Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Soggy End to September

For the past couple of nights, Central Florida has been in a pattern of Sea Breeze storm system that have begun late in the afternoon and last well into the night. We weren't expecting the clear skies by morning to leave us with such a saturated banding site before sunrise. Must have really rained here because our feet were soaked from beginning to end. Though the stars and rising moon shined brightly, every tree still dripped from the deluge.

This meant that birds may stay put until the day warmed up. A few did venture out, but we actually did not capture our first bird until nearly 2 hours after we began. A few birds were bathing and preening but not much was flying about. Many Common Yellowthroat were seen and heard as were the locals. The owls and hawks made fly-bys to find their spots for the morning but our first capture was a new female Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal

Kind of a surprise to see unbanded birds still around. They must have had some good broods the past year or so. We even caught another second year female later. A Northern Waterthrush was spotted just around dawn down by Net 18. Two hours later, we had it at the banding table. Through the fogging camera lens (oh, it was humid) it says, "Let me go!" which we did immediately after this shot.

Northern Waterthrush

As mentioned, Common Yellowthroats were heard early in the day and they continued calling all morning. Eventually, we captured a female that was feeding closer to the banding table in a net that is historically the best spot for this species. We hope to get more next week and should be seeing buntings very soon, too.

Common Yellowthroat

A couple of birds were seen escaping capture including a Brown Thrasher (which often escape due to their size). Soon after that loss, however, we caught one of our favorite birds, a Black-throated Blue Warbler. This adult male was a very bright spot during the soggy day.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

There were some feeding flocks that teased us for a while. Mainly Tutfed Titmice, White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-throated Warblers, and Carolina Wrens. Next week, October will finally arrive. The first couple weeks of October are typically the peak of migration season for land birds here. Last year was our biggest totals for single days at Lotus. Fingers are crossed to surpass that now that we have even more nets.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, October 2nd (maybe another day if the radar looks like the push is on!).

Update: We will band Saturday to try an get any new migrants riding this cold front. Both days will start at the same time.

All nets will be opened by 6:50 A.M.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Veery and Yellowthroats Return on Time

The morning started well enough and then fell flat right at 9 AM. No real good explanation. There was a circling Cooper's Hawk near the end of the lanes but birds just went silent all along the river. Weird.

However, right on schedule, we caught our first Veery of the season right after dawn.


Also arriving in numbers were the Common Yellowthroats. We caught many this morning and others were seen and heard along the river.

Common Yellowthroat

Among the birds that we captured, we also netted a Green Darner dragonfly. Dragonflies and beetles are often caught up in the nets this time of year and we do our best to release them unharmed.

Green Darner

Down in the Morning Glory area near Net 14, the insects were showing up in large numbers. Some of the prettier finds were Tiger Swallowtail...

Tiger Swallowtail

...Long-tailed Skippers on the Spanish Needles...

Long-tailed Skipper

...another skipper...


...and a Scarlet-bodied Hawk Moth which we first found last year and is seen this time of year feeding on certain plants along the lanes.

Scarlet-bodied Hawk Moth

We are still capturing Northern Waterthrushes at the end of the lanes like this one.

Northern Waterthrush

Got another Northern Cardinal and a new juvenile Carolina Wren to round out the day.

Carolina Wren

Our final photo is of a fern we found just beyond the net lanes. If anyone knows the species, please let us know!


Next up on the schedule should be buntings. Last year we were sighting and capturing Painted Buntings during the week of the 25th. Plenty of food waiting for them!!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, September 25th.

All nets will be opened by 6:45 A.M.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Migrants Increasing and a New Surprise

Radar was buzzing in the pre-dawn hours giving us hope for more birds today. They did not disappoint! Plus, we captured a bird we have never caught before but that will show up later in the post. Looks like our friends from the other side mowed the net lanes making our shoes not quite as wet but the recent rains still made for a soggy morning.

To start off the morning, we recaptured a female Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal

Arriving on schedule, we captured two Ovenbirds this morning. Actually, we spotted an Ovenbird a week ago but it avoided the net by 2 feet.


Down at Net 18 we found a Northern Waterthrush wrapped in the net. At the same time Andrew noticed another bird at the other end of the net that was a bit of a surprise. Again, we will get to that bird near the end.

Northern Waterthrush

Walking the net lanes, we discovered a bright spot on a tree halfway down. This fungus was very spongy to the touch and had a bright glow even in the shade.


This fallen bit of oak hosted a clump of Resurrection Fern. This fern also covers many trees in the region and gets its name due to the fact that in drier times it appears dead but seems to come back to life once the rain falls.

Resurrection Fern

Another young Carolina Wren joined us soon afterwards. We have seen our other banded Carolina Wrens hanging back in the woods so it was nice to get another new bird banded and to see that the families are still thriving.

Carolina Wren

It had been a while since we were getting birds near the table but today we caught a couple in Net 11 including this lovely White-eyed Vireo.

White-eyed Vireo

It must be a migrant since it was loaded with fat.

White-eyed Vireo

Maria snapped a shot of Ivana and Susan as they walked the lanes and talked about the issues of the day.

Ivana and Susan

As the day warmed the butterflies and other insects emerged to feed. One favorite spot is next to Net 14 where a large growth of Spanish Needles and Scarlet Morning Glories are in full bloom and the Swallowtails are feeding.


Nearby, a beautiful Damselfly rests on a leaf. They often join us at the banding table, too.


O.K., the big reveal of our Bird of the Day. As mentioned earlier, as Andrew was extracting the Waterthrush from the net he noticed another bird at the other end and hoped it would not escape before he could make it over to it. However, it was heavy enough to be kept from getting out. Our new bird was a Green Heron!

Green Heron

Don't think we have to check the records to assume we have never caught one of these birds before. We did catch a Great Egret at a demo in Orlando Wetlands Park a few years ago but wading birds are usually too large and too far away to net.

Net 18 is situated next to a swampy area near the end of the area where the Little Wekiva River reaches Lake Lotus where Waterthrushes, sparrows, Common Yellowthroats and even the Green Herons feed. We placed it here earlier hoping to get the Waterthrushes (which is working out nicely!) and hope to get more new species as the year continues.

Green Heron

Green Herons are fairly secretive and skittish. We often see them through the branches from time to time and today we also noticed two in that area. Usually we only have one.

Green Heron

A head-on veiw makes our new bird look a lot more like a chicken.

Green Heron

We always note how bird feet resemble dinosaurs and the heron often grabbed Andrew's fingers as we got our quick shots.

Green Heron

Unfortunately, our permit does not allow us to band wading birds (or endangered species and waterfowl) so all we could do was admire this gorgeous bird a bit before releasing it back near the spot that we found it.

Green Heron

Overall, a great early September morning of banding! If the schedule holds based on the past few years, we should see Veerys returning this week. Weather looks to be perfect for migration for the foreseeable future!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, September 18th.

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

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Better Late Than Never

Oh, how we waited.

Hopes were high as the radar showed migrating birds were splitting around Tropical Storm Lee to the East and West. By the early hours, however, the storm had closed the door on the East and pushed everything West, as shown in this screen grab.


So, what to do? Patrol and let Maria take photos. Like this beautiful shot of an opening leaf along the trail.


Humidity was still high as seen in this shot of a Skipper on a grass blade.


One of the sights that captured Maria's attention the most was a fly on some other grasses. Still more curious about what those little red bugs are...


Nearby, a Lubber Grasshopper tries to hide in the Red Cedar we planted earlier in the year.

Lubber Grasshopper

Not giving up, the rest of the team walked the lanes and Andrew hacked through the growing grass and weeds.


Growing along the riverside, Wild Balsam Apple, considered an invasive weed, opens its pods to reveal seeds ready to continue the next generation.

Balsam Apple

Oh, yeah. We are out trying to catch birds. Sadly, as the radar reference indicated, we had next to none. Even the local birds were quiet for much of the day. Then, as we were closing up for the morning and reached the very last net to gather, Richard called out if any of us would like to remove a bird from the remaining net. Well, sure! Our one bird of the day was a Red-eyed Vireo.

Red-Eyed Vireo

We gathered the remaining net and headed to the table to band our catch. A nice adult as told by the bright red eye. Younger birds have a brownish eye.

Red-Eyed Vireo

Another point of interest was the very high level of fat on our new arrival. Loaded to the brim!

Red-Eyed Vireo

Another week of waiting for the wave of migrants!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, September 11th.

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