Beyond the Backyard

Anniversary at Bok Tower Gardens

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It’s hard to believe that Rich and I have been married for seven years.  We were married at Bok Tower Gardens, so we decided to go back there today in honor of our anniversary.  Rich didn’t mind that I brought The Beast along.  We saw lots of great baby birds. Since it’s our anniversary, I’ll be nice and post a turtle picture for Rich.  (He does remind me regularly that this site was inspired by cats and turtles…long before the birding craze began!)  So here are three turtles who were sunning themselves at the Window by the Pond. There were Blue Jays all over.  These common birds do not hang out in my backyard, so it’s always fun to see them.  I spotted a juvenile bird feeding with its mother at the bird feeder (squirrel feeder!) by the tower overlook.  This adult was near the Visitor’s Center.  After years of saying I wanted a longer lens, it’s nice to complain that I clipped his tail because I needed to take off my teleconverter… :) Carolina Wrens could be heard singing throughout the gardens.  When I finally spotted one out in the open, he was in shade.  I didn’t have my […]

Beyond the Backyard

Circle B Says Goodbye to its Winter Migrants and Hello to the Summer Residents

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I spent a quiet off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  It’s always a treat to be on the trails without the weekend crowds.  I started off on the Heron Hideout trail to say hello to the little Sandhill Crane, then I turned left onto the Alligator Alley trail and hiked that loop back to the Nature Center.  It was a nice breezy morning and it felt awesome to be out! I arrived at the reserve just after sunrise, determined to catch the Sandhill Crane family as it crossed the Heron Hideout trail in its morning trek across the marsh.  Last weekend I almost missed them.  So it figures that this morning I had to wait about half an hour for them to meander across the marsh!  It was a bit cloudy, and I’m sure that contributed to the slow start for the birds. As I waited for the Sandhill Cranes, I watched the Osprey nest in the palm tree.  One bird was incubating on the nest, and the other bird was perched in a tree close by.  As I watched, the bird on the nest stretched her wings and flew off.  The other bird took her […]

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

A Perfect Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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The weather was cool, the sunrise was awesome, the birds were out, and there was a breeze! I couldn’t imagine a more perfect morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. There was a Tricolored Heron in his usual place, fishing where the water flows under the trail. He looked great in the morning light. The Palm Warblers are definitely back in full force! We enjoyed watching several of them hopping around on these plants with purple flowers. I’ve been seeing Wood Ducks in flight over Heron Hideout for the past few weeks. I wish I could find them when they are on the ground! We’ve never found where they hide. Lots of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers greeted us as we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run. They hopped around in the low bushes and posed for us nicely. I laughed so hard when I saw this shot: Then I saw this shot and got really excited. I’ve often compared gnatcatchers to hummers because of the way they flutter their wings and seem to hover in mid-air while they are hunting for insects. I’ve tried and tried to capture that moment, but they are so fast! I finally got it though… Then finally one […]

Beyond the Backyard

Birds and Babies and Alligators, Oh my!

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Dyeyo and I enjoyed our hike around the Circle B Bar Reserve again this morning.  We saw our usual assortment of birds and babies, plus a few surprises… The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks continue to make Circle B their summer home.  Their calls can be heard all over the marshes at all hours of the morning.  We suspect they are nesting in the marshes not too far from Heron Hideout.  Hopefully we’ll get to see the babies! We were pleasantly surprised to glance over and see a juvenile Least Bittern stalking its breakfast in a palm.  This bird was more out in the open than bitterns usually are, and the nice morning sun contributed to a good picture: It seemed like there were Common Moorhens everywhere we turned this morning.  I suspect these are the second batch of babies this spring.  The moorhens have two broods each year, and the first set of babies hangs around to help with the second set (that’s a little unusual in the birdie world.) This juvenile Common Moorhen was prancing around on top of a log, and just begging for me to take his picture.  Look at those big feet! Marsh Rabbit Run was rather […]

Beyond the Backyard

Callaway Gardens – Summer 2008

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After two years of talking about it, Rich and I finally made it to Callaway Gardens…and thanks to Tropical Storm Fay, it rained the whole time we were there! But I saw my first hummingbirds, we were pleasantly surprised to run into some of our FL winter bird friends, and two of the butterflies in the butterfly center liked my backpack so much that they tried to come home with me! So it was a good trip overall, and we’re looking forward to going back to see the fall colors (and more hummers!!) :) I had never seen hummingbirds up close before, so I was content to stand at the flowerbeds in front of the Day Butterfly Center for a long time, just observing the little guys zipping around.  I think I was able to get some pretty good pictures, too. At first, when Rich wanted to go to Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, I groaned and thought, “I don’t want to spend hours looking at peppers and carrots!” Boy did my opinion of the place change as soon as I walked in and saw all the songbirds! The garden is a certified bird habitat. It was fun to see the […]