Beyond the Backyard

We Found Woody!

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Dyeyo and I have been going to Circle B together for over a year now, and for that whole time Dyeyo has been on a quest to see Red-Headed Woodpeckers.  But day after day goes by and Dyeyo still hasn’t seen his “Woody.” So for Father’s Day, I asked Herman to recommend a place where I could take Dyeyo to find a Red-Headed Woodpecker.  Herman recommended a place called Chinsegut (an old Eskimo name, pronounced Chin-SEE-gut.  Try saying it three times fast!).  The name means “the place where things of true value that have been lost may be found again.”  Well, maybe the woodpeckers weren’t lost exactly, but we sure found them! The nature center at Chinsegut is open only on Fridays and Saturdays.  We found it to be a really cool little place.  The best part was outside the center, where there’s a butterfly garden with a ton of bird feeders.   There were a ton of birds, most of them with their young fledglings:  Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, Eastern Towhees, House Finches, Blue Jays, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and of course, the Red-Headed Woodpeckers.  At one point, I said that I had heard a hummingbird.  Imagine Dyeyo’s […]

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

Quiet Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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The Circle B Bar Reserve is my favorite place to be at dawn. The landscape is so beautiful with the sun just peeking out over it, and the critters all waking up to a new day. We were treated to an early-morning view of the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck family. They are usually not out until later in the day. It’s fun to watch how the adults take care of their brood together. It’s very rare to see a single Black-Bellied Whistling duck, and both parents are never far away from the babies. We (and several other photographers!) had some hopes that the Marsh Rabbit Run trail would be open today, but it wasn’t. The sign says that it will be closed until the end of September. :( Some of the Wood Storks have shifted their roost trees away from the lake to the marsh between Wading Bird Way and Heron Hideout. The Double-Crested Cormorants are roosting in the same trees. Two Belted Kingfishers chased each other up and down Heron Hideout as we watched. On Heron Hideout, past the Marsh Rabbit Run, we saw several baby Purple Gallinules (half-baby, half-juvenile plumage) darting around in the vegetation. I didn’t get a […]

Beyond the Backyard

Springtime at Bok Tower

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Last year Rich and I went to Bok Tower a few weeks after the azaleas bloomed, and I was mad to have missed the blooms.  So this year we went while the azaleas were in bloom.  They were pretty, but not as dramatic as what we expect to see at Callaway Gardens in a few weeks. The paths were so pretty lined with flowering bushes. Dyeyo, Rich, and I had fun bird-watching at Bok Tower.  We saw the most birds over by Window by the Pond, near the bird feeders.  I was amazed  to see several painted buntings!  One of the caretakers said that the painteds had arrived last winter and returned this winter.  There were several males hopping around.   I didn’t get a good picture of the buntings, but I did get a decent one of this black and white warbler: The caretaker also told us about another feeder near the visitor center, and when we found it, we saw this red-bellied woodpecker eating his breakfast.  He didn’t appreciate the strangers watching him eat!  He’d hop to the feeder, grab a bite, then fly higher to eat it.  He’s really a bit big to eat from a tube feeder, […]

Beyond the Backyard

Winter Birding at Callaway Gardens

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We went to Callaway Gardens to see the Fantasy in Lights display, but during the day, we had a great time walking around the gardens. There are so many birds at Callaway! The Callaway Birds of Prey show is fun. They pick three of about ten of their birds to display during each show, and they let the birds fly (sometimes right over the spectators’ heads!). It’s interesting to hear about the different birds. The chapel looked pretty surrounded in the fall colored leaves. We were surprised to stick see colored leaves on the trees. Being Floridians, it doesn’t take much color on trees to get us excited! They had also decorated the Sibley Horticultural Center for Christmas. Some of the garden-inspired decorations were very clever.

Beyond the Backyard

Hiking at Wekiva Springs State Park

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We read that Wekiva Springs is a great place to bird-watch and hike. It was the first time we’d ever seen a tufted titmouse. I thought this was a robin at first, but then upon closer inspection discovered it was an Eastern Towhee. We didn’t get to hear it do its characteristic “Drink your tea!” call, though. This Gray Catbird was right up on the path, and I was photographing him, when somebody walked right in between us and scared him off. How rude! It quickly became apparent that the birds just weren’t out today. We heard chickadees but couldn’t find them. In other places we didn’t hear birds at all. But the butterflies started to come out.