Beyond the Backyard

Early Migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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You know that the hot summer is coming to a close at the Circle B Bar Reserve when you start seeing the first Pied-Billed Grebes on the Wading Bird Way trail.  Although grebes are year-round residents in Polk, I don’t seem to see them until the very end of summer.  The same goes for the Caspian Terns.  So it was exciting to see both yesterday at the reserve.  The winter migrants are coming!! The Common Moorhens aren’t migrants, but they are fun to photograph.  There was a family that I watched for about 15 minutes.  There were two juveniles and two parents, but one parent was a little way away.  When the juveniles started to carry on, the parent came swimming toward them, fussing.  I liked how the adult’s reflection showed so nicely in the water, and I tried to hit the shutter when the bird’s mouth was open in mid-fuss.  I had two successful attempts, and this was my favorite: The juveniles continued to fuss, splashing around and carrying on.  As one ran towards me on top of the water, I managed to hit the shutter button and almost achieve good focus on his head!  It was close enough… […]

Beyond the Backyard

Hummers and Cuckoos at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Yes, that’s right, we saw a hummingbird at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning!  I didn’t get a picture—those guys move fast!  I couldn’t see it for long enough to tell what kind of hummer, either, although I assume it was a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  But it was most definitely a hummer!  Dyeyo and I saw him on the Alligator Alley trail just past the dock.  He flew across the trail in front of us and then up into a cypress tree. He wasn’t the only unusual bird we saw today.  Dyeyo got a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot!  And just like last year, I saw the bird in flight for a fleeting instant, but got no picture.  Now I have two nemesis birds for this vacation!  But it’s great to know that the cuckoo is back.  He flew over our heads as we watched the Pileated nest. So what did I photograph this morning?  Well, there was this very fast Northern Parula that kept hopping from one branch to another in a cypress tree near the dock.  It was pure luck that allowed me to snap the shutter just as he looked at the camera in the one frame that was […]

Beyond the Backyard

Summer Heat Begins at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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It was hot this morning!  We arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve at 7:00 and hiked the Alligator Alley trail loop.  This Great Blue Heron was trying to cool himself with the funky wing position – he wasn’t the only one who was hot! We checked on the Great Crested Flycatcher nest by the Nature Center.  A very tolerant flycatcher let us get pretty close to him as he brought food in to his babies.  It’s a shame that there’s not a window on the side of the nesting box! We came across a Pileated Woodpecker down by Lake Hancock.  There were several new woodpecker holes, and we wondered if any of them would soon house babies.  This bird was pecking away at the back of a tree, and he had stripped a long section of bark away. We heard the baby hawks at their nest before we saw the nest itself.  Two weeks ago, I thought these guys were the Odd Couple, with one baby significantly older than the other.  Now that older baby has fledged, and he spent his morning sitting on a branch not far from the nest.  The small baby is still in the nest.  […]

Beyond the Backyard

Circle B Migrants

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I felt like playing with Photoshop today, so I made another warbler and migrant bird collage. These little birds are usually high in the oak canopies, and it’s hard to get great pictures of them. They also hop around really fast. You come home with a stiff neck and then squint at your pictures, asking “is there really a bird in there?” So this is combination of a bunch of pictures from the last month, severely cropped. I think I have them all identified correctly, but they are the “confusing fall warblers”, so please tell me if you notice a mistake. Click on the image above for a higher-resolution version.

Beyond the Backyard

Activity Starting to Pick up at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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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 […]