Beyond the Backyard

Productive Morning at the Viera Click Ponds

Posted on

After hearing on Birdbrains about the early fall migrants at Viera Wetlands, I had to make a trip over there.  The wetlands itself was very unproductive, with not even the Purple Gallinules showing themselves to me.  No Black-bellied Whistling Ducks greeted me, either.  But over in the Click Ponds, there was a ton of activity.  It was the first time I’d seen American Avocets, and they are really cool.  Black-necked Stilts and their young are all over the dried-up ponds, and the sandpipers and other small birds are definitely starting to make a comeback. From what I’ve read, the Click Ponds are drained once a year as part of the water treatment activities.  They are almost completely dry right now, with green grass even starting to grow in the southern pond.  It’s strange to see.  It works out well for the little Black-Necked Stilts, though, who have a nice safe place to feed. The adult stilts are very protective of their young.  They start fussing when a human approaches, and they sometimes fuss even when you just stop your car near their kids.  In the meantime, the baby stilts wander around unconcerned.  It’s almost comical. There were a few smaller […]

Beyond the Backyard

Bittern-ly Chilly Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

Posted on

Bitterns were the highlight this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I arrived at sunrise, and the cloudcover was much greater than the weatherman’s “Mostly Sunny” forecast. The sun shone on the landscape for about fifteen minutes, then it went behind clouds for most of the “golden light hour.” I didn’t hike as much as usual, opting instead to stalk specific birds, especially the Sora on Heron Hideout and the American Bitterns on Marsh Rabbit Run. I enjoyed meeting Jim and Kathy Urbach and Michael Libbe — it’s fun to put Flickr usernames with faces when you meet people at Circle B! Jim has a 500mm lens like mine and we had a blast photographing a particularly cooperative bittern. I arrived around 7:15, just minutes before the sunrise. Usually I try to get there a little earlier, but it is a 1 hour drive from Orlando! :-p My jaw dropped in surprise on the Heron Hideout trail, where a huge flock of blackbirds had congregated right on the trail. They were all females and/or juveniles (striped brown birds, not the male black birds with red spots on their wings). Just as I saw them, a jogger ran down the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Chased by an Otter at the Circle B Bar Reserve

Posted on

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

Posted on

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. […]

Beyond the Backyard

Activity Starting to Pick up at the Circle B Bar Reserve

Posted on

I keep running into photographers at the Circle B Bar Reserve who complain that nothing is happening. They remember the thousands of pelicans and myriad of other species seen last November through April. There isn’t as much activity now, but there’s still plenty to photograph, especially if you know where to look! The plan this morning was to get to Circle B early enough to walk around to Wading Bird Way before sunrise. I had visions of sunrise pictures over the marsh. But then Dyeyo’s Sand Hill Crane family was out on Heron Hideout, and I dallied a little too long saying hello to the baby (now almost adult). So the sun was rising behind me as I hiked the Eagle Roost. I still got some fun sunrise pictures: Ten minutes later, I was out on Wading Bird Way, and the sun was already getting high in the sky. I set my lens to a high f-stop number to try to make the sun do the “star” effect. It did, and the reflection in the water was gorgeous. Small flocks of birds kept flying over my head, so I practiced my birds-in-flight photography. I was really excited to get the […]