Sunday, April 24, 2011

Back Home

Nice to be back on 'our' side this week. We doubled our catches in 3 hours compared to 8 at Earth Day in the park proper but still not a lot migration going on. There have been several good nights for birds to move on as the front stalled and allowed birds to head to their breeding grounds. Good for them. More quiet for us. Could be the last hurrah for Spring.

We finally caught a couple birds down at Net 18. Andrew heard Blue Jays calling loudly and investigated, finding them by the net. He soon noticed two birds in the net and something else close by. One of the Barred Owls was flying in to take an assessment of the situation. He chased it off and brought back a Gray Catbird and Cardinal.

The Catbird was not even thankful to be saved from the owl! It tried to take a chunk out of Andrew's hand after being banded. So they are still around for a little longer.

Gray Catbird

A bit later, we recaptured the female Northern Parula we banded during Earth Day. She showed a very visible brood patch.

Northern Parula

Love having these little jewels around during this time of year.

Northern Parula

A recaptured Northern Cardinal made an appearance.

Northern Cardinal

As did one of our Wintering House Wrens.

House Wren

Can't be here too much longer.

House Wren

Maggie found more frogs near the end of the net lanes. It appears that there is a Green Treefrog and an invasive Cuban Treefrog hanging out together.


While on a net run we found some activity up in the dead snags across from Net 11. Downy Woodpeckers appear to have established a nest cavity across the river. Here, the male takes his turn after feeding the apparent chicks and waits for his mate to take over.

Downy Woodpecker

Soon, she returned with what appeared to be some soft seed.

Downy Woodpecker

Then she took her guard spot and waited to forage again.

Downy Woodpecker

One sad note for the day. Richard was checking nest boxes and found that one of our boxes actually was being occupied by Wood Ducks! However, the nest was compromised, probably by a Mink and the birds did not survive.

In other spots along the river, Maggie found a Wood Duck family swimming along the river.

Wood Duck

As we packed up for the morning, another pair of Wood Ducks flew up into the oaks right across from the compromised box. Perhaps wanting to use it themselves?

Wood Duck

A bit farther up the river we found yet another pair of Wood Ducks so they are definitely in breeding mode. Good luck to all of them.

Hoping for a little cool down after a projected front at the end of the week. It is already feeling like Summer!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, May 1st.

All nets will be opened by 6:15 A.M.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Earth Day 2011

Earth Day 2011. We had a great banding day last week. What would we discover for the big event? Radar was not looking promising. Winds have shifted. Birds have a clear path North. No need to hang around for long. We shall see.

We got to opening nets by 7 AM and were ready to go before the bird hike group filed through. The Barred Owls, who have been hanging out across the park lately, flew in to go into the old nest site as nets were opened. Still no sign of chicks.

Soon, we caught a Gray Catbird and a Northern Parula in the same net. Nice start. An adult male Parula is a sight to behold.

Northern Parula

Soon thereafter we caught a Carolina Wren. Fortunately, we had a young volunteer, Heidi, around to release it back into the wild.

Carolina Wren

Though we actually caught very few birds today we were lucky to catch them when the crowds were around. Just as we caught our 2nd Gray Catbird the morning bird hike rounded the corner.

Gray Catbird

Another visitor gets to release a newly banded bird.

Gray Catbird

Then things grew quiet. Time to hit the boardwalk in between net checks. The first surprise of the day was a family of Limpkin with several chicks in tow. Andrew got a good view of a parent with one chick.


Later, Christine was in the right place at the right time to get the adult up on the boardwalk railing.


Maggie got the highest chick count at 5 as they moved out onto the vegetation.


Many folks got to watch as a Raccoon searched for food right near the Limpkins.


Around the end of the pier there still are some American Coots lingering before heading North.

American Coot

A quick check of the opposite rail finds a Little Blue Heron in full breeding colors feeding near the shore.

Little Blue Heron

Wood Storks are moving in search of fish and their bold black and white easily stands out along the lakeside.

Wood Stork

Checking nets again we find no birds. Nothing is really moving today. Little calling, either. We did find the Barred Owls a bit farther up the river sleeping all day long. Must not be any chicks this year or they would be hunting right now.

Barred Owl

We all wondered where the alligators were. The past two years we found baby gators around the pier but did not find them early on. As the day warmed up we managed to find one...



Alligator fact we found at least 6 young ones. no adults were close by.


A final count of species along the pier included Yellow-bellied Sliders gliding by in the lake.


A Tri-colored Heron flew in to feed as the Limpkin retreated in the heat.

Tri-colored Heron

Winds have shifted and are now blowing directly toward the river. This has caused a huge shift in Hyacinth that been pushed all the way to the pier. Pretty, but invasive.


Back at the table we noticed a shadow and then the views of a Swallow-tailed Kite soaring high above the park.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Along the river we find Painted Leaf plants. They also grow just across the river on 'our' side.

Painted Leaf

Nearby, dragonflies are massing along the river and getting caught in the nets more often than birds. This one was kind enough to hang out for a photo.


To the right of them were a constant bunch of Horace's Duskywing's enjoying the Spanish Needles and other plants.


As the day progressed, Red Admiral butterflies increased along the trail.

Red Admiral

Somewhere along the boardwalk, Maggie found a giant clump of honeycomb! Wonder if the bear can reach that one?


To wrap up the day we caught one more Northern Parula. Again, it was properly timed so that a larger crowd was around to watch this final bird of the day.

Northern Parula

So, we had a slower time this year but plenty to keep us busy as we celebrated this beautiful planet and think about how to keep her healthy. This community seems to be doing well judging by our photos from today.

Next week we see what might show up. Migration is winding down and it will be an Easter sunrise. Magnolia's should be blooming and we hope for some final surprises for the year.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 24th.

All nets will be opened by 6:20 A.M.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Duh! Migrating!!

After last week's dismal catch rate and a blog full of landscapes and bugs we are thrilled to have 100% birding content this week! We believe this is the highest single-day April banding morning since we began this project 2 1/2 years ago. With a skeleton crew and our old point and shoot camera it felt like the good ol' days.

The radar looked promising the night before and at 5 AM. Fingers crossed. First birds began hitting just before sunrise and they were good ones. Two male Common Yellowthroats, our first of the season.

Common Yellowthroat

With them was one of our many Gray Catbirds of the day. This shot was from another caught later on.

Gray Catbird

The morning continued and so did the birds. In fact we only had one dry-run all morning. Next up were some Northern Cardinals. First a male, which was actually a recapture. We initially banded this bird on our very first day at Lake Lotus!

Northern Cardinal

He was followed up with a new female.

Northern Cardinal

Along with the Cardinals was a bird we see often but rarely catch. A Blue Jay. Packed quite a bite with that hooked bill!

Blue Jay

We captured several Brown Thrashers today. In the past we get 1 or 2 a month. This was a banner day for Thrashers (4) and was the most Thrashers ever caught in a single day. Better yet, most were new birds! They differed in age. Younger birds can be told by their duller yellow eyes.

Brown Thrasher

Compare that to the bright yellow eyes of an adult.

Brown Thrasher

We also captured many Carolina Wrens, both new and recaps. All but one (a male) had brood patches.

Carolina Wren

Our other Wren species was a recaptured House Wren. Won't be here much longer.

House Wren

Another new migrant for the season was caught in Net 10. A Northern Waterthrush. It was not the best at keeping still for the camera.

Northern Waterthrush

Finishing up the birds for the day was a beautiful male Black-throated Blue Warbler. A nice trifecta of new migrants in our flurry of a banding day.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Next week is the annual Earth Day Event so no banding on 'our' side of the river.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 17th.

This is the annual Earth Day event we have been giving banding demos at for several years.
Event runs from 8:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M.
Trams are available from the parking lot across from the park. I have been told you can also park there and walk on the new path they completed that runs under the highway.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"...if'n the creek don't rise..."

Skies have cleared after a few huge storms ripped through the area in the past few days. We were expecting the worse at the site after seeing so many downed trees around the general area. Fortunately, there were not many branches in our way and cleanup went quickly during the morning.

The river, which was finally crossable last week, has risen almost 4 feet! Yesterday Ranger Cindy sent Andrew a photo of some big lizard sunning along our side of the river.


No sighting today. As far as we can determine, the gator was most likely sitting where we stood and took some photos of the high water.


Looking to the left.


Under the Barred Owl nest tree shows the same water height.


But you are probably here to see some birds. Alright. early bird today was a young Hermit Thrush. This younger bird was ready to head North. It was stuffed with fat!

Hermit Thrush

Andrew gives the bird one more look before releasing it.

Hermit Thrush

Next up, Gray Catbirds are still around. They should be leaving soon, too.

Gray Catbird

There was an odd kind of stretch where the weather actually seemed to chill a bit and some late fog began to form.


It made for some pretty pictures, though.


It was another tough day to catch birds as most of them are still up in the treetops. One reason is all thanks to the voluminous amounts of inchworms. They seem to be everywhere and we have to keep moving them out of the way at the banding table.


It does not exclude more ground loving birds like this House Wren. Another Winter visitor about to depart.

House Wren

We will continue to see our local Carolina Wrens, though. This one even appeared to have and egg ready to be laid!

Carolina Wren

A few more interesting sights today. There was one little section along the net lanes where we discovered a Lubber Grasshopper party going on.

Lubber Grasshopper

These tiny black and red nymphs will soon transform into over 3-inch yellowish-orange, black-spotted monsters!

Lubber Grasshopper

Farther down the lanes, the lake has backed up into the marshy areas by net 18 stopping just a foot or so away. We placed it just right. Just means we can't go exploring too far down the trail Andrew cleared since last Fall. The rains are really helping the Poison Ivy vines take off.

Poison Ivy

For now we will just have to peer through the trees. We did spot a Green Heron on the hunt.

Green Heron

Then we ended our day with a goodbye from another lurking Gray Catbird over the waters.

Gray Catbird

Next week is the beginning of a hot spell. Could be near 90 degrees (F). Hopefully, the warmer weather will bring us some migrants before they leave us until the Fall.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 10th.

All nets will be opened by 6:40 A.M.