Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Few Migrants and a Bald Eagle Release

Finally made it back out to Lake Lotus after missing a week for freezing temperatures and one for the Orlando Wetlands Festival. We were in a tight window for the morning as rain was creeping in from the Gulf but we managed a few hours and ducked out just before the sprinkles began.

Nothing extraordinary was captured. A couple Catbirds, a couple recaptured migrants (Hermit Thrush and another Catbird), a new Caroline Wren, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Otherwise, it was fairly quiet. Many birds seen and heard but not much flying. However, there are many signs that the turn back North is occurring. Especially since we are hearing Northern Parulas singing to beat the band!

We waited to post this week as we knew that there was a more special event taking place this week. Our friends Scott and Carol McCorkle at the Avian Reconditioning Center had a couple birds ready for release that they wanted banded. First up was a Red-shouldered Hawk which was banded and made ready for release.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Then the star of the day. An adult Bald Eagle. Scott holds the hooded raptor and Carol and Maria hold the leg steady as Richard gets the band set.

Bald Eagle

A shot of the attached band. These bands are so large they require a riveted type of aluminum for such a big bird.

Bald Eagle

The proud crew poses for a shot before heading out for the bird's release.

Bald Eagle

The eagle was taken to a spot in Mount Dora for release. Richard removes the hood as Carol secures the bird.

Bald Eagle

The most enjoyable part of rehabing raptors. Setting the healthy birds free again!

Bald Eagle

Off it flies into the Florida sky. We wish it all the best for a long and healthy life.

Bald Eagle

May be dodging the rain again by Sunday but hope to start capturing migrating birds which are staging for their trip back North.

NOTE: No banding on the 4th. Rains are scheduled for the morning.

EXTRA NOTE!!!: Daylight Saving time starts next Sunday! Please set your clock accordingly.

(Yet another) NOTE: No banding on the 11th. Rains and high winds are here this morning. Getting ridiculous!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, March 18th.

All nets will be opened by 7:15 A.M.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Orlando Wetlands Festival 2012 Report

A foggy morning greeted us upon arrival and the warm, cloudy day really cut down on our bird captures this year but we had plenty of visitors and a lot of things to keep us interested throughout the day. Andrew arrived early to track down a rare sighting within the park so he brought his bike and made a quick tour of the property before the festivities began. Settle in for a long post.

Besides the thousands of American Coots resting in the ponds, an Alligator glides through the water as the fog tries to lift. Alligators will be a main focus of our day.


After dodging white-tailed Deer and Sandhill Cranes, the back areas revealed the large flocks of Black Vultures that sometimes hogged the berm roads and lined the trees before true dawn.

Black Vulture

The rare bird, actually a pair, of male Vermillion Flycatchers have been reported for a couple of weeks. This was the target bird. Previous sightings were very far out in the water and this morning would prove no better sightings. See that tiny speck on the tree top? Yep. That was the best view. But enough for an ID.

Vermillion Flycatcher

We were hoping for another banner day of Myrtle Warblers but they stayed in the wooded areas most of the day. We caught none! So we hoped that maybe we could get something else like the often present Common-ground Doves. We didn't catch them, either though it was close.

Common-ground Dove

Nets were secured and Richard lugged in his nest boxes and native planting info and readied for the crowds.

Susan and Richard

We watched the nets for activity. Maria was at one end...


...while Andrew was at the other.


Several Northern Cardinals flew around the nets for a while and we finally caught the female. One of the males escaped.

Northern Cardinal

Nearby, a volunteer brought a secured Alligator to show off to the public.


Last year, we set nets around a small pond area (an input flow for the wetlands) in hopes of catching something there. We almost got an Egret then but nothing was venturing out this year. Instead, Andrew discovered a clutch of wild young alligators out in the duck weed.


He took some photos of the little reptiles while keeping a watchful eye for what had to be near. Babies don't sit around all by themselves. Momma had to be here somewhere but she was not in sight at the moment.


Once the young gators noticed him, Andrew heard them begin to do their croaking alarm call.


More reason to be aware. One more shot before checking the nets again.


Soon, she appeared. Where she could have been hiding previously we can only guess but Momma did surface to keep an eye on the kids and remained in that general area most of the day.


One of the reasons the birds remained in the trees much of the days had to be the presence of raptors in the area. In particular, this Red-shouldered Hawk patrolled near our nets for a large part of the day.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Just as that photo was being taken, Richard called out to the rest of the crew. There is a bird feeder near the banding table and attract a lot of grackles. Last year we didn't catch any but today...!


Our first ever grackle for the banding crew! Timing is everything and it just so happened that Teddy, a past volunteer bander with us, arrived in time to band this bird as Andrew made his way back to the table.


Teddy fit right back in to the task of banding as his son watched.


Grackles are always very pretty when you catch them in the proper lighting.

Common Grackle

We did manage to capture 3 Catbirds today. At least they were flying.

Gray Catbird

Fortunately, we had a crowd unload from the bus in time to see our newly banded bird. Our main task at this festival is to expose the general public to banding and why we do it.


While we wait, Christine and Richard relax for a few minutes between presentations.

Christine and Richard

Richard even had some time to check out the Sheriff's helicopter.


While we waited for the next birds, we made some fun finds in the insect world. Maria was particularly intrigued by a Bella Moth near the end of the nets.

Bella Moth

Close to the gator pond, several butterflies flitted about, including a White Peacock.

White Peacock

A pair of Pearl Crescents courted in the short grasses and provided some great views.


At some point, someone decided to provide us with a snake skeleton. What species, we do not know, but it remained at the table all day.

Snake Skeleton

Another insect of not was a green grasshopper. Several were in the area. We are still finding the species.


Bird-of-the-Day has to go to our next capture. This year the festival employed Lynx buses (the Orlando bus system crew) to give tours of the wetlands. As the first large bus moved through, it scared up a beautiful Black and White Warbler.

Black and White Warbler

Maria got a great shot of Andrew verifying the plumage.

Black and White Warbler

Once banded and released, the bird stayed nearby to figure out what was now attached to its leg and then headed back out for food.

Black and White Warbler

One of our youngest volunteers, William, got some time to try out Dad's camera while we waited.


As lunch approached, things went quiet so Andrew took another quick ride to see what might be hiding around the corner. We were even hearing a Barred Owl calling out on the marsh. Just along the berms, another alligator warmed in the sun with extra gunk in its eyes.


Foraging in the waters, a pair of the many Blue-winged Teal relaxed away from the crowds.

Blue-winged Teal

A bit farther along, a flock of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks rested on the vegetation.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Fewer in numbers were Glossy Ibis, but Andrew did get a shot of one feeding in the area.

Glossy Ibis

For some reason, a Limpkin began calling loudly (can they call any other way?) and then flew near the banding table for some fleeting glimpses.


Our last interesting catch of the day, along with a bee and a couple of scarab beetles, was this cool Palmetto Weevil. A very interesting bug to end our day.

Palmetto Weevil

We prepared to close out the day but not without another round of photos of the baby gators. Momma had sunk into the water and we got a few more shots.


So very cute and we thank them for providing us with something else to do as we went through our volunteer duties.


Weather-wise, a perfect day. We had hoped to band more birds but we did have enough to show the crowds and to make notes for next year. Northern Parulas are now singing so we hope to start getting migrating birds again at Lake Lotus next week!

Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, February 26th.

All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Orlando Wetlands Festival

A brief note. We banded at the Orlando Wetlands Festival today as we have for the past past several years. Bird captures were down from the past. Probably due to warmer weather this year and the food for birds was readily available elsewhere. Last year we banded copious amounts of Myrtle Warblers but had none this year.

We did have some interesting finds and will post them shortly. Alligators and other fauna took up a lot of our time and we actually caught our first Common Grackle. We also let visitors share in the joys of seeing some birds up close and had a wonderful time interacting with the public.

In the meantime, we will NOT be banding tomorrow (Feb. 19th) since we still have to reset a bunch of poles and, yes, we are all a little tired from a full day of work at the festival. Plus, the forecast shows rains could be on the way. Our next scheduled day of banding at Lake Lotus is Sunday, Feb. 26th.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, February 26th.

All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mixed Bag, Big Surprise

Sit back. Long post. Not that that is a bad thing.

Limpkins were calling just before dawn but not much else seemed to be active until just before the usual Dawn Chorus. As we headed back to the table to get ready for the first lane runs, the loudest calls were from Brown Thrashers. Carolina Wrens chimed in and Cardinals swept back in forth in the gloom. Andrew checked Net 2 on a hunch and found a recaptured Ovenbird. As he was extracting that bird Richard called out that more birds were being brought to the table.

Christine was returning with the formally heard Brown Thrasher and another member of the flock. She dropped them off and headed back out down the lanes. The Thrashers consisted of a new bird and one recapture.

Brown Thrasher

As we prepared to band the new birds, Christine shouted, "Owl!" just down the way. We looked for our gloves (and couldn't find them!) and headed down near the river. We met up with Christine to find a Barred Owl in Net 11.

Barred Owl

Without protection, we had to size up the options for getting this strong predator safely out of the net. Owls have extremely strong talons and sharp claws that are capable of major damage to tender flesh. Andrew had Christine recline the owl backward and tested reflexes by dropping an empty bag onto the bird's feet. No sign of movement. The owl seemed completely relaxed.

Deep breath...grab those legs...then find a way to get behind the head while the birds claps its beak, looking for something to either grab or to scare us.

Barred Owl

Extraction complete! Andrew looks a bit serious but that was more due to the fact that we were trying to get all the quick shots we could before release. Plus, owls are extremely strong.

Barred Owl

We love our local pair of Barred Owls. So beautiful and so potentialyl deadly to prey. Just after this shot we released our bird and it was quickly met by its mate in the tree across the river. A nice catch and release. We could have banded this bird but we know it lives here and banding it wouldn't serve much purpose. It only roams about in a one mile zone year after year so...

Barred Owl

Such an interesting start to the day. However, things soon grew quiet after we recaptured a House Wren and Carolina Wren. Time for some looking around while we wait. As the Sun rises, a Day Flower opens to greet the morning.

Day Flower

The willows are nearing full bloom, attracting insects and birds after the insects.


The Redwinged Blackbirds are getting more active out in the Cattails and the males are singing loudly since last week. More secretive are the females which stay lower in the reeds.

Redwinged Blackbird

Not many Warblers were seen today. They are mainly staying in the branches and on the marshy water edges, like this Myrtle (yellow-rump) Warbler, picking off insects.

Myrtle Warbler

Out at the lake, the Common Gallinule pair finds a place in the sunlight.

Common Gallinule

Farther out, one of the Limpkins feeds along the shoreline.


Blue Jays were on patrol this morning as the raptors woke and we managed to capture a new member of the flock.

Blue Jay

This younger bird was very busy today. We actually recaptured it at the end of the day in a different net.

Blue Jay

Back to watching Nature and Maria found a lot to photograph.


Tent Caterpillars are forming their colonial nests all along the river.

Tent Caterpillar

Other winged creatures were out today starting with a Gulf Fritillary.

Gulf Fritillary

Not often seen around the lanes, a Pearl Crescent butterfly warms itself along the way.

Pearl Crescent

We are still looking for a positive iD on this pretty moth. It was hard enough to find in the first place!


Our final bird of the day was an Orange-crowned Warbler that we first banded in the same net location a few weeks ago and it was photographed in that area last week. Must like it here.

Orange-crowned Warbler

These tiny warblers get their name from the orange feathers that are not often seen when they are feeding in the trees.

Orange-crowned Warbler

As we headed out to close the nets for the day we nearly tripped over one the of more deadly snakes out there. A 4-foot Coral Snake was hanging around some fallen logs. It was seen here a couple months ago but we couldn't get a good shot of it. Remember, 'red next to yellow can kill a fellow' and keep your distance! In fact, it is a good idea to avoid snakes in general.

Coral Snake

Temperatures may lower closer to normal next week and more adventures await!

UPDATE: We will not band on the 12th. Temperatures are predicted to be near freezing and the wind chill to be below. We will get to the Wetlands Festival on the 18th and hope to be back out at Lotus on the 19th.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, February 19th.

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