Sunday, April 29, 2012

Missing Migrants

While we were sitting at Earth Day last week, reports were streaming in on the fall-out happening over on the Gulf Coast. The front which threatened our day in Central Florida cleared the coast first and dropped tons of birds behind it. That lasted for a few days. We hoped the trend would hold for a while but but Friday the winds shifted from North to South. Migrants had a clear shot back home before our weekend. It showed.

We had fewer birds than hoped. We are getting into the local groove, though. Our first bird we captured was a very juvenile Northern Cardinal which we neglected to get a photo of. Next up was a Gray Catbird, probably one of the last for the year, and then a recaptured Carolina Wren.

Carolina Wren

Things quickly turned quiet except for a flock of Cedar Waxwings that finally found one of the Florida Cherry trees near the banding table.

Cedar Waxwing

Just like last year, this seems to be the last filling station before this species finally heads North.

Cedar Waxwing

Not much was even moving near the lake. Mainly a few Gallinules and a resting Anhinga.


We almost had a Red-winged Blackbird but it escaped before we reached the net. They teased all morning. In fact, this bird is actually less than 4 feet from Net 21 and soon flew right over it to settle in the willows.

Red-winged Blackbird

We did manage a little more color during the morning when we captured a male Northern Parula.

Northern Parula

Parulas pretty much rule the tree tops right now, in fact since nearly two months ago, and their chicks are out and begging for food all over. Nice the see another up close.

Northern Parula

Winds are still going to be from the East then South so it is going to be warm, even for this time of year. Time will tell if we ring out a few more migrants before they are all gone for the season.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, May 6th.
All nets will be opened by 6:10 A.M.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012 Demonstration

The day that almost wasn't turned into a beautiful day but vendors and visitors alike were reduced in number, most likely being scared off by the forecast of bad weather. Early morning radar, however, revealed that the storms had passed overnight so we set up at dawn and prepared for the day. Almost immediately we captured a Gray Catbird and a bit later had a Common Yellowthroat in the same net.

Common Yellowthroat

Prior to our first captures, we were trying to figure out the loud calls from the branches around the parking lot. Birds were calling everywhere. At one point it sounded like a flock of Chimney Swifts but that didn't make sense. Further investigation as the Sun rose a bit was that the noise was coming form many, many Northern Parula chicks. The adults were gathering food while up to 3 chicks per adult pair followed along and called non-stop.

Northern Parula

Besides the young Parulas making noise, the rest of the area was still pretty quiet so we had some time to bird watch. Just across from the way in the playground we found a Cape May Warbler.

Cape May Warbler

The bird was feeding in the same area as a Black and White and a Prairie Warbler but the Cape May is more rare in this area so it was excellent to find.

Cape May Warbler

While we were focused on the Cape May a female Summer Tanager flew in to join the flock.

Summer Tanager

Frank, one of the rangers at Lake Lotus, had mentioned that there was a Red-shouldered Hawk next out on the boardwalk and he walked us to the spot. Momma hawk flew in and seemed to be feeding the young one but the angles were all wrong for a clear shot. A few minutes later, she was ready to go.

Red-shouldered Hawk

A few seconds later and she would fly straight toward us and then back into the woods.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Continuing on down the boardwalk lead us to finding a couple Purple Gallinules but what really stopped us in our tracks was a Green Heron hanging out under branches. Nice to find these secretive birds at any time.

Green Heron

Sunning just out of the water as we made our way to the pier was a pretty small Red-eared Turtle. Adults are seen year-round but seldom do we find younger turtles.

Red-eared Turtle

Half way around the pier Andrew found another seldom seen view. A Great-blue Heron. Sleeping!

Great-blue Heron

As we headed to the East side of the pier a second year Red-winged Blackbird tries to establish territory and mates.

Red-winged Blackbird

We can tell this bird was born here last breeding season by looking at those spots on the back. These go away as the birds age. Pretty things, no?

Red-winged Blackbird

As the day wore on, birds got far less noisy. We did finally get a Northern Parula but failed to get a photo. However, we did catch one last year that looks just like it!


While checking the nets by the river we found one of the Barred Owls resting in the branch over the river.

Barred Owl

Feeding on the flowers of the Spanish Needles were Fritilary, Pipevine, and a few other species like the Horace's Duskywings.


A lucky finding near the butterflies was a Green Anole. Our native species is quickly being replaced by invasive Cuban Anoles.

Green Anole

This one was resting on a branch and occasionally flashing its dewlap.

Green Anole

Back out on the lake a Great Egret hunts along the mouth of the river.

Great Egret

Nearby, baby gators float in the shallow water closer to the pier.

American Alligator

Sometimes there are a dozen young gators clustered together but today they seem to have spread out a bit.

American Alligator

On the way back to the banding table a family of Northern Cardinals fed throughout the willows and one of the newly hatched females posed on a branch just long enough for a photo.

Northern Cardinal

Then, as we were taking nets down for the day, an adult male flew into a net just in time to be the last bird of the day.

Northern Cardinal

Fortunately, one of the exiting groups happened by the table as we banded the Cardinal so they all could get a good look at the bird and learn some things about banding.


And, thus, we came to the end of another year at Earth Day. Always a fun time and at least we managed to avoid all the rain.

Blue-eyed Grass

Next week we return to 'our' side of the river and hope to catch some exiting warblers. Word is that the gulf coast is having a great day with wind delivered birds today.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 29th.
All nets will be opened by 6:15 A.M.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fast Start but Quick Quiet

A nice crisp morning at the banding site but not much movement by birds. We did catch a good number of birds and, once again, half our captures were Gray Catbirds. We did manage to get some other interesting captures like one of our resident pairs of Carolina Wrens. They have taken up house behind Net 17 in the woods but wander out from time to time.

Carolina Wren

Common Yellowthroats live nearly year-round in the marshy areas of the park but we used to catch them farther up river this time of year. Seems there may be a decline in this species over the past couple of years. This male was caught by the marsh.

Common Yellowthroat

Also down by the marsh are the flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds. One of the reasons we set Net 21 down there was to hopefully catch some. Mission accomplished today as we captured two adult males.

Red-winged Blackbird,

Just beyond Net 21 is the point where the Little Wekiva enters Lake Lotus. We have a trail that leads to the mouth of the river and often do some bird watching from there. Way out in the middle of the lake a bull Alligator follows a smaller gator toward the eastern cove.

American Alligator

Closer to shore, a Common Gallinule wades in.

Common Gallinule

Nearby, a lone remaining American Coot putts around the pier area. Most Coots have headed back North throughout Central Florida.

Common Gallinule

A pair of Boat-tailed Grackles searched for food and took baths in the shallow water while showing off their beautiful blues and purples.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Then, out of nowhere, a juvenile White Ibis strode out to do a little foraging.

White Ibis

One of our final capture of the day was our second Northern Waterthrush in as many weeks. Seems they go up through here during the Spring and down farther up in the Fall.

Northern Waterthrush

Earth Day celebrations at the park are next week so we will be there (see below). It will be interesting to see if we catch our old friends we have banded there over the past few years.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 22th.

NOTE: This is Earth Day at Lake Lotus! We will not be at our usual spot but inside the park itself. We will be doing banding demos all day until 3:00 PM. Parking is available at the tram lot across the street from Lake Lotus. The main hours for the event are from 10 AM to 3 PM. There is a bird watching tour that begins at 7:30 AM. Call 407-293-8885 if you plan of attending the birding tour.

All nets will be opened by 7:00 A.M.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Migrants are Stirring

You could feel that things were a bit more active way before dawn today. Even the Great-crested Flycatchers were calling in the dark. Gray Catbirds were heard all over instead of just near Net 5. In fact, Catbirds made up most of our total today. We were too busy to take many photos but if you need to see a Catbird, here is one from about a year ago.

Gray Catbird

We also captured Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, and a Blue Jay. More colorful was the male Myrtle (Yellow-rumped) Warbler near the end of the day. He is in full breeding plumage and this species will be moving North anytime now.

Myrtle Warbler

Not long after that, we caught a female in the same net.

Myrtle Warbler

Bird-of-the-Day, however, went to a Northern Waterthrush we captured earlier in the day. This bird was unusual to us because we rarely catch this species outside of its Fall migration pattern. Again, no time for photos earlier in the day but here is a Northern Waterthrush from last Fall.

Northern Waterthrush

A nice total today and as we closed up, Susan and Christine made a new discovery along the path. A Common Checkered Skipper! None of us had seen this species before.

Common Checkered Skipper

So, Spring Migration is in full start-up mode. Last year around this time we began getting more warblers and we hope to do the same next week.

Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 15th.

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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No April Foolery, Just Birds.

Good to be back after the Spring Break. Weather is a bit warmer but still humid after the previous day's rain. Time to see what awaits us this morning. We heard the owls briefly but had a hard time seeing them during our stay. They were moving around a lot with no sign of chicks yet.

Another nice early sound was our first Chuck-wills-widow calling across the river. Finally.

Most of our local birds we captured today were all showing brood patches indicating nesting is in full effect. Example number one was one of the Carolina Wrens we processed.

Carolina Wren

Getting more active, Gray Catbirds are hitting the nests more often as they begin to prepare for departure.

Gray Catbird

We also captured several Northern Cardinals, including a female banded years ago and even some new adult males. More surprising, however, were the House Wrens we recaptured. They have been absent for a while but they must also be preparing to leave soon. This bird was just bored during our photo shoot.

House Wren

Down near the lake, we caught another nice surprise. A Swamp Sparrow with a very rufus cap. Breeding plumage coming into full view.

Swamp Sparrow

We had a little lull in activity so we got a chance to look around while we waited. Resting on Elderberry flowers was a nice Green Darner. There were several dragonfly species out today including several that got caught in the nets and we had to gently extract them.

Green Darner

Deeper in the woods there are caterpillars feasting on Pokeweed. This appears to be a type of Tussock Moth.


Richard checked the nest boxes and, as usual, found one with a family of Flying Squirrels. Cute as can be.

Flying Squirrels

Red-winged Blackbirds are getting more noisy and gathering nesting material. We had hoped to add to our captures of this species but they seem more busy setting territory than flying too much. This bird was signing out on the cattails as the Sun rose.

Flying Squirrels

The morning wore on and we later recaptured a pair of Tufted Titmice in separate nets minutes apart. One was carrying nesting material that remained in the net.

Tufted Titmouse

They both actually had brood patches but the second one displayed a remarkable one.

Tufted Titmouse

Time was ticking down on the end of the day when Andrew made it back to Net 21 to find the Bird-of-the-Day. A female Painted Bunting!

Painted Bunting

Typically, we do not start catching Buntings until the Fall. This marks the earliest in the year that we have ever caught this species. Not complaining.

Painted Bunting

Add another Northern Cardinal as the Bunting was walked back and we closed with a very good day. On the way home, Andrew found yet another surprising bird near the banding site. A lone female Hooded Merganser still rested in the pond in Maitland Center. Way past their usual time period.

Hooded Merganser

Surprises were all over for the day, right? Not yet! When Andrew got to his house he found the next one. 3 newly hatched Carolina Wrens were being escorted around his yard for their first big day out.

Carolina Wren

Migration picks up any time. Next few weeks could be fun. Hotter than typical this time of year, but... .

Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 8th.

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