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.
Soon thereafter we caught a Carolina Wren. Fortunately, we had a young volunteer, Heidi, around to release it back into the wild.
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.
Another visitor gets to release a newly banded bird.
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.
A quick check of the opposite rail finds a Little Blue Heron in full breeding colors feeding near the shore.
Wood Storks are moving in search of fish and their bold black and white easily stands out along the lakeside.
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.
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...
...three...in 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.
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.
Along the river we find Painted Leaf plants. They also grow just across the river on 'our' side.
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.
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.
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.