Beyond the Backyard

More Birding Fun at Viera

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A Bite to Eat

In my last post I wrote about the Roseate Spoonbills roosting at Viera Wetlands in the Click Ponds.  Well, there are a bunch of other fun birds there too.  Especially during the early golden light, when the spoonies weren’t cooperating for photography, it was amazing to be surrounded by pink and yet I was photographing other subjects.  Like this Snowy Egret, who proudly strutted around with his white feathers fluffed in the gorgeous light.  He wasn’t so happy later when a spoonbill reached out and bit his leg! Viera’s not one of my favorite places for sunrise – there are too many power lines in the way.  But the sunrise and clouds did throw some gorgeous light on the water of the Click Ponds, where dozens of Great Blue Herons and Sandhill Cranes stood in the shallow water.  I really liked the colors in this silhouette: The Wood Storks were having a good morning last Saturday.  They kept pulling big fish out of the water.  One stood working his catch down his throat for at least twenty minutes.  I suspect the fish weren’t very healthy in that low water, so it was probably easy to grab them for breakfast.  At […]

Beyond the Backyard

Sunset at the Polk Rookery

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Herman took my dad and me on a boat trip to the Polk Rookery this past weekend.  It was my first time being there in the afternoon, so it was fun to see the nests that are not well illuminated in my normal morning light.  There don’t seem to be as many nests this year as in past years.  There are decent number of Wood Storks, and lots of White Ibis, but not nearly as many Tricolored Herons, Snowy Egrets, or Little Blue Herons as usual.  Some Brown Pelicans have nested there in previous years, which is unusual because this rookery is pretty far inland, but we were unable to confirm new nests this spring.  A couple of Great Blue Herons have fledged already, and my favorites, the Roseate Spoonbills, had several nests.  It’s always fun to spend time floating up and down the islands with Herman! This is primarily a Wood Stork rookery, only accessible by boat.  Islands of Brazilian Pepper provide nesting locations for hundreds of birds, and the water surrounding the islands provides protection from predators.  Herman calls the Wood Storks the “wise old men” of the rookery.  They stand grave and tall at the tops of […]

Beyond the Backyard

Fussy Birds

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I was listening to the eagles the other morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve when I heard strange scuffling sounds. I looked up and saw this pair of Wood Storks fighting with each other at the top of a nearby tree. I guess one of them invaded the other’s personal bubble…my cats can identify with that!

Beyond the Backyard

Father’s Day at the Polk Rookery

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Herman invited my dad and me out on his boat to visit the Polk Rookery on Father’s Day.  Activity there is winding down.  Many of the young birds have already fledged.  Recent rains have left the rookery cleaner — and less smelly — than I remember from the end of last season.  There was still enough activity to keep our cameras busy… :) The White Ibis and Cattle Egrets continue to nest at the end of the season.  Also the Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants nest there year-round.  We saw several White Ibis bringing in nesting material, and some sitting patiently on nests.  A pair of tiny White Ibises was sitting under Mom.  The baby ibises are black and look quite different than their parents. At the tops of the Brazilian Pepper stood many juvenile Wood Storks — wise old watchers, as Herman put it.  They stood watch over the rest of the necks, only breaking their solemn poses when breakfast was brought in by a parent. The Great Egrets are the first to nest, and some of the last to fledge.  It’s interesting how the smaller birds, like Tricolored Herons and Snowy Egrets, start nesting later and fledge sooner, than […]

Beyond the Backyard

More from Circle B Bar Reserve

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As I drove to work with the rising sun in my eyes this morning, all I could think was that I’d rather be at the Circle B Bar Reserve! :) It’s unusual when I have such a good morning that I have to extend my description to multiple blog posts. This one is looking like it’ll be a three-parter… This Great Blue Heron was so pretty in the pre-dawn light. Look at the pale blueish-purple water. He was intent on watching for fish in the water below. The population of Black-Crowned Night Herons at CBBR seems to be growing. I noticed several hanging about in the early morning, both adults and juveniles. Several gave me flight shot opportunities. I think the adult birds with their wings stretched like this are so pretty. I still can’t believe how many Roseate Spoonbills were around the Wading Bird Way trail at sunrise. Lucky for me, they wanted to stretch those pretty pink wings and fly! Most stayed far enough away that I was glad to have my Beast. A few came close enough that I had way too much lens. Note to self: next time don’t be lazy and leave the intermediate telephoto […]

Beyond the Backyard

Sunrise Wings at Circle B Bar Reserve

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It’s been ages since I’ve been to Circle B.  It’s sad…I used to go there every weekend, at least!  So it felt great to spend the morning on Wading Bird Way.  The water levels are really really low.  Half of the “lake” is now a mud flat.  But the good thing is that the low water levels attract hundreds of wading birds.  A sea of white wings greeted me.  Birds were flying every which way as they searched for their breakfasts.  It was incredible.  None of my wide-angle shots did justice to the sight. I got out there about 20 minutes before sunrise, to enjoy the pre-dawn light.  There wasn’t much wind, so I could get nice reflections of the birds in the water.  Quite a few Wood Storks and Great Blue Herons were close to shore.  I love the light purpley color the water in the early dawn.  I had to use fill flash to help illuminate the bird. The sunrises over the marsh are not particularly photogenic at this time of year.  I like it better when the sun comes up behind the trees in the middle of the marsh, which are usually covered in birds.  They add […]

Beyond the Backyard

Mirror, Mirror, in the Lake…Who’s the Most Handsome Drake?

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Wednesday was a frigid morning at the Circle B Bar Reserve. The forecast had predicted a low of 29 at 7am, but my car’s thermometer was more optimistic, measuring 34. There was very little wind, and I was quite comfortable all bundled up in my old college coat. I made my way out to the Wading Bird Way trail in anticipation of a gorgeous sunrise. I was met by fog, so dense that it sat like a cloud over the marsh. Clearly there weren’t going to be any great sunrise shots this morning. However, the skies were a beautiful pink… I was excited to see a few American White Pelicans fly off towards Lake Hancock just before sunrise. It was just two small groups of about five birds each. I couldn’t tell if they had slept off Wading Bird Way or not. I saw a large flock of white birds off in the distance, but they weren’t pelicans. They were Wood Storks! They started to fly towards me just like the pelicans did last year. I had fun trying to capture them in the early morning light against the bright pink sky. The sunrise was surreal – a big orange […]

Beyond the Backyard

Soaring into the Sunrise

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Last Friday morning the sunrise at Circle B was very cloudy and not particularly interesting, so the Beast and I focused on the flying birds and making silhouettes. I tried to catch the birds as they had interesting wing angles and as they flew against the orangey colors of the sunrise. Then in Photoshop, I used the Levels tool to color the birds black and to lighten the sky to show the color. These two were my favorites. I can’t decide which one I like better!

Beyond the Backyard

Productive Morning at the Viera Click Ponds

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After hearing on Birdbrains about the early fall migrants at Viera Wetlands, I had to make a trip over there.  The wetlands itself was very unproductive, with not even the Purple Gallinules showing themselves to me.  No Black-bellied Whistling Ducks greeted me, either.  But over in the Click Ponds, there was a ton of activity.  It was the first time I’d seen American Avocets, and they are really cool.  Black-necked Stilts and their young are all over the dried-up ponds, and the sandpipers and other small birds are definitely starting to make a comeback. From what I’ve read, the Click Ponds are drained once a year as part of the water treatment activities.  They are almost completely dry right now, with green grass even starting to grow in the southern pond.  It’s strange to see.  It works out well for the little Black-Necked Stilts, though, who have a nice safe place to feed. The adult stilts are very protective of their young.  They start fussing when a human approaches, and they sometimes fuss even when you just stop your car near their kids.  In the meantime, the baby stilts wander around unconcerned.  It’s almost comical. There were a few smaller […]

Beyond the Backyard

Nesting Season Winds Down at Polk Rookery

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Today Herman took Dyeyo and me for one last boat ride in the Polk Rookery.  The nesting season has all but ended.  Most of the birds have left, leaving the islands very empty looking.  A few adults and fledglings were still perched at the top of the Brazilian Pepper, allowing for easier subject isolation.  It was supposed to be a very cloudy morning, but the sun surprised us with a few hours of good light.  All in all, it was a very pleasant morning. :) These two guys cracked me up.  The juvenile Double-Crested Cormorant was begging for food, fussing like crazy.  He flapped his wings and threw his head around, and the longer the other bird ignored him, the fussier he got.  I guess he didn’t care that the other bird was an Anhinga!  The juvenile Anhinga flew away disgruntled, leaving the cormorant with an empty stomach.  I guess the cormorant was hungry enough—or lazy enough—to take food from anybody.  I wonder if Mom was nearby thinking, “Go get your own food, silly boy!” The Black-Crowned Night Herons put on a good show for Dyeyo, who did take a few pictures of them today.  (The joke is that Dyeyo […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cute Babies at Viera Wetlands

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I went to Viera Wetlands on Saturday morning.  After all the rain on Friday, I wasn’t optimistic about the light level (I actually didn’t decide to make the drive until Saturday morning at 5am!)  There was virtually no sun till the very end of the morning, but the babies were cute and I was relatively pleased with my work from the morning.  I also had the pleasure of finally meeting Donna Faylo, as well as running into Kathy Urbach and Nancy Elwood.  We had a great time trying to catch a Least Bittern in flight.  :) When I first arrived at Viera at sunrise (a misnomer, as the clouds blocked all the sunlight), I went to the Click Ponds.  People have been posting on  Birdbrains that the low water levels have been attracting wading birds to roost at night.  When I drove up, there were no less than 50 Sandhill Cranes standing in the water.  There were also tons of Black-necked Stilts and little sandpipers.  Then the Sandhills started taking off in small groups of three or four.  I tried for some take-off shots, despite the low light.  This one looked pretty good after a Levels correction in Photoshop. A […]

Beyond the Backyard

Father’s Day at the Polk Rookery

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Dyeyo and I spent a nice Father’s Day morning with Herman at his rookery in Polk County.  That’s always such a fun place to go.  Herman’s little portable boat is awesome for floating between the islands and observing the birds. We started the morning with a Least Bittern – what a way to start the day!  He was completely out from under cover, posing beautifully—for just a second!  Then as we turned around in the boat, reached for our cameras, and tried to take his picture, he ducked.  This was the best he let me do.  (As he was hidden in the reeds, I had to choose between the “good beak” and the “good body” shots.  I liked the full body shot because you see his big feet.)  We saw at least two more Least Bitterns fly past throughout the morning.  Now I’m wanting to get back to Viera Wetlands to try for a “good pose”! The activity at the rookery has certainly changed since my first visit, when the birds were primarily constructing their nests, and we had a single set of Great Egret chicks.  Now there are only a few birds on eggs, and there are fledglings everywhere.  […]

Alligator Farm

Birds and Babies Everywhere at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

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I drove up to St. Augustine this morning to visit the St. Augustine Alligator farm rookery.  There are babies everywhere!  I didn’t spend much time on flight shots today, instead concentrating on making good images of babies.  It’s hard to do that, with all the sticks and branches and nesting material everywhere.  Next time I should try an extension tube to limit the depth of focus. I have a great time watching the baby birds learning how to be birds.  For the first few weeks, their entire world is their nest, and the highlight of the day is when Mom brings food.  The parents have such patience as they sit on the nest, enduring the constant screeching from their offspring.  The chicks are pretty good at letting their parents know when they are hungry… There is one Great Egret nest in the big oak tree, right at eye level with a not-too-cluttered background.  The babies had just woken up when I noticed them, then Dad flew in with breakfast.  Oh boy!  They wiggled just as hard as they could with excitement.  I had a bunch of nice shots from this sequence, but this one is my favorite (and doesn’t it […]

Beyond the Backyard

Spoon-Feeding at the Polk Rookery

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Herman took my dad and me out in his boat again this morning.  The Polk Rookery has changed considerably since my last visit in March.  Then the birds were building their nests, and Great Egrets, Wood Storks dominated the Brazilian Pepper.  Today the rookery was filled with fledgling birds of all sorts: Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Black-Crowned Night Herons, White Ibis, Brown Pelicans, Anhingas, Double-Crested Cormorants, and don’t forget the grackles!  There was constant action in every direction.  A photographer’s paradise!  :) My favorites of the morning were the Roseate Spoonbills.  There were at least seven nests, if I remember correctly, with several fledglings per nest.  It was breakfast time and we had such fun watching the head-bobbing as the babies begged for food! The poor parents were accosted by screaming babies each time they flew back to their nests.  I had to laugh when I realized I’d gotten this shot of the frazzled mother: A Spoonie flew overhead and landed in a nearby tree, closely followed by one of her offspring.  He seemed to say to her, “Ha!  Now I can fly!  You can’t get away from me anymore…now feed me already!”  […]