Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Wet. Now with Wind!

The approaching front seemed to slow a bit overnight and we headed toward the banding site encountering light sprinkles. There were not suppose to be any precipitation! We decided to give it a go, anyway, and hope the mists would clear soon. What we did expect were heavy winds that did arrive as the morning moved along.

Even though we have still had some rain of late, the Little Wekiva River continues to get lower as it does every Winter. One of our tasks is to try and remove trash stuck behind some obstacles since the heavy rains earlier in the year and the dropping levels are allowing us to get to some of that mess.

Little Wekiva River

Our first bird of the morning was a Brown Thrasher, a fan favorite.

Brown Thrasher

The most captured species today were Carolina Wrens. All recaptured several that were banded over the years. At least they are now moving about more.

Carolina Wren

Last week we mentioned that the city was in the area and spraying poison all over the place to counter some invasive plants. Their efforts were rather effective and it seems that citrus is also on their hit list. This Tangerine tree and another provided occasional breakfasts for us and the local Black Bears but it appears that bounty is over. The Florida State Flower is the Orange Blossom. Go figure.


A nice surprise of the day was a female Downy Woodpecker. These birds have been feeding all around Net 21 for the past few weeks and we have caught more in this area this year than anywhere else.

Downy Woodpecker

As the seasons change we get a more mixed variety of fungus appearing along the lanes. Next to Net 4 we found this attractive growth of white mushrooms.


Every morning we hear those Gray Catbird calls from the underbrush. Now and then the ghosts of the woods appear to watch us as we checked the nets.

Gray Catbird

Still, it took us until near the end of our day to capture one. A feisty juvenile.

Gray Catbird

By 9:30 the winds did begin to howl and opened the nets easily into sails. We watched several birds hit nets and escape since they could not land in a pocket, as usual. We watched one particular bird most of the morning do this. An Eastern Phoebe. It was feeding all around two of our nets, would hit them and then escape to perch nearby or even atop the net poles. It would only be a matter of time, we thought. Indeed, during a lull in the gusts it hit Net 11 and was brought in for banding.

Eastern Phoebe

We determined that this was a juvenile Eastern Phoebe first by the remaining gape at the base of the bill. Once they age, this hardens into a solid bill.

Eastern Phoebe

Blue Jays were being heard all morning or seen feeding in the trees overhead. We catch a few over the course of our sessions but not too many. At the end of the morning we got one finally flying low.

Blue Jay

This Blue Jay was a large adult male. That is an interesting bent tail, fella! Those blues are always more amazing up close.

Blue Jay

Did we say one Blue Jay? In fact, we caught two at the same time! We concluded that they were a pair so we got a shot of them together.

Blue Jay

Not a bad mix for a blustery morning. Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers are increasing and hearing the American Robins fly over is a treat. Now to capture some of them. Big changes in weather are due by Thanksgiving and we will see what next Sunday brings.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, December 1st.
All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wet Morning Again

Looking at the past few months we realize that we have only had two dry mornings this Session. Two. Every other week has had rain on Saturday or the dew point was just right to leave us with wet feet. So, today was another wet one as the water on the Taro leaves attests even late in the morning.


We quickly captured two House Wrens around sunrise.

House Wren

The Leopard Frogs were enjoying the wet conditions and we also saw a couple of Swamp Rabbits before dawn as we set the nets.

Leopard Frog

This recaptured Northern Cardinal was caught not far from where we first captured it a few months ago. Guess it has decided on a territory.

Northern Cardinal

Our one Hermit Thrush of the day was interesting in that we first banded it nearly a year ago. It was caught in the exact same net again this year so it made the round trip safely and knew right where it was headed.

Hermit Thrush

As the sunlight topped the trees some other wildlife began to emerge like this pair of White Peacock Butterflies.

White Peacock

An interesting insect braved the wet leaves nearby. Once the clouds began to break flocks of American Robins began flying overhead.

UPDATE: Lynn did a little digging and found an ID for our mystery bug. It is a type of Stilt-legged Fly, Taeniaptera trivittata. More info reveals that it is: "...a wasp mimicking fly! It lifts the white-tipped front legs and moves them around to mimic wasp antennae. These flies were really common yesterday in weedy vegetation around a pond. According to BugGuide, there is only one September record with most from spring, so this is a late record based on their reports." Cool!

Taeniaptera trivittata

Nearly hidden in the Guinea Grass (which has been zealously poisoned by city folks lately) was a red and yellow mushroom. We think it is a species of Bolete.


We got this recaptured adult Carolina Wren along the way and its colors were spectacular.

Carolina Wren

Two Eastern Phoebes were caught today. One early and the other as we began to close up for the day. Eastern Phoebes are all over the place in Florida this year and can be heard calling in urban and rural areas.

Eastern Phoebe

Before we ended the day, Andrew continued to reopen the path out to Lake Lotus. Conditions are still too damp to safely go too far. The eventual goal is to reach the edge of the lake like last year. It is a great vista to look for any birds using the lake as sanctuary or a feeding spot. Just have to watch out for alligators and Moccasins like the one flushed from the grass near the banding table.

Lake Lotus

Other rewards by the lake are close up views of water birds like the pair of Limpkin that breed here.


We end the day with the little hopper of some sort with really long antennae perfectly poised on a stalk of grass.


Here's hoping for a dry day next weekend. Current forecast calls for the coolest day yet this year. Can't wait!.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, November 24th.
All nets will be opened by 6:25 A.M.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Besides banding duties at Lake Lotus we often help out at outside events around Central Florida. Last November 9th was the Owlfest event put on by our friends at the Avian Reconditioning Center. It was a rousing success and this year Richard brought along nest boxes which sold out!

Helping out that day were Alease, Lynn, and Maria.


All had a great day. Our next event will be at the Orlando Wetlands in February.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, November 17th.
All nets will be opened by 6:25 A.M.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Typical Late Fall Mix

An arriving cold front on Saturday left us with a little rain over the weekend but cleared in time to allow Sunday banding. The remaining clouds were clearing out as sunrise greeted us out at Net 21, the last net in our lanes down at the mouth of the river as it enters Lake Lotus.


Next to Net 10, a White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) butterfly was sleeping before the sunlight warmed it for the day.

White Peacock

Next to Net 18, in the marsh zone, a Manatee Tree Snail (Drymaeus dormani) snuggled up inside a tree trunk.

Manatee Tree Snail

Then the birds began to move. It started with a pretty good flow of early risers and our first bird was the first Hermit Thrush of the season. A week late according to our past years here. This was an adult bird and we caught a juvenile later in the morning.

Hermit Thrush

As we like to remind folks every year, we have a simple mantra to remember Hermit Thrushes. "Tail, tail, tail!". It is easiest way to ID Hermits from Swainson's Thrushes by seeing that contrasting red coloring of the tail feathers.

Hermit Thrush

Lynn was extracting the Hermit Thrush when a Gray Catbird flew into the net next to it which Andrew retrieved.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbirds are now one of the most heard birds during the dawn chorus but they seem to stay across the river most of the day.

Gray Catbird

While walking back to the table we noticed our other volunteers at Net 14 where Alease was extracting a Swamp Sparrow.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrows are back in force for the Winter. With this nice early rush we thought we might have a really busy day. However, it got pretty quiet really soon.

Swamp Sparrow

Which leaves time to explore the area for other things in Nature. One of the most seen spiders in the area are Spiny Orb Weavers (Gasteracantha). Typically, we have to work our way around the webs so it was interesting to see one hanging out on a blade of grass today.

Spiny Orb Weaver

A short time later Charles saw what he thought were a couple of leaves falling into Net 22. Instead, they were actually Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Both Ruby-crowned Kinglets were new females for us. Last week we had a new male which sports the namesake Ruby head feathers.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

While at the banding table we heard some rustling through the wooded areas around us. It turned out to be a few Raccoons roaming about. A mother and a couple of kids.


We recaptured a couple of wrens, House and Carolina, before capturing another Northern Cardinal. Twigs at the ready when ever they are in hand. Lynn finally braved the extraction and was rewarded by not getting pinched.

Northern Cardinal

We are still finding Lubber Grasshoppers (Romalea guttata) among the vegetation and this one appears to have reached its final transformation. Note the short flight wings which are incapable of any real flight. Lubbers hop and climb.

Lubber Grasshopper

Our final bird of the morning was an Ovenbird. Nice to end the day with a warbler.


Another strong front will push through this week and we shall see what shows up for next Sunday. An added plus to this morning was the return of a couple dozen American Robins passing overhead through the day. Waxwings and Goldfinches can't be far behind.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, November 17th.
All nets will be opened by 6:20 A.M.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Nice Weather. Few Birds.

Saturday rains remained later than expected but the cold front finally moved through overnight allowing birds to take flight straight South. Unfortunately, that meant they flew past us in the process. A lower capture rate was made at least a bit enjoyable as we got to wander through a beautiful morning.


Our first bird of the morning was one of our local, recaptured Carolina Wrens.

Carolina Wren

Gray Catbirds again were present by voice early in the day but we only caught one along the way. They seem to be staying mainly on the park side of the river.

Gray Catbird

A Green Heron was seen and flushed throughout the morning down near the lake. We are betting we get it in a net at some point but we cannot band herons.

Green Heron

Andrew checked nets and arrived at Net 5 to see what looked like yet another leaf in the top of the net. Instead, it turned out to be our first Ruby-crowned Kinglet capture of the season.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

This adult male was an unbanded bird, for a couple minutes. Females do not show the red crest that males do. We are still waiting to get the already banded Ruby-crowned Kinglets we have seen earlier this Fall.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Woodpeckers were heard and seen all morning and Lynn got a shot of one of the Red-bellied Woodpeckers foraging in the trees.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

A bit later, Linda ran over to get Andrew to help Lynn extract a feisty White-eyed Vireo recapture.

White-eyed Vireo

Now for a view from the opposite direction.

White-eyed Vireo

Soon afterward, two Eastern Phoebes were caught in Net 21 right next to each other. No doubt they were chasing one another while feeding. One of these birds was first banded a couple of years ago. We are continuing to get some interesting recaptures now that we have been established for 6 years here.

Eastern Phoebe

Ranger Frank stopped by to check out things and was given the task of releasing our newest banded Eastern Phoebe.

Eastern Phoebe

Bird-of-the-Day goes to a Palm Warbler we first banded nearly 3 years ago. In fact, it was one of the first Palm Warblers ever captured here at Lake Lotus. We now see returning Palm Warblers on a regular basis which is good site fidelity data.

Palm Warbler

Now we wait for the (late) Hermit Thrushes and returning Yellow-rumped Warblers to come back. Next weekend should be another good weather situation. Hopefully, more birds will roam the area then.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, November 10th.
All nets will be opened by 6:15 A.M.