Sunday, May 23, 2010

Who Needs Birds?

A very quiet day. Only two birds today, both recaptured Carolina Wrens. One was an older adult and one was one of the younger birds we banded last year about this time.

In other news...seems the bears are still around. There was a report of two bears roaming a nearby neighborhood and two of the net poles were bent to the ground and had to be replaced.


How else can we be sure? Poop.


On the insect front, many species were discovered. Starting with a blue damselfly.


Then a Blue Dasher dragonfly.


Lurking in the fennel was a new find here. A young Lubber Grasshopper. It will grow to about 3 inches in length when it reaches adulthood.

Lubber Grasshopper

Fritillary numbers are on the rise and searching for more Passion Vine to lay their eggs upon.

Gulf Fritillary

Another good find was this Buckeye butterfly visiting the grassy edges.


Discovered at dawn, several white moths appeared to be mating near Net 8. We believe them to be Agreeable Tiger Moths. Thanks, Mary!

White Moths

We found these eggs on some plants. Friend Mary also says they are eggs from a parasitic wasp. Probably an Ichneumonoidea species.


One of the more spectacular spiders found in our area is the Argiope or "black and yellow garden spider". Beautiful and almost always stationary, they weave a complex web with distinctive bright centers and lie in wait for prey. Apparently it worked here.


We often get a chance to chat with the rangers from across the river and sometimes they come over to check on our progress. Maria got them to smile for a shot as she spoke to Frank and Gary on their morning rounds.


Flower news, now. Mist Flowers are blooming again along the riverside. A nice change of color among the green radishes and grasses.

Mist Flower

Nearby, the Button Bush is also in full bloom. Growing to over 6 feet in height, this plant shows off brilliantly this time of year. Maria thinks it resembles the ball that drops in Time Square on New Years.

Button Bush

The stranger in the mix is the begonia that we find from time to time. Probably washed down the river in the past, they take root and try to flourish once they land on the banks. We have found many over the years.


Can't band next weekend but we will be back for a couple more weeks before the Summer break. Should be time to start capturing new baby birds leaving the nest. Last year we caught 8 young wrens at one time and hope we can begin to trace the new brood when we return.

Next Banding Day: Sunday, June 6th.

All nets will be opened around 6:00 A.M.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Interesting Catches

You can tell it is going to be an interesting day when the first thing you catch is a Flying Squirrel!

That is what Maria found when she opened Net number 3 this morning. A squirrel jumped into the net as she was opening it up. It was confused for a bit and them tumbled from panel to panel and then eventually made it back to the ground and headed back to the nest box in the tree where it was probably sleeping in the first place.

Better than caffeine! Andrew got such a jolt last year in the dark as another one jumped into a net before dawn.

Bird chatter was extra loud as it was last week long before dawn but subsided not long after the Sun rose. We still recaptured a Carolina Wren and caught a very young Brown Trasher probably just out of the nest. We were studying it so much that we neglected to get photo but it was the youngest on record for us.

As Andrew returned the Thrasher to the possible nesting area, he noticed a large parcel in the net nearby. A Barred Owl!

Barred Owl

Fortunately, we keep a pair of thick gloves at the banding table and Andrew volunteered to give the extraction a try. The results were happy.

Barred Owl

Once back at the table, Richard applied the band. We believe this is the eldest of the two chicks hatched this year.

Barred Owl

We returned to the area where the owls hang out and released it toward the nest tree. The owl flew into the tree overhanging the river and shook off the incident.

Barred Owl

That done, we got back to busy work around the area removing Camphor trees and exploring the flora and fauna. The Painted Leaf plants are really taking off!

Painted Leaf

The Leather Flowers are finally coming into bloom along the trails and by the outer fencing.

Leather Flower

Nearby, the Sensitive Briar plants are spreading out and showing their brilliant, delicate pink flowers.

Sensitive Briar

Visiting the flowers are some butterflies, of course. Mainly smaller versions like this Common/White Checkered Skipper.


Adding more color were many Dainty Sulphurs.


Not year ready to change into an adult, this odd (maybe not well) looking caterpillar was looking for food in the bushes.


On another plant, something seems to be getting ready, itself. Probably a Bagworm Moth (Thanks, as always, Randy and Mary for insect help!) .


Resting on a stem was some sort of Scarab Beetle that caught our attention.


Here is a closer view which really shows the reddish-brown and gold markings.


Our final bug was actually rescued from a net and sat on our hands for a while for some shots. We ID it as an Indiana River Cruiser. New to us.

Indiana River Cruiser

Those eyes were hypnotic!

Indiana River Cruiser

But wait! We are here for birds and we did get yet another interesting one as the day was winding down. An American Redstart. We usually see many during the season but this one is a little late. Plus, it had a new plumage variation for us. It might appear to be a female. However, note the black feathers around the face and scattered elsewhere.

American Redstart

It is actually a First-Spring male. Later, it will acquire the familiar black and orange when it becomes an adult.

American Redstart

Finally, we got one last unexpected bird as we gathered the nets. Mourning Doves hang around but rarely get captured. They seem to have a good sense of the nets and will fly around them even when flushed when they are right next to them.

What makes this one interesting is that it is a young bird.

Mourning Dove

You call tell this by examining the feathers which are edged with light tan instead of the smooth blends of adults.

Whew! Many events unfolded that we never would have guessed as we rolled out in the pre-dawn hours. Maybe next week will bring more surprises. Here's hoping.

Next Banding Day: Sunday, May 23th.

All nets will be opened around 6:00 A.M.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Loud but Quiet

Birds were up extra early today, well before sunrise. We thought it was going to be a rather active day of banding based on that alone. Four Chuck Will's Widows were heard, the most ever at one time around Lake Lotus for us.

However, the banding was a near bust with only 2 birds captured throughout the morning. Our first bird was a new female Northern Cardinal. Still enjoy seeing the extra bright colors on the Cardinals here.

Northern Cardinal

Our other bird was a recaptured Brown Thrasher. We actually banded this bird across the river during the recent Earth Day event.

Brown Thrasher

Other birds were seen most of the morning but most were way up in the tree canopy. Except for this busy Red-bellied Woodpecker making a hole in a dead tree.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

So, with a little time on our hands it was off to wander and discover new things in the area. Near the river was a large patch of fungus which was rather pretty.


Chomping away on a leaf was a Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) caterpillar.

Giant Leopard Moth

Another insect we found was this pretty little Stink Bug nymph.

Stink Bug

Hanging out on a tree was a Lady Beetle crawling over some sort of growth on the leaves.

Lady Beetle

These growths (galls) caught our attention as they are all over certain trees. Then it was noticed that they are only on this particular kind of tree.


Now we wanted to find out more so I contacted Tom MacCubbin. Turns out that the trees are Red Bay. The galls are Red Bay psyllid galls. Tom explains in better detail, "They are very common and cause no more harm than what you see. The insect is the psyllid and there is only one generation a year but the damage to the leaves remains forever. We do not try to control this insect."


Thanks for the info, Tom!

Hanging on a vine on the edge of the woods was a cocoon. Not sure which critter it belongs to yet as it decided to emerge already. We are leaning toward the Polyphemus Moth.


Andrew finally decided that the Camphor trees had to go. The Camphor is an invasive and this year they are really growing fast. We will continue to hack away at them when we have a few minutes.


Hope to have more birds next week. Maybe the parents will let their kids out to play for a little while.

Next Banding Day: Sunday, May 16th.

We will open around 6:05 A.M.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

CSI: Lake Lotus

The title of this post will be resolved near the end. Interesting day in the long run but nothing too out of the ordinary. Except for the reason for the title. Anyway...!

Not too bad of a start. Birds were calling early, way before dawn. Even Great-crested Flycatchers were calling in the dark and all the way back in Orlando, Blue Jays were calling before 5 AM. Odd. At Lotus, we had a nice moonrise not long after dawn.


We watched a Brown Thrasher escape the nets at 7 AM but managed to capture another later on. A Northern Cardinal was recaptured a bit later. We also got a couple more Gray Catbirds, probably the last of this season.

Gray Catbird

Titmice began calling and moving through the trees. One was captured while another called above wondering what was taking so long for its companion to rejoin the foraging. By the way, Titmice bite REALLY hard.

Tufted Titmouse

Richard did another check of the nest boxes. Though no birds were found nesting this week, we got probably the cutest Flying Squirrel shot ever taken.

Flying Squirrel

As the morning was drawing to a close, Ivana helps Christine extract a Carolina Wren as Andrew heads to the end of the net lanes.

Carolina Wren

Once there, Andrew found another Carolina Wren in the nets to round out the bird captures for the day.

Carolina Wren

This particular Wren thought it was a Bittern for some reason and spent most of its time pointing North.

Carolina Wren

This time of year always provides more than just birds. Maria got a bunch of photos of insects found along the trail. Here, a Gulf Fritillary sips on a flower in the early light.

Gulf Fritillary

Out in the brighter Sun, a dragonfly pauses for a break before chasing more mosquitoes.


Last week we had a bunch of pupa on a Nightshade plant and it took a while to hunt down the species. This week we found the adults which lead to a positive ID. They are Blue-banded Lema Leaf Beetles!

Lema Leaf Beetle

Nearby, another beetle was discovered. This one is a Cottonwood Leaf Beetle.

Cottonwood Leaf Beetle

Then, there was a caterpillar found near the river. Appears to be a Lateral Lined Army Moth (Spodoptera Latifascia).

Lateral Lined Armymoth

On to the CSI explanation. Fair warning, if you are at all squeamish, please read no further. Just know that we will be back out next Sunday around 5:30 AM.

Still here? K.

Recent rains have brought down more trash into the river. The Little Wekiva actually starts way up in Orlando and many water ways drain into this small river that leads to Lake Lotus. Every now and then we get a lot of trash flowing into the river system and a lot of it gets tangled up in the the trees that have fallen across the river. Some as recent at from Tropical Storm Fay just before we began banding here.

Today there was a very large collection of trash noticed down below the banding table.


This fallen tree is actually the bridge that the Black Bears used to cross back and forth from the woods and the park proper. Tempting as it is, though, none of us is willing to walk out and try to clean things up. The water is actually very deep right behind the tree trunk.

Andrew did go down to start pulling some trash out of the water. Tadpoles hugged the shoreline but there was a smell in the air. A dead fish was found but this smell held something else about it.

Eventually, a glance just behind the trash line revealed another source of the odor. A severed limb of a mammal.


Further investigation makes us think that is may have belonged to an otter. Alligators live in the lake but remainders of prey shouldn't end up 'up' river. There are other lakes that lead to the river so who knows where this actually came from.


Info has been sent on to the rangers in case they have more thoughts. A weird end to the day but another proven case that there is always something to discover out here in this small area of a fairly urban area.

Next week may have us discovering more clues about nearly anything.
Next Banding Day: Sunday, May 9th.

We will open around 6:10 A.M.