Beyond the Backyard

Sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park

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Finally!  A day off when it wasn’t raining!  So I dusted off my cameras and headed to photograph sunrise at Orlando Wetlands Park.  I got there just as the gate was being opened – perfect timing!  The sky was already lightening as I headed to one of my favorite sunrise spots. It never fails.  We get beautiful wispy clouds every morning as the sun rises on the way to work.  But on the weekend when I’m in a pretty location, the sunrise never is as good!  On this morning, the clouds caught some of the sun’s fire, but the thick clouds on the horizon hid most of the actual sunrise. I wasn’t the only one watching the sunrise.  The park was full of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, whose cheerful calls echoed throughout the wetlands.  They flew around in small flocks as the light got stronger.  Many of them were perched in the trees backlit by the rising sun.  I put a 2x teleconverter on The Beast  and got some silhouette shots.  At one point these two birds started to fuss, and one started to bite the other bird’s foot!  It reminded me of my cats when Whiskey sneaks in to steal Squirt’s […]

Beyond the Backyard

Spring Morning at Orlando Wetlands Park

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Snowy Egret Courtship

On the morning that Deb and I saw Rich’s awesome turtle, we also saw a bunch of fun birds.  Springtime is the best time of year for Central Florida nature photography.  Some of our winter visitors are still hanging around, the migrants start to move through, and the local birds get all spiffy-looking for courtship and breeding.  So I was excited to get out and see what we could find on a nice spring morning at Orlando Wetlands Park. There are so many Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Orlando Wetlands Park right now!  Deb and I were greeted with their happy, cheerful whistling calls.  The whistling ducks are my favorite ducks.  The large flocks were on the wrong side of the light, but we found a small group of them in a shaded spot.  As we watched, one reached up to nibble on some flowers.  It was really cute. The wading birds are all ready for springtime in their bright pretty breeding colors.  We saw Great Egrets with green lores, a Tricolored Heron with a nice white plume, Snowy Egrets with lacy plumes and red lores, and this Glossy Ibis with his blue face.  I like how the vegetation at Orlando […]

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

Black-Bellied Whistling-Ducklings at Viera Wetlands

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All Alone- Black-bellied Whistling-Ducklings

Two weeks ago I went out in search of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducklings at Viera Wetlands.  Usually the wetlands are quiet during the summertime, and it’s a great place to stay in your air-conditioned car while you wait for birding action.  But on this visit, I quickly found several families of the Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks, and their cuteness made me very happy to sit out in the hot sun and photograph them! The little ducklings are striped yellow and black for the first few weeks of their lives.  They look so different than their parents!  This was a very sweet family to watch.  The two parents were very attentive to their little ducklings.  They swam all over together, and the babies never got far from the parents.  The babies spent most of the morning feeding themselves.  Mom and Dad’s job was to chase off any predators. Speaking of dangers, a small alligator sleeping on a log was a constant reminder that the marsh is not an easy place for a tiny duckling.  Predators lurk at every turn.  I was surprised to see how close the little family swam to the alligator.  The alligator just laid there dozing. Not all of the families were […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cloudy Morning at Viera Wetlands

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I debated whether to go out to photograph this morning. The forecast was just plain gross – 70% cloudcover, 50% chance of rain by 11:00, and over 90% humidity. Yep, that’s Florida in the summer! But I woke up early and decided that it’s been weeks since I’ve been able to get out, so I might as well go and enjoy it. I headed to Viera Wetlands, where I could stay in the air-conditioned comfort of my car and maybe see Black-Bellied Whistling Duck chicks. Well, it was gross out! The light levels were terrible. But the birds were great. The water levels at Viera were really low, which attracted hundreds of wading birds. The rookery island was pretty productive this year, and lots of fledgling Cattle Egrets covered the trail. My favorites were the several Roseate Spoonbills. Who can resist their pink wings? The wetlands echoed with the happy calls of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. I drove around hoping to find babies, but I didn’t see any. I’m pretty sure I found an active nest cavity, because two adults kept going in and out of the top of a palm tree. They never left it alone. It was amazing to […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Two Turtles – Circle B Bar Reserve

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To continue the “Lord of the Rings” titles, this post is about “The Two Turtles” (and some birds, hehe).  Rich was a very happy camper when I got home from the Circle B Bar Reserve with several pictures of turtles.  He said I had to post at least one – after all, this site is called catandturtle, even if we did name it before the bird obsession began!  So here’s the best turtle picture of the morning.  If you are interested in turtles or alligators, now is a great time to hike the Alligator Alley trail at Circle B. I finished processing images from Friday morning. Boy was the light bad!  Why is it that lately the cold fronts come through on weekends, and the only sunshine days seem to be on weekdays?  :-p My favorite ducks at Circle B are the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks.  They crack me up as they fly back and forth between tree branches, calling their happy little song to each other as they frolic.  I noticed this “three stooges” pose on one of the dead trees on Marsh Rabbit Run and shot it even though I knew the background would be gross.  The birds could […]

Beyond the Backyard

Mirror, Mirror, in the Lake…Who’s the Most Handsome Drake?

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Wednesday was a frigid morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. The forecast had predicted a low of 29 at 7am, but my car’s thermometer was more optimistic, measuring 34. There was very little wind, and I was quite comfortable all bundled up in my old college coat. I made my way out to the Wading Bird Way trail in anticipation of a gorgeous sunrise. I was met by fog, so dense that it sat like a cloud over the marsh. Clearly there weren’t going to be any great sunrise shots this morning. However, the skies were a beautiful pink… I was excited to see a few American White Pelicans fly off towards Lake Hancock just before sunrise. It was just two small groups of about five birds each. I couldn’t tell if they had slept off Wading Bird Way or not. I saw a large flock of white birds off in the distance, but they weren’t pelicans. They were Wood Storks! They started to fly towards me just like the pelicans did last year. I had fun trying to capture them in the early morning light against the bright pink sky. The sunrise was surreal – a big orange […]

Beyond the Backyard

A Great Morning to be Outside at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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It was cool and a little breezy this morning, and it felt so good to get up early and go see some “golden light!”  The Beast and I made our first trip to Circle B in several weeks.  Some ducks have settled in, but not as many as I seem to remember from last year.  The wading birds aren’t as plentiful, either.  But there are tons of little birds!  I had my first Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Savannah Sparrow, and Northern Harrier of the season. This morning I hiked Heron Hideout trail and the Marsh Rabbit Run trail out to the Wading Bird Way trail. The Alligator Flag plants on Heron Hideout have grown very tall and thick, and the little birds love to hop out on the reeds to pull seeds from the purple pods.  I love to stand on Heron Hideout at sunrise, when the golden light is just perfect.  Today I saw Common Yellowthroats, Palm Warblers, and this Swamp Sparrow on those reeds.  I like how the purple contrasts with the green in the image below. The skies were filled with Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks.  They are some of my favorite birds at the reserve, and their calls are such […]

Beyond the Backyard

Early Migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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You know that the hot summer is coming to a close at the Circle B Bar Reserve when you start seeing the first Pied-Billed Grebes on the Wading Bird Way trail.  Although grebes are year-round residents in Polk, I don’t seem to see them until the very end of summer.  The same goes for the Caspian Terns.  So it was exciting to see both yesterday at the reserve.  The winter migrants are coming!! The Common Moorhens aren’t migrants, but they are fun to photograph.  There was a family that I watched for about 15 minutes.  There were two juveniles and two parents, but one parent was a little way away.  When the juveniles started to carry on, the parent came swimming toward them, fussing.  I liked how the adult’s reflection showed so nicely in the water, and I tried to hit the shutter when the bird’s mouth was open in mid-fuss.  I had two successful attempts, and this was my favorite: The juveniles continued to fuss, splashing around and carrying on.  As one ran towards me on top of the water, I managed to hit the shutter button and almost achieve good focus on his head!  It was close enough… […]

Beyond the Backyard

A Morning of Firsts at the Click Ponds

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I saw several birds for the first time this morning at the Click Ponds: two Wilson’s Phalaropes, Black Terns, Stilt Sandpipers, and a Semipalmated Sandpiper.  It was a fun morning to be out! I arrived at the Click Ponds (across from Viera Wetlands) just after sunrise.  The Click Ponds have all but dried up and now have “gone green.”  It’s so strange to see grass growing where the water is supposed to be.  The migrating shorebirds don’t mind it this way, though. There were at least fifty Sandhill Cranes roosting at the ponds when I arrived.  (According to Michael Libbe, I just missed the four Roseate Spoonbills and the Egyptian Goose. Oh well!)  Donna Faylo joined us and we all stood watching the cranes as they danced in the gorgeous morning light.  Most the cranes were adults, but there were a couple of juveniles mixed in. In small family groups, the cranes began to take off and fly away for their daily routine.  Most of them flew away from us.  We talked to the cranes and encouraged them to fly towards us. The light was gorgeous!  I used my zoom lens and dialed in an extra stop for compensation.  Finally […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cute Babies at Viera Wetlands

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I went to Viera Wetlands on Saturday morning.  After all the rain on Friday, I wasn’t optimistic about the light level (I actually didn’t decide to make the drive until Saturday morning at 5am!)  There was virtually no sun till the very end of the morning, but the babies were cute and I was relatively pleased with my work from the morning.  I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Donna Faylo, as well as running into Kathy Urbach and Nancy Elwood.  We had a great time trying to catch a Least Bittern in flight.  :) When I first arrived at Viera at sunrise (a misnomer, as the clouds blocked all the sunlight), I went to the Click Ponds.  People have been posting on  Birdbrains that the low water levels have been attracting wading birds to roost at night.  When I drove up, there were no less than 50 Sandhill Cranes standing in the water.  There were also tons of Black-necked Stilts and little sandpipers.  Then the Sandhills started taking off in small groups of three or four.  I tried for some take-off shots, despite the low light.  This one looked pretty good after a Levels correction in Photoshop. A […]