Beyond the Backyard

Better Hurry, Alligator Flags at Circle B are Fading!

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Purple Gallinule on Alligator Flag

This weekend I had the rare opportunity to visit the Circle B Bar Reserve in the afternoon.  I’ve been there dozens of times in the morning, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen the sun set over the marshes.  It’s always disconcerting to see the dramatically different afternoon light – and I often catch myself saying “good morning” to people out of pure habit!  On this particular visit my goal was to photograph the Purple Gallinules on their favorite Alligator Flag plants, the biggest clump of which stands on the “afternoon side” of the Heron Hideout trail.  If you’re interesting in photographing these colorful birds in photogenic poses, you’d better hurry – the alligator flags at Circle B are fading fast! The above picture is a juvenile Purple Gallinule, molting quickly into his colorful adult plumage.  Just the pale, mottled chin gives away his juvie status.  He spent the longest time feasting on the purple buds, in the shade of a big leaf that almost completely blocked him from my view!  I waited a while,and he finally ventured out on a reed.  This fall I’ve come to refer to these guys as my […]

Beyond the Backyard

Winter Birds Returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Juvenile Purple Gallinule

The winter birds are returning to the Circle B Bar Reserve!  My dad and I had a great walk yesterday morning.  We saw our first-of-fall Eastern Phoebes, Gray Catbirds, Marsh Wrens, and a surprise flock of American White Pelicans flying over the marsh.  It was fun to welcome our birdy friends back to the Sunshine State! When we first arrived on the Heron Hideout trail, a very cooperative Belted Kingfisher was sitting close to the trail on some alligator flag reeds.  Dyeyo was thrilled to see one so close!  It was still pretty dark, so a tripod was required to get sharp shots at lower shutter speeds with a decent ISO.  The bird didn’t help much – she was constantly turning her head!  Each year I have to remember how to identify the Belted Kingfishers: the females have the rusty brown on their tummies, and the males don’t. As the sun came up, the golden glow illuminated the Purple Gallinules climbing on the alligator flag reeds.  Adults and juveniles alike would inch out onto the long reeds to eat the purple flowers at the tips.  The reeds would sustain the birds’ weight for a while, then finally give way and […]

Beyond the Backyard

Strike a Pose

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I finally made it back out to the Circle B Bar Reserve yesterday morning! It felt so good to get back out there. The Marsh Rabbit Run trail is now open, and I hiked it in the cool morning breeze. It wasn’t a super-birdy day, although I did find a couple of Common Yellowthroats and a Yellow Warbler. The Bald Eagles and Belted Kingfishers are back, and their calls blended into the early morning sounds of the marsh. My best photographic opportunity was with this Purple Gallinule, who hopped up onto one of the Alligator Flag reeds right in front of me. I had a great time with him. Look at those big feet and how he wraps his toes around the reed! The sun even peeked out from behind the fog to give his feathers a little light. What a beautiful bird.

Beyond the Backyard

Summer Sunrise at Circle B

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With a slight breeze in the forecast, I spent the morning out on the Wading Bird Way trail at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  It’s been ages since I went, and it felt great to be there!  The water levels are much higher than my last visit, when the Wading Bird Way lake was basically a mud flat.  Now the water is high enough that it flows freely through all the culverts.  Little Green Herons flew about in the pre-dawn, posing on various posts.  It’s fun how the birds are less concerned about the presence of people before the sun rises. It was a hazy morning, free of clouds, but the sun was a hazy orb as it peeked up over the horizon.  The position of the sun isn’t great at this time of year — it comes up over the distant trees, not in between the more picturesque bird-scape trees. I took a walk out to where the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks nested last year.  I was hoping to find some yellow-and-black cuties, which we haven’t been able to find (yet) at Viera Wetlands this year.  But I didn’t find any at CBBR either.  :(  I did find this juvenile […]

Beyond the Backyard

I Love This Time of Year at Circle B!

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I spent Sunday morning with The Beast at the Circle B Bar Reserve. It was hard to decide whether to head out to the marsh to catch the Bald Eagles flying with nesting material, or head to the lake to see the bobcat. The cloudless skies and great morning light made me decide on the marsh. I didn’t get many views of the eagles, but I did enjoy the time with the little birds. A lot of people are surprised when they see how high the vegetation is on the sides of the Heron Hideout trail. We need a good frost! There is one leafy green plant in the marsh right now that has put up all sorts of green reeds, and on the tips of the reeds are purple flowers. Those must be full of seeds, because all the birds are going nuts over them. I saw no less than TEN Purple Gallinules climbing the reeds and eating the seeds. (Most people are excited to see one!) Most of the Purple Gallinules were adults, but a few juveniles were showing off their pale colors. I laughed as the birds hopped around on the reeds, hanging on with those big […]

Beyond the Backyard

Expect the Unexpected at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve yesterday (Friday) in hopes of a gorgeous sunrise with sun beams bursting through the clouds and reflecting over Lake Hancock.  I came home with images of a fireball and baby Limpkins!  Such is a morning at CBBR.  You never know what you’ll find out there. I arrived about half an hour before sunrise, and I headed down to Lake Hancock.  As I approached the lake, I realized that it was too foggy for a good sunrise.  I got out to the dock and waited, and a few minutes after the expected sunrise, an orange fireball appeared the sky.  I tried some HDR bracketed shots, but I didn’t like the resulting HDR images – they didn’t do the scene justice.  Besides, even at a high frame rate, the sun moved quickly enough in the frame that Photomatix didn’t align the images very well.  But I did luck out and see my first flock of Blue-Winged Teals for this fall, and they flew right in front of the sun.  Like I wrote about yesterday, I managed to get the flock and sun in the same frame for two consecutive frames.  I played with Photoshop […]

Beyond the Backyard

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo on Marsh Rabbit Run!

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The Marsh Rabbit Run trail was finally re-opened!  I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning and found my very first Yellow-Billed Cuckoo!  I couldn’t believe it when he flew into a tree right over my head.  He was on Marsh Rabbit Run, about halfway down the trail.  It felt so good to be back on that trail! The water levels are low and there were not a ton of birds.  I was hoping to see some migrant warblers or maybe a Belted Kingfisher.  We didn’t.  But we did see at least five Black-Crowned Night Herons, a Purple Martin, and three Killdeer.  Compared to last week’s cloudy morning, there was a lot more bird activity today.  It was definitely worth the trip, despite the heat. The Wood Storks and Double-Crested Cormorants have returned to the reserve.  They covered the trees, looking like ornaments on Christmas trees.  A couple of cormorants posed on posts on the Wading Bird Way trail.  The lake made for good background bokeh. A Great Blue Heron also posed on a post.  He looked pretty silly with his wings spread out.  He wanted to say “hi” to all the blog readers! There’s a family of […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cute Babies at Viera Wetlands

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I went to Viera Wetlands on Saturday morning.  After all the rain on Friday, I wasn’t optimistic about the light level (I actually didn’t decide to make the drive until Saturday morning at 5am!)  There was virtually no sun till the very end of the morning, but the babies were cute and I was relatively pleased with my work from the morning.  I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Donna Faylo, as well as running into Kathy Urbach and Nancy Elwood.  We had a great time trying to catch a Least Bittern in flight.  :) When I first arrived at Viera at sunrise (a misnomer, as the clouds blocked all the sunlight), I went to the Click Ponds.  People have been posting on  Birdbrains that the low water levels have been attracting wading birds to roost at night.  When I drove up, there were no less than 50 Sandhill Cranes standing in the water.  There were also tons of Black-necked Stilts and little sandpipers.  Then the Sandhills started taking off in small groups of three or four.  I tried for some take-off shots, despite the low light.  This one looked pretty good after a Levels correction in Photoshop. A […]