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

My First Bufflehead at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Dyeyo and I spent a nice morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve a few days ago. I can’t believe our Thanksgiving Week is almost over. It feels like it’s lasted only one day! The marsh continues to be covered in pretty yellow flowers, called Burr Marigolds. I had only taken the Beast, so Dyeyo lent me his wide-angle lens to take some landscape shots. We hiked the Heron Hideout trail out to the Wading Bird Way trail. There were lots of ducks mixed in with the coots! I thought they made a good backdrop for the yellow flowers. The best bird of the morning was this female Bufflehead, who was on the south side of the Marsh Rabbit Run trail about a third of the way up the trail. I’ve never seen a Bufflehead before. Now that I’ve seen the female, I really want to see a male. His bright head is gorgeous! This Eastern Phoebe posed for me on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail. Dyeyo chuckled when he saw me stack my teleconverters to get a closer shot. :) Two Double-Crested Cormorants made me laugh. One came up with a fish, and the other got jealous. He chased […]

Beyond the Backyard

I Love This Time of Year at Circle B!

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I spent Sunday morning with The Beast at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It was hard to decide whether to head out to the marsh to catch the Bald Eagles flying with nesting material, or head to the lake to see the bobcat. The cloudless skies and great morning light made me decide on the marsh. I didn’t get many views of the eagles, but I did enjoy the time with the little birds. A lot of people are surprised when they see how high the vegetation is on the sides of the Heron Hideout trail. We need a good frost! There is one leafy green plant in the marsh right now that has put up all sorts of green reeds, and on the tips of the reeds are purple flowers. Those must be full of seeds, because all the birds are going nuts over them. I saw no less than TEN Purple Gallinules climbing the reeds and eating the seeds. (Most people are excited to see one!) Most of the Purple Gallinules were adults, but a few juveniles were showing off their pale colors. I laughed as the birds hopped around on the reeds, hanging on with those big […]

Beyond the Backyard

Snow Geese at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge

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Dyeyo and I continued our bird-watching safari.  After we saw the Snow Bunting in Palm Coast, we went to Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Rufuge, where several Snow Geese have been reported there over the last week or so.  They were there!  They usually don’t come to Florida.  There was a mix of white morph adults and juveniles, and one juvenile blue morph. Dyeyo and I really liked Lake Woodruff.  It reminded us of the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We were there around mid-day, which is not prime bird activity time (or bird photography time!)  But there were hundreds of birds.  We’ve  never seen such large flocks of Glossy Ibis.  White Ibis, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Little Blue Herons, and Killdeer were all over the place. The first thing we saw when we walked into the refuge was a turtle.  (Happy Rich!)  He sat there sunning himself, with all four of his feet sticking out.  The turtle kind of rocked back and forth on his shell.  We saw several turtles over the course of the day. There were Killdeer all over the place at Lake Woodruff.  There were a couple of birds on the ground right in front of us as […]

Beyond the Backyard

Seeing is Believing: There Really are Otters at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

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I’ve been going to the Circle B Bar Reserve at least once a week since June, and plenty of times before that, and I’ve never seen a River Otter. Dyeyo’s seen them plenty of times. Well, I finally got to see one today! There were otters running up and down Marsh Rabbit Run all morning. The best photo ops were when they surfaced with fish. Then we heard lots of crunching! We got to Circle B at 6:30 in hopes of a bright sunrise with some nice clouds. But it was really foggy instead. The normal birds were flying overhead as they left the marsh to seek their breakfast: Wood Storks, White Ibises, and the first Brown Pelicans of the season! Then the first rays of sun came through and illuminated the birds roosting in the marsh, making a beautiful contrast to the foggy background. At the intersection between Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run, an Eastern Phoebe posed high in a tree. All of a sudden, he darted out, grabbed a dragonfly, then returned to his perch to eat it. On a neighboring tree, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker was digging into a small hole. After a minute or so, he […]

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

Windy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Hundreds of White Ibis took to the air this morning over the Circle B Bar Reserve. The cold and the wind kept most of the birds under cover, but the White Ibises seemed to know how to navigate despite the gusts. On Heron Hideout, the marsh on the left is completely dry, and it seems surreal. We need a good rain to get the water level back to normal. I spied a couple of small birds running around over the dry land, and took a couple of very bad pictures (looking straight into the rising sun). The birds were Killdeer, a species I’ve never seen before at Circle B (although they are pretty common.) We were happy to see the baby Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks again, at the intersection of Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run. As usual, the parents had the babies tucked away in the vegetation. I guess they are not really “babies” anymore, but “juveniles.” Birds grow up so quickly! The whistling ducks were the other birds who were not deterred by the winds. We saw several little Flight School circles, where parents and juveniles flew in circles, calling each other like crazy. There were little birds in […]

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 […]