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.

Alligator

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...

Maria

...while Andrew was at the other.

Drew

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.

Alligator

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.

Alligator

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.

Alligator

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

Alligator

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

Alligator

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.

Alligator

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...!

Christine

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

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

Teddy

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.

Crowd

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.

Richard

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.

Pearl

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.

Grasshopper

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.

William

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.

Gator

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.

Limpkin

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.

Alligator

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

Alligator

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!

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

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

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