Backyard photography

Backyard Birding from my Blind

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird

I have to make a confession.  I bribed some birds today. I had a few free hours (gasp!) and I decided to do some backyard birding.  I confess to waiting to refill the bird feeders until it was prime photography time – after the household chores were done, the camera was outside, and the light was right!  But the birds didn’t mind my manipulations.  They were just happy to see fresh birdseed. The first birds who noticed the refilled feeders were the goldfinches.  This scout flew into the yard and sounded a happy “Potato Chip!” to alert the neighborhood.  Free nyger!  Come and get it! Rich had noticed a goldfinch doing a tail-spread this morning.  I was surprised to photograph the same behavior.  The goldfinches are starting to get into their breeding plumage.  This one was sporting a yellow head and a starting-to-be-black forehead.  In a few weeks he’ll be all yellow and ready to impress his mate! It’s that time of the year when the Brown Thrasher pair shows up in the backyard.  I think they like the free birdseed while they are nesting.  Today I saw both of them scavenging in the mulch, and then they took turns in the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Gorgeous Birds at Gatorland

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My last Gatorland post focused on the Snowy Egret that I saw hatch, but I saw lots of other birds last Saturday morning also.  It was a cloudy morning, with a good chance of rain, so I didn’t want to drive for hours and then take a long walk with my Beast.  So I opted for Gatorland, which is closer to home and has rain shelter if required.  I was surprised to find that lots of other photographers had the same idea as me!  The rookery was packed.  There were several photo workshops going on, lots of long lenses, and after 10:00, tons of tourists.  But the clouds diffused the sun, letting us shoot much longer than usual.  Activity at the rookery has picked up considerably in the past two weeks.  When I was there with Debbie, the Great Egrets were the primary nesters.  Now the Snowies and Tricolored and especially the Cattle Egrets have moved in. My goal for the morning was a Cattle Egret in full breeding colors.  I got it!  (Now I want one in sunlight.  Photographers are so picky!) I was surprised to find Gray Catbirds everywhere.  They hopped onto the fenceposts of the boardwalk, not […]

Beyond the Backyard

Gray Cat Meets Gray Catbird

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I saw my first-of-fall Gray Catbird on Sunday at Bok Tower. Then we had one in our backyard tonight, along with a male Painted Bunting. Squirt was very happy to finally meet his namesake gray catbird. Now Whiskey wants to know when he’ll get to see a Black-and-White Warbler!

Beyond the Backyard

A Rainbow of Color at Fort De Soto

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After last weekend’s fallout of migratory birds at Fort De Soto, I so wanted to take a vacation day on Monday to go birding there.  But I was good and responsible…and I went over on my next off-Friday.  Wow!  It was my first migration experience and it was just incredible.  I had a total of 9 lifers for the day. I started out the morning with the sunrise at the East Beach turnaround, then couldn’t resist the morning light at North Beach for an hour (more on that in another post).  By 9:00 I had made my way to the East Beach woods, where most of the migrants this week have been reported.  I got out the car and immediately saw a small bird hopping around in the oak tree near my car.  That Black-and-White Warbler was the first of a bunch of fun finds.  Thrushes abounded, and within minutes I had collected two lifers: a Gray-Cheeked Thrush and a Veery. This female Summer Tanager was in the oak tree at the start of the Privet Trail.  Her bright yellow caught my attention, and then she was such a good acrobat that I spent at least twenty minutes watching her. […]

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

Circle B Bar Reserve: the Photographer’s Playground!

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My dad and I had a great time this morning doing a “photo hike” at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We’d like to say thanks to the dozen or so brave people who came out early at 8:00 and braved the winds to see the birds.  We enjoyed the time, and we hope that everybody else did too.  Our group ranged in age from about 8 (hi Savannah!) to retirement age (people who rubbed in that they can bird all day, every day — lucky!)  We had some people with DSLRs, some with point-and-shoots, and one with just her eyes.  The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks put on a good show for us, flying in circles over our heads again and again.  The American White Pelicans were not as numerous as in the past few weeks, but they still cover the skies.  Wood Storks covered the trees, making them look like “Birdie Christmas Trees”.  I think the favorite shot of the day may have gone to the baby alligator sunning himself not too far off the trail! Our hike took us out Heron Hideout, past the “Four Corners” for panorama shots of the Wood Storks in the trees across the marsh, and […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cold Sunset at Oakland Nature Preserve

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I couldn’t resist the itch to try out my 500mm lens any more!  It was pretty windy today, so rather than going to Circle B, Rich and I went up to Oakland Nature Preserve at sunset. Maybe I’m just very spoiled by Circle B, but Oakland doesn’t seem to have as many birds as it used to.  We used to see dozens of Ospreys sitting high in the trees, usually with fish.  We didn’t see a single one today.  But we did see little birds, especially at one point in the boardwalk.  There were tons of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, several Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, one Black-and-White Warbler, and a White-Eyed Vireo. I used my 500mm lens plus my 1.4x teleconverter today.  With my 7D body, that makes an effective focal length of 1120mm!!  I didn’t have any trouble locating birds with just the 500mm, since I’m using to using my 400mm plus my 1.4x teleconverter.  But when I added the 1.4x teleconverter to the 500mm, I did have a bit of trouble finding the birds in the frame.  I’m sure I’ll get used to it.  :) A Gray Catbird hopped in front of me and started to devour some red berries.  I didn’t […]

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

Our First Afternoon Visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Dyeyo and I made an unusual late-afternoon trip to the Circle B Bar Reserve today, hoping to get some fun sunset shots. It was strange to be there in the afternoon instead of the early morning. The differences in lighting almost made it feel like a totally new place. When we first got out to Heron Hideout, we were greeted by this Gray Catbird, who posed pretty on a nice high branch for us. We were hoping to see the tiny baby Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks posted on Flickr a few days ago. When we didn’t find them on Heron Hideout, we decided to head up Marsh Rabbit Run. We were pleased to find our set of three Indigo Buntings in their usual trees partway up the trail. Wouldn’t it be great if they hung around all winter and we got to see them turn blue in the spring? :) An Eastern Phoebe called to us from high in a tree. As we watched, he hopped down to a lower branch, grabbed something, then returned to his perch to eat it. We couldn’t figure out what exactly his dinner was, but he sure enjoyed it. (Next time, little guy, try to […]

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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Peaceful Morning at Bok Tower

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Rich and I decided to go birding at Bok Tower this morning. It’s been a while since we’ve gone there, and Rich says it’s starting to be cool enough to go birding with me again. :) There were tons of birds! We couldn’t turn around without turning into a Gray Catbird. “Maaaw! Maaa! Go home and feed your gray cat!” they kept calling to us. Jays, Brown Thrashers, and Eastern Towhees abounded. We heard but did not see Wood Ducks at the Window by the Pond. Perhaps the most surprising was the abundance of Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, who we heard all over the gardens. I drove Rich crazy watching and waiting until I got this one in great light, nectaring on some salvia bushes: I had said to Rich that I wanted to see a whole assortment of migrant birds (which we did not see), and a new bird. Well, we were walking along the paths when two little fuss-budgets popped out of the bushes. They paused for a split second for me to snap a few pictures, then continued on their way. They were Ovenbirds! I’ve never seen one of those. The birdwatchers at Saddle Creek Park have been seeing […]

Beyond the Backyard

Songbirds at Bok Tower Gardens

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A rose-breasted grosbeak was recently seen at Bok Tower Gardens, so this morning Rich and I went to bird-watch at Bok.  We didn’t see a grosbeak, but we did see some fun songbirds. The first bird we saw this morning was a male Eastern Towhee.  He was on the ground, rooting through the grass, digging for worms.   His call really does sound like the “Drink your tea!” mnemonic on our bird CD.  Then he took the worms over to his baby and started to feed it.  A few minutes later, the birds flew into the tree right over my head, and I was able to snap a few pretty clear shots of the baby. Up by the tower, the swans were happy to pose for me (and beg for food!) There were tons of blue jays and cardinals out today.  I think I heard a bunch of baby cardinals, but I didn’t see any. I heard tons of great-crested flycatchers today.   I followed them from tree to tree, but I wasn’t able to get any decent close-ups.  Rich noticed this bird nesting box by the Exedra outlook area, and we realized that the flycatchers were flying in and out of […]