Beyond the Backyard

Two Lifers on a Drizzly Circle B Bar Reserve Morning

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Last Saturday morning I visited the Circle B Bar Reserve with the hope of seeing my first Bobolink.  Bobolinks are migratory birds that pass through Circle B during early May.  My dad has seen them several times, but I never have – I’ve missed them every year!  I knew Saturday morning would be cloudy, but when I arrived out on the Wading Bird Trail, “cloudy” was an understatement.  The air was thick with humidity and there was a slight drizzle.  But I found my Bobolinks!  There was a flock of about 100 of them across the water, north of the Marsh Rabbit Run intersection.  They weren’t close enough to photograph well, so I took a video instead.  Turn up the volume so that you can hear their song, which reminds me a lot of the Red-Winged Blackbirds. I headed farther up the Wading Bird Way trail, hoping that I might run into more Bobolinks, closer to the trail.  When I saw the lone whistling duck fly over the trail, I almost didn’t photograph him, because Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks are so common at the Circle B Bar Reserve, and lighting conditions were far from ideal.  But there have been multiple reports […]

Beyond the Backyard

Woodpecker Feast

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When I was last at Mead Gardens, there were ripe berries on trees everywhere. It seems that Nature takes care of our migrants pretty well, offering them tempting food options on their journey to their winter grounds. The locals don’t mind the food, either. This Red-Bellied Woodpecker was so intent on eating his berries that he hardly cared about the photographer who kept getting closer to him!

Backyard photography

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I spent yesterday afternoon with my parents in their backyard.  We had a fun time planting and transplanting, trying to make sure there’s enough nectar to satisfy Mum-mum’s visiting hummers.  When I saw the Red-Bellied Woodpeckers eating oranges in Dick’s backyard, though, I couldn’t resist going to get my camera… These silly birds will land carefully on the branch above the orange, sorta hop-skip-flap their way down to actually stand on the orange, then peck it open with their beaks in order to get at the juice within.  Sorry, Dick, I hope you don’t mind sharing… Mum-mum and Dyeyo call their resident friendly woodpecker “Shorty.”  He comes to their feeders regularly, especially now that he’s raising a brood of babies.  Sometimes he brings Mrs. Shorty in, too.  Yesterday both Mr. and Mrs. Shorty spent a good part of the afternoon taking care of their new family.  They’d fly down to the feeder, grab a seed, then disappear up into the oak tree.  Tiny baby calls would ensue.  Then the process repeated, over and over.  We tried to find the nest, but I couldn’t find the cavity hole.  We did find a recent fledgling, though.  We spotted a fledgling Mockingbird, too, […]

Beyond the Backyard

Signs of Spring at the Viera Wetlands

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Last weekend I spent a morning at the Viera Wetlands.  It was a cloudy morning, with sunshine in spurts, and I was just happy to be outside.  The Great Blue Herons chicks are growing up quickly, as I wrote about last week.  There were also many other signs of springtime around the wetlands.  Sometimes the common birds are the most fun to phtoograph… I was down on the edge of the berm photographing the juvenile Great Blue Herons when this Red-Winged Blackbird hopped onto the trail.  Since I was so much lower than he was, I got a birds-eye angle on him without having to get down on my knees!  I love how his wing shines with his bright red and yellow patch.  The green grasses shine in the soft morning light. I went to Viera in hopes of photographing the babies on this nest, and I was disappointed to find that the nest no longer was there.  However, there were other juvenile Anhingas on other palms, just farther away than “my” nest.  One palm housed two juveniles, and another housed three, or so I thought.  Both families were entertaining and I enjoyed watching their antics.  There was much begging […]

Beyond the Backyard

Achoo! Spring Cleaning Time at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Last Saturday at the Circle B Bar Reserve, I heard a familiar drumming sound as I passed a dead tree.  In previous years, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers have made their nests inside this particular tree, and I’ve enjoyed watching the cavity hole as food is brought in for the babies.  So I stopped to watch the old hole, but after a few minutes, I hadn’t seen the bird stick his head out.  Occasionally, though, little bits of sawdust would be tossed down from above.  So I moved to a different angle and started watching a bit higher up the tree.  Soon I had photographic evidence of the new hole being dug for this year’s babies: I wonder how long it will be before eggs are laid in this new cavity?  Best wishes for a healthy brood of babies, Mr. Woodpecker!

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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Baby Birds Take Flight at Circle B Bar Reserve

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It was a slow start to the morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I pulled up to the main gate at 6:30, hoping to catch the sunrise.  But the gate was closed!  All I could think was “I drove an hour to get here and it’s closed!?!?”  As Dyeyo and I chatted about where to go instead, the security guy drove up and opened the gate.  :) We hiked the Alligator Alley trail this morning.  It was really quiet – there were very few birds out, and not many of them wanted to pose for us.  I think the highlight of the morning was seeing three Sandhill Cranes fly overhead, and one of them was a baby!  I suspect it was Tiny Tim.  I wish I had gotten a picture. Our first bird of the morning was a singing Carolina Wren, but we didn’t have enough light to get a good shot.  Then as we got to the dock, we ran into a flock of Black Vultures.  There were at least fifty of them, all over the paths and the trees and the dock.  They were funny to watch as we approached.  They didn’t like us approaching, but they […]

Beyond the Backyard

Circle B Bar Reserve Woodpecker

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I forgot to post a video that I took yesterday at the Circle B Bar Reserve. There is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that lives in a dead tree at the “Four Corners” intersection. He often poses, showing off his bright red feathers in the sunshine. Yesterday he was working on his cavity, drilling away at it. I hope he’s thinking about having a brood of babies to fill it! It’s a very photographable location. Unfortunately the birds don’t always take the photographers’ opinions into account when they create their nests…

Beyond the Backyard

Spring is in the Air at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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  It’s amazing how different a place can look after two weeks.  The weather kept me from Circle B last weekend, and I think it’s driven a lot of the birds away too.  The ponds that used to be covered in American Coots and American Wigeons were virtually empty.  Not an American White Pelican did we see.  I counted a lone Wood Stork.  Only the Sandhill Cranes roosted as usual, but they had to move to higher ground.  All the recent rains have refilled the dry pond beds – Circle B looks like a marsh again!   Robins greeted us high in trees above the parking lot as we arrived.  I heard lots of American Goldfinches as well.  As we turned onto Heron Hideout, the American Kestrel was on a dead palm on the west side of the trail.  Blue-Winged Teals have already moved into the new ponds.  I love photographing on Heron Hideout at dawn.  The water is usually still and the sun angle is perfect for awesome reflections.  I know Blue-Winged Teals are common, but they are so pretty. There is a dead tree at the "Four Corners" intersection that houses a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and his family.  I’ve […]

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 […]

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

Quiet morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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The sky was clear and the winds were northeast and there were not many migrants at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. It was a bit cooler, though, and a walk through the marsh at dawn is always pleasant. Thankfully I didn’t see any alligators, either! I started out on Heron Hideout and checked for the little family of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. Actually there are several families, on both sides of the path. The ducklings from the family on the left have been losing their yellow-and-black cute baby feathers and molting into their juvenile plumage. Today I saw just one juvenile, with a parent, and as I watched they took to the air and flew away. Birds grow up so quickly! In the picture below, the adult has the bright orange beak, and the juvenile has the black beak. There were three Limpkins on Heron Hideout past Marsh Rabbit Run (still closed :(). The Limpkins at Circle B are usually fairly skittish, but I stood there quietly for a while and let them get used to me. Then they let me get closer and photograph them. One of the Limpkins must have thought he was a Sand Hill Crane, […]

Beyond the Backyard

Another beautiful morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Dyeyo and I arrived at the Circle B Bar Reserve at 6:30 am to enjoy a nice warm morning of birding! The sunrise over Lake Hancock was gorgeous.  Since our favorite Marsh Rabbit Run trail is closed, we took the Alligator Alley trail instead.  The breeze down by the lake felt wonderful as we enjoyed the great morning light. We saw the two owls in their usual tree, but I didn’t take many pictures of them because they weren’t posing very nicely.  Then it was so funny, I had just finished saying that I wanted to see another Black-Crowned Night Heron, and then we saw one right next to us!  (Later I tried that trick again, saying that I wanted to see a Red-Headed Woodpecker, but none appeared. Too bad, Dyeyo!) Usually there isn’t too much activity on the Alligator Alley trail by the time we get there in mid-morning.  It felt like a totally different trail this morning when we went there first.  There were Ospreys in the trees everywhere. I went out on the little boardwalk over the lake and saw an Osprey fishing for his breakfast.  I got a fun silhouette shot with fish in claw, but […]