Backyard photography

Happiness is…

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American Goldfinch

Happiness is… …watching the American Goldfinches turn yellow and play in your flowers :) … seeing the female Indigo Bunting from last weekend – she stuck around! … finally snapping a picture of the elusive Prairie Warbler who has been mocking you for the past three mornings, and as a bonus, getting to hear him sing! … watching the cardinals take a bath in the birdbath that you cleaned for them yesterday (it’s always nice when they appreciate your efforts!) … admiring the colors as your goldfinch poses in the shade while the background behind him is alight with color. …watching the Painted Bunting hop out onto the “waiting perch” as he considers a flight to the feeder. …laughing at the Palm Warbler as he finds every mealworm you’ve dropped under the feeder… …listening to the happy calls of the American Goldfinches as they circle your yard.  “Baby!”  “Potato chip!” …saying hello to the Brown Thrasher and realizing that since the pair of them have stopped visiting together, his mate must be busy sitting on eggs at a nest nearby. … laughing at the Red-winged Blackbirds who are so certain that they are missing something because they can’t get into the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Circle B Awaits Tropical Storm Isaac

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Although the center of Tropical Storm Isaac is several days away, the wind was already picking up this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It felt great! I went out to Lake Hancock for the (lack of) sunrise, then stayed on the dock photographing birds in flight for almost an hour. The breezes were wonderful. Then I made my way up the Alligator Alley trail. It was great to get out there again, and I saw my first of fall warblers, Belted Kingfisher, and Bald Eagles. :) I was surprised at the number of Black-Crowned Night Herons that were flying over Lake Hancock this morning. Chuck mentioned that these birds now have a daytime roost at Circle B. There were several Caspian Terns, too. A huge flock of White Ibis went flying off in the distance. All the usual waders were active near the dock. The juvenile Barred Owls put on a show as they flew across the trails, too. This year’s owls are very friendly and tolerant of people. As I approached the Heron Hideout/Alligator Alley intersection, I began to hear the familiar calls of warblers. It always surprises me how much I have to let my ear […]

Beyond the Backyard

Quiet Morning at Mead Gardens

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On the morning of the big Fort De Soto fallout, the forecast was for clouds and rain.  I went over to Mead Gardens, figuring I’d get an hour of birding in if I was lucky.  Mead is a local migrant hotspot, so I figured I might see some birds brought in by the winds of the front.  Quite the opposite!  The birding was great at De Soto that morning, and very slow at Mead.  This is the first Prairie Warbler I’ve seen all spring.  This one doesn’t look as snazzy as the ones in their bright new feathers. I’m seeing more Common Yellowthroats around, even in my own backyard.  They are such cheerful-looking little birds.  I call the one in my backyard “Zorro” for his black mask.

Beyond the Backyard

My First Orange-Crowned Warbler at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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It was an incredibly foggy morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I could barely make out the car in front of me as I drove in. But it turned out to be a great day for little birds. We saw a ton of warblers: Orange-Crowned, Black-and-White, Palm, Prairie, Yellow-Throated, Yellow-Rumped, Common Yellowthroat, and several Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. Overall I saw over 50 species, not bad for a foggy day!! Dyeyo and I arrived before sunrise, as usual, but it was clear that the fog was not going to lift quickly for pictures. So we took a side trip up to the Lost Bridge Trail, which we haven’t walked in a long time. We were curious to see which birds were there at this time of year, and if it would be a good place to take one of our Saturday photo hikes. Thirteen Wild Turkeys, two baby hogs, and the sounds of American Goldfinches were the main highlights. I don’t think the birds had woken up yet — it was still really dark from the fog. We then took the Alligator Alley trail down to the lake. As we passed the nature center eagle nest, Dyeyo joked that we should […]

Backyard photography

Prairie Warbler in the Backyard

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We had a new visitor to our backyard this evening — a Prairie Warbler!  I went out to set up the new Painted Bunting feeder, and this little guy greeted me from the top of our viburnum hedge. He obligingly hung around while I ran inside to get the Beast, then re-appeared at the top of a crape myrtle so that I could snap his picture.  I’m finding that it is possible to use the Beast hand-held, which is surprising, and convenient.

Beyond the Backyard

The Bird Paparazzi Grows at Circle B Bar Reserve

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There were TONS of people at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning! Despite the chilly and breezy weather, over a hundred birders were out to enjoy the morning. Dyeyo and I decided to hike along Alligator Alley to look for Orange-Crowned Warblers and Blue-Headed Vireos. We hoped for a nice sunrise over the lake, too, but it was so overcast that the sun stayed behind the clouds for a really long time. The sun started to come up as we headed up Alligator Alley. The trail was pretty in the morning light. The birds didn’t seem to be out of bed yet. Usually we see plenty of little birds in the trees along that trail, and today there weren’t many. This HDR image is one of my favorite places along Alligator Alley, where I had fun taking pictures of Snowy Egrets fishing this summer. Often I could find a Marsh Rabbit lurking in the bushes near the bench. I spotted an Osprey in a tree above my head. I had the 400mm lens with me with no tripod, and I missed the tripod’s stability as I waited for the Osprey to fly. He seemed to be thinking about it….thinking…thinking…and […]

Beyond the Backyard

Bitterns Saying Hello at Circle B Bar Reserve

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I headed to the Circle B Bar Reserve on my off-Friday determined to remember to check the eagle’s nest next to the Nature Center.  I always seem to forget to walk over and check it on my way out! As I arrived at the nest, I saw one Bald Eagle sitting on it.  Another eagle was perched in a nearby tree.  I got a few shots before the bird on the nest flew off to join the bird on the tree.  I had been hoping that the nest-sitting indicated that the bird was on eggs, but he wouldn’t have flown away if that were the case.  I ran into Herman as I watched the nest, and he showed me a better vantage point for the morning light.  Herman said that this pair of eagles has not been very successful in raising young over the last few years, and this is the latest that they have ever started a clutch.  (But eagle nesting can go into March.)  Herman also pointed out that this bird is sitting high on the nest.  If he were on eggs, he’d be lower in the nest, with just his head visible.  Good to know! I had […]

Beyond the Backyard

Beautiful Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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It was a gorgeous morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We arrived at 7:00, just before sunrise, and the birds put on an amazing wake-up show.  The hundreds of Wood Storks and Sand Hill Cranes that roost in the marsh overnight all woke up and flew away, nicely illuminated by the rising sun.  They shared the skies with hundreds of American White Pelicans, flying towards their roosting site on Wading Bird Way.  I was annoyed that I hadn’t taken my second camera body — I was changing lenses constantly as I went from birdie close-ups with the 400mm to wider-angle landscape panoramas with the 70-200. The first bird we saw was a juvenile Wood Stork, who flew over the foggy marsh with some nesting material in tow.  He landed in a tree, where his stick seemed to get caught in the branches of the tree.  He finally yanked his branch free and flew off.  I wish the sun had been up a bit higher in order to get a sharper picture.  This was right before the sunrise, and the marsh was very foggy. Dozens of Sandhill Cranes that roosted in the marsh overnight took to the skies, honking like […]

Beyond the Backyard

Breezy Morning at Oakland Nature Preserve

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We decided to postpone our usual Circle B Bar Reserve trip for a day, since the weather forecast called for a cloudy day with lots of wind. But when I woke up this morning, it was surprisingly sunny, and just a little breezy. So Rich and I headed to Oakland Nature Preserve to see if the feeders were out for Painted Buntings this year. (Nope.) Oakland Nature Preserve used to be one of our favorite birding locations. Then they started constructing a new nature center, which kept some of the birds away. They also stopped putting out the feeders that attracted the Painted Buntings in the winter. So we’ve only been there a handful of times in the last year or two. I was hoping that the activity would have started to pick up again, but it was a pretty quiet morning. We heard American Goldfinches but never saw one. Eastern Phoebes and Gray Catbirds made themselves heard but never let themselves be seen. Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers mocked us from high in the treetops. We did see a small flock of warblers, and I believe we were hearing a couple of Black and White Warblers, although I never saw them. These […]

Beyond the Backyard

Lots of Little Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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A month ago I was ecstatic to see a warbler at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Today I nonchalantly dismissed one as “just another Palm Warbler.” How quickly do the birding times change!! This morning’s hike took us up Heron Hideout and out Marsh Rabbit Run. We spent most the time chasing the little guys. Dyeyo was determined to get a good Common Yellowthroat shot, and the House Wrens teased us, showing themselves for a second and then diving into the weeds. This Savannah Sparrow made a quick appearance on Marsh Rabbit Run. I think he’s a Savannah Sparrow…he’s the first I’ve seen this season. They are usually out on the edge of Wading Bird Way. It’s not as common to see them along Marsh Rabbit Run. The sun obligingly illuminated this guy for me: With so many Palm Warblers around, it is easy to overlook other yellow-colored warblers. I didn’t realize that I’d seen this Prairie Warbler until I got home and saw my pictures. As we walked over one of the culverts on Heron Hideout, we saw the usual Tricolored Heron and Snowy Egret, plus this Glossy Ibis. I think this was the closest I’ve ever gotten to […]

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

Migrants Making their Way to Circle B

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It was a cloudy, foggy, and humid morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  As we headed out Heron Hideout into more and more fog, we doubted that we would see much.  But it turned out to be our most productive species morning in several months.  The migratory birds are definitely making their way back to Circle B! We started out on Heron Hideout, where we basically observed fog.  It had just rained within the last few hours, and there were puddles everywhere. We arrived at sunrise, but there was no sun to be seen with such thick cloudcover and fog.  So we decided to avoid the mosquitoes of Alligator Alley and take the Eagle Roost over to Wading Bird Way. As always, the Common Moorhens were entertaining on Wading Bird Way.  We saw at least three generations of birds, with adults, early spring juveniles, and fairly young babies. I liked this juxtaposition image of the adult and an early spring juvenile: There was just one tiny baby, and it was swimming around a lot in open water, with just one older chick keeping an eye on it.  Earlier in the spring, there were dozens of babies, and the parents […]

Beyond the Backyard

Springtime at Bok Tower

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Last year Rich and I went to Bok Tower a few weeks after the azaleas bloomed, and I was mad to have missed the blooms.  So this year we went while the azaleas were in bloom.  They were pretty, but not as dramatic as what we expect to see at Callaway Gardens in a few weeks. The paths were so pretty lined with flowering bushes. Dyeyo, Rich, and I had fun bird-watching at Bok Tower.  We saw the most birds over by Window by the Pond, near the bird feeders.  I was amazed  to see several painted buntings!  One of the caretakers said that the painteds had arrived last winter and returned this winter.  There were several males hopping around.   I didn’t get a good picture of the buntings, but I did get a decent one of this black and white warbler: The caretaker also told us about another feeder near the visitor center, and when we found it, we saw this red-bellied woodpecker eating his breakfast.  He didn’t appreciate the strangers watching him eat!  He’d hop to the feeder, grab a bite, then fly higher to eat it.  He’s really a bit big to eat from a tube feeder, […]

Beyond the Backyard

American White Pelicans Roosting at Circle B Bar Reserve

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The air was full of American White Pelicans at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. A huge flock of the pelicans is roosting on the lake at Wading Bird Way.  I took the camera and pointed straight at the sky as they flew overhead: It was cool to hear the “whoosh!” of all their wings as they flew right over our heads. The sun was out today and the sky was clear and it was a wonderful morning for bird photography.  The marshes were full of common moorhens and American coots. The coots were carrying on, jumping off their tree perches and sliding into the water to chase one another.  After a couple of tries, I caught one taking off. On Marsh Rabbit Run, I saw this yellow bird, and at first assumed that it was a pine warbler.  The pine warblers are not as common as the palm warblers, but I have seen a couple at Circle B before.  Then I got the picture home, examined it more closely, and realized that I’d seen my first-ever Prairie Warbler. :) As usual, the marshes were full of anhingas.  They are such pretty birds when the light catches the detail […]