Beyond the Backyard

Seeking the Ash-throated Flycatcher in Florida

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Ash-throated Flycatcher

After visiting the nesting Great Blue Herons at Viera Wetlands before Christmas, Michael and I drove down the road to the Moccasin Island Tract to see a rare Ash-throated Flycatcher in Florida.  Ash-throated Flycatchers typically live in the western US, so this guy is a little far from home!  We parked, spotted a flycatcher-like bird on a post, and I got two very quick shots before the bird flew off.  Why is it that lifer shots are always bad ones?  My settings were all off and I severely underexposed him!  But at least I got a shot.  Lightroom helped me lighten the image so that I could post it and add it to my Life List… A friendly Eastern Meadowlark was very cooperative for us.  Maybe he felt badly that we didn’t get great shots of the Ash-throated Flycatcher, so he decided to pose.  He sat on a fencepost and sang his heart out for us.  It was very windy, and I was hand-handling the Beast.  It was hard to keep the bird in the frame with the wind blowing so hard!   I kept hoping he’d hop down to a berry bush below his fence, but he wasn’t that […]

Beyond the Backyard

Betcha Can’t Go Just Once!

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On December 31 I made yet another trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, this time with Dyeyo. He had never been on Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. We carefully planned to go on a day when it would be sunny with little wind. Then we got there and it was a little windy, and there were not as many birds as my last visits. Go figure. Our goal was for Dyeyo to see the Horned Grebe and a Reddish Egret (Big Red doesn’t make it inland to Circle B Bar Reserve, so Dyeyo hadn’t ever seen the Drunken Sailor Dance!) Dyeyo got to see both his birds. :) The Horned Grebe has been hanging out by the culverts at the bathrooms for the past few weeks. Dyeyo and I set up by the culverts, watching and waiting. It didn’t take long for the grebe to appear–and then disappear back into the culverts! We must have sat there for about half an hour to get glimpses of this silly little bird as he darted out and then went back in again. I guess it was less windy inside the pipes. Then as soon as we left, the bird came out and posed […]

Beyond the Backyard

So Many Fence Posts, So Few Birds…

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After reading about how Joe Overstreet Road is such a great place for bird photography, I’ve been meaning to get there all winter.  But I didn’t get the opportunity until this morning.  It wasn’t exactly what I expected.  But I did end up with some fun pictures! I wanted to visit Joe Overstreet for Eastern Meadowlarks, Crested Caracara, Swallow-tailed Kites, and maybe even a Snail Kite.  It seems that the kites are my nemesis bird this vacation.  I keep seeing them when I don’t have a camera in hand!  Not fair.  I didn’t see the first one today.  Actually, about 20 minutes down the road, I was shooting the sunrise mist in the fog, wondering where the birds were.  I even shot an empty post, to put on the blog in case I didn’t see any birds!  But as I drove down the road, I did finally start to see some. My first bird of the morning was an American Crow.  He posed on the road in front of me, making me wish I could customize a car for photography without a windshield!  But I was happy to have my windshield a few seconds later, when a big truck came […]

Beyond the Backyard

In Search of Babies at Circle B Bar Reserve

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Dyeyo and I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning on a quest to find baby birds.  The adorable Sandhill Crane colt that met us on the Heron Hideout trail was just the first.  We figured that the Barred Owlet had already fledged, so we headed out to Wading Bird Way in search of the Limpkin babies and Mottled Duck babies that someone mentioned to us.  We didn’t find either, but we did find the other Sandhill Crane family. :) The days are getting longer and the sun is rising earlier.  Dyeyo and I planned to meet at 7:30, but I ran a few minutes late.  By the time we got out to the Heron Hideout trail around 7:45, the Sandhill Crane family had already made its way up onto the trail, and they only let us take a few pictures before moving off into the marsh again.  The early bird gets the worm!  Next weekend I’ll be an early bird. Sunrise next weekend is at 7am! The colt is bigger this week.  He’s hunting for his own food more, although he’ll happily accept that tasty morsel from Mom or Dad.  I noticed that he’s allowed to wander […]

Beyond the Backyard

Foggy but Interesting Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Wow it was foggy this morning!  It was all clear as I left Orlando, but the fog started when I hit I-4, and the Polk Parkway was crazy with fog.  So I wasn’t anticipating seeing too much this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I’m glad I was wrong!  We saw tons of birds. The Red-Winged Blackbirds must be beginning to nest.  The males are displaying and calling from the treetops, providing wonderful photo ops.  It seemed like we had a blackbird on every other little tree along Heron Hideout this morning. To kill time until the fog lifted, we walked around the Eagle Roost Trail out to Wading Bird Way to look for the Sandhill Crane family that has been reported there.  It was so foggy!  We couldn’t see the Bald Eagle’s nest.  We could hear Eastern Meadowlarks, but we couldn’t see them.  When we made it out to Wading Bird Way, we could see faint shadows of birds on the trail, but we had to get pretty close before we could identify them. There were tons of little Savannah Sparrows out this morning, both on the Eagle Roost trail and along Wading Bird Way.  I got down […]

Beyond the Backyard

Magical Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

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The sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning was magnificent!  The drive over from Orlando was very very foggy, and as the sun rose and burned off the fog over the marsh, the light was just beautiful.  I looked over at a common bunch of grasses, illuminated by the sunrise.  The golden glow was gorgeous. There were dragonflies resting on top of the grasses.  I wish I had taken a little more time to get out the extension tubes for some closer-up shots, especially with the dragonflies that were backlit by the golden sunrise.  Oh well, next weekend!  This was my favorite dragonfly shot of the day: Both of the sunrise grass pictures were taken on Heron Hideout.  It was weird to walk back that way a few hours later, and see the same scene turned back into boring green grass.  Sunrise light really does work magic! As we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run, we saw a grackle fussing, and we assumed we were too close to his nest.  Then we realized that his friend on an adjacent tree wasn’t a grackle, but a Green Heron!  The Green Herons are usually hard to find, but this is the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Baby Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

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The peak bird migration is definitely past, and some would say that this is the “slow period” for birding at Circle B Bar Reserve. Dyeyo and I are finding that the babies popping up throughout the preserve still make our walks very rewarding! This morning we arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve at dawn (6:30) and headed out Heron Hideout. A family of Common Moorhens greeted us, and we spent several minutes photographing a mother feeding her chicks. We saw at least five chicks, two of which were swimming out in the water, with the remaining chicks sticking close to the reeds. I didn’t want to use my flash, and get severe reflections in the birds’ eyes, so I instead dialed up my ISO as high as possible (1600) and shot. The results are a bit grainy, but the mother-baby moment is cool. Nearby, a baby Red-Winged Blackbird was perched in some tall grass, fluttering his wings desperately as he called for food. His father hovered nearby, probably warning the baby that there were strangers with cameras nearby! We headed out to the Eagle Roost to check for Eastern Meadowlarks and Northern Bobwhites. Dyeyo’s been taking lessons from Mum-mum […]

Beyond the Backyard

Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

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The increasingly hot temperatures drove Dyeyo and me to the Circle B Bar Reserve at 6:30 this morning, to allow us time for birding before the heat set in. I was amazed to see the marsh at sunrise. It was like a whole other world, with dewdrops glistening in the rising sun, and the grasses and trees giving off a friendly glow. The first birds to greet us were the Red-winged Blackbirds. As Dyeyo cautioned me about backlight, I snapped this image, intentionally wanting the bird to come out in silhouette. (It flew before I could re-meter and expose his feathers properly.) As the sun crept up behind us, Dyeyo and I headed out Heron Hideout to the Eagle Roost to look for Eastern Meadowlarks. Towards the far end of the Heron Hideout, we noticed a pair of Green Herons, quietly sitting in a tree. It’s hard to find Green Herons; they really keep to themselves. As we photographed the Green Herons, the Red-winged Blackbirds circled, fussing at us to pay attention to them, too. This one landed on a nearby branch, threw his head back, and started to sing. It’s a very characteristic pose for this piggy bird! Dyeyo […]