Beyond the Backyard

Migrant Birds at Fort De Soto

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Summer Tanager (male)

Two weekends ago I had the most amazing morning photographing the migrant birds at Fort De Soto.  The trees were literally dropping with colorful birds.  Red tanagers, orange orioles, blue buntings and grosbeaks, and warblers everywhere.  It was a birder’s paradise. Good birding isn’t always good for the birds.  Most of these birds spend the winters in South America.  In April, they fly north to their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada.  Many cross the Gulf of Mexico, flying nonstop across the ocean in an incredible journey.  They take advantage of the winds to make their flight easier.  But when they encounter a front, their tail winds suddenly become headwinds, which can be deadly for the birds if they are still over water.  They land as soon as they can in what is called a “fallout.”  Fort De Soto is a place where such fallouts sometimes occur.  It offers the birds land, trees, fresh water, and a food source – mulberries. If you’re like me, you may have visited Fort De Soto several times and never known where the famous “mulberry trees” are.  Well, they are by the ranger’s house.  When you pull into the park, turn right […]

Beyond the Backyard

Callaway Gardens Vacation: Part 5 – Migrating Warblers!

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The Beast was napping in his case when Rich and I were hiking in the Azalea Bowl at Callaway Gardens last week.  I had the wide-angle lens on the camera, somewhat disappointed at the meager number of birds that we’d managed to find on our vacation.  So I put on a warming filter and concentrated on making landscape images.  (Note: an APS-C sensor with its 1.6 crop factor does not make for a good landscape camera at Callaway…the trees are so tall that you can’t fit them in the frame!) Of course, as soon as you leave the telephoto lens behind, you come across the birds!  We found a flock of mixed warblers and other small birds in the woods.  Some of them are year-round in Georgia, but with the mixed flock, I wondered if they were migrants. I ran back to get the Beast.  Even though it was mid-day and the light was very harsh, I found that the trees filtered the light, and my shots were better than I expected. The first bird I photographed was the Black and White Warbler above.  I was glad to have my 1.4x teleconverter, as the birds were all really high up […]

Beyond the Backyard

Circle B Migrants

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I felt like playing with Photoshop today, so I made another warbler and migrant bird collage. These little birds are usually high in the oak canopies, and it’s hard to get great pictures of them. They also hop around really fast. You come home with a stiff neck and then squint at your pictures, asking “is there really a bird in there?” So this is combination of a bunch of pictures from the last month, severely cropped. I think I have them all identified correctly, but they are the “confusing fall warblers”, so please tell me if you notice a mistake. Click on the image above for a higher-resolution version.

Beyond the Backyard

Activity Starting to Pick up at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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I keep running into photographers at the Circle B Bar Reserve who complain that nothing is happening. They remember the thousands of pelicans and myriad of other species seen last November through April. There isn’t as much activity now, but there’s still plenty to photograph, especially if you know where to look! The plan this morning was to get to Circle B early enough to walk around to Wading Bird Way before sunrise. I had visions of sunrise pictures over the marsh. But then Dyeyo’s Sand Hill Crane family was out on Heron Hideout, and I dallied a little too long saying hello to the baby (now almost adult). So the sun was rising behind me as I hiked the Eagle Roost. I still got some fun sunrise pictures: Ten minutes later, I was out on Wading Bird Way, and the sun was already getting high in the sky. I set my lens to a high f-stop number to try to make the sun do the “star” effect. It did, and the reflection in the water was gorgeous. Small flocks of birds kept flying over my head, so I practiced my birds-in-flight photography. I was really excited to get the […]