Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland, FL - 29 Dec 2010

Robin and I arrived in Lakeland, FL yesterday after 2 days of driving her mom to her place here in the Lakeland RV Park.  The drive south from Michigan was relatively quiet, with small kettles of Turkey Vultures in southern Ohio the only birds of note.  We did spot a Merlin hovering in a ditch just south of Atlanta, where the snow finally disappeared from the road sides, having blanketed the south from recent storms.  Temps were only in the low 50's, but sunny skies greeted us, and we couldn't be happier.

This morning the skies were clear, and temps were rising to the 60's, so after picking up a rental vehicle, I came back to get Robin and head off to the Circle B Bar Reserve just 15 minutes away.  As I grabbed the scope and binoculars I spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk perched atop the antenna across the street and overlooking the drainage pond.  A Northern Mockingbird was perched nearby and raising bloody hell with the bird that was encroaching on its territory.

I took a few minutes to run across the street and set the scope up so I could digiscope the adult bird posing ever so nicely in the morning sun.  With the 45X wide eyepiece on the Zeiss 85T*Fl the bird provided wonderful portraits from about 60' away.  The pond itself had low water levels, but was active with White-winged Doves, Northern Mockingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron (white phase), Glossy Ibis, and several Palm Warblers.

After getting some wonderful digiscoped images of the hawk, we headed off to the reserve.  Upon our arrival there I immediately heard the 'zeeb-zeeb' of a Clay-colored Sparrow near the entrance.  The parking lot was abuzz w/ the calls of Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Red-shouldered Hawks,  and the loud chip notes of Palm Warblers.

We headed toward the open marsh and were immediately overwhelmed by the sheer number of birds ahead of us.   The open fields were filled with Glossy Ibis, White Ibis and Sandhill Cranes, while the flooded marsh were loaded with American Coot, Common Moorhen, Blue-winged Teal, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Tri-colored Herons, Wood Storks, and the stray Roseate Spoonbill.  Small flocks of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were scattered all overNumbers were up from last year, when the birds began to arrive regularly as a result of the temporary hunting ban at the reserve.  I spent a few minutes trying to get some digiscoped images before heading on. A Northern Harrier floated effortlessly just a foot above the water, passing over oblivious coots and Canada Geese swimming below, before settling down on a small island and scattering a half-dozen Least Sandpipers

Overhead, the skies were filled with flying Wood Storks, Double-crested Cormorants, flocks of American Crow, and 1/2-mile long strings of American White Pelicans that moved like a ribbon being dragged behind an airplane.  A Bald Eagle soared among the Turkey Vulture kettles and passed in front of a crescent moon that was still in view this late in the morning.

I met a fellow bird photographer who steered me toward an American Bittern that he had been observing for the last hour.  As we scanned the drying marsh ahead of us we finally spotted a bird moving slowly through the thick underbrush.  I set up the scope and waited for the bittern to move into the open so that I could get some digiscoped images from about 30' away.  The gorgeous bird paused for minutes at a time before moving on, disappearing from view when we got distracted by other nearby birds.  At one point I was digiscoping the American Bittern while hearing a pair of Barred Owls across the marsh conversing to each other, a pair of bugling Sandhill Cranes, and several pairs of Red-shoulded Hawks screaming as they soared above the open fields.

I could've stayed all day photographing this bird, but I wanted to continue on toward the pelican roost at the end of the trail ahead.  So I walked on, photographing Turkey Vultures, Anhingas, and small groups of Blue-winged Teal that swam in the canal to my left.
At one point I came upon a small flock of Palm Warblers working the trees to my right.  Among them was a single Prairie Warbler that provided only a few brief open views before it disappeared from sight.  As I looked for the bird a Blue-headed Vireo popped into view and provided a few nice portrait images before it flew off.

As I approached the east end of the reserve and the pelican roost I came upon several Limpkin resting in the shade of the canal to my left.  As I photographed a preening Limpkin, my eyes were averted to a large Wild Pig that was trotting across the field to my right.  That bacon was moving at a quick pace and disappeared as almost as soon as it had appeared!

In the large pond at the east end of the reserve a flock of several thousand American White Pelicans were roosting and flying back and forth between the reserve and nearby Lake Hancock.  I took a few minutes to take a series of images as I panned from left to right, and generated a panorama showing the number of birds in about a 120 degree span.  Folks who were here yesterday said that pelican numbers were 10X greater then!

A pair of Roseate Spoonbills were beckoning me to digiscope them, but I only had a few moments to photograph the half-dozen Limpkin that were resting just a few feet away.  I had to get back to the car, so I moved quickly back up the trail, stopping only briefly to photograph a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that was working down along the trunk of a tree much like like a White-breasted Nuthatch. 

More birds were beckoning my attention, but would have to wait for another day.  A White Ibis was posing on a dead snag in the late morning sunlight, so I paused momentarily to grab a quick photo. A Wilson's Snipe was foraging alongside the ditch, but it was moving away and not providing very good views.  Returning to the car I could only wish I had more time here today.  This place was crazy with birds, and I could only hit it for a few hours.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Nice blog and excellent photos Jerry. I live in Sarasota and will be visiting this place soon. All the best.

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