Monday, March 30, 2009

Circle B Bar Reserve - 28 Mar 2009

The winds really picked up this afternoon. Storms were predicted for Central Florida this afternoon but so far none have come. In the meantime, Robin and I drove over to the Circle B Bar Reserve, a nature reserve operated by Polk County. I wasn't expecting much in the way of birding, since it was so hot and windy in the middle of the afternoon. I was WRONG!

We walked the Marsh Trail after hearing of White Pelicans roosting near the dam. With gusting winds blowing sand directly in our faces as we walked along the dike I was ready to turn around and head back to the car. But a Red-shouldered Hawk appeared nearby, so I grabbed the camera and fired a few pics before it disappeared behind a tree. As I continued on it suddenly appeared and was heading directly toward me. It circled a couple of times near my head before landing in a nearby tree. I took a few more pics (20 or more...) then continued along the trail, where a Snowy Egret and Little Blue Heron came into view.
Overhead a Bald Eagle and Osprey were squabbling over air space. Farther out in the marsh I spotted a Roseate Spoonbill circling before landing out of sight.

As we reached the interpretive sign, located at the junction between three trails, I saw another spoonbill feeding in a shallow pond to my left. Robin took refuge behind the sign while I headed toward the spoonbill. Nearby a Wood Stork posed nicely for a few photos while an Anhinga dried itself on a snag. It took a phonecall from Robin to tell me to look at the monster gators snoozing at my feet!

On the other side of the dike several pairs of Blue-winged Teal were quietly paddling among several American Coot and Common Moorhen. A Solitary Sandpiper 'pipped' a few feet away. Farther out in the marsh I could see several Glossy Ibis feeding, but backlit skies prevented any worthwhile photos. A Northern Parula was singing from the nearby woods, but I had no luck finding it.

Unsure of where the 'dam' was, I headed north along the dike in front of me, hoping to get some pics of the Glossy Ibis. Unfortunately, they stayed to the west, screened not only by the sun, but a treeline as well. I did manage to find an opening large enough to photograph several Anhinga perched atop a dead tree and a few more flying against the darkening skies. The weedy marsh to my right held dozens of Cattle Egret, Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egret, Great Egrets, White Ibis and Great Blue Herons. A single Wild Turkey appeared at the edge of the marsh 50 yards away. A small pond farther down the path held a pair of Mottled Duck!

As I watched a pair of Osprey hover overhead a large flock of 50+ Glossy Ibis flushed from the marsh to my left. As I watched them settle back down a Lincoln's Sparrow appeared in the ditch next to me. Unable to get any pics of it I turned my attention to an Eastern Bluebird perched high atop a dead tree.

I reached the end of the dike and found several large flocks of American White Pelicans roosting in the marsh ahead of me. A flyby Caspian Tern made for some challenging pics as the wind blew us both around. As several more White Pelicans flew in I spotted six Black-necked Stilts feeding among dozens of Semipalmated Sandpipers and Killdeer.

Turning back I headed along the dike and grabbed a few easy photos of the Great Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Cattle Egrets, and Snowy Egrets that fed among the vegetation. A White Ibis suddenly snatched a Red-bellied Snake out of the water and wrestled with it for several minutes before finally swallowing it down. Among the dozens of Painted Turtles sunning themselves were several very large Soft-shelled Turtles that did not take kindly to my presence.
I returned to the car happy that I'd found a new birding hotspot that I could drive just a few minutes from the house down here. I didn't bother with any digiscoping, and was glad I had the monopod to provide a measure of stability.
This place gets two thumbs up!

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