Backyard photography

Happiness is…

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American Goldfinch

Happiness is… …watching the American Goldfinches turn yellow and play in your flowers :) … seeing the female Indigo Bunting from last weekend – she stuck around! … finally snapping a picture of the elusive Prairie Warbler who has been mocking you for the past three mornings, and as a bonus, getting to hear him sing! … watching the cardinals take a bath in the birdbath that you cleaned for them yesterday (it’s always nice when they appreciate your efforts!) … admiring the colors as your goldfinch poses in the shade while the background behind him is alight with color. …watching the Painted Bunting hop out onto the “waiting perch” as he considers a flight to the feeder. …laughing at the Palm Warbler as he finds every mealworm you’ve dropped under the feeder… …listening to the happy calls of the American Goldfinches as they circle your yard.  “Baby!”  “Potato chip!” …saying hello to the Brown Thrasher and realizing that since the pair of them have stopped visiting together, his mate must be busy sitting on eggs at a nest nearby. … laughing at the Red-winged Blackbirds who are so certain that they are missing something because they can’t get into the […]

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 […]

Backyard photography

Colorful Birds in the Backyard

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I’ve been enjoying watching the brightly colored birds passing through my yard in the past couple of weeks. I wrote recently about an Indigo Bunting that joined our feeder party, and he inspired me to get out in the backyard so that I could get closer to the birds.  I have a blind, but I’ve also found that if I sit behind bushes or flowers, the birds get used to me.  So I’ve spent several happy afternoons trying to capture the color in my own backyard. The Painted Buntings are such fun backyard visitors.  They arrive in my Central Florida backyard in October, and they stay at least through April.  I had more males winter in the yard this year.  I know spring migration is starting when I see fewer males and more greenies (juvenile and female birds).  They have been surprisingly receptive to having a photographer in the backyard.  I noticed that they often hopped to a nearby branch, then to a feeder.  So I placed a branch near the feeder in a location with a pleasing backyard.  I didn’t have to wait long for the birds to start using my perch.  Nice!  Of course, they weren’t always that […]

Backyard photography

Indigo Bunting Joins the Feeder Party

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Rich looked out at our bunting feeder tonight and found a new customer at our backyard bird feeder – an Indigo Bunting!  He’s the first one we’ve had visit our yard.  Rich stopped and said, “What’s that!?  He’s different!”  I grabbed my camera and Rich grabbed binoculars and we both said, “Indigo Bunting!”  He’s a nice male who is almost finished molting into his bright blue breeding plumage. I wonder if the cold front blew him in. When we first noticed the Indigo Bunting, he was eating peacefully with a female/juvie Painted Bunting, a.k.a. “greenie.” Another greenie joined the party, as did a male Painted Bunting.  I was so excited to see the male Indigo and male Painted Buntings together! There was just one problem.  There weren’t enough ports to go around.  (That pesky camera lady needs to buy a bigger feeder!)  The male Painted flew around to tell one of the greenies to move off a port.  Usually the greenies yield to the male Painted Buntings when it comes to feeder ports.  But today the greenie stood up for herself and told the male to back off! The male actually did back off!  He flew around to the other […]

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

Preview of Coming Attractions…

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I had the most incredible day today!  I went to Fort De Soto to check out the migrants, and I finally got my first Scarlet Tanager male, along with a ton of orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, and a few warblers.  Birders kept telling me that today was a “slow” day in comparison to last weekend’s fallout…but to me, it was awesome!  I stopped at Lake Morton to check on the swan babies, and look what I found… More coming in upcoming posts…just as soon as I finish blogging about last weekend’s photography!  I love the springtime and baby birdies!

Beyond the Backyard

Redstarts and Warblers and Buntings, Oh My!

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The cold front moved through and brought not only cooler temperatures, but lots of migrant birds!  I spent a very nice morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve with Dyeyo.  We chased lots of little birds and ended up with a pretty good migrant count, including an Indigo Bunting!! :) We hiked the Heron Hideout trail, Marsh Rabbit Run trail, and Wading Bird Way trail this morning.  We hadn’t been on Marsh Rabbit Run for more than two minutes before we spotted a male American Redstart.  I’ve only seen females before, so I was pretty excited.  We chased that little bird in and out of the oak treetops for over an hour!  Photographing him was quite challenging, for many reasons:  the light was uneven, the bird kept hiding, autofocus kept triggering on the leaves instead of the birds, etc.  So I was happy to get a few shots with the bird in focus, kinda-sorta looking at the camera. :) We heard Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers all over the place.  They are so cute!  I’m glad that they are back.  For the most part they are staying high in the trees now.  In a few weeks, they will start to come lower into […]

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

A Perfect Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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The weather was cool, the sunrise was awesome, the birds were out, and there was a breeze! I couldn’t imagine a more perfect morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. There was a Tricolored Heron in his usual place, fishing where the water flows under the trail. He looked great in the morning light. The Palm Warblers are definitely back in full force! We enjoyed watching several of them hopping around on these plants with purple flowers. I’ve been seeing Wood Ducks in flight over Heron Hideout for the past few weeks. I wish I could find them when they are on the ground! We’ve never found where they hide. Lots of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers greeted us as we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run. They hopped around in the low bushes and posed for us nicely. I laughed so hard when I saw this shot: Then I saw this shot and got really excited. I’ve often compared gnatcatchers to hummers because of the way they flutter their wings and seem to hover in mid-air while they are hunting for insects. I’ve tried and tried to capture that moment, but they are so fast! I finally got it though… Then finally one […]