Beyond the Backyard

More Birding Fun at Viera

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A Bite to Eat

In my last post I wrote about the Roseate Spoonbills roosting at Viera Wetlands in the Click Ponds.  Well, there are a bunch of other fun birds there too.  Especially during the early golden light, when the spoonies weren’t cooperating for photography, it was amazing to be surrounded by pink and yet I was photographing other subjects.  Like this Snowy Egret, who proudly strutted around with his white feathers fluffed in the gorgeous light.  He wasn’t so happy later when a spoonbill reached out and bit his leg! Viera’s not one of my favorite places for sunrise – there are too many power lines in the way.  But the sunrise and clouds did throw some gorgeous light on the water of the Click Ponds, where dozens of Great Blue Herons and Sandhill Cranes stood in the shallow water.  I really liked the colors in this silhouette: The Wood Storks were having a good morning last Saturday.  They kept pulling big fish out of the water.  One stood working his catch down his throat for at least twenty minutes.  I suspect the fish weren’t very healthy in that low water, so it was probably easy to grab them for breakfast.  At […]

Beyond the Backyard

First of Season Warblers at CBBR!

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How are kitten care and warbler photography alike? Neither subject will stay still! This morning I enjoyed an off-Friday sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I saw my first warblers of the season!  Two Yellow Warblers and one Prairie Warbler spent a pleasant 15 minutes posing for me in the top of a tree on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail.  I know shorebird migration has been underway for about a month now, but I’ve always considered the first warblers to be the sign of fall migration. :) I arrived at Circle B just before sunrise.  It had rained there overnight, and there were large puddles on several trails.  it was great to see that the culverts on the Heron Hideout trail were all flowing with water again.  Hopefully it will keep raining, to get the water levels up before the migrant ducks arrive! While I waited for the light to be bright enough for bird photography, I experimented some with landscape HDR and my wide-angle lens.  The sun was pretty as it peeked over the horizon and shone through the clouds.  The marsh is quite pretty at this time of year, with all the trees covered in green.  But […]

Beyond the Backyard

Quiet Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Herman made me go back to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning after he posted a picture of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Flickr.  I took the Beast and set up in front of the Morning Glory vines where he saw the bird.  I waited about a half hour, but no hummers came.  So I took a picture of where the hummer should have been! (Note:  Someone else stood watching all morning long and didn’t see a hummer.  I guess maybe Herman’s bird was a passing migrant.) As exciting as it would have been to photograph a hummer at Circle B, I didn’t want to sit waiting for one all morning!  So I headed down the newly-opened Marsh Rabbit Run trail in search of my Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.  He was supposed to pose for me again, since I had The Beast in tow.  Silly bird, he didn’t cooperate.  But I saw a juvenile Osprey posed nicely in a tree: Right now, with the summer sun angle, the light is pretty good on the left side of Marsh Rabbit Run.  I noticed that the juvenile Little Blue Herons, who have been hanging out at “Four Corners” all year looking very white, are […]

Beyond the Backyard

Mothers and Babies at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Happy Mother’s Day!  Dyeyo and I spent a few hours at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning before going to spend some time with my mom.  It seemed appropriate that we saw a bunch of baby birds with their moms today.  :) We hiked the Alligator Alley loop this morning, starting just after sunrise.  Dyeyo had to try out his new lens on the hawk’s nest that is very close to the trail!  We ran into Al and Diane at the dock, where we did some flight photography.  There were tons of gators in Lake Hancock, and tons of birds too – Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, a few Black-Crowned Night Herons.  These were my favorite flight images: A juvenile Little Blue Heron greeted us as we continued along the Alligator Alley trail.  These birds look so scruffy as they molt from their juvenal while plumage into their adult blue colors!  They remind me of little kids dressed in white who were helping paint a room blue… The hawk’s nest is popular now, and we spotted the crowd of onlookers before seeing the nest itself.  The babies have grown since last week.  People were complaining that the babies are different […]

Beyond the Backyard

Frogs and Snakes for Breakfast at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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I spent my off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I arrived at 6:30, about 20 minutes before sunrise.  I hiked down to Lake Hancock and was on the dock for the sunrise.  It was pretty cloudy this morning, so the sun was a little late peeking out from behind the clouds.  It was pretty though.  I spent some time photographing birds flying over the lake, then hiked the Alligator Alley trail.  Then I went up Marsh Rabbit Run and up Wading Bird Way before retracing my steps back to Heron Hideout.  It was cloudy and breezy and just a great morning to be outside! I tried some HDR with my sunrise shots, but I didn’t like any of the results.  The HDR created unnatural edges around the edges of the sun and clouds.  Usually I leave my over-the-shoulder camera set to bracket exposures +/-2 EV stops when I have my wide angle lens on.  I’ve found that sometimes 2 stops isn’t enough for good HDR images with images with lots of glow, so today I tried 7 images, metered at 2/3 stops.  Even that didn’t give me good HDR results today, though. :-p So here’s a Great Blue […]

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 […]

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Chased by an Otter at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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I’ve been called the Birdie Paparazzi. But today I was the one being followed! An otter came bounding up the path after me at least twice. He was cute! This morning I decided to hike Alligator Alley, since it was foggy and I felt like taking sunrise pictures. It’s also been a while since I’ve walked that way and I wanted to see what birds are around these days. The sunrise was gorgeous. I got to the dock just after the sun came over the horizon. I was told that if I’d been there half an hour earlier, I would have seen thousands of birds taking off in the early morning glow. I’ll have to remember that! I spent about an hour on the dock, photographing the birds flying by as the sun came up. The light was very bright and the birds were quite backlit. One of these days I’ll have to head to the lake at sunset. A lone Brown Pelican was out fishing for his breakfast. I caught him diving for fish a couple of times. He was pretty stubborn and always seemed to swim with his head in the shade instead of the sun… But bright […]

Beyond the Backyard

A New Place to Explore: Viera Wetlands

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I’ve heard birders mention Viera Wetlands so often that I had to get over there to see it for myself. It reminds me of Circle B Bar Reserve in that it is a local wetlands area with great birds — and unlike Circle B, which is so dry right now, this wetlands had plenty of water and there were plenty of birds as a result! I saw my first-ever Hooded Merganser and Common Snipe, which were both cool. The wetlands were covered in American Coots and Blue-Winged Teals. I also got some pictures of a flock of Green-Winged Teals and Killdeer in flight. Then there was the usual wetlands assortment of herons, egrets, and ducks. The clouds rolled in about mid-morning, but we had a great time, and I’m looking forward to going back. We lucked out — one of the first birds we saw was the Hooded Merganser. I yelped and hopped out, then by the time we got our cameras, we didn’t see him. Dyeyo tried to tell me that I’d just seen coots…and then he popped out of some vegetation and did a little flap! So we got to see his hood. He was in Cell 4. […]

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More Migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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We were so excited by the migratory birds that we saw yesterday at the Circle B Bar Reserve that we just had to go back this morning. I was hoping to get better pictures of the migrating warblers, in non-foggy light.  But the marshes were very quiet this morning.  We saw two American Redstarts by the dock on Lake Hancock.  Those were the only warblers we saw all morning. Since the morning was still very cloudy, Dyeyo and I decided to walk the Alligator Alley trail, starting at the lake end.  We were hoping to make it around to the warbler-friendly trees at the intersection of Heron Hideout and Alligator Alley by the time the sunlight would be bright enough for lighting tiny birds. This juvenile Little Blue Heron watched me watching him by Lake Hancock.  I had to use some fill flash.  It’s fun to apply the techniques that I’m learning as I read Arthur Morris’s books on bird photography.  :) I stood for a few minutes watching the fly-bys over the lake.  I saw Osprey, Wood Storks, Laughing Gulls, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets, and a Black-Crowned Night Heron pass by.  I also saw a bunch of Caspian Terns, […]

Beyond the Backyard

Another Hot Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Dyeyo and I spent a fun, but hot, morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve today. We got there just before sunrise, and watching the sun come up over Lake Hancock was spectacular.  Then the sun went behind some clouds.  We saw a juvenile Green Heron down at the start of the Alligator Alley trail, but since the sun wasn’t really out, the pictures weren’t great.  Nor did I get any impressive flight shots from the boardwalk.  It’s unfortunate that the sun can’t come and go as the photographer chooses sometimes! The trees along the Alligator Alley trail were full of birds.  I’ve never seen it this active before.  Along the shoreline, the herons and egrets were startled by our presence and they flew off squawking.  Overhead, a Carolina Wren fussed his little head off.  (I guess we were too near a nest?) We saw plenty of Wood Storks.  Some posed high in the treetops, right over the path: What was fun was seeing the number of juvenile Wood Storks that were also hanging out by the lake this morning.  Dyeyo joked that maybe they left Gatorland and moved to Circle B! A family of Sand Hill Cranes was also […]

Beyond the Backyard

Baby Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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The beautiful sunrise this morning was just the start of a happy Father’s Day hike with Dyeyo at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We saw lots of baby birds!   Sand Hill Cranes, Purple Gallinules, Common Moorhens, Grackles and Red-Winged Blackbirds, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker… The Black-necked Stilt babies that we have been watching for the past few weeks were nowhere to be seen this week (they’ve gotten big enough to have fledged, though). We were disappointed to see that the newest Sand Hill Crane nest on Marsh Rabbit Run was abandoned.  Maybe the waters got too high, or maybe (not likely) the babies hatched and the parents took the colts off to drier grounds. For several weeks we have suspected that we were watching babies from two separate Purple Gallinule nests.  Some of the babies seemed slightly older than the others, so we’d been suspecting that we were observing two sets of babies, but we weren’t ever totally sure.  Today we observed babies from both sets.  They were climbing around in the swampy weeds with their parents, with their feathers glistening in the morning sun.  The slightly older babies are more gray than black, now, and they are starting to get […]

Beyond the Backyard

Magical Sunrise at Circle B Bar Reserve

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The sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning was magnificent!  The drive over from Orlando was very very foggy, and as the sun rose and burned off the fog over the marsh, the light was just beautiful.  I looked over at a common bunch of grasses, illuminated by the sunrise.  The golden glow was gorgeous. There were dragonflies resting on top of the grasses.  I wish I had taken a little more time to get out the extension tubes for some closer-up shots, especially with the dragonflies that were backlit by the golden sunrise.  Oh well, next weekend!  This was my favorite dragonfly shot of the day: Both of the sunrise grass pictures were taken on Heron Hideout.  It was weird to walk back that way a few hours later, and see the same scene turned back into boring green grass.  Sunrise light really does work magic! As we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run, we saw a grackle fussing, and we assumed we were too close to his nest.  Then we realized that his friend on an adjacent tree wasn’t a grackle, but a Green Heron!  The Green Herons are usually hard to find, but this is the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Slow Morning at Circle B Bar Reserve

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Dyeyo and I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve at 6:30 this morning to enjoy the early morning light with our birds.  Unfortunately, the sun didn’t really come up because it was so cloudy.  We still had a good time birding. The first bird we saw was this Little Blue Heron, who posed for us before the sun had really come up.  I tried fill flash and got some birdie red eye.  So this was a non-flash image with some fill flash added in Lightroom: As the sun came up, we were on Wading Bird Way and saw a Common Moorhen family.  We’ve been watching the chicks grow up for the past few weeks, and they’ve gotten pretty big.  Then the mother posed by herself just as the sun hit her. Nearby, an Anhinga was sitting on a post, stalking fish for his breakfast.  He seemed to be thinking about flying away, and I waited for a while trying to get the flight shot, but he didn’t want to cooperate (even after Dyeyo walked towards him, “talking” to him!)  So I got a “sunning” shot instead. As we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run, we saw the same Red-Winged Blackbirds […]