A Comfortable Contrarian

It was good to be back. I couldn’t believe it had been eight months since my last visit. Some things in life maintain a “comfort level” which never fades. When living in Germany, I purchased a light jacket with leather panels on the front and loosely knit wool in the back. It was perfect for hiking the steep trails through dark forests of fir where the leather buffered the chilly wind and wool at the back allowed fresh air to circulate. Comfortable. Two pairs of walking shoes in the closet are almost identical in design and appearance yet one is used much more often. They’re just more – comfortable. Most mornings I reach in the cabinet and pull down the same cup which for years has held the juice from freshly roasted and ground coffee beans. It holds the same amount as other cups and even looks similar to many. But there is something about its weight, the way my hand fits through the handle, the Meerschaum quality of the coffee-stained china. Comfortable.

I drove through the entrance gates of the Circle B Bar Reserve on the north shore of Lake Hancock, parked at the first picnic table, slung the camera over my shoulder and hung binoculars around my neck. After walking 50 yards, I stopped and turned 360 degrees. There! That’s the feeling! Spanish moss hanging almost to the ground was parted slightly by the wind’s unseen hand revealing huge hundred-year old oak trees, Northern Cardinals leaped through the underbrush, dragonflies shimmered in the sunlight on tall weeds along the path and ahead the walkway met the bright blue sky which beckoned one to discover something wondrous. An involuntary deep sigh caught me by surprise. I was – comfortable. It was good to be back.

Years ago, upon first discovering the Circle B, I tried to visit often. It’s a former cattle ranch which has been developed into a marsh and has restored the flow of Saddle Creek into Lake Hancock. The result is one of the most spectacular birding venues in Florida. A diverse habitat attracts a huge number of birds throughout the year. The day before my visit, a friend (and one of the state’s best birders) sent an email that he spotted a Ruff on the mud flats which have been exposed due to our recent very dry weather. I don’t usually “chase” rarities, but I’ve never seen a Ruff and Circle B is only 30 minutes away…..

Being the experienced and veteran birder and photographer which I so clearly am, I know that one must arrive to a potential birding spot early in the day in order to take advantage of the “golden hours” for best photographic light and maximum bird activity. Not to mention it is much cooler early in the morning.  Armed with this knowledge, I arrived on site promptly at – 3:00 in the afternoon. Not a cloud in the sky so the light was wonderfully harsh. Not a sound to be heard except cicadas buzzing so all the birds were likely sleeping. And the temperature was a balmy 95 F, perfect for hiking out to the marsh without a bit of shade along the way. (There were appointments in the morning, you see, and I was afraid to wait until the next morning as the Ruff would surely leave on its northward journey, and besides I may not be as much of an expert as has been advertised.)

Gini says I am a natural contrarian but adds sweetly:  “But you’re MY contrarian!”. She’s so diplomatic.

The good news is, even under less than ideal circumstances, the Circle B is a veritable paradise for nature lovers. I found a couple hundred shorebirds on the mud flats, and there may well have been a Ruff (or a dozen) amongst the crowd of sandpipers, plovers, skimmers and others. Unfortunately, they were about 500 miles away and even when I enlarged the many photographs I attempted, it just appeared to be a mass of mottled brown with nothing in focus at all. Sigh.

So, I wandered around and discovered not ALL of the wildlife was taking a nap. Overhead were Bald Eagles, a Red-shouldered Hawk, vultures, Wood Storks and a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites. Not to mention water birds of all types flying from one spot of water to another. I even found a flock of Bobolinks filling up on grass seed before resuming their migration. It was even comforting to see so many alligators still here, right where I left them so many months ago.

Despite the lousy light, heat, limited activity and no rare bird, I still (although reluctantly) took a few pictures. Just for you.

 

All decked out in breeding plumage, a Tricolored Heron runs toward a potential meal.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

A Snowy Egret already has his meal, well, maybe more like a snack. Another Snowy glides overhead, looking almost like an x-ray against the bright sky.

 

Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

The Great Blue Heron is a large bird, standing almost four feet tall. This young alligator was not impressed. He swam back and forth in front of the heron and twice made a sudden lunge in its direction. The heron was likewise not impressed and never flinched.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

A female Bobolink loads up on seeds. She was part of a flock of about two dozen. They are not residents here and we only see them during migration.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

This male Black-necked Stilt was busy feeding and there were reports of an occupied nest in this area. I’ll have to return soon to try and find it. Maybe I can get lucky and discover young ones.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are normally seen in groups. This one evidently found a spot in the mud he liked as I couldn’t see others anywhere.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

A resting Roseate Spoonbill keeps one eye on its surroundings. Good idea. Lots of ‘gators wandering by. Not to mention two-legged critters making clicking noises. A little further down the path and I found another spoonbill soaring overhead.

Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

A Florida Red-bellied Turtle leaves a wide path as it scoots along in the soft mud of the marsh. Another one suns itself on a log. The weeds and algae on their shells hide a really pretty reddish-orange pattern.

Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

I startled an adult Black-crowned Night Heron and he hurried out of sight.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

A bit later, an immature night heron hid behind some moss. This is likely a second-year bird as first-year night herons are mottled brown but this one doesn’t have the contrasting black and gray of a full adult (see the one above). Plus its eyes are not quite as red as an adult’s.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

A large female Florida Softshell Turtle throws sand and gravel in the air as she tries to dig a nest along the hard-packed side of the trail. She’ll need to find some softer sand or mud before she can deposit her 10-30 eggs.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

This is a common pose for the Great Blue Heron and may be used to warm the inside of the wings enough to drive out small biting bugs such as mites.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

As the sun began to set, a Nine-banded Armadillo foraged in the dry leaves of the oak woods looking for insects. These fascinating animals remind me of Winnie The Pooh’s friend, Piglet.

Circle B Bar Reserve

 

 

No Ruff today. Despite my contrariness, I found some wonderful birds, several interesting animals and had an exhilarating outdoor experience. Back at the car, I turned back for one more look at where I had been. There was that sigh again. I felt – comfortable.

 

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “A Comfortable Contrarian

  1. I’ve been curious about the GBH pose with wings outward from the body. Thanks!

    • I still don’t have a definitive answer! But I’m still searching …
      Thank you for visiting, Patti! Good to hear from you.

  2. I’m so glad you’re my big brother and I know your deep, gentle voice. It adds to my enjoyment of your writing. It makes me feel very — comfortable.

  3. I can’t believe we didn’t get to Circle B this season; next year for sure! It is a wonderful place; your photos are lovely. I smiled at your 3 p.m. arrival time…. we have trouble with early mornings in this household.

    • The good thing about Circle B is there’s always something neat going on! So it will wait for you!
      Thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy your “cooler” summer! (Send us some of that rain.)

  4. Oh Wally, forgive me. I just realised I owe you a message.Don’t worry too much about the Ruff, it’s just another wader and in any case you and should not twitch at our dangerous and excitable age. On the other hand, a Ruff in May can be quite spectacular if a male! oh well – that’s life.

    Compensation in the form of your photos surely? All of the highest quality again from yet another of your super florida bird places. Seems to me that the US authorities provide these so as to keep you and your like out of mischief?

    • If we get into the “owing a message” business, I already have a deficit I could never overcome! Just visit if you feel like it and no worries otherwise.

      Yes, there’s something about elderly folk twitching that simply does not sound decent or healthy. I shall attempt to refrain.

      Definite compensation in many consolation prizes in the marsh! You are too kind with your praise (but don’t stop). The authorities likely meant well in providing such venues, but, alas, I have an accomplice who insists on creating mischief of all sorts and then blaming me. Such is life!

      Keep well, friend.

  5. Hello dear friend,
    I was thrilled to read your comment on my blog!
    It means you’re OK and ready for more photographic adventures to share with us 🙂
    your pics are superb, I envy this pink spoonbill, we only have a white species.
    The Great Blue heron is wonderful, it has brownish feathers absent on ours here. Not sure the opened wings pose is to fight off parasites but rather just to warm up. It takes a lot more than sun heat to get rid of avian parasites!!… I know, I was a parrot breeder for 16 years! LOL!
    The armadillo is certainly the species that catches my attention the most. When was in Nicaragua many years ago, I was looking for them but in vain…
    Congrats for this wonderful post!
    Keep well and enjoy your sunday 🙂

    • Merci, Noushka! We are definitely okay!
      Thank you for sharing insight about the heron warming its wings. I didn’t think about that as it was 95F/35C so it seems the bird would be quite warm.
      We will send you an armadillo as they are very common here!
      Thank you again for visiting and for continuing to provide such inspiring photographs on your website!
      Gini and I wish you all the best today and always.

  6. Well written, beautifully photographed … and read in comfort. Great post, Wally! Thanks.

    • Good Morning, Bob! Thanks for the nice comments. I sure have enjoyed your terrific birding trips!
      Have a great Sunday!

  7. Richard Pegler

    It’s great to see you back once again, Wally, with one of your entertaining and inspiring posts and your excellent photos.

    I’m not sure how you manage to stay away from such a wonderful place as Circle B – maybe you’re worried about becoming addicted?

    I can fully understand why you might not publish to Bloggerland very often – I’ve recently started thinking of cutting down my own presence too, as it is so time-consuming – but please don’t retire completely, as you’d be sorely missed.

    My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

    • It IS a very addictive place, Gordon! Unfortunately for me, it has become quite popular, to the point of it is often difficult to find a parking spot. I do not play well with others so I have been concentrating on exploring other areas. (I shall try to do an “insect exclusive” report from there so you can really be jealous!)
      All the best!

      • And as you can see, Richard, I have chosen to rename you “Gordon”! I hope Lindsay can get used to calling you by another name.

        Mea Culpa!!!! (I plead innocent by way of senility.)

  8. Great post Wally, lovely read, entertaining and fun. great photos too, its the one thing I like about the blogs from Florida as they bring back so many happy memories. thank you so much, and take care, Gordon.

  9. mizcaliflower

    Hello,
    i completely agree w/Elephant’s child. So many treats. And “out of the heat and away from the bitey beasts”. I lived in Lakeland for a year in 2013 and only made it out to the Circle B once. It was my intention to go back at least once a week, but sadly, I did not. What a mesmerizing place. Even though I had to visit mostly from my car as I had checked online and it indicated I could bring my dog on a leash. Signs when I got there told me otherwise. 😦
    Thanks so much for sharing all your great photos and adventures.

    • What very nice remarks. Thank you! Yes, the Circle B is quite addicting. I’ve had a lot of fun exploring new locations throughout central Florida, but it’s always great to return to the “B”!

  10. Ooh. And Ahh.
    And thank you.
    I so enjoyed wandering with you – out of the heat and away from the bitey beasts.
    So many treats in this post, of things I will probably not see for myself.
    Megathanks.

    • Thank you so much, EC. It’s a wonderful place full of “treats”! Hopefully, there will be more trips there very soon.

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