Beyond the Backyard

Promise of Eaglets at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Bald Eagles

On the last day of Thanksgiving break, my dad and I were excited to take his friend Dr. B to the Circle B Bar Reserve.  Dr. B has been to lots of fun places to photograph, but it was his first time at Circle B.  We arrived just before sunrise and found a gray, nasty morning.  The fog was thick and there wasn’t even a hint of the sun.  We took the Heron Hideout trail out to Wading Bird Way.  Our first good birds of the day were the Bald Eagles that nest out on the sandhill.  They put on a good display for us, mating at the top of a tree!  It was the first time I’ve seen them do that.  So the next batch of eaglets is underway!  Of course, we were so busy talking that we missed the mating shot.  My first frame was the flight shot as the birds separated.  But they did pose together nicely on a tree for several minutes. Almost as we hit the Wading Bird Way trail, I spotted a small brown fuzzball out in the marshy grasses.  Then I heard the small, weezy calls of baby Limpkins who are running toward […]

Beyond the Backyard

Winter Birds Returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Juvenile Purple Gallinule

The winter birds are returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve!  My dad and I had a great walk yesterday morning.  We saw our first-of-fall Eastern Phoebes, Gray Catbirds, Marsh Wrens, and a surprise flock of American White Pelicans flying over the marsh.  It was fun to welcome our birdy friends back to the Sunshine State! When we first arrived on the Heron Hideout trail, a very cooperative Belted Kingfisher was sitting close to the trail on some alligator flag reeds.  Dyeyo was thrilled to see one so close!  It was still pretty dark, so a tripod was required to get sharp shots at lower shutter speeds with a decent ISO.  The bird didn’t help much – she was constantly turning her head!  Each year I have to remember how to identify the Belted Kingfishers: the females have the rusty brown on their tummies, and the males don’t. As the sun came up, the golden glow illuminated the Purple Gallinules climbing on the alligator flag reeds.  Adults and juveniles alike would inch out onto the long reeds to eat the purple flowers at the tips.  The reeds would sustain the birds’ weight for a while, then finally give way and […]

Beyond the Backyard

Fall Walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Yesterday I finally made it out for a fall walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I haven’t been there in months!  It felt great to get back out on the trails.  I love photographing along the Heron Hideout trail early in the morning on these early fall days.  The light is golden and gorgeous, illuminating the birds that are starting to return to the reserve.  The Alligator Flag plants are high and in full bloom, and dozens of Purple Gallinules hop along the reeds.  Occasionally a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher or a Palm Warbler comes along to nectar from the tiny purple flowers.  So I headed for my favorite spot, knowing I’d come away with something good. Those silly Purple Gallinules!  They were on the wrong side of the trail!  A great big group of them were diving and chucking at me as I explained to them that they were on the afternoon light side of the trail.  They didn’t seem to care. :) Of course, if I hadn’t been standing there watching for Purple Gallinules, I never would have noticed this American Bittern fly by.  I’ve been trying for good flight shots of these guys for years.  They are so […]

Beyond the Backyard

More from Lake Morton

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Wood Duck

There were lots of fun birds to photograph on my last visit to Lake Morton.  Besides the juvenile swans, there was a family of baby Limpkins, as well as the regular “menagerie” of ducks and geese.  Early mornings are always good for bath shots!  So here’s some more from Lake Morton… A pair of Black-necked Swans was added to the lake last year.  They are very pretty, and I really enjoy photographing them.  This one was splashing around and peeping to his partner.  I love the open beak in the image above! All sorts of juvenile ducks are growing up around the lake shores.  Those ducks interbreed so much that some of the juvies have some very interesting colors.  This one was pretty with his white feathers that contrast with his bright green patches. Lake Morton is a good place to go to photograph Wood Ducks.  These birds are usually secretive and hard to approach, but at Lake Morton, they are used to people.  I saw plenty of juvenile male Wood Ducks during my visit.  Their molting feathers aren’t quite as impressive as their parents’ feathers!  This adult posed near me, and the calm waters made for a perfect reflection […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cygnet Watch at Lake Morton

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On my way back from Fort De Soto last Saturday, I stopped at Lake Morton to see if there were any cygnets (baby swans).  I’ve been keeping an eye on the nests there for the past few weeks, as it is getting to be that time of year when tiny gray fuzzballs appear under the mother swans.  It was mid-day when I got there, and the light was really harsh, but the Beast and I took a walk around the light and still found plenty to photograph.  There weren’t any baby swans yet, but I did see some other cute babies… The two little yellow ducklings are still at Lake Morton and they are doing well.  They’ve gotten so much bigger than when I saw them last, and that was just two weeks ago.  It’s so sweet to watch them stick together.  Pretty soon we won’t be able to distinguish them from all the other “stooges” (my name for the white ducks that come begging for food!) The Black-Necked Swans were out on the lake together.  I loved how they swan together, and their necks would cross in a heart shape sometimes.  I was hand-holding the Beast and not quite […]

Beyond the Backyard

Seven Baby Limpkins at Lake Morton!

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I had read about baby Limpkins at Lake Morton, and when I was walking around the lake on Saturday morning, I kept my eyes and ears open.  Often I hear babies before I see them.  Then I ran into my friend Jane, and she told me exactly where to find them.  Woo hoo!  They were clustered in a clump of bushes, taking refuge from the chaos of a bread-fest that a little girl was sharing with the ducks.  I counted one, two, three, maybe four baby Limpkins in the bushes.  I got some really bad shots with lots of grass in the way, then settled down to wait, hoping that the little ones would venture out once the chaos subsided.  As often happens, I was rewarded for my patience…and then my jaw dropped as I counted SEVEN babies come out in the open! I thought it was great how the Mallards and White Ibises would wander back and forth in the tall grasses.  The Limpkins didn’t seem to mind the “outsiders” coming close to the babies.  At one point, the babies seemed to be playing with each other.  I caught these two doing a hop-skip-jump as they ran toward the […]

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Exploring Orlando Wetlands Park

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Cabbage Palms and Earth Shadow

Yesterday I went to a photography workshop led by Robert Amoruso at Orlando Wetlands Park.  It was only my second time to visit the park, and I figured the Audubon fundraiser would be a fun opportunity to meet a good photographer and learn some of the good spots in the park.  Robert was awesome.  He did a great job of balancing the various skill levels of the workshop participants.  He knew how to put us in the right places for good photographs, even though it was a relatively slow bird day.  Then he finished with a nice slide program.  I met some nice people and had a chance to make some good images.  It’s too bad that the park closes for hunting in a few days.  I’m looking forward to February when I can go back. We started out the morning with a landscape photography session.  It was a still morning, and the cabbage palms made beautiful reflections in the calm water.  The sky was pink, and Robert explained that the blue band was Earth shadow, caused by the shadow of the Earth on the atmosphere.  It was very pretty.  The Double-Crested Cormorants posed in the treetops, and a Roseate […]

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It’s About Time!

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I’ve been trying to make good images of Limpkins in flight over at least the last year.  There are certainly enough Limpkins at the Circle B Bar Reserve that you would think this would be easy.  Except the silly Limpkins are very fond of giving me butt shots.  As soon as I get ready for flight shots, they start flying — away from me!  So I was very excited to see a couple of them fly parallel to me yesterday morning.  I was standing on the Heron Hideout trail, looking out over the marsh in sweet morning light.  That’s a great place for flight shots, especially when the birds are close.  This one wasn’t, but that’s what cropping is for!  I still wouldn’t mind if the Limpkins would cooperate and give me more opportunities like this… :)

Beyond the Backyard

Save the Best for Last

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As I prepared to leave Lake Morton on Sunday, I stopped to photograph a Limpkin standing tall by the lakeside. I approached cautiously, tucking myself behind a tree so as not to surprise him. When I emerged on my knees to photograph him at eye-level, I was the one who got the surprise. He had five little Limpkin chicks with him! They were a little older than the chicks that rode the Circle B Water Slide last year, but still young enough to be fuzzy. They stood around poking their noses in the grass together. At one point they did an adorable nose-to-nose moment. Then something spooked them, and they ducked quickly under nearby grasses. My best shot was of this chick, who I caught open-mouthed as he tried to catch a bug. Look at him stick his tongue out!

Beyond the Backyard

Cloudy Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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I think the weather forecasters were a little overly optimistic this morning when they predicted “partly sunny” for 8am. I called it “mostly cloudy!” I was glad that I didn’t go to the Circle B Bar Reserve for sunrise, because there wasn’t one. The light levels were pretty low all morning. But it was great to see friends, and there is always something to see at Circle B. The American Kestrel was posing high in the Treasure Tree again this morning. He was in the same spot Friday morning. It was Dyeyo’s first kestrel sighting of the fall. The sun was nice enough to come out for a few seconds to illuminate this pretty bird. The passerines (songbirds) are starting to return to the reserve. One of my favorites is the Common Yellowthroat, or “Zorro”. His bright yellow colors brighten the marsh. They don’t usually like to sit still, so both Dyeyo’s and my cameras went click-click-click when this one posed out in the open. Yay for flash on cloudy days! We did not see the baby Limpkins on the Wading Bird Way trail today. This adult flew into some bushes as we started to leave. His landing was not […]

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

Another Morning at the Circle B Water Slide

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I spent my off-Friday morning with the baby Limpkins at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I headed out to the Wading Bird Way trail at sunrise.  There were too many clouds for an impressive sunrise, but as I watched the light rising, I heard the baby Limpkins.  I watched and waited, and within fifteen minutes they had left the cover of their bushes and emerged onto the trail.  I spent several hours on the trail with them, and for the first time, got a few pictures of them with a decent sun angle. There were four baby Limpkins originally, but now there are only two left.  Two weeks ago I watched three of them take a trip on the “Circle B water slide” (the water flowing through the culverts underneath the trail).  Today the two remaining babies swam by the culverts and started to get pulled under by the current, but now they are big enough to swim against the water and free themselves. The babies are big enough now that their parents don’t stay with them all the time.  But Mom did show up from time to time with a tasty apple snail snack.  Then the babies fought with […]

Beyond the Backyard

Birds Grow up So Quickly!

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We had our first photo walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  It was a small group, but we had a nice walk.  We saw our first-of-fall Common Yellowthroats, and I’m pretty sure I heard several other warblers, but the mosquitoes were thick and we didn’t linger to watch them.  We found the baby Limpkins out on the Wading Bird Way trail, and wow, they have gotten bigger!  They spent most of their time buried in the bushes, but we got a quick glimpse of two babies as they ran across the trail.

Beyond the Backyard

Twins?

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Lots of people at the Circle B Bar Reserve this weekend commented that the famous baby Limpkins look a lot like baby Sandhill Cranes.  They do!  The colors are different, but the size, beak size, and general shapes of the babies are quite similar.  I hunted up some Sandhill colt pictures from April to compare… The babies are my favorites to photograph!!! :)