Beyond the Backyard

Sunrise with a Sora – Circle B Bar Reserve

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I spent a very pleasant morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve yesterday morning.  I arrived about half an hour before sunrise and made my way out to the Wading Bird Way trail.  It’s one of my favorite sunrise locations on the reserve.   I like to watch the sun peek out from over the trees covered in birds, then I turn around and photograph the birds in flight in the golden sunrise light. I used HDR to combine three exposures of the sunrise to produce the image above.  That’s the only way that I could get proper exposure in the sun and in the yellow flowers in the foreground.  I’ve been experimenting with trial versions of two HDR programs in the past few days: Photomatix Pro and Nik HDR Efex.  I’m finding that I prefer the dials and controls in Photomatix.  Photomatix does a better job with image alignment and de-ghosting.  Nik’s results tend to be darker and less to my taste.  I’m still learning about HDR, but so far, Photomatix gets my vote. After the sunrise, I focused on birds in flight with The Beast.  The Blue-Winged Teals are roosting on the waters in pretty good numbers, and they […]

Beyond the Backyard

Lions and Bitterns and Rails, Oh My! Circle B Bar Reserve Never Disappoints

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A group of photographers met at the Circle B Bar Reserve for sunrise this morning. We had a blast. Circle B really is a photographer’s playground at this time of year! Dyeyo and I parked at the parking lot at the Circle B entrance, then took the Windmill Whisper trail out to Wading Bird Way. The southern half of Wading Bird Way is my second favorite sunrise spot in the reserve (Lake Hancock is my favorite). I took several bracketed shots as the sun began to peek over the horizon, and this one with the flocks of birds flying over the marsh was my favorite. There were not as many American White Pelicans out on the water as the last time Dyeyo and I went for sunrise. The small group of birds that were there today were in no hurry to fly off at sunrise. So I turned my attention to the birds that were showing off: the Ring-Billed Gulls and the American Coots. I liked the pale pink water in the two shots above, produced by the reflection of the pre-sunrise sky. We don’t normally take many pictures of the common American Coots…but if they are showing off, and […]

Beyond the Backyard

Bittern-ly Chilly Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Bitterns were the highlight this morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. I arrived at sunrise, and the cloudcover was much greater than the weatherman’s “Mostly Sunny” forecast. The sun shone on the landscape for about fifteen minutes, then it went behind clouds for most of the “golden light hour.” I didn’t hike as much as usual, opting instead to stalk specific birds, especially the Sora on Heron Hideout and the American Bitterns on Marsh Rabbit Run. I enjoyed meeting Jim and Kathy Urbach and Michael Libbe — it’s fun to put Flickr usernames with faces when you meet people at Circle B! Jim has a 500mm lens like mine and we had a blast photographing a particularly cooperative bittern. I arrived around 7:15, just minutes before the sunrise. Usually I try to get there a little earlier, but it is a 1 hour drive from Orlando! :-p My jaw dropped in surprise on the Heron Hideout trail, where a huge flock of blackbirds had congregated right on the trail. They were all females and/or juveniles (striped brown birds, not the male black birds with red spots on their wings). Just as I saw them, a jogger ran down the […]

Beyond the Backyard

Diving Hoodies at Viera Wetlands

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Dyeyo and I drove over to Viera Wetlands in search of the Ross’s Goose that has been reported there on the BirdBrainz list serve.   We didn’t see the goose, but we did see a group of happy, diving Hooded Mergansers.  It was the first time either of us had seen a female Hoodie (we don’t typically see mergansers at the Circle B Bar Reserve where we normally bird.) We got to Viera and decided to drive around the perimeter once to locate the birds.  Except we saw so many birds that the “first lap” took more than half our morning! The first bird we spotted was a Wilson’s Snipe.  He was fishing in some short reeds and obligingly came out periodically to allow us to photograph him.  This was my first opportunity for full-frame snipe photos.  Usually the snipes are far away and I’m just happy to see them at all. We paused to take a duck inventory of the many American Coots, Pied-Billed Grebes, and Ring-Necked Ducks that covered the wetlands.  A Belted Kingfisher came screeching across the landscape and landed on a dead palm tree right in front of us.  With my new 500mm lens, he was practically […]

Beyond the Backyard

Little Birds Galore at Circle B Bar Reserve

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The trees at the Circle B Bar Reserve were full of little birds today. The warblers are so cute.  This yellow rumped warbler wasn’t sure about the crazy photographer underneath him. There were tons of warblers today (palm, pine, yellow-rumped, and common yellowthroats), but we didn’t see or hear a single blue-gray gnatcatcher.  That was a big change.  The gnatcatchers have been very numerous in the preserve this winter. We laughed when we watched this common moorhen walking across the path on Marsh Rabbit Run.  Look at his green feet! There are usually least sandpipers on the waterfront on Wading Bird Way.  Finally one posed for me in nice light with a contrasting background. We saw several soras today.  They migrate through Polk County, so you only see them for a couple of weeks each year. This little blue heron was stalking fish in the marshy dollarweed.  When I first saw him, I thought he would better be named a gray heron, but when the light him him, his blue beak was apparent.  Too bad the dollarweed background reminds me too much of the weeds in our front yard! We saw several juvenile white ibises this morning.  I don’t think […]