Beyond the Backyard

Expect the Unexpected at Viera Wetlands

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Dyeyo and I went to Viera Wetlands this morning with hopes of finding some of the babies reported on Birdbrains, and maybe the Fulvous Whistling Duck that was photographed there yesterday.   It’s summer, though, and I wasn’t optimistic that we’d find much, especially since we don’t get to Viera often and so are not as familiar with the area.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Starting with the Least Bittern that greeted us and ending with a King Rail chick, it was a great morning! Viera is known for being a place where it’s relatively easy to find Least Bitterns.  I haven’t seen a single one at the Circle B Bar Reserve this year, and I’ve yet to photograph one out in the open – ever.  Well, we arrived at Viera today, drove to the center area near the observation tower, and Dyeyo almost immediately said “Least Bittern!  Out in the open!”  I couldn’t believe it.  There were actually two birds, one still in breeding colors.  That was a first for me, too. :) But my favorite Least Bittern image came later in the morning, when I noticed one sitting up in the reeds.  It wasn’t until I aimed the Beast […]

Beyond the Backyard

February Photo Walk at Circle B Bar Reserve

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This morning my dad and I led another Photo Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Circle B asked us to lead people around the preserve, showing them the best trails and places to find birds. Today we had about ten or so people meet us at 8:00 (remember, photographers have to be up early to catch the early birds getting their worms!) We walked the Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run trails, picking up a couple of extra people in our group as we went along. Then a few of the group continued with us along Wading Bird Way out to the Eagle Roost, where we observed the nest and caught a glimpse of the several-week-old eaglet. It was a pretty good morning and we saw some fun birds! I actually got the preserve right around sunrise, and I walked up Heron Hideout before meeting up with the group. A small flock of White-Crowned Sparrows posed most obligingly for me in the bushes along the trail. There were three or four juveniles. I didn’t see the adults today. Juvenile White-Crowned Sparrows have brown stripes on their heads instead of the bright black stripes of the adult. However, these little […]

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

Finally! I Photographed a Painted Bunting at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

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I had a nice walk this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It’s always great to go there to unwind after a long week. This morning I hiked the Alligator Alley trail in search of small birds, then I walked up Marsh Rabbit Run and up Wading Bird Way around to the Eagle Roost trail, where I observed the eagle’s nest. So the big question of the day…is there one baby in that nest or are there two? I didn’t quite get to the lake before sunrise. The sun was already peaking up over the trees as I approached the lake. I stopped and took a bracketed set of panorama exposures. When I got home, I combined the bracketed exposures using HDR, then stitched each image together into a panorama. Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve! I walked slowly along the Alligator Alley trail, stopping often to observe the little birds flitting from tree to tree. I was very happy to quickly come across another Orange-Crowned Warbler. It was just two weeks ago that I saw this bird for the first time, and it’s still exciting to find one! The warblers are starting to get their spring colors. […]

Beyond the Backyard

Spring is in the Air at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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  It’s amazing how different a place can look after two weeks.  The weather kept me from Circle B last weekend, and I think it’s driven a lot of the birds away too.  The ponds that used to be covered in American Coots and American Wigeons were virtually empty.  Not an American White Pelican did we see.  I counted a lone Wood Stork.  Only the Sandhill Cranes roosted as usual, but they had to move to higher ground.  All the recent rains have refilled the dry pond beds – Circle B looks like a marsh again!   Robins greeted us high in trees above the parking lot as we arrived.  I heard lots of American Goldfinches as well.  As we turned onto Heron Hideout, the American Kestrel was on a dead palm on the west side of the trail.  Blue-Winged Teals have already moved into the new ponds.  I love photographing on Heron Hideout at dawn.  The water is usually still and the sun angle is perfect for awesome reflections.  I know Blue-Winged Teals are common, but they are so pretty. There is a dead tree at the "Four Corners" intersection that houses a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and his family.  I’ve […]

Beyond the Backyard

Lions and Bitterns and Rails, Oh My! Circle B Bar Reserve Never Disappoints

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A group of photographers met at the Circle B Bar Reserve for sunrise this morning. We had a blast. Circle B really is a photographer’s playground at this time of year! Dyeyo and I parked at the parking lot at the Circle B entrance, then took the Windmill Whisper trail out to Wading Bird Way. The southern half of Wading Bird Way is my second favorite sunrise spot in the reserve (Lake Hancock is my favorite). I took several bracketed shots as the sun began to peek over the horizon, and this one with the flocks of birds flying over the marsh was my favorite. There were not as many American White Pelicans out on the water as the last time Dyeyo and I went for sunrise. The small group of birds that were there today were in no hurry to fly off at sunrise. So I turned my attention to the birds that were showing off: the Ring-Billed Gulls and the American Coots. I liked the pale pink water in the two shots above, produced by the reflection of the pre-sunrise sky. We don’t normally take many pictures of the common American Coots…but if they are showing off, and […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Bird Paparazzi Grows at Circle B Bar Reserve

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There were TONS of people at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning! Despite the chilly and breezy weather, over a hundred birders were out to enjoy the morning. Dyeyo and I decided to hike along Alligator Alley to look for Orange-Crowned Warblers and Blue-Headed Vireos. We hoped for a nice sunrise over the lake, too, but it was so overcast that the sun stayed behind the clouds for a really long time. The sun started to come up as we headed up Alligator Alley. The trail was pretty in the morning light. The birds didn’t seem to be out of bed yet. Usually we see plenty of little birds in the trees along that trail, and today there weren’t many. This HDR image is one of my favorite places along Alligator Alley, where I had fun taking pictures of Snowy Egrets fishing this summer. Often I could find a Marsh Rabbit lurking in the bushes near the bench. I spotted an Osprey in a tree above my head. I had the 400mm lens with me with no tripod, and I missed the tripod’s stability as I waited for the Osprey to fly. He seemed to be thinking about it….thinking…thinking…and […]

Beyond the Backyard

King Rail at Sunset at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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I saw my first-ever King Rail at the Circle B Reserve tonight. I went for a sunset walk before the Lake Region Audubon Society meeting, where Fred Bassett gave an excellent talk about hummingbirds that winter in Florida. There were plenty of people out to enjoy the sunset, including a nice couple of saw me watching the rail and then asked, “Are there any bitterns around? That would be a lifer for me!” So Bill and I showed her where one of the Marsh Rabbit Run bitterns was posing not fifty feet away. Isn’t Circle B great!? I definitely prefer Circle B at sunrise, when the birds seem to be more active. In the afternoon I don’t seem to see as many birds, and I don’t like the light angles as much. Maybe that’s because I’m used to the morning light, who knows? I saw the King Rail as I turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run. It was on the north side of the trail, not far from the Heron Hideout intersection. It posed for a minute or so before it noticed me and then dove back into the vegetation. Was it something I said? I had some issues focusing with […]