Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Good Day for Bird Watching...

Despite a lack of captured birds, it really was an interesting day out at Lake Lotus. As dawn was approaching it seemed that fog might develop but then cleared, revealing a lot of birds flying high overhead. Robins, Waxwings, gulls... Land based birds were calling and singing but not really flying from place to place. In fact, we only caught one bird today. A Gray Catbird we first banded a couple of weeks ago. We caught that bird twice today. So, we spent some time wiring and trying to enjoy the show overhead.

While th rest of us cruised the net lanes, Richard checked the nest boxes for any sign of use.


For now, he only found some Flying Squirrels in a couple of boxes. one of them hosted a large family all snuggled up against the chilly weather.

Flying Squirrels

Out near the lake Andrew found an Orange-crowned Warbler in the Willows. The Sun was still trying to burn off the fog remnants.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Not far away, someone dropped Net 18 into the leaf litter. Hmmmm...who could it be?


A pair of young Raccoons were investigating the cypress swamp area and most likely caused our time consuming vegetation extraction. At least they are cute enough.


Many Red-shouldered Hawks were roaming today but they backed off once the Ospreys began gathering sticks for their new nest. We also saw Bald Eagles, Wood Storks and other large birds today.


Though rather quiet today, Myrtle Warblers were actually very active and they were feeding all around the willows.

Myrtle Warbler

They are very pretty birds when you catch them in the right light.

Myrtle Warbler

One of our other favorites were more vocal. Palm Warblers were all around the property today.

Western Palm Warbler

We were winding up the day and then spotted an owl in the "Owl nest" across the river. They did not nest here last year and we have been wondering if this year would see them try again. Christine noticed an owl in the tree and Andrew headed back for a photo op. Momma was trying to settle in for some rest.

Barred Owl

The nest tree is difficult to see from angles. Andrew scrambled down the river bank to get a branch-free view. It wasn't until processing the photos later that he noticed that the tree was smeared with blood. The owl must have captured and killed something fairly large for breakfast. Life in the jungle...

Barred Owl

Andrew and Maria will head out to a Sparrow round-up next Saturday and we will post a combined post of both round-ups at some point. Then we will all be back for Sunday.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, February 5th.

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

Sunday, January 22, 2012


We aren't used to this kind of weather. The past 2 years have been extremely cold. Last year was super cold with temperatures falling below freezing often, even into late into Winter. This year, we are trending above normal with days this week forecast to hit 80! The trees are all beginning to bloom which will bring in the insects and a transition should be occurring soon as the birds find the insects.

We started off well this morning with 4 recaptures right at dawn. However, things quieted or moved upward into the tree tops as the morning wore on. That quick flurry of birds would be it for the day. Many migrants were still moving overhead. Robins, Goldfinch, and Waxwings traveled in flocks but, like everything else, stayed well above the nets. Still, there was enough to look at today.

Just after sun up, the chilly air reveled the breath of a singing Red-winged Blackbird. They have just begun singing. A welcome sound.

Red-winged Blackbird

Just beyond the Blackbird a Limpkin settles onto the sandbar after calling since well before sunrise.


It was a bit of a surprise as a Swamp Sparrow jumped up into view near the lake and posed for a few photos as the Sun continued to rise. They are heard more often than seen.

Swamp Sparrow

Another bird heard more often than seen are the Common Yellowthroats. They call out every morning but they are rarely seen this time of year while they lurk in the marsh. This female was cruising the river just before it empties into the lake.

Common Yellowthroat

Maria brought visitors and found some other creatures along the lanes. like this Lady Beetle that was nicely lit up by the warming light.

Lady Beetle

One bird that is usually present during the Winter, but difficult to spot at times, is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This female stopped by to work over the snags near the end of the lanes.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Our recaptures included a House Wren, an Ovenbird, a Carolina Wren, and a Northern Cardinal. The latter birds are locals and the former were returning birds. The most often seen bird today was the Barred Owl pair. They often called for one another and joined together before deciding to rest up in the branches above the river by 10 AM. This shot was taken a bit earlier while they were still active.

Barred Owl

Insects on the rise. a weak front heading this way Friday. Perfect weather Sunday. Hoping for some good birds next week!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, January 29th.

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

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Good Variety for January

See this?


Temps headed toward the upper 40s for the morning. As we set nets, a few of the poles were showing signs of frost. By daylight, we could see more obvious signs. Frost can form even when the air temperature is well above freezing. Near the ground, in the right conditions, it can bring a bunch of pretty patterns.


It was under those condition that we began our second week of the year and hoped for what might be ahead. For the second week in a row, Net 15 provided our first bird, a Gray Catbird. Close behind, we recaptured a Brown Thrasher and caught right near that was an Eastern Phoebe. This young bird was awake very early for a flycatching bird.

Eastern Phoebe

As we were banding the first birds, Charles discovered a skink in the items on our table. It was nearly immobile with the cold air bouncing around an aluminum table top.


After the first birds were banded, Andrew held the skink in his hand to warm it and even took it for a little trip to check the net lanes. The Sun takes a while to reach the banding area so he had to find a sunny log down near the end of the lanes. The lizard was much more active but still needed a bit more warmth before heading off again.


Overlooking the lake, steam rises to greet the day. The remaining steam gathered into the center of the lake before dissipating.


Out of that remaining foggy bank, a Great Egret shot into view and headed toward the pier.

Great Egret

As Red-shouldered Hawks took to the skies today, the entire Blue Jay family was causing much noise. Either imitating them or calling alarms and then chasing them off, they were very loud. Suddenly, one of the family hit the nets.

Blue Jay

These Jays are familiar to us and often hang out on patrol near the lake but we don't catch them all the time. This bird was a younger member of the group and a new one to add to our data. People often overlook Blue Jays as they fly about but their blue colors are simply stunning close-up.

Blue Jay

Net 21 did produce some birds today before things got quiet. The first bird was a Palm Warbler we caught and banded just before Christmas.

Western Palm Warbler

Soon after that, an Orange-crowned Warbler joined the day. This male was showing its crown a bit as we prepared to release it.

Orange-crowned Warbler

Finally, our Barred Owls were heard all morning in different locations. By the end of our shift, one of the birds settled in over the river to rest. They have been hanging out around the old nest tree lately but we see no real sign of babies yet.

Barred Owl

Other birds are flocking into the area this week such as Goldfinches and Cedar Waxwings. The weather is forecast to rise back to normal so hopefully we can shed some layers and band even more birds.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, January 22th.

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

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Beginning 2012

A light fog greeted us as we began our new year at Lake Lotus. We had hoped that birds would be up and at 'em but they were rather quiet today. We only netted a few birds. The first of the morning was a migrant Hermit Thrush.

Hermit Thrush

Next up, one of our previously banded Whip-poor-wills. Definitely Bird of the Day and caught just a few feet from where we have caught it two other times over the years. Talk about site fidelity!


Slow days allow us to focus on the other wonders in Nature. Dew-laced mornings always reveal spider webs easier like the abundant Bowl and Doily Spiders that are set up all over the net lanes. Look closely and you can see the spider near its bowl.

Bowl and Doily

Farther up the lanes, Maria found a nice web coated with dew.

Spider Web

A bit more eerie, an Orchid Spider seems to grasp the sky.

Orchid Spider

We also wander down to the end of the trail to look out at Lake Lotus to see what we can see. The rising Sun provides a calm look at the Window on the Lake building down on the boardwalk.

Window on the Lake

On the small sandbar, many birds come by to rest. Palm Warblers were grabbing bugs throughout the morning and eventually other birds stopped by. Like the resident Limpkins.


Joining that bird was a Wintering Wood Stork.

Wood Stork

Nearby, a Common Gallinule swims by on the calm waters.

Common Gallinule

An nice find near the lake was a male Northern Cardinal. Better yet, we could easily see that it was one of our banded birds.

Northern Cardinal

Traveling back up the lanes, we find some other interesting things. Recent rains are springing up mushrooms off to the side.


We noticed a lot of droppings all up and down the lanes today. Since we have not been here in a few weeks things had time to get back to 'normal'. One massive area of droppings contained some owl pellets. Breaking them open revealed small bones that owls cannot digest. Probably from small rodents.


Close by was a collection of vertebrae. A snake?


Weather will shift. Willows are beginning to set buds which will bloom and bring insects. Which brings more birds. Can already feel the next waves building. Can't wait!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, January 15th.

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