Beyond the Backyard

Cloudy Morning Walk at Lake Morton

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Female Bufflehead Up Close!

Three days after Christmas, the weather forecasters promised us some sun.  It was a welcome forecast, as it had been cloudy for days.  So I got up early and headed to Lake Morton for sunrise.  I hadn’t been there to visit my swans in quite a while.  But it was another dull gray day.  You couldn’t tell when the sun rose because the clouds were so thick.  Yuck! When I first stepped out of my car, all sorts of ducks came running over to me, convinced that I had brought some bread to share.  I always apologize to them and tell them I’ll bring some next time.  Then I don’t.  It’s a good thing they don’t hold it against me. My juvenile swans were easy to spot as they waddled through the grass.  They are looking more like adult swans, but still have the dark markings of juveniles.  They were still making little noises to each other, too, much like they made on the day they hatched.  It’s so sweet to go back and visit them. Lake Morton is a great place to go photograph Wood Ducks.  Usually Wood Ducks are a very secretive species, but the ones at Lake […]

Beyond the Backyard

More from Lake Morton

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Wood Duck

There were lots of fun birds to photograph on my last visit to Lake Morton.  Besides the juvenile swans, there was a family of baby Limpkins, as well as the regular “menagerie” of ducks and geese.  Early mornings are always good for bath shots!  So here’s some more from Lake Morton… A pair of Black-necked Swans was added to the lake last year.  They are very pretty, and I really enjoy photographing them.  This one was splashing around and peeping to his partner.  I love the open beak in the image above! All sorts of juvenile ducks are growing up around the lake shores.  Those ducks interbreed so much that some of the juvies have some very interesting colors.  This one was pretty with his white feathers that contrast with his bright green patches. Lake Morton is a good place to go to photograph Wood Ducks.  These birds are usually secretive and hard to approach, but at Lake Morton, they are used to people.  I saw plenty of juvenile male Wood Ducks during my visit.  Their molting feathers aren’t quite as impressive as their parents’ feathers!  This adult posed near me, and the calm waters made for a perfect reflection […]

Beyond the Backyard

Late Bloomer

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I was a little surprised to find a tiny Mallard chick at Lake Morton on Sunday. He toppled into the water to follow Mom when I accidentally spooked her. He had a whole family of Mallards who seemed to be watching out for him. It’s unusual to see just one of this size – the clutches are usually pretty large, which is good given the low survival rate of the chicks. I guess late-season clutches are smaller. I also saw lots of juvie Wood Ducks at the lake. In the wild, Wood Ducks are extremely skittish, but the ones at Lake Morton are used to people. Even so, they are the first to hit the water when a person approaches. So I made sure to get low and photograph from afar when I saw a group of these pretty birds.

Beyond the Backyard

Baby Ducks at Lake Morton

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While checking on the swan nests at Lake Morton recently, I’ve gotten to see some other fun babies too.  In early April, I came across a flock of recently-hatched Mallard chicks, probably between 12 and 18 of them.  In later visits, the babies were bigger, although in fewer numbers.  They are certainly well-fed at that lake, so they do grow quickly! But my best surprise was finding this pair of Wood Duck babies.  They are a little smaller and daintier than the Mallard babies.  Mama is very careful with them, and she moves them off into the grasses as soon as you approach.  I stood watching and she eventually let me get a better look at the babies.

Beyond the Backyard

A Walk Around Lake Morton

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Last week Rich and I were in Lakeland to judge the Florida State Science and Engineering Fair.  We had a great time talking to the students about their projects.  Afterward, I twisted Rich’s arm into taking a nice walk around nearby Lake Morton.  I wanted to see if the Mute Swans were nesting yet – and yes, they are!  Two hours and a gorgeous sunset later, I had a cardful of images, and Rich was still patiently waiting to leave…   What a nice hubby! The White Ibises were in spectacular breeding plumage. Their legs, faces, and beaks turn bright red, and the females get a little pouch under their chins in the height of breeding season. I had one such female pose right in front of me with the blue lake water as a background. I love how the background brings out the blue in her eye. The Ring-Billed Gulls were very unafraid of people – they are fed all the time, and they allow photographers to walk right up to them.  Rich didn’t know what to think when I laid down to get face-to-face with one, hehe! I was ecstatic when a pair of Wood Ducks flew down […]

Beyond the Backyard

Anniversary at Bok Tower Gardens

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It’s hard to believe that Rich and I have been married for seven years.  We were married at Bok Tower Gardens, so we decided to go back there today in honor of our anniversary.  Rich didn’t mind that I brought The Beast along.  We saw lots of great baby birds. Since it’s our anniversary, I’ll be nice and post a turtle picture for Rich.  (He does remind me regularly that this site was inspired by cats and turtles…long before the birding craze began!)  So here are three turtles who were sunning themselves at the Window by the Pond. There were Blue Jays all over.  These common birds do not hang out in my backyard, so it’s always fun to see them.  I spotted a juvenile bird feeding with its mother at the bird feeder (squirrel feeder!) by the tower overlook.  This adult was near the Visitor’s Center.  After years of saying I wanted a longer lens, it’s nice to complain that I clipped his tail because I needed to take off my teleconverter… :) Carolina Wrens could be heard singing throughout the gardens.  When I finally spotted one out in the open, he was in shade.  I didn’t have my […]

Beyond the Backyard

Hummers and Cuckoos at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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Yes, that’s right, we saw a hummingbird at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning!  I didn’t get a picture—those guys move fast!  I couldn’t see it for long enough to tell what kind of hummer, either, although I assume it was a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  But it was most definitely a hummer!  Dyeyo and I saw him on the Alligator Alley trail just past the dock.  He flew across the trail in front of us and then up into a cypress tree. He wasn’t the only unusual bird we saw today.  Dyeyo got a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot!  And just like last year, I saw the bird in flight for a fleeting instant, but got no picture.  Now I have two nemesis birds for this vacation!  But it’s great to know that the cuckoo is back.  He flew over our heads as we watched the Pileated nest. So what did I photograph this morning?  Well, there was this very fast Northern Parula that kept hopping from one branch to another in a cypress tree near the dock.  It was pure luck that allowed me to snap the shutter just as he looked at the camera in the one frame that was […]

Beyond the Backyard

A Perfect Morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve

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The weather was cool, the sunrise was awesome, the birds were out, and there was a breeze! I couldn’t imagine a more perfect morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. There was a Tricolored Heron in his usual place, fishing where the water flows under the trail. He looked great in the morning light. The Palm Warblers are definitely back in full force! We enjoyed watching several of them hopping around on these plants with purple flowers. I’ve been seeing Wood Ducks in flight over Heron Hideout for the past few weeks. I wish I could find them when they are on the ground! We’ve never found where they hide. Lots of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers greeted us as we turned onto Marsh Rabbit Run. They hopped around in the low bushes and posed for us nicely. I laughed so hard when I saw this shot: Then I saw this shot and got really excited. I’ve often compared gnatcatchers to hummers because of the way they flutter their wings and seem to hover in mid-air while they are hunting for insects. I’ve tried and tried to capture that moment, but they are so fast! I finally got it though… Then finally one […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Whistler Flight School is pleased to announce the opening of Marsh Rabbit Run!!

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Sunrise at the Circle B Bar Reserve is magical. Maybe because two mornings are never alike. This morning, we were hiking on Heron Hideout when suddenly about twenty Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks took to the air around us. Calling back and forth to each other with their sweet distinctive whistle, the birds flew round and round over our heads. There were a few orange-beaked adults, but most of the crowd were juvenile birds with black bills. Dyeyo and I looked at each other, laughed, and decided that we had just witnessed a flying lesson! Nearby, a group of about ten babies whistled and cheered them on. Were they saying “good flight, big brother!” or maybe “Mama, mama, when can we do that!?” And so concluded a morning’s flying lesson at the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck Flight School! The light changes so quickly at sunrise. This sunrise picture was taken just 10 minutes or so after the one above. The Marsh Rabbit Run trail is now open!! We were excited to see that the alligators have cleared out of our favorite birding trail. Now the photographers can enjoy it again. :) Three Wood Ducks flew by just as we reached the Marsh Rabbit […]