Beyond the Backyard

Beautiful Morning at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

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After hearing  time after time about how great the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is, Dyeyo decided that he wanted to go with me and see it.  It was a pretty foggy morning, but the sun burned off the fog just as we arrived at the refuge around 8:30.  The Birdbrains have been saying that the Peacocks Pocket drive has been fairly active, so we headed there first.  We found Black-Necked Stilts and a small variety of shorebirds.  Then we went over to the Scrub Jay trail and found a Scrub Jay!  Finally we ended up at the Visitor’s Center, where they have a little boardwalk.  We found a pair of White-Eyed Vireos building a nest, and we stood and watched and photographed for probably over half an hour. Dyeyo and I are used to walking the trails at the Circle B Bar Reserve, so it was strange for us to drive Peacock’s Pocket.  The car works as a bird blind, but the birds at Merritt Island are also more skittish than our birds at Circle B. Our first bird of the day was this White Ibis, who probably had no idea that he was casting such a great reflection […]

Beyond the Backyard

Skies Full of American White Pelicans at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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The skies of the Circle B Bar Reserve were covered in American White Pelicans this morning.  We arrived at sunrise and stayed till about 11:30.  During that whole time, wave after wave of pelicans flew in.  They must be powered by Energizer…they just keep coming, and coming, and coming! This morning we walked up Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, Wading Bird Way, then doubled back and took the Shady Oak trail out to the lake.  I shot several panoramas, but I am being lazy and waiting for “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop” to create the panoramas.  Lightroom + Photoshop CS5 is much more efficient than Lightroom + Photoshop Elements. :) The marshes were full of roosting birds at sunrise.  We moved quickly to the south end of Heron Hideout (beyond Marsh Rabbit Run) to see hundreds of Wood Storks and Sandhill Cranes sleeping in a group.  They almost reminded me of the pelicans — there were that many birds! There’s one tree in particular that I enjoy photographing.  It’s often covered in birds.  I call it my “Circle B Christmas Tree” — the birds remind me of ornaments on a Christmas tree. As we headed up Marsh Rabbit Run, I […]

Beyond the Backyard

What’s so Great about Morning Light?

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I’ve had some people asking me why I get up at the crack of dawn to go to Circle B. The answer is “to get there during the great morning light.” So what’s so great about morning light? Compare and contrast the following two pictures. Both feature a Greater Yellowlegs, taken yesterday morning on Heron Hideout, from the same angle. One was taken around 7 in the morning (sunrise was 6:47), and one was taken around 10 as I was leaving the reserve. See the difference? The picture taken in the bright glow of sunrise has a warmth and golden cast to it. The picture taken at mid-morning still shows a fun bird and a great reflection, but the color of the light is colder.

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 […]