Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mid-Summer Clean Up

Time for our first check of the banding site for Summer maintenance in the sweltering July heat. It went as planned and we got a lot of invasives out of the way and cleared some areas to make it easier for the rangers to mow when they got a chance. Over the period of a few days leading up to and during the clean-up, we had some interesting observations to share.

The area has had a lot of rain of late and it has driven the smaller alligators from near the pier to places farther in under the Cypress trees near the inner boardwalk.

American Alligator

On the far side of the lake, a few Swamp Hibiscus blooms brighten the shadows.

Swamp Hibiscus

Out by the fishing pier was a nice surprise. A juvenile Double-crested Cormorant relaxed on the ranger's boat and posed for some nice photos.

Double-crested Cormorant

A week earlier, Richard and Christine came out to check the nest boxes. They found Flying Squirrels in one box and a huge swarm of Honey Bees had taken over one near the banding table.

Honey Bees

By the time we arrived today the box was no longer connected to the tree. It was on the ground with the lid torn off and the bees were no where to be seen.

Honey Bees

Signs of their house-keeping were still around, however, as you can see in this shot of the inner-lid.

Honey Bees

Only the anchors of the honey combs were remaining. Ranger Frank had mentioned that the Black Bears (a mother and 3 cubs) had been seen on this side of the river of late and now we had our proof. We still have not encountered them during our short trips out.

Honey Bees

Finally, there was a good find among the air potato leaves. A caterpillar of a Leopard Moth was making a meal of the invasive plant. We found one a couple of years ago and it seems to be the only thing that actually eats this vegetation.

Leopard Moth

It only took a couple of hours but we were covered in sweat and exhausted. We will make one more visit to clean up a week before we resume banding for the year. Who knows what we will find. Besides more sweat.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, August 4th.
All nets will be opened by 6:15 A.M.

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