Beyond the Backyard

Hot Summer Days at Orlando Wetlands Park

Posted on
Snail Kite

It’s been quite a while since I last visited Orlando Wetlands Park, so when my friend Michael Libbe suggested that we go there for sunrise, I was excited to go back.  Summer days at Orlando Wetlands Park are very hot, but there was a nice breeze to keep us comfortable.  We arrived a good half hour before sunrise, and we found fog and clouds to obscure the horizon.  So we had some time to catch up on our recent trips to Oregon and Maine as we waited for the light to illuminate the swamps. When the sun finally came up, it was a bright yellow orb behind the fog.  I thought it was pretty with the silhouettes of the distant trees underneath.  There were also a lot of grasses in the foreground which blurred and obscured the horizon.  I played with this image some in Nik Color Efex to add a vignette and a slight film grain.  I liked the mood of the resulting picture. Michael told me that a Snail Kite had been seen recently at Orlando Wetlands, so we headed off to find her.  We found her pretty easily, perched in some trees at the back of the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cute Babies at Viera Wetlands

Posted on

I went to Viera Wetlands on Saturday morning.  After all the rain on Friday, I wasn’t optimistic about the light level (I actually didn’t decide to make the drive until Saturday morning at 5am!)  There was virtually no sun till the very end of the morning, but the babies were cute and I was relatively pleased with my work from the morning.  I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Donna Faylo, as well as running into Kathy Urbach and Nancy Elwood.  We had a great time trying to catch a Least Bittern in flight.  :) When I first arrived at Viera at sunrise (a misnomer, as the clouds blocked all the sunlight), I went to the Click Ponds.  People have been posting on  Birdbrains that the low water levels have been attracting wading birds to roost at night.  When I drove up, there were no less than 50 Sandhill Cranes standing in the water.  There were also tons of Black-necked Stilts and little sandpipers.  Then the Sandhills started taking off in small groups of three or four.  I tried for some take-off shots, despite the low light.  This one looked pretty good after a Levels correction in Photoshop. A […]

Beyond the Backyard

Expect the Unexpected at Viera Wetlands

Posted on

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

Father’s Day at the Polk Rookery

Posted on

Dyeyo and I spent a nice Father’s Day morning with Herman at his rookery in Polk County.  That’s always such a fun place to go.  Herman’s little portable boat is awesome for floating between the islands and observing the birds. We started the morning with a Least Bittern – what a way to start the day!  He was completely out from under cover, posing beautifully—for just a second!  Then as we turned around in the boat, reached for our cameras, and tried to take his picture, he ducked.  This was the best he let me do.  (As he was hidden in the reeds, I had to choose between the “good beak” and the “good body” shots.  I liked the full body shot because you see his big feet.)  We saw at least two more Least Bitterns fly past throughout the morning.  Now I’m wanting to get back to Viera Wetlands to try for a “good pose”! The activity at the rookery has certainly changed since my first visit, when the birds were primarily constructing their nests, and we had a single set of Great Egret chicks.  Now there are only a few birds on eggs, and there are fledglings everywhere.  […]

Beyond the Backyard

Spring Morning at Viera Wetlands

Posted on

Dyeyo and I couldn’t take it anymore.  People on the Birdbrains mailing list have been going on and on this week about all the birds at Viera Wetlands.  So we drove out there this morning to see all the birds.  It was a beautiful sunny, slightly breezy morning, and it was awesome to be outside with the birds.  Except we didn’t find as many birds as had been reported!  Oh well.  I still got some good pictures. :) First there was the Green Heron posing on a dead palm tree in the first cell as we entered the wetlands.  I love all the dead trees at Viera – it makes for awesome portraits! We drove around the outside of the cells first, just to get a feel for what birds were around.  I was hoping to see some Least Bitterns, but we didn’t see much at all as we drove around.  The Common Moorhens are taking over the ponds again.  The American Coots are almost gone, and so are all the other ducks.  So I guess the moorhens figure that it’s time to reclaim their territory and get to laying eggs! We came across the Viera Sandhill Crane family on […]

Beyond the Backyard

Birds and Babies and Alligators, Oh my!

Posted on

Dyeyo and I enjoyed our hike around the Circle B Bar Reserve again this morning.  We saw our usual assortment of birds and babies, plus a few surprises… The Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks continue to make Circle B their summer home.  Their calls can be heard all over the marshes at all hours of the morning.  We suspect they are nesting in the marshes not too far from Heron Hideout.  Hopefully we’ll get to see the babies! We were pleasantly surprised to glance over and see a juvenile Least Bittern stalking its breakfast in a palm.  This bird was more out in the open than bitterns usually are, and the nice morning sun contributed to a good picture: It seemed like there were Common Moorhens everywhere we turned this morning.  I suspect these are the second batch of babies this spring.  The moorhens have two broods each year, and the first set of babies hangs around to help with the second set (that’s a little unusual in the birdie world.) This juvenile Common Moorhen was prancing around on top of a log, and just begging for me to take his picture.  Look at those big feet! Marsh Rabbit Run was rather […]

Beyond the Backyard

Still Plenty of Birds at Circle B Bar Reserve

Posted on

It was very hot but very fun to be back at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. Dyeyo and I took a nice long hike and saw some neat birds. I saw my first Eastern Meadowlark! I’ll wait until I have a better picture to post one, though. When we first arrived, we saw this Red-Shouldered Hawk sitting up in a tree on the Heron Hideout. Dyeyo clapped to get his attention, and then he posed nicely for us. Dyeyo’s Sand Hill Crane family met us on Heron Hideout, and we had fun taking pictures of the baby that he’s been visiting since it hatched about eight weeks ago. The baby has gotten so big! He’s lost the fuzzy yellow look and is starting to get feathers. I thought the following head shots were fun of the parent and baby: As we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run (where we did see a marsh rabbit!), Dyeyo spotted this Least Bittern hiding in the reeds. He played peek-a-boo with us for a few minutes until he flew off. There were Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks flying up and down Marsh Rabbit Run the whole time we were walking on it. We tried to […]