Beyond the Backyard

Bend and Snap: Breeding Double-Crested Cormorants

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Double-crested Cormorant

A few weekends ago at Viera Wetlands, I photographed this Double-crested Cormorant on a palm tree trunk in front of me.  The bird sat there staring at me with his gorgeous bright blue eye, which is one of the features of his breeding plumage.  He stared at me so long that I got tired of waiting for him to do something.  Then quickly, he bent down, scooping his neck low and reaching his wings up behind him.  Then just as quickly, he snapped back up and resumed his stare.  Silly bird!  It must have been a courtship behavior, and all I could think of was the movie Legally Blonde and the “bend and snap!” scene.   He repeated this little “bend and snap” several times throughout the morning, usually when I was focused on some other action (like the Great Blue Herons who were stealing sticks from neighboring nests!)  Finally I managed to focus fast enough to catch him in a dip. I’ve often wondered why these birds are called Double-crested Cormorants.  During most of the year, their heads are quite smooth.  It’s only during breeding season that they get two tufted crests on the sides of their heads.  This season […]

Backyard photography

Golden Afternoon Light at my Backyard Pond

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Female Hooded Merganser

The Hooded Mergansers continue to hang out at my backyard pond, and I’ve visited them several times over the past month.  They are very skittish birds.  I lie down near the pond’s edge and use my groundpod to balance the Beast.  The birds usually start out on the opposite side of the pond, but after I stay there quiet for a while, the birds relax a bit and start to swim closer.  They are such fun to watch as they swim and dive.  The golden afternoon light at the pond was beautiful as it shone on the birds. The birds were pretty sleepy this afternoon.  They swam back and forth with their eyes closed.  It can be hard to get good group shots, so I was happy when they grouped themselves nicely and all faced me. There was quite a bit of preening going on!  It’s hard to get good preening shots, with the bird’s head parallel to the image plane.  I kept hoping that the birds would start bathing, which is almost always followed by a good wing flap.  But they didn’t want to cooperate with me. The Hoodies weren’t the only birds at the pond that afternoon.  This […]

Beyond the Backyard

Promise of Eaglets at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Bald Eagles

On the last day of Thanksgiving break, my dad and I were excited to take his friend Dr. B to the Circle B Bar Reserve.  Dr. B has been to lots of fun places to photograph, but it was his first time at Circle B.  We arrived just before sunrise and found a gray, nasty morning.  The fog was thick and there wasn’t even a hint of the sun.  We took the Heron Hideout trail out to Wading Bird Way.  Our first good birds of the day were the Bald Eagles that nest out on the sandhill.  They put on a good display for us, mating at the top of a tree!  It was the first time I’ve seen them do that.  So the next batch of eaglets is underway!  Of course, we were so busy talking that we missed the mating shot.  My first frame was the flight shot as the birds separated.  But they did pose together nicely on a tree for several minutes. Almost as we hit the Wading Bird Way trail, I spotted a small brown fuzzball out in the marshy grasses.  Then I heard the small, weezy calls of baby Limpkins who are running toward […]

Beyond the Backyard

Circle B Christmas Trees

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At this time of year, the Wood Storks and Double-Crested Cormorants tend to roost in the tall trees in the middle of the marsh at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I often think of these as the “Christmas Trees,” except they are decorated with birds instead of ornaments. When you’re at CBBR on a sunny morning and you see decorated Christmas trees, it’s good news for you if you want to practice your flight shots. Stand on the southern end of the Heron Hideout trail just after sunrise, and wait. The birds almost always take off after sunrise and fly towards Lake Hancock, right towards the Heron Hideout trail. It’s perfect for flight shots.