Beyond the Backyard

Springtime Walk at Lake Morton

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American White Pelican Head Shot

Last weekend I visited Lake Morton in hopes of photographing swan courtship.  My friend Kim recently posted an amazing image of two “love birds” whose necks came together to form a heart on the lake.  It’s a touching reminder that it’s my favorite time of the year: baby bird season!  I can’t wait for the cygnets to grace the shores of the lake with their sweetness and their antics.  Alas, the swans did not cooperate for me on my visit.  But I did see so many other fun things to photograph that I can’t be disappointed.  Nature shares with me what it wants to share, and if I could always anticipate what I’ll see, there would hardly be any fun in it! So my morning started off with sunrise and American White Pelicans.  Small groups of pelicans were clustered on the brick walls lining the lake.  I quickly realized that they would fly off soon after sunrise, and that I had a few fleeting minutes to photograph them while the sun cast gorgeous orange light on the lake behind them.  So I did what you’re not supposed to do: I shot into the sunrise and added lots of exposure compensation […]

Beyond the Backyard

Ring-Necked Duck in July!?

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The last couple of times that I’ve been to Lake Morton, I’ve noticed this lone Ring-Necked Duck out in the water. With all the ducks, swans, and geese at the “menagerie,” you might not think that was so strange…except for the fact that all his friends flew north several months ago! I wonder what made him decide to stay in Lakeland for the summer. Maybe he really likes 100-degree weather with a strong dash of humidity. Maybe he didn’t feel like flying so far. Maybe he wanted to see Father Goose in action. Whatever the reason, he stayed…and now it won’t be long before his duck friends return. :)

Beyond the Backyard

My First Visit to Lake Morton

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After a quiet morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve on Friday, Dyeyo and I decided to head to Lake Morton. Herman has been telling me about it for ages, and he always knows the good birding places! There were lots of Ring-necked and Ruddy Ducks sleeping on the lake. It was my first opportunity to see a male Ruddy. They are pretty. The Ruddys stayed out in the middle of the lake, but the Ring-neckeds came in close. Dyeyo and I both had opportunities to photograph them full-frame. It almost felt too easy, setting up on the side of the lake and photographing all the birds going by. We’ve heard that several hundred American White Pelicans were roosting at the lake. We got there around 10:00 in the morning, and we found three pelicans. They mostly hung out in the middle of the lake, standing on the little platform around the Christmas tree. They made a pretty funny sight, out there with the Double-Crested Cormorants. I want to go back in the early morning to see if more are roosting there in the evenings. They tend to fly off pretty early. There were so many swans! I thought the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Even an Icky Day is Good at Circle B Bar Reserve

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I almost decided not to go to the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. The forecast predicted a mostly cloudy morning, and the cloud cover over our house at 6am was thick. But I didn’t want to miss my last vacation opportunity to go to Circle B, so I went anyway. My dad likes to say that Circle B never disappoints, and today was no exception. I heard my first American Goldfinches of the season, and got a Redhead flight shot! This morning started out gray and the sun was behind the clouds, so I parked at the Nature Center and walked over to the new eagle’s nest. I was curious how well I’d see it with The Beast. With The Beast and the 1.4x teleconverter, I got the shot below. When I added the 2x teleconverter as well, I was full-frame on the nest. Hopefully the nest will be productive this year! The eagles were both at the nest for a little while, arranging branches down in the middle. Then one flew away while the other sat up on the branches over the nest. So they are not on eggs yet. Lately I’ve been enjoying flight shots on the […]

Beyond the Backyard

What’s Going On Up There?

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There were plenty of birds in the skies this afternoon at the Circle B Bar Reserve! I got there around 3:30 and hiked Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, and Wading Bird Way.  The American White Pelicans are back and roosting on the water at Wading Bird Way!  Yay! When I first arrived, the skies above the parking lot were filled with Turkey Vultures.  There had to have been at least fifty swooping in the wind.  They were actually quite pretty as the sun caught their wings and made them glisten.  This was my favorite picture, because of the wings, although I wish the bird had turned his head towards me at the same time. The bushes on the edges of the paths have died back, due to the recent cold weather.  It makes it easier to spot the little birds hopping around in the brush.  The Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers stand out nicely with their gray feathers against the brown bushes.  They are so small, fast, and friendly — I’ve actually had to attach an extension tube because the birds got so close that they were within my minimum focusing distance on my 400mm lens.  I enjoyed watching this guy fluttering around, […]

Beyond the Backyard

A New Place to Explore: Viera Wetlands

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I’ve heard birders mention Viera Wetlands so often that I had to get over there to see it for myself. It reminds me of Circle B Bar Reserve in that it is a local wetlands area with great birds — and unlike Circle B, which is so dry right now, this wetlands had plenty of water and there were plenty of birds as a result! I saw my first-ever Hooded Merganser and Common Snipe, which were both cool. The wetlands were covered in American Coots and Blue-Winged Teals. I also got some pictures of a flock of Green-Winged Teals and Killdeer in flight. Then there was the usual wetlands assortment of herons, egrets, and ducks. The clouds rolled in about mid-morning, but we had a great time, and I’m looking forward to going back. We lucked out — one of the first birds we saw was the Hooded Merganser. I yelped and hopped out, then by the time we got our cameras, we didn’t see him. Dyeyo tried to tell me that I’d just seen coots…and then he popped out of some vegetation and did a little flap! So we got to see his hood. He was in Cell 4. […]