Beyond the Backyard

Finally! Nice Weather for a Walk at Circle B

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American White Pelican

As you will read in upcoming blog posts, the weather wasn’t so great over my Christmas vacation.  So when the forecast called for sun today, I headed for a nice walk at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I wasn’t the only one, either!  There were tons of people there.  I took the Alligator Alley trail to look for pelicans and the bobcat kittens, but knew I’d likely never see the bobcat family with so many people around.  My plan was to try for sunrise with the pelicans, but the security guy didn’t show up to open the gate until just before sunrise.  So this was my sunrise shot instead.  Not bad! When I got to the dock, there weren’t that many American White Pelicans close by.  But later, as I headed down the trail, I passed a huge group of them fairly close to the lakeshore.  They were diving and splashing and flying, and there were so many of them that the flock sounded like a waterfall.  It was amazing.  Everybody who passed by commented on the pelicans.  I couldn’t get good pictures there because of all the trees.  My best pelican shot of the morning was a fly-by shot […]

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

Seeing is Believing: There Really are Otters at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

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I’ve been going to the Circle B Bar Reserve at least once a week since June, and plenty of times before that, and I’ve never seen a River Otter. Dyeyo’s seen them plenty of times. Well, I finally got to see one today! There were otters running up and down Marsh Rabbit Run all morning. The best photo ops were when they surfaced with fish. Then we heard lots of crunching! We got to Circle B at 6:30 in hopes of a bright sunrise with some nice clouds. But it was really foggy instead. The normal birds were flying overhead as they left the marsh to seek their breakfast: Wood Storks, White Ibises, and the first Brown Pelicans of the season! Then the first rays of sun came through and illuminated the birds roosting in the marsh, making a beautiful contrast to the foggy background. At the intersection between Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run, an Eastern Phoebe posed high in a tree. All of a sudden, he darted out, grabbed a dragonfly, then returned to his perch to eat it. On a neighboring tree, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker was digging into a small hole. After a minute or so, he […]

Beyond the Backyard

Lots of Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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There were Eastern Phoebes everywhere at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. Plus a whole lot of other birds… After Al and several other people saw a Cuckoo during this past week, we headed out to see if we could find it too. Al also reports that the river otters are back along the Alligator Alley trail. So we headed out the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, circled back around the Eagle Roost, then hiked Alligator Alley, trying to cover as much ground as possible. Unfortunately we didn’t see either cuckoo or the otters, but we did see some surprises… This Sedge Wren greeted us on the Heron Hideout trail at sunrise. We’d never seen a Sedge Wren before. I was shooting handhold, and my picture isn’t super sharp, but it definitely documents our first sighting. :) We may have just missed seeing the bobcat eating a rabbit on Heron Hideout! As we walked along the Marsh Rabbit Run, we came across a tree with not one, but three Pileated Woodpeckers. Plus a couple of Downy Woodpeckers and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. Dyeyo would only have been happier if a Red-Headed Woodpecker had joined them. Luckily for us the tree was […]

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

Cloudy day at Circle B Bar Reserve

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Dyeyo, Rich, and I were so excited about our last visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve, we carefully watched the weather to go back on the next sunny day.  But the weathermen deceived us, telling us that today would be sunny, and it was cloudy and foggy instead! Along the Shady Oak path, we came across this pileated woodpecker.  Dyeyo has seen a pileated in his backyard a couple of times, but never this close.  Of course, he’s getting spoiled here, thinking he’s going to see one every time he comes to Circle B… We walked up to the lake, along Alligator Alley.  I wasn’t too crazy about the idea of seeing an alligator up too close and personal, but we didn’t see any.  We did hear rustling high in the trees above us, and when we looked up, we saw not a squirrel, but this raccoon, eating the leaves of the tree. (I wonder who thought who was funnier: us, watching the raccoon jump between the branches, or the raccoon, watching us strain our necks with cameras, trying to get a picture of him!) As we walked along, we came across some bushes that were filled with little […]

Beyond the Backyard

Our first visit to the Circle B Bar Reserve

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After hearing about the Circle B Bar Reserve from people in the Sierra Club, Dyeyo, Rich, and I decided that we needed to check it out.  Boy were we surprised!  People were not kidding when they said it is a wonderful place for birds.  It’s a protected reserve in Polk County, and there are paths through the marshes.  The birds are used to people and the activity on the hiking paths does not affect them.  Lots of migrating birds pass through here, and it is a great place to observe birds. We parked our cars and walked to Heron Hideout, one of the main paths.  The marshes on either side of the paths were just covered in hundreds of birds, including herons, white ibises, and some ducks that I didn’t recognize. This heron was posed nicely with the water. There were tons of white ibises around, and tons of wood storks. There were two purple gallinules near the heron, an adult an a juvenile.  I was surprised to see them balanced so easily on the branches, with their feet wrapped all the way around. The sun was rising and very bright.  It was hard to get a proper exposure of […]