Beyond the Backyard

The Fellowship of the Nest

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Expect the Unexpected at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Newest Celebrity at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

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

March Photo Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Frogs and Snakes for Breakfast at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

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

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Rainy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

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

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Slow Morning at Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Still Plenty of Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]