Category Archives: Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve

Catching up

Hello again, readers!  I apologize for a somewhat lengthy post, but today I wanted to catch you up on photo related happenings over the last couple of weeks – so there are several topics worth mentioning.

Circle B Bar Reserve

A week ago (Saturday, 22 Jan), I returned to the Circle B Bar over in Lakeland Florida with the Photography Interest Group.  The first time I wrote about this place, I said: “I’ve only been to the Circle B once, and need to go several more times to get an idea of how consistent the photo ops there are.”  Well, the second visit lived up to the first, starting with a quite pretty dawn:

Dawn at the Circle B Bar Reserve

Dawn at the Circle B Bar Reserve

One of the highlights of this trip was seeing a Barred Owl and getting a relatively good photo of it.  The owl was high in a tree and ended up attracting quite a crowd before it got tired of us and flew off.  The lighting was a bit tough – I’m glad I had my flash and Better Beamer ready.

Barred Owl watches photographersBarred Owl watches photographers

We also sighted Ospreys, Red Shouldered Hawks, a Red Bellied Woodpecker, Whistling Ducks, and many other birds.  Unfortunately, the beautiful yellow sunflowers that were all over the place last time are no longer there.  They are seasonal and to see them you’ll have to return around mid to late November next year.  All in all, a very nice trip and the Circle B definitely lived up to its reputation once again.  You can look at more of my photos from the Circle B in this set on Flickr.

Blackpoint Wildlife Drive

Yesterday, I visited Blackpoint again.  I’m not sure why, but this place seems to be really great for photos with reflections.  Quite often the water is extremely calm and you can see scenes like these:

Clear day, calm water 1Clear day, calm water

Spoonbill and reflectionSpoonbill and reflection

There was a lot of activity at Blackpoint.  We spotted an otter, Hooded Mergansers, Belted Kingfishers, Hawks, and many other species.  We also paused for a while to watch a pair of Ospreys fishing.  They were too far away for good photos, and never came closer even though we had fish jumping out of the water right in front of us!  You can look at more of my photos from Blackpoint in this set on Flickr.

Scrub Ridge Trail

A couple of weeks ago on Flickr, I saw some very nice photos of Florida Scrub Jays, made by “moonfloweryoli“.  I commented on them and she mentioned a trail in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge where she saw them.  This led us to an add a second expedition to yesterday’s  Blackpoint visit.  We wanted to try to observe this unique species that only lives here in Florida.  To make a long story short, we tried hard, but we never saw any.  We’ll have to go back and try again.  Kevin K. did make this image to document our search:

Wilbur and Donuts looking for the hard to find Florida Scrub Jays“Wilbur” and “Donuts” looking for the hard to find Florida Scrub Jay (image courtesy of Kevin Krause);  Your humble author is the one on the left.

Alligator Farm and Gatorland blogs

A quick update for those of you looking for info on the St. Augustine Alligator Farm or Gatorland.  I reported back in November that Gatorland was canceling its photographer early entry program.  The Gatorland Blog hasn’t been updated since then, so it’s a bit hard to find out what’s going on at that park.

Meanwhile, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm announced they would continue their photographer early entry program.  They’ve been running a mailing list on Yahoo where you could find information, and last week they announced that they’ll be discontinuing this and starting a blog of their own.  It’s now up and running, check it out.

Sigma 150 – 500

Finally, here’s an equipment update.  I’ve been doing much of my bird photography since early last year with a Sigma 150 – 500 OS lens.  I’ve been very happy with it and one of my few complaints was that the Optical Stabilization was a bit noisy.  Lately, it’s developed a “chatter” where it sounds like the OS motor is vibrating back and forth.  While it does this, you can see the image vibrating through the viewfinder.  I called Sigma and they said to send it back.  So I’ll be without it for a while.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for stopping by.

© 2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Circle B Bar Reserve – Lakeland, Florida

Intro / Description

This nature wonderland in Lakeland, Florida is named after a cattle ranch that used to exist on the property. It was purchased by Polk County and the SW Florida Water Management District in late 2000. The area is 1,267 acres total and starting in 2005, 400 acres have undergone a marsh reclamation to recreate a natural habitat and food source for many kinds of resident and migrating birds and wildlife. The Circle B is also home to the Polk County Nature Discovery Center.

Lake Hancock - western shore

The western shore of Lake Hancock (from the Alligator Alley trail)

Circle B has a tremendous variety and number of birds. Alligators also inhabit Lake Hancock and can be seen from the trails in several places. There are a variety of different areas on the property including Oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp and the lake shore.

The Circle B has over 7 miles of marked trails for walking or biking. If you go, make sure you see at least the Alligator Alley and Marsh Rabbit Run trails. We hiked these as well as the Shady Oak, Windmill Whisper and portions of Wading Bird Way and Eagle Roost trails when we were there for a total hike of more than 5 miles.

Marsh Rabbit Run trail

Marsh Rabbit Run trail

In our one visit we saw Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Ibises, Cattle Egrets, Ospreys, Red Shoulder Hawks, Cormorants, Anhingas, Limpkins, Whistling Ducks, Alligators, Turtles, a very brave rabbit and some other things as well. One local photographer we spoke with told us about a Barred Owl in the area as well as some otters, but we never saw them. Next time!

Cormorant

Cormorant – These birds have been posing for me lately.

In addition to the wildlife, the scenery is quite beautiful and different from our normal areas near the coast. There were many types of trees and flowers, including this sunflower variety that was very abundant all over the property.

Marsh flower close up - sunflower?

These sunflowers (?) were all over the Circle B Bar Reserve – very pretty. I wonder if they bloom all the time or if we just happened to be there when they’re in season?

Info for Photographers

Photo hints:

I’ve only been to the Circle B once, and need to go several more times to get an idea of how consistent the photo ops there are. If you have the kind of experience we did, you’ll have lots of opportunity for photos of still as well as in-flight birds. If you’re quiet as you walk, you can avoid scaring off the nearby birds and get some better shots. They are somewhat used to people here, but not overly tolerant. Make sure you look all around as you hike (especially up) and take an occasional glance behind to see if you’ve missed anything.

In addition to my photo set from the Circle B, visit the Circle B bar group on Flickr to see what others are photographing there and to read up on discussions about the reserve.

Tripod/Monopod:

Allowed, of course. Tripods would be very handy for landscape photos or (with a gimbal head) for birds. You’ll have to decide how much gear you’re willing to carry on your hike. Since this was a scouting trip, we traveled light and I wished several times that I’d brought my tripod.

Lenses:

Telephoto for birds / wildlife and and wide-angle for landscapes. You’ll need a good range of lenses to cover everything here, but you’ll be able to get some good photos no matter which lens you have with you.

Best time to visit:

As for any place when looking for birds and wildlife, early in the day (or late) is best. I’m not yet sure what times of year are the best here, but mid to late November is definitely worth a visit.

Other:

You’ll be walking a good bit. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and bring some water with you.

Summary

You can click on any of the photos above to view them on Flickr, where you can also see a larger version.

My Gallery / Flickr photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157625343566505/
Website: http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/circlebbarreserve.html
Address / Phone: 4399 Winter Lake Road (SR 540)

Lakeland, FL 33803

(View in Google maps)

Central Florida Photo Ops Rating: Another CFl Photo Op must do!

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.