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.

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