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

Easter Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Easter sunrise, a lifer, and a bobcat…it was a very good morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve!! On Easter Sunday I was out on the Wading Bird Way trail approximately 45 minutes before sunrise.  I watched the pale glow of the sun as it appeared over the horizon, and finally burst up over the clouds.  I enjoyed playing with my new off-camera flash cord, which I used to illuminate the flowers and the rocks in the foreground.  It’s always fun to experiment with new techniques, and I’m not (yet) very proficient with creative flash.  The morning was supposed to be very cloudy, but the clouds were not so thick that they ruined the sunrise.  There was no one else out on the trail, and I had my own little sunrise service! As I stood enjoying the sunrise, I heard the familiar sound of Black Skimmers.  I was surprised, because I’d never seen Black Skimmers at the Circle B Bar Reserve before.  But as I looked up, yep, there was a small flock of skimmers skimming!  Their flight pattern when they skim is unmistakable, even in low light.  The nice thing about having two camera bodies is that I could […]

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A Foggy Morning Turns Cute at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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The weather forecasters had it all wrong last weekend.  They said it would be partially cloudy on Saturday, rainy on Sunday.  Try it the other way around, guys.  So I went to Circle B on Saturday hoping for partial cloudcover, and I got thick fog until around 10:00.  But that was ok, because at 10:00, the Sandhill Crane family from the Marsh Rabbit Run nest brought their babies to the Heron Hideout trail to say hello.  Apparently they continued to the picnic area by the nature center, as if to show off their new offspring.  For the third year in a row, I had an awesome opportunity for pictures. :) But before the cuteness came fog…lots of fog.  Dyeyo and I walked up the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, and the fog settled in thicker and thicker.  I could hear the eagles at their nest, but I couldn’t see them well.  I guess this Red-Shouldered Hawk figured that the fog hid him, too, because he stayed perched out in the open as we approached. I haven’t been over to photograph this year’s eagle nest at all.  Using the Beast, I could barely make out the two dark forms of the eaglets […]

Beyond the Backyard

First of Season Warblers at CBBR!

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How are kitten care and warbler photography alike? Neither subject will stay still! This morning I enjoyed an off-Friday sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I saw my first warblers of the season!  Two Yellow Warblers and one Prairie Warbler spent a pleasant 15 minutes posing for me in the top of a tree on the Marsh Rabbit Run trail.  I know shorebird migration has been underway for about a month now, but I’ve always considered the first warblers to be the sign of fall migration. :) I arrived at Circle B just before sunrise.  It had rained there overnight, and there were large puddles on several trails.  it was great to see that the culverts on the Heron Hideout trail were all flowing with water again.  Hopefully it will keep raining, to get the water levels up before the migrant ducks arrive! While I waited for the light to be bright enough for bird photography, I experimented some with landscape HDR and my wide-angle lens.  The sun was pretty as it peeked over the horizon and shone through the clouds.  The marsh is quite pretty at this time of year, with all the trees covered in green.  But […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Eagle has Landed at CBBR

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The Bald Eagle has returned to his nest on the sandhill at the Circle B Bar Reserve!  I was very happy to hear him and then confirm that he was sitting just above the nest. It’s been almost a month since Dyeyo and I went to Circle B, so we were both excited to get back there today.  We arrived at 6:30 and headed to the Wading Bird Way trail in search of Black-Bellied Whistling Duck babies.  It was a very cloudy morning, though.  There wasn’t enough light to photograph the birds well, so I concentrated on sunrise panoramas instead. A small group of otters surprised us as we reached the southern end of Wading Bird Way.  Neither of us had seen the otters up on this part of the trail before.  One otter was smaller than the others, making me wonder if it was younger.  They stood on the trail for a few seconds before diving down into the grasses. Given the heat and the minimal bird activity at Circle B at this time of the year, I left the Beast at home and traveled light, with just my intermediate zoom lens and a bottle of water.  The clouds […]

Beyond the Backyard

Knock, Knock! Goes the Pileated Woodpecker at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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It was a good morning for baby birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I spent about an hour watching the Osprey nest on the Heron Hideout trail.  Then I moved on to the Alligator Alley trail, where I photographed the Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest.  The Northern Parulas taunted me but didn’t let me see them.  Then Dennis showed me the best nest of the morning: there’s a Pileated Woodpecker on eggs inside the old Barred Owl tree! Last week, I saw the Osprey family on my way out, in mid-day light.  So today the nest was my first stop of the morning.  I love dawn at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The light of the sun comes peeking up over the horizon and slowly bathes the marshes in soft golden light.  All the birds call back and forth to each other softly, and the soft breezes feel cool because the sun isn’t blasting out its heat yet.  You would think it would get old, but every morning is different.  As I watched the sun rise, the Osprey family enjoyed a fish for breakfast.  Finally the sun was up enough to illuminate the nest, and Junior obligingly sat up and posed […]

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

More Baby Birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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This morning started out slow at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  We’re getting into the time of year when there are fewer birds at the reserve, and you don’t get as many great photo ops as you do during the winter.  But I find that the baby birds are just as fun to photograph as the migrants…if you know where to look to find them! :) We started out just after sunrise on the Heron Hideout trail, hoping to see the Sandhill Crane colt that the volunteers have dubbed “Tiny Tim.”  But Tiny Tim and his family were nowhere to be seen.  Herman reports that the Osprey nest on the palm tree has hatched, but the babies stayed down in the nest.  Sometimes it’d be nice to be Inspector Gadget and just hop up to the nest for a quick close-up! A single Black-Necked Stilt flew overhead as we watched the Osprey nest.  It’s the first stilt I’ve seen at the reserve this spring.  Later we saw another fly over, and a pair of them seemed to fight in the air over Eagle Roost. I spotted an adult Black-Crowned Night Heron hunched down in the grasses pretty far out in […]

Beyond the Backyard

Circle B Says Goodbye to its Winter Migrants and Hello to the Summer Residents

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I spent a quiet off-Friday morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  It’s always a treat to be on the trails without the weekend crowds.  I started off on the Heron Hideout trail to say hello to the little Sandhill Crane, then I turned left onto the Alligator Alley trail and hiked that loop back to the Nature Center.  It was a nice breezy morning and it felt awesome to be out! I arrived at the reserve just after sunrise, determined to catch the Sandhill Crane family as it crossed the Heron Hideout trail in its morning trek across the marsh.  Last weekend I almost missed them.  So it figures that this morning I had to wait about half an hour for them to meander across the marsh!  It was a bit cloudy, and I’m sure that contributed to the slow start for the birds. As I waited for the Sandhill Cranes, I watched the Osprey nest in the palm tree.  One bird was incubating on the nest, and the other bird was perched in a tree close by.  As I watched, the bird on the nest stretched her wings and flew off.  The other bird took her […]

Beyond the Backyard

In Search of Babies at Circle B Bar Reserve

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Dyeyo and I went to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning on a quest to find baby birds.  The adorable Sandhill Crane colt that met us on the Heron Hideout trail was just the first.  We figured that the Barred Owlet had already fledged, so we headed out to Wading Bird Way in search of the Limpkin babies and Mottled Duck babies that someone mentioned to us.  We didn’t find either, but we did find the other Sandhill Crane family. :) The days are getting longer and the sun is rising earlier.  Dyeyo and I planned to meet at 7:30, but I ran a few minutes late.  By the time we got out to the Heron Hideout trail around 7:45, the Sandhill Crane family had already made its way up onto the trail, and they only let us take a few pictures before moving off into the marsh again.  The early bird gets the worm!  Next weekend I’ll be an early bird. Sunrise next weekend is at 7am! The colt is bigger this week.  He’s hunting for his own food more, although he’ll happily accept that tasty morsel from Mom or Dad.  I noticed that he’s allowed to wander […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Newest Celebrity at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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This winter the American Bittern and the King Rail were the stars at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  This spring, the Sandhill Crane colt that frequents the Heron Hideout trail is quickly becoming the newest celebrity at the park. This morning I met Michael Libbe at sunrise and we found the Sandhill Crane family out in the grasses a few yards from the Heron Hideout trail.  Then they moved up onto the trail, positioning the colt just a few feet away from us in the golden glow of sunrise.  How long can you stand and photograph the same three birds?  Well, we were there for about an hour and a half! If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll see the colt standing at the feet of the adult!  The little guy was buried in the grass when we got there.  All we could see was his head.  Then the adults moved towards the trail, and he walked behind them.  Except the water was high after all the rains we had, and it came up to his chin!  He was so cute as he made his way across the little stream.  Then he passed over a little hill of […]

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Foggy but Interesting Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Wow it was foggy this morning!  It was all clear as I left Orlando, but the fog started when I hit I-4, and the Polk Parkway was crazy with fog.  So I wasn’t anticipating seeing too much this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve.  I’m glad I was wrong!  We saw tons of birds. The Red-Winged Blackbirds must be beginning to nest.  The males are displaying and calling from the treetops, providing wonderful photo ops.  It seemed like we had a blackbird on every other little tree along Heron Hideout this morning. To kill time until the fog lifted, we walked around the Eagle Roost Trail out to Wading Bird Way to look for the Sandhill Crane family that has been reported there.  It was so foggy!  We couldn’t see the Bald Eagle’s nest.  We could hear Eastern Meadowlarks, but we couldn’t see them.  When we made it out to Wading Bird Way, we could see faint shadows of birds on the trail, but we had to get pretty close before we could identify them. There were tons of little Savannah Sparrows out this morning, both on the Eagle Roost trail and along Wading Bird Way.  I got down […]

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 […]