Be prepared for an extend post. A lot of photos and finds to report!
We were scheduled to provide banding demonstrations at the annual Lake Lotus Earth Day event within the the park again and we had a very interesting day in many ways. We captured the most birds in the 3 years we have participated and found a lot of other interesting things to focus on throughout the day.
Three tables were required this year with our usual banding spot and others for information on what to plant to bring better critters to your yard and to save resources.
Richard got our first bird of the day which was the 2nd bird we banded 3 years ago at the Earth Day event.
We later got another Carolina Wren that we banded across the river last year. Here, Susan processed that bird and shared detailed with some of our first visitors of the morning.
Not long after that, Andrew found our first Common Yellowthroat of the year in a net. We did have 2 adult males today, both new to the area.
Our most exciting bird of the day was this female Downy Woodpecker. This is the second Downy we have banded at Lotus over the years.
As we carried on with our routine, Gary set up his site across from us. That is a stuffed bear, by the way.
There was a Brown Thrasher feeding in the orange tree nearby and we hoped it would hit the nets and it eventually did. Here, Maria begins to band the bird with a large crowd gathering to witness it.
Andrew explains that the age of Thrashers can be determined by looking at their eyes. Young Thrashers have a murky grey/yellow eye but as they get older they develop and bright yellow iris.
The bright iris can be seen here as Ivana records more information just before the Thrasher is released. Visitors enjoyed seeing some birds up close and got extra information about banding and tracking.
Like any other day, birds begin to settle in to rest for a while after a few hours after dawn. Then, we begin to explore other areas for other things in Nature. As we banded the Thrasher we got a report that there was an alligator mother with at least 9 babies in tow. One by one we headed out to the pier to view it for ourselves.
Sure enough, there was Mom at the edge of the vegetation watching all of us wandering by.
Not too far away, we counted at least 8 but the other could have been hidden from view.
Susan managed to get a great close shot of one gator baby that is missing a left foot.
On the far side of the pier, another gator lurked. It is larger and appears to be a young reptile from last years hatching. It was larger and staying away from the new brood.
Time to check nets again but we noted other birds along the way back such as this Limpkin foraging on the sandbar at the river entrance into the lake.
There was also a Little Blue Heron feeding in the lily pads. This is a young bird that has not molted into the adult plumage yet.
Maria found the Barred Owl that did not call until after 10 AM but was where it is usually seen along the river side.
We did get another bird. Finally, a Gray Catbird! We have been hearing them all day but this was our only one captured today.
Now we get a bit buggy. First up, an inch worm was discovered. To prove the point, we set out the ruler. Yep, measures an inch!
We came across a number of other insects all day. Still trying to figure out what they really are. If you have any clues, please feel free to add to the discussion. Especially something like this. These were found on a stalk of Common Nightshade plant. Maybe a Skipper larvae?
Most abundant were these caterpillars. Found mostly on Elderberry leaves, they varied in color (greenish to gray) but also curled up into snake-like positions under leaves.
More blurry but worth investigating, an orange and black caterpillar was also nearby.
Back in the woods we found a nice grouping of leaf hoppers congregating near the nets, unnoticed earlier in the day.
As the day wore on, the gang found an Eyed Click Beetle along the boardwalk. This was brought back to the table and shared with many visitors. Last year we found another one just about the same time of day.
As we were winding down Richard found an interesting couple. Seems that a wasp was trying to carry off a caterpillar but ended up in a net. The wasp already had done some damage to the caterpillar before getting caught in the net. Interesting, though.
Whew! A nice long day full of birds and other wildlife. Great to be out and share the joy of birds and science with the visitors.
Heading into bird fledging time. Wonder who we will find next Sunday.
Next Banding Day: Sunday, May 2nd.
We will open around 6:15 A.M.