Beyond the Backyard

Winter Birds Returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Juvenile Purple Gallinule

The winter birds are returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve!  My dad and I had a great walk yesterday morning.  We saw our first-of-fall Eastern Phoebes, Gray Catbirds, Marsh Wrens, and a surprise flock of American White Pelicans flying over the marsh.  It was fun to welcome our birdy friends back to the Sunshine State! When we first arrived on the Heron Hideout trail, a very cooperative Belted Kingfisher was sitting close to the trail on some alligator flag reeds.  Dyeyo was thrilled to see one so close!  It was still pretty dark, so a tripod was required to get sharp shots at lower shutter speeds with a decent ISO.  The bird didn’t help much – she was constantly turning her head!  Each year I have to remember how to identify the Belted Kingfishers: the females have the rusty brown on their tummies, and the males don’t. As the sun came up, the golden glow illuminated the Purple Gallinules climbing on the alligator flag reeds.  Adults and juveniles alike would inch out onto the long reeds to eat the purple flowers at the tips.  The reeds would sustain the birds’ weight for a while, then finally give way and […]

Beyond the Backyard

One More from my Visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

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One more post from Sunday’s trip to the Circle B Bar Reserve… There’s a new family of Sandhill Cranes out on Wading Bird Way. The adults had the colts out on a “vegetation island” while I was there. From the pictures posted on Flickr, it looks like they later brought the babies up onto the trail. The babies are still tiny and in their “super-cute” phase. Who can resist a tiny orange fuzzball? On a related note, I saw several adult Purple Gallinules along Wading Bird Way, and I’m almost positive that I heard babies. :) There were tons of ibises flying around. This Glossy Ibis flew right in front of me. He’s in his breeding plumage – look at the blue on his face. The “great white party” continued for a good hour after sunrise, with storks and herons and egrets flapping around as they searched for breakfast in the shallow water. This Snowy Egret did a little dance for me. He seemed to drag his feet in the water as he flew along. Sometimes he would kinda fly with his face down in the water, too. He looked pretty funny. There were tons of grackles along the trail, […]

Beyond the Backyard

Signs of Spring at the Viera Wetlands

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Last weekend I spent a morning at the Viera Wetlands.  It was a cloudy morning, with sunshine in spurts, and I was just happy to be outside.  The Great Blue Herons chicks are growing up quickly, as I wrote about last week.  There were also many other signs of springtime around the wetlands.  Sometimes the common birds are the most fun to phtoograph… I was down on the edge of the berm photographing the juvenile Great Blue Herons when this Red-Winged Blackbird hopped onto the trail.  Since I was so much lower than he was, I got a birds-eye angle on him without having to get down on my knees!  I love how his wing shines with his bright red and yellow patch.  The green grasses shine in the soft morning light. I went to Viera in hopes of photographing the babies on this nest, and I was disappointed to find that the nest no longer was there.  However, there were other juvenile Anhingas on other palms, just farther away than “my” nest.  One palm housed two juveniles, and another housed three, or so I thought.  Both families were entertaining and I enjoyed watching their antics.  There was much begging […]

Beyond the Backyard

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo on Marsh Rabbit Run!

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The Marsh Rabbit Run trail was finally re-opened!  I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning and found my very first Yellow-Billed Cuckoo!  I couldn’t believe it when he flew into a tree right over my head.  He was on Marsh Rabbit Run, about halfway down the trail.  It felt so good to be back on that trail! The water levels are low and there were not a ton of birds.  I was hoping to see some migrant warblers or maybe a Belted Kingfisher.  We didn’t.  But we did see at least five Black-Crowned Night Herons, a Purple Martin, and three Killdeer.  Compared to last week’s cloudy morning, there was a lot more bird activity today.  It was definitely worth the trip, despite the heat. The Wood Storks and Double-Crested Cormorants have returned to the reserve.  They covered the trees, looking like ornaments on Christmas trees.  A couple of cormorants posed on posts on the Wading Bird Way trail.  The lake made for good background bokeh. A Great Blue Heron also posed on a post.  He looked pretty silly with his wings spread out.  He wanted to say “hi” to all the blog readers! There’s a family of […]

Beyond the Backyard

Lions and Bitterns and Rails, Oh My! Circle B Bar Reserve Never Disappoints

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A group of photographers met at the Circle B Bar Reserve for sunrise this morning. We had a blast. Circle B really is a photographer’s playground at this time of year! Dyeyo and I parked at the parking lot at the Circle B entrance, then took the Windmill Whisper trail out to Wading Bird Way. The southern half of Wading Bird Way is my second favorite sunrise spot in the reserve (Lake Hancock is my favorite). I took several bracketed shots as the sun began to peek over the horizon, and this one with the flocks of birds flying over the marsh was my favorite. There were not as many American White Pelicans out on the water as the last time Dyeyo and I went for sunrise. The small group of birds that were there today were in no hurry to fly off at sunrise. So I turned my attention to the birds that were showing off: the Ring-Billed Gulls and the American Coots. I liked the pale pink water in the two shots above, produced by the reflection of the pre-sunrise sky. We don’t normally take many pictures of the common American Coots…but if they are showing off, and […]

Beyond the Backyard

More Winter Birds Have Arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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I spent my off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I heard my first American Goldfinch of the season! I never saw it, but the call is unmistakable. Heron Hideout is definitely a great place to be at sunrise these days. The water levels in the marsh are extremely low, so the birds congregate on the right side of the trail, right in the great morning light. This morning there were at least one hundred birds, including five or six Roseate Spoonbills, and my first-of-season Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs. :) I had to dial in negative exposure compensation for the bright birds and the heavy sunlight reflections. The result was a dark portrait with a nicely illuminated bird. I also used a bit of fill flash. A lone Wood Stork stood in the midst of the action. It can be hard to get good reflection shots. First you have to have the right lighting conditions for the reflection to be bright, and the water has to be still for the reflection to be mirror-like. That’s hard to do when the pond is being skimmed by hundreds of birds! So I was excited when I saw that I’d gotten […]

Beyond the Backyard

More Migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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We were so excited by the migratory birds that we saw yesterday at the Circle B Bar Reserve that we just had to go back this morning. I was hoping to get better pictures of the migrating warblers, in non-foggy light.  But the marshes were very quiet this morning.  We saw two American Redstarts by the dock on Lake Hancock.  Those were the only warblers we saw all morning. Since the morning was still very cloudy, Dyeyo and I decided to walk the Alligator Alley trail, starting at the lake end.  We were hoping to make it around to the warbler-friendly trees at the intersection of Heron Hideout and Alligator Alley by the time the sunlight would be bright enough for lighting tiny birds. This juvenile Little Blue Heron watched me watching him by Lake Hancock.  I had to use some fill flash.  It’s fun to apply the techniques that I’m learning as I read Arthur Morris’s books on bird photography.  :) I stood for a few minutes watching the fly-bys over the lake.  I saw Osprey, Wood Storks, Laughing Gulls, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and a Black-Crowned Night Heron pass by.  I also saw a bunch of Caspian Terns, […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cloudy, Breezy Days are Great for Bird-Watching at Gatorland’s Bird Rookery

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This morning was cloudy, breezy, and great for getting outside! The birds at Gatorland’s Bird Rookery took longer to wake up, probably because the sun wasn’t shining as brightly as usual. The rookery was eerily quiet when I first got there, and then the babies started fussing as soon as the sun started to break through the clouds. As I arrived at the rookery, I saw the fledgling Swallow-tailed Kites in the pine trees near the entrance to the Swamp Walk. They were more intent on preening than posing. The cloudy skies and diffused light made for some great birdie portrait lighting. This Tricolored Heron fledgling ventured out onto this branch and then watched as other fledglings flew over him. The trees were covered in fledging Cattle Egrets. If you looked down into the branches, though, there are still plenty of nests under incubation. This baby peeked out at me through a “window” in the leaves. Nearby, this juvenile Cattle Egret was posing for me. Actually, he thought he was waiting patiently for his mother to return with breakfast (and he got excited anytime a grown Cattle Egret flew overhead!) – but he also posed nicely while he waited! The […]