Beyond the Backyard

Christmas Coot!

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Christmas Eve Sunrise at Viera Wetlands

The weather forecast this morning was a little frightful (mostly cloudy), but the prospect of birding was delightful, so I headed to Viera Wetlands to celebrate a wonderful day off from work!  It was great seeing Michael, Donna, and Mike as the Belted Kingfisher “Miss Viera Sushi” mocked us and evaded her favorite perch. We’ve having record hot temperatures in Central Florida – it’s expected to hit 87 tomorrow on Christmas Day!  Usually Viera mornings of watching the nesting Great Blue Herons involve extra layers, a hat, and a scarf.  Today the pale skies added to the tropical feeling as I wished I had worn shorts! The light wasn’t awesome, but the birds were fun.  I loved the nesting herons with their courtship behaviors at sunrise.  Immediately behind them was the famous Belted Kingfisher who likes to pose for photographers.  Today, though, one of the Great Blue Herons kept coming to that perch to sit.  So the Belted Kingfisher stayed farther out in the marsh.  So I trained my camera on some of the little birds in front of me… I’m out of practice with my camera!  My focusing times were pretty bad today.  So it was nice of the little birds […]

Beyond the Backyard

Quiet Morning at Mead Gardens

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On the morning of the big Fort De Soto fallout, the forecast was for clouds and rain.  I went over to Mead Gardens, figuring I’d get an hour of birding in if I was lucky.  Mead is a local migrant hotspot, so I figured I might see some birds brought in by the winds of the front.  Quite the opposite!  The birding was great at De Soto that morning, and very slow at Mead.  This is the first Prairie Warbler I’ve seen all spring.  This one doesn’t look as snazzy as the ones in their bright new feathers. I’m seeing more Common Yellowthroats around, even in my own backyard.  They are such cheerful-looking little birds.  I call the one in my backyard “Zorro” for his black mask.

Beyond the Backyard

Cloudy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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I think the weather forecasters were a little overly optimistic this morning when they predicted “partly sunny” for 8am. I called it “mostly cloudy!” I was glad that I didn’t go to the Circle B Bar Reserve for sunrise, because there wasn’t one. The light levels were pretty low all morning. But it was great to see friends, and there is always something to see at Circle B. The American Kestrel was posing high in the Treasure Tree again this morning. He was in the same spot Friday morning. It was Dyeyo’s first kestrel sighting of the fall. The sun was nice enough to come out for a few seconds to illuminate this pretty bird. The passerines (songbirds) are starting to return to the reserve. One of my favorites is the Common Yellowthroat, or “Zorro”. His bright yellow colors brighten the marsh. They don’t usually like to sit still, so both Dyeyo’s and my cameras went click-click-click when this one posed out in the open. Yay for flash on cloudy days! We did not see the baby Limpkins on the Wading Bird Way trail today. This adult flew into some bushes as we started to leave. His landing was not […]

Beyond the Backyard

You Know it’s Springtime at Circle B Bar Reserve if…

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You know it’s springtime at Circle B Bar Reserve if you see the following: Trees are getting their leaves back Sandhill Cranes start sitting on nests! Baby eagles peek out to say hello People flock to the marsh to enjoy the warm weather The ducks head back home — see you next year! The birds start sporting their breeding colors Earlier sunrises! Male cardinals sing for their “wives! wives! wives!” Turtles come out to sun themselves, relieved that the cold winter winds have passed Marsh rabbits and otters frolic along the trails Dyeyo and I hiked the following trails today: Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, Wading Bird Way, and the Eagle’s Roost. We did not see the baby eagle — both parents were sitting near the nest, but the baby must have been asleep. But we did see two White-Crowned Sparrows, an unusally obliging Gray Catbird, and an American Bittern that posed for all to photograph! The sunrise this morning was at 7:06am. People ask me how I can get up so early every weekend. But it’s easy — the world is magical at dawn. A huge flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds can usually be found off Heron Hideout in the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Bittern-ly Chilly Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Bitterns were the highlight this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I arrived at sunrise, and the cloudcover was much greater than the weatherman’s “Mostly Sunny” forecast. The sun shone on the landscape for about fifteen minutes, then it went behind clouds for most of the “golden light hour.” I didn’t hike as much as usual, opting instead to stalk specific birds, especially the Sora on Heron Hideout and the American Bitterns on Marsh Rabbit Run. I enjoyed meeting Jim and Kathy Urbach and Michael Libbe — it’s fun to put Flickr usernames with faces when you meet people at Circle B! Jim has a 500mm lens like mine and we had a blast photographing a particularly cooperative bittern. I arrived around 7:15, just minutes before the sunrise. Usually I try to get there a little earlier, but it is a 1 hour drive from Orlando! :-p My jaw dropped in surprise on the Heron Hideout trail, where a huge flock of blackbirds had congregated right on the trail. They were all females and/or juveniles (striped brown birds, not the male black birds with red spots on their wings). Just as I saw them, a jogger ran down the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Happy Hallo-wren at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Apparently the “Water, Wings, and Wild Things” event yesterday spooked a lot of the birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve…but the wrens stuck around and celebrated Halloween with us! The marshes were fairly quiet this morning, but there were plenty of little bids for patient photographers… We started off walking to the far end of Heron Hideout, where it turns into the Eagle Roost trail. Dyeyo had good luck there yesterday. We kept an eye out for the baby Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks that have been reported on Flickr, but we didn’t see them. I turned around and saw this Tricolored Heron fishing at one of the culverts. He didn’t mind when I snapped his picture. Hundreds of Anhingas and Double-Crested Cormorants flew overhead as they left their night roosting trees and took over off the marsh. Dyeyo and I had fun practicing our flight photography. This was my best shot: This Eastern Phoebe repeatedly called “Phoebe! Phoebe!” and perched on a nicely lit branch. We walked down Marsh Rabbit Run in search of the baby whistling ducks. About a third of the way down the trail we came across one of the dead trees that serves as a great […]

Beyond the Backyard

Lots of Little Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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A month ago I was ecstatic to see a warbler at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Today I nonchalantly dismissed one as “just another Palm Warbler.” How quickly do the birding times change!! This morning’s hike took us up Heron Hideout and out Marsh Rabbit Run. We spent most the time chasing the little guys. Dyeyo was determined to get a good Common Yellowthroat shot, and the House Wrens teased us, showing themselves for a second and then diving into the weeds. This Savannah Sparrow made a quick appearance on Marsh Rabbit Run. I think he’s a Savannah Sparrow…he’s the first I’ve seen this season. They are usually out on the edge of Wading Bird Way. It’s not as common to see them along Marsh Rabbit Run. The sun obligingly illuminated this guy for me: With so many Palm Warblers around, it is easy to overlook other yellow-colored warblers. I didn’t realize that I’d seen this Prairie Warbler until I got home and saw my pictures. As we walked over one of the culverts on Heron Hideout, we saw the usual Tricolored Heron and Snowy Egret, plus this Glossy Ibis. I think this was the closest I’ve ever gotten to […]

Backyard photography

…and Sunday is a day of rest!

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Rich and I were happy to relax today after putting out 1 pallet of sod, 3 cubic yards of mulch, and 4 new sprinkler valves on Friday and Saturday! This evening I was outside connecting the microjets to the new valves (gotta love poly flexible pipe – it’s so easy!!) I saw Zorro, our backyard Common Yellowthroat, hopping around. He really likes our viburnum. He doesn’t come out in the open very often, so I was happy to get this picture: Tomorrow I will post Circle B pictures from this morning…