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.
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.
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.
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.
While we were focused on the Cape May a female Summer Tanager flew in to join the flock.
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.
A few seconds later and she would fly straight toward us and then back into the woods.
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.
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.
Half way around the pier Andrew found another seldom seen view. A Great-blue Heron. Sleeping!
As we headed to the East side of the pier a second year Red-winged Blackbird tries to establish territory and mates.
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?
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.
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.
This one was resting on a branch and occasionally flashing its dewlap.
Back out on the lake a Great Egret hunts along the mouth of the river.
Nearby, baby gators float in the shallow water closer to the pier.
Sometimes there are a dozen young gators clustered together but today they seem to have spread out a bit.
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.
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.
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.
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.