Backyard photography

Happy Fourth of July!

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Stars and Beaks Forever

It’s our country’s birthday!  To celebrate, Goldy (our resident feline ornithologist) is issuing a challenge to our blog readers.  She wants you to get out and find as many red, white, and blue bird-birds as you can!  Some suggestions: Red: Northern Cardinal, Summer Tanager White: White Ibis, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, juvenile Little Blue Heron, American White Pelican, any of the gulls and terns Blue: Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, Blue Grosbeak, Barn Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Purple Martin, Florida Scrub Jay, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Indigo Bunting Yes, you can find all those in Central Florida in summertime!  So go have fun and enjoy your Fourth of July! :)

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

If At First You Don’t Succeed…Try, Try Again!

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Bald Eagle

Yesterday morning I went to the Viera Wetlands to photograph Roseate Spoonbills.  The water levels at the Click Ponds are very low, which attracts hundreds of wading birds.  Besides the spoonies, there were American White Pelicans, Wood Storks, Snowy Egrets, Sandhill Cranes, and a variety of shorebirds.  They all hang out at one corner of one of the ponds in a large flock.  It was birdy paradise, but a challenge for photography, as it was hard to isolate birds to make pleasing compositions.  I arrived home wondering if I would keep many of the images.  Then I went through them, grinned wide, and returned there today for a second try!  So I will have some spoonies to share with you in a few days, after I finish going through them, which will take me a while! In the meantime, I’m not the only one who learned the value of the old adage, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”  A Bald Eagle circled over the ponds this morning, looking for a fish for breakfast.   A group of American White Pelicans had been fighting over a dead fish that was floating near the surface of the pond.  The […]

Beyond the Backyard

Easter Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Stars and Beaks Forever!

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Happy Fourth of July! I took this image several years ago.  At the time I thought it was one of my best images.  After revisiting it today, I realized how under-exposed and noisy the original capture was!  I attempted to clean it up with post-processing.  

Beyond the Backyard

A Foggy Morning Turns Cute at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Painted Bunting at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

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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 […]

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

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 […]

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 […]

Backyard photography

Lazy Saturday in the Backyard

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The windy weather forecast kept me at home this morning.  So Rich and the cats and I had a lazy morning.  It can be nice to stay at home and enjoy your backyard birds, too! I’m pretty sure there is a Brown Thrasher nest in the backyard.  I’ve been seeing Brown Thrashers in the yard regularly for the last two weeks, always near the back rose bed.  Last week I saw both birds together, but since then, I’ve only been seeing one at a time. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the baby thrashers learning how to fly?  It’d be as much fun as watching their father enjoy our birdbath… On our walk tonight we ran into a Cooper’s Hawk near Black Lake.  Better down there than up by our yard!  He sat on somebody’s roof and watched as I got closer and closer… The Bald Eagles continue to have a presence in the neighborhood.  I think they fly over Stoneybrook to Black Lake to gather food for their baby on the nest.  It’s quite convenient when they fly overhead in nice sunset light! We also found a pair of Black-Necked Stilts down at the “Surprise Pond” behind Lakehurst.  That’s […]

Backyard photography

Some Backyard Surprises

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There was an adult Bald Eagle down by Black Lake a few nights ago when we walked.  We walked right past him, then I pulled Rich back and said “look!”  Some neighbors were a little suspicious of my camera and wondered what in the world I was up to.  They hadn’t seen the eagle either, hehe.  I wished the light was a little better.  Maybe on our next walk! Kathy and Sean showed me a Mourning Dove’s nest in their palm tree right outside their front door.  It’s about five feet high (Rich wondered how in the world the bird managed to fly up there consistently enough to make her nest!)  I’ve often wondered where these birds nest.  There are certainly enough doves around the neighborhood that there must be plenty of other nests. A House Wren hopped out of the viburnum tonight and posed on the rose bed edging.  I was surprised to still see him around — I wonder when he’ll return north?  Maybe he’ll fly up with the Painted Buntings.  We’ve been monitoring their afternoon feeding habits regularly now, hoping to pinpoint the day of their (sob, sob) departure…