Beyond the Backyard

Week-Old Sandhill Crane Colts

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Last year my friends found a Sandhill Crane family in Casselberry. When I visited, the colts were several weeks old, already getting to their leggy stage. They entertained me with their spider wars. This year I made a trip over there while the babies are still small. They hatched on Sunday, and I went six days later. Compared to the Sandhill Crane colts at the Circle B Bar Reserve, these guys are still pretty small. They were so cute! When I first arrived, Mom and Dad were taking the babies for a walk down by the pond. They are not nearly as friendly as the babies at Circle B. That’s a good thing – it’s not healthy for birds to be too used to humans. I sat down to watch this family, and they continued their afternoon feeding. The parents were feeding the babies tiny insects they pulled from the grass. They split up a little so that each parent was feeding a colt. The little babies are still small enough that the grasses are taller than they are! My favorite shot was of one of the colts making his way through the grass… Not long after I arrived, Mom […]

Beyond the Backyard

The Two Turtles – Circle B Bar Reserve

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To continue the “Lord of the Rings” titles, this post is about “The Two Turtles” (and some birds, hehe).  Rich was a very happy camper when I got home from the Circle B Bar Reserve with several pictures of turtles.  He said I had to post at least one – after all, this site is called catandturtle, even if we did name it before the bird obsession began!  So here’s the best turtle picture of the morning.  If you are interested in turtles or alligators, now is a great time to hike the Alligator Alley trail at Circle B. I finished processing images from Friday morning. Boy was the light bad!  Why is it that lately the cold fronts come through on weekends, and the only sunshine days seem to be on weekdays?  :-p My favorite ducks at Circle B are the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks.  They crack me up as they fly back and forth between tree branches, calling their happy little song to each other as they frolic.  I noticed this “three stooges” pose on one of the dead trees on Marsh Rabbit Run and shot it even though I knew the background would be gross.  The birds could […]

Backyard photography

Warblers

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Mum-mum says that her warblers haven’t been around much in the last few weeks.  Ours are still quite active, hopping around and chipping to each other in the treetops, especially in the late afternoons.  I love how I can take my camera on our evening walks again!  Yay for Daylight Savings Time!

Beyond the Backyard

Cold Sunset at Oakland Nature Preserve

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I couldn’t resist the itch to try out my 500mm lens any more!  It was pretty windy today, so rather than going to Circle B, Rich and I went up to Oakland Nature Preserve at sunset. Maybe I’m just very spoiled by Circle B, but Oakland doesn’t seem to have as many birds as it used to.  We used to see dozens of Ospreys sitting high in the trees, usually with fish.  We didn’t see a single one today.  But we did see little birds, especially at one point in the boardwalk.  There were tons of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, several Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, one Black-and-White Warbler, and a White-Eyed Vireo. I used my 500mm lens plus my 1.4x teleconverter today.  With my 7D body, that makes an effective focal length of 1120mm!!  I didn’t have any trouble locating birds with just the 500mm, since I’m using to using my 400mm plus my 1.4x teleconverter.  But when I added the 1.4x teleconverter to the 500mm, I did have a bit of trouble finding the birds in the frame.  I’m sure I’ll get used to it.  :) A Gray Catbird hopped in front of me and started to devour some red berries.  I didn’t […]

Beyond the Backyard

Where are all the birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve?

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Relatively speaking, there were very few birds at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning. Usually we are greeted by flocks of White Ibis and Wood Storks flying over Heron Hideout. We see Osprey and various wading birds flying overhead. Lately a bunch of Roseate Spoonbills have been filling the marshes with pink. Today there were very few birds in the skies. A couple of the regulars were there — like the Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks — but not nearly as many as usual. All the birdwatchers were asking each other, “Where is everybody?” I’m not sure if the birds are leaving the marsh because it is so dry, or if there is another explanation for their absence… This morning we hiked Heron Hideout, Marsh Rabbit Run, and Wading Bird Way. As we walked out into the marsh at sunrise, we were amazed by the numbers of Red-Winged Blackbirds that were congregating in the trees. There must have been hundreds, maybe even thousands, all squawking their heads off. The first “big bird” to greet us was this Great Blue Heron, perched uncharacteristically in the top of a twiggy tree. Usually they perch lower in the branches and blend in well. This […]

Beyond the Backyard

Seeing is Believing: There Really are Otters at the Circle B Bar Reserve!

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I’ve been going to the Circle B Bar Reserve at least once a week since June, and plenty of times before that, and I’ve never seen a River Otter. Dyeyo’s seen them plenty of times. Well, I finally got to see one today! There were otters running up and down Marsh Rabbit Run all morning. The best photo ops were when they surfaced with fish. Then we heard lots of crunching! We got to Circle B at 6:30 in hopes of a bright sunrise with some nice clouds. But it was really foggy instead. The normal birds were flying overhead as they left the marsh to seek their breakfast: Wood Storks, White Ibises, and the first Brown Pelicans of the season! Then the first rays of sun came through and illuminated the birds roosting in the marsh, making a beautiful contrast to the foggy background. At the intersection between Heron Hideout and Marsh Rabbit Run, an Eastern Phoebe posed high in a tree. All of a sudden, he darted out, grabbed a dragonfly, then returned to his perch to eat it. On a neighboring tree, a Red-Bellied Woodpecker was digging into a small hole. After a minute or so, he […]

Backyard photography

Yellow-Rumped Warblers

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The Yellow-Rumped Warblers have definitely arrived! Like the Palm Warblers, it seems as if they arrived overnight — we went from seeing none to seeing tons of them hopping around in the evenings. Their evening call note distinguishes them from the Palm and Yellow-Throated Warblers around the neighborhood. This isn’t the greatest picture, but the light hasn’t been great by the time we take our walks in the evening.

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 […]

Beyond the Backyard

Cold Birdwatching at Circle B Bar Reserve

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Dyeyo, Rich, and I were very cold birdwatchers at the Circle B Bar Reserve this morning.  My wool hat from Pittsburgh came in handy! I saw my first limpkins on Wading Bird Way today.  Look at that long spear of a beak! The limpkins were fishing for their breakfasts as we watched.  This guy had his head down for a while, and he came up with his prey wrapped around his beak. The trees that used to be covered in double-crested cormorants are almost always empty now.  I guess the cold weather agreed with them about as well as it agrees with me!  This spoonbill looked lonely all by himself. There were tons of laughing gulls on Wading Bird Way.  This one caught a big fish, then all his buddies ran after him and tried to steal it.  Go catch your own fish, silly birds! We saw these little least sandpipers running along the water’s edge on Wading Bird Way.  At first they were near a limpkin, and Dyeyo thought they might be baby limpkins (wouldn’t that have been nice!)  It’s rather deceiving, the way they posed next to the limpkin’s favorite apple snails…but no, they are sandpipers. It was […]

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.