pulling big fish out of the water.  One stood working his catch down his throat for at least twenty minutes.  I suspect the fish weren’t very healthy in that low water, so it was probably easy to grab them for breakfast.  At […]

Beyond the Backyard

Beast Meets Bobolink

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Swans Nesting at Lake Morton

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As I wrote yesterday, my friend Carla came with me on a photography expedition last weekend.  We first visited the Circle B Bar Reserve, and then we headed to Lake Morton.  Carla saw her first swan’s nest! The beautiful Mute Swans are nesting all around the lake right now.  We counted at least eight nests.  The City of Lakeland has roped them off this year and posted a sign by each explaining that it is illegal to tamper with the swans or their eggs.  I was so glad to see this after last year’s disturbing egg thefts.  Last year I had the privilege to photograph a cygnet (baby swan) on the nest on the day that it was born.  It was incredible!  I hope this year’s babies fare better. Speaking of babies, we found a small family of Mallards with very young chicks.  They were so cute!  I heard their little calls at about the same time that Carla said, “Jess!  Look at the babies!”  They posed for a minute for us.  I love how the mom and dad seem to be showing off their babies, and the baby on the front right is posing too, but the one on […]

Beyond the Backyard

Comings and Goings

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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.

Beyond the Backyard

Put Your Best Spoon Forward!

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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, […]