Sunday, May 29, 2011

Session 3: A Fine Finale

We woke to heavy smoke this morning generated by several fires in the area. They were thought to have been sparked by late storms yesterday. Humidity is up, too. Beginning to sweat at 5:30 AM makes us glad we decided to not band June-July. Today is the last banding day of Session 3 and with a clear radar and all this smoke, could it be a fizzle on the way out? Hmmm...

Susan called Andrew while they were setting nets before dawn. First catch of the day. Already?


Not a bird, but a bat! Not exactly sure which species but there it was. We had some thin gloves but it turned out that we just had to get the strand around the wing free and the bat flew off into the gloom. Whew!

Once the Sun began to rise we caught our first bird of the day. One of the first 4 Northern Cardinals we ever captured here back in 2008. Next up was one of our newer members of the property, a young Carolina Wren.

Carolina Wren

Things grew quiet and we began to wander and do some trimming and watching Nature. As the Sun crept higher, we could easily see the smoke that was filling our noses all morning. Fortunately, the breezes kicked in and cleared most of it out by 8:30. The stumps in the photo are of invasive China Berry and Camphor we felled a while ago.


Insects for the day included some Lubber Grasshoppers and some Leaf-footed Bugs.

Leaf-footed Bugs

A bit later a Buckeye Butterfly was seen along the lanes.


Bill spent some time trying to get some shots of the fish in the river. A small school of rather nice looking Bass were spotted over what we think is a portion of a boat submerged in the riverbed. We will try to raise it in the future as the river level falls.


There have been an increasing amount of Talapia filling the river, also. Some are huge!


One of the biggest surprises of the morning was Bill's encounter with the resident Bobcat. We have found scat in the area for years and there have been rare sightings by others over the years but we finally got a shot. According to Bill, the cat was spooked by the rangers but reemerged from under the boardwalk to clean its fur and just look around as he tried to get some shots before the cat moved back into the park.


Meanwhile, up in the pines, a Pileated Woodpecker swung in for some food options.

Pileated Woodpecker

All along the lanes, the Beauty Berry plants are blooming nicely.

Beauty Berry

We repositioned Net 19 in preparation of adding new plants there soon and headed out for one more net check. Christine noticed two birds in Net 14. We ran to them before they could escape and discovered two Red-bellied Woodpeckers! Net 14 is near a known nest tree this year and we wondered if we could capture any of them. Christine removes one as Andrew gets the other.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Seems we got Dad, noted by the bright red feathers extending all the way towards the bird's bill.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Surprising us was that Dad also has a brood patch.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The other bird was one of the newly fledged chicks!

Red-bellied Woodpecker

As we headed back to the table we found a couple more birds. Another Red-bellied Woodpecker from another family. This time a Mom.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

She was none too happy and showed it by grabbing Andrew before being released.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

We have been hearing young Northern Cardinals back in the woods and were wondering if we would catch one. Today was the day! We caught two!! The females are always a bit more dull but still beautiful.

Northern Cardinal

Young males show more red all over, especially around the head. Both birds show their age by the dark bills that will turn bright red-orange as they become adults.

Northern Cardinal

So, that wraps up the Session. Susan captured the exit march as we headed toward our cars. We all say goodbye to the site for banding until August.

Exit March

Just outside the gates we found a bunch of Leather Flower blooming along the fences.

Leather Flower

We will do some ground work a few times during the next couple months, including adding Sand Cord Grass around Net 19 and replacing the wild Coffee around Net 12 with Maple-leaf Viburnum. Black Berries will be added near the Mulberry trees. Should have fruit all over soon.

Session 4 will begin on the first Sunday in August. Weather permitting...
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, August 7th.

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

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Getting Quiet, Hot

Would it be more babies this week or slim pickings? Unfortunately, the latter. Just not much moving around today as the humidity finally creeps in. We did capture a Brown Thrasher right before sunrise.

Brown Thrasher

It was not in a mood but we needed to tighten that band a bit more.

Brown Thrasher

A bit later we caught one of our adult Carolina Wren pairs together in Net 4 but we didn't take photos as we have plenty of them. However, Maria finally made it back out and took a lot of shots around the riverside. Such as this one showing that the next crop of Muscadine Grapes are beginning to set.

Muscadine Grapes

Still blooming strong for another year is the Partridge Pea near Net 2.

Partridge Pea

Even grasses can be pretty in their own right.


Maria and Susan headed down Andrew's trail that leads to the lake.


Anyone know what the name of this bug is?


An Ichneumon wasp wanders around in search of food. We believe genus Eutanyacra.


We began hearing the now familiar calls of the local Summer Tanagers. Andrew decided to try and get some shots.


However, they stay so far back across the river it is proving difficult. See that tiny red dot...?

Summer Tanager

Great-crested Flycatchers do come a little closer but not by much.

Great-crested Flycatcher

Meanwhile, a native Green Anole turns from green to brown. Or is it turning brown from green?

Green Anole

Time to go home. One more surprise as we captured a Mourning Dove in Net 18 just as Christine was about to close it up!

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves are often too hard to catch as they are too big for the mesh size in the nets but we do get a few.

Mourning Dove

One more week before the end of Session 3.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, May 29th.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A New First and Some Last Migrants?

Radar looked promising at 4:30 AM. What would we find today? A lot of babies and a new surprise. I will have to save the surprise for the end but it was the first bird captured today. At about 5:30 AM. Can you guess?

We will start with our only migrants for the day. Two adult male Common Yellowthroats. Never get tired of them despite how tangled they can get.

Common Yellowthroat

We captured a couple of new adult male Cardinals and one recaptured female. Thought we had caught all of our locals by now. We also captured a number of Carolina Wrens. Two adult recaptures, two juvenile recaptures (banded last week), and 3 new juveniles.

Other baby captures included 3 juvenile Tufted Titmice. A whole family was feeding near the river and Andrew watched as the first two flew into Net 1. He was waiting for more to join them but with Barred Owls around lately he decided to go get them though the owls were not in sight. Anything cuter than a newly fledged Titmouse? We think not.

Tufted Titmouse

Turns out that getting them then was a good idea. As the birds were being extracted we heard the adult Titmice getting upset. Not with us. Glancing to our right we found the source of the anger.

Tufted Titmouse

Along the way, we caught the two adult Titmice and one more juvenile. One of the adults was actually one of our first Titmice ever banded back in 2008! Family is still going strong.

Tufted Titmouse

Ready for the surprise catch? Andrew arrives at the banding site an hour and a half before sunrise to begin setting nets. Based on past capture rates in certain spots, selected nets are set first along the lanes before other volunteers arrive to catch up on the remaining nets and we work our way out to the end and back to the table. Susan arrived a bit later and found our new bird in one of those first nets.

An Eastern Screech Owl! A first ever wild capture for Wekiva banding stations. We do band rehabilitated Screech Owls from time to time. We weren't sure of the disposition of this species so we donned a glove just in case. Turns out this bird was really quite docile.

Eastern Screech Owl

We were scrambling for size 5 bands as we do not usually stock up on larger sizes out here. The largest we rarely use is size 3 for Mourning Doves.

Eastern Screech Owl

The owl was banded and so calm that it posed for several photos.

Eastern Screech Owl

This is an adult Red-morph Screen Owl. Florida also has Gray-morph versions. Like the one Andrew sometimes gets in his yard in Orlando.

Eastern Screech Owl

Susan got a beautiful shot before the owl was released. It never tried to use its claws but did attempt a quick nip at the gloved hand before release. Gorgeous.

Eastern Screech Owl

One last shot from the morning. The Button Bush are blooming along the river. Such an interesting flower.

Button Bush

Let's see if we get any last migrants before we begin to wrap up the 3rd Session in June.

NOTE: No banding on the 15th. Rain in the forecast.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, May 22nd.

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

Sunday, May 1, 2011

An Interesting Flurry and Brand New Captures

A pretty quiet day. Migration has nearly run down. No Catbirds captured and they are typically the last to leave. So, we settle in for a couple weeks waiting for babies and seeing what else we can net. Should be locals for awhile.

In fact, the first bird was a Carolina Wren which actually managed to escape the bag as it was being brought back to the table. Shortly, thereafter we think it was the same escapee we caught before. An adult recapture. Andrew got the bird processed as William looked on.

Carolina Wren

Next, William got to release the bird back into the wild.

Carolina Wren

Grew quiet again for a while but we soon made a great capture. A pair of Great-crested Flycatchers! We would rarely caught some at Wekiva but these are the first for Lake lotus. Abe and Susan got to remove them from the net.

Great-crested Flycatcher

We have been waiting for this high-flying bird to drop lower as they are all over the park right now. Maybe we can get them to use on of the bird boxes this year.

Great-crested Flycatcher

Abe banded one bird and Maggie got the other. Maggie has accepted a job up North so this was her last day with us for now. She and Abe began their visits with our first ever Whip-poor-will and they get to leave with our first Great-crested Flycatchers. Nice bookends, yes?

Great-crested Flycatcher

We will miss you Maggie!

Flycatchers are amazing birds. Glad we got some good close looks this morning.

Great-crested Flycatcher

As Richard adjusted some nest boxes in the area he discovered some Flying Squirrels in box #4. A good chance for others to see these cute little natives. William got the first opportunity to head up the ladder to get a glimpse.

Flying Squirrel

Here is what a resting bunch of these nocturnal creatures looks like in a bird box.

Flying Squirrel

Other things were on the wing like dragonflies. Many were released after getting tangled up. However, it seems one could not escape before being attacked by a Yellow Jacket!

Yellow Jacket

In another sign of predation, a caterpillar was found covered in wasp eggs down the net lane. The young will emerge and feast on the helpless caterpillar.


We weren't done with birds yet. We caught our 3rd Downy Woodpecker of the season. Another nice male.

Downy Woodpecker

Pairs are feeding young right now in several spots. Maggie wanted a shot of that dinosaur foot.

Downy Woodpecker

As we began to wind up the morning we started to hear a long-forgotten call. Andrew was sure it belonged to Summer Tanagers. After some careful watching, we finally spotted at least 3 chasing each other through the oaks. Bill got a distant flash of red in the branches.

Summer Tanager

Below, Alligator Gar cruise the river.

Alligator Gar

Other woodpeckers are raising young, too. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are finding nesting cavities down the net lanes.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

We decided it was about time to go home as we watched the Tanagers when Christine yelled out, "Birds!". In net #4 there was our first expected group of Carolina Wren babies all within inches of each other.

Carolina Wren

They seem a little overdue, but these birds do seem older than ones we have captured in the past so it makes sense. Note the yellowish gape still present on this bird.

Carolina Wren

As we point out, Carolina Wrens acquire more spots as they age. House Wrens, on the other hand, loose their spots. This young bird was just starting to get those spots that will get larger as it grows.

Carolina Wren

So many photos, you might think we had a nice busy day. It was pretty quiet, actually, with 9 birds processed. Still an interesting morning. Next week is suppose to bring a couple of fronts and it should mark the end of Spring migration. Then we settle in for the increasing heat and wind down the season.

More installed native trees are in place. In August we will plant some Blackberries and prepare for the next session, possibly adding one more net to bring our total to 20.

Now we wait for missing rains.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, May 8th.

All nets will be opened by 6:10 A.M.