Sunday, December 21, 2014

First Day of Winter

We mostly had recaptures today an most were our "1A" group. Northern Cardinals and Gray Catbirds are two of our most banded species here through the year and both get a 1A band. We also managed to pick up a few more migrants and the number of captured birds was up from the past two weeks, though it was still pretty quiet.

Gray Catbirds tied Cardinals for captures today. One of the first things pointed out to new visitors and banders is an easy way to age Catbirds. When they are born, they have white to pink upper palettes. Once they are fully adult, the palette is solid black. Fortunately, most Catbirds readily bite at your fingers so it is pretty simple to check.

So, this bird is a juvenile.

Gray Catbird

House Wrens are sometimes heard milling about and scolding in the grasses but we are not catching a lot of them, either, this year.

House Wren

Another Gray Catbird poses before being released.

Gray Catbird

The end of the lanes has undergone such a drastic change over the last two months. We have spent some time just trying to figure out if we need to tweak the position of Net 21 or make some other changes. Andrew has been standing near the edge of the net for a few weeks and noticed something consistent. Birds either spot the net coming in from the East (thanks to the early sunlight) or fly high coming from the West as the trees line up straight from one side to another.

Should we just cut things at a lower level? Try to move the net at some weird angle? For now, we cleared out all of the dead Willow branches and the Skunk Vine that was tangled around them. This left us with a fairly open space on the Eastern side. Maybe the birds would be enticed to fly through before swooping upward above the net. Within minutes, a Western Palm Warbler did just that.

Western Palm Warbler

We will have to wait to do a full morning test but that seemed interesting and promising. American Goldfinches and other warblers are feeding out here and this might increase our chances for a while. It will have to wait until 2015, though. We are taking the next week off for Christmas.

It might take moving the entire net placement at some point but at least we can give this spot a chance for a while longer. Until the park decides to scrape out the entire mouth of the river.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, January 4th.
All nets will be opened by 6:50 A.M.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Quiet But Fun

Well, another slow day added to an already overall slow season. Just doesn't seem to be as many birds around this year. Even off-site we aren't seeing big numbers of...anything. Data is data, though.

Even before the light was up we could see that the dock, which was tumbled during the last flood, had been been righted as of last week. Now they just have to get some post holes made to secure it again.


As we were setting nets it crossed our minds that we have yet to catch a Ruby-crowned Kinglet this season. Right on cue, we got our first. An adult female, which lacks the ruby crown.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Checking on Net 21 just after sunrise, Andrew heard an Eastern Phoebe passing close by, calling along the way. If not for that sound he wouldn't have looked to the left to find a Great Blue Heron standing atop a branch just across the river.

Great Blue Heron

40 yards to the right, an American Goldfinch swooped in to survey the surroundings. Will this be the year we finally catch one?

American Goldfinch

Two months ago the September flooding gave us a treat by depositing a lot of sediment to give us a new beach along the area for Net 21. It was a welcome sight and made for easier potential bird extractions by the riverside.

Net 21

This latest flood had the opposite effect. Large sections of the river bank have been washed away. Now we have to consider a way to shore up the lane or move out of a very productive net placement.

Net 21

While we ponder that situation there is always time to check out what is happening above us. The most obvious was the cry of a Red-shouldered Hawk. It landed in a pine tree by the road and began to add to the nest. So soon?

Red-shouldered Hawk

High overhead, a flock of Double-crested Cormorants headed toward the lake. Later we would go out in the muck toward the lake to have a look around. 100's of those cormorants weren't first to the party!!

Double-crested Cormorant

Flying in the opposite direction, an American Robin zoomed along toward the East.

American Robin


As the Cypress trees head toward hibernation they continue to shine bright in the early morning sunshine.


Below the canopy, Becki discovered a Ladybug pupa clinging to a tree trunk.

A few wading birds were moving upstream today. First was a Snowy Egret that got spooked by us walking by before noticing it. Later, a Limpkin was found reflecting nicely against the water.


It is not too rare to have the Limpkins this far up-river but they usually stick to the lake and the reeds.


One last bird for the day (after our recaptured Northern Cardinal) was a Carolina Wren. Another one for the books.

Carolina Wren

The sunlight was increasing and Ranger Frank spotted an adult American Alligator in the marsh before the lake. Didn't have the camera for that but by the time we got to the banding table Frank spotted another Alligator sunning above the river.

American Alligator

6 to 8 feet above the river! This American Alligator had to get up there somehow. There is a gentle slope to the right but who knows. Interestingly, Andrew was down by the river at this spot an our ago with no gator sightings.

American Alligator

We wrapped up for the day with a lot of species sightings but the existing birds had no interest in flying low. On the way home, Andrew decided to check on the Hooded Mergansers again in Maitland Center. Several male and female birds were spotted in one of the retention ponds.

Hooded Merganser

One more week before Christmas and we decide on banding around the holidays. Stay tuned!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, December 21st.
All nets will be opened by 6:45 A.M.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Could Have Slept In

Hey, guess what? The forecast was wrong. Again. It was suppose to be partly cloudy with 4 mph winds. Instead, it was totally cloudy, misty sprinkles, and gusts to 15 or more. Not many birds moving at all. There were a few feeding flocks that came and went in short bursts but nothing feeding in the trees much. Nothing on the lake. Nothing...anywhere, really.

At least we captured a couple of birds. First up was a Swamp Sparrow in Net 19. This seemed odd. 19 is on the high side of the net lanes. Most of our Swampies are captured near the lake. Turns out that this recapture was first captured and banded in early November just 40 yards even farther on high ground. Hmmmm. It must be confused.

Swamp Sparrow

The water is down quite a bit since last week so we could get out to Net 21. The landscape is completely changed again. The last flood brought us a new beach and more land to walk on. This flood took away all of that and more. Once the area dries a bit more we will take photos to compare but we had little time today as we had to do some debris clearing and bridge replacing.

Last week we couldn't see the one palette that led to Net 21. It was gone with the water. The other palette before that are now 30 yards out int he marsh, never to be reclaimed. Once the sun was up, Andrew spotted the other palette. 50 yards toward the lake but wedged against a tree. At least we could rescue that.

Good thing we could set Net 21 because it provided the only other bird of our morning. A Western Palm Warbler. Many were coming across from the marsh but most flew out over the lake above the trees.

Western Palm Warbler

The wind was still gusting and our time was up. Next week is suppose to be clear. We will welcome the sunshine.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, December 14th.
All nets will be opened by 6:40 A.M.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Another Flood

We can't imagine the sight of the highest water level a few days ago. According to the rangers, Lake Lotus had 7 1/2 inches of rain in less than 30 hours from Tuesday and into Wednesday. Add to that all of the water that comes down stream from south Orlando and you get a huge amount of water into the Little Wekvia River before it heads North to Wekiwa Springs and beyond. We were told that the water got as high as the river trail just across from the banding area and there was extensive flooding around the park. Water has not dropped too much yet even on this Sunday after the rain event.

More on the flooding in a moment but we did start catching birds just before dawn. First up was an adult female Northern Cardinal recapture.

Northern Cardinal

Close by, another recap was brought in. Turned out to be an adult Carolina Wren. We also had a Gray Catbird and another Northern Cardinal (this time a male) before we turned our attention toward the swollen river and how much damage was done to the net lanes closer to the lake.

Carolina Wren

Along the way we noticed that the holly trees are being adorned with red berries. Maybe we can entice a few Cedar Waxwings down this year.


While setting nets before dawn we got a little idea what to expect on parts of the property. Now that the light was stronger we could see the dock used by school kids when they visit was wrenched from its normal spot. Either a large limb hit it or just the shear force of water knocked it sideways.


On a side note, who says Florida doesn't have Fall color? When the Cypress trees drop all of their needles it can actually be kind of pretty.


The water has come down quite a bit but we could see the evidence of how high it was. Muck covered the grass between Net 13 and down to Net 10. The vegetation was still pointed in the direction of the flow showing it was probably a couple feet deep even on this higher side of the river. The neighbor's pond across the property line was still flooded and backed up onto Lake Lotus property.


Two weeks ago we placed new palettes as bridges across a few low spots. The river easily breached the banks there again and were still flowing hard.


And our bridges? 30 yards out in the marsh.


The next pass to Net 21 was flowing freely again just like in September.


All we could do was take a look across the water and see the poles for Net 21 soaking in the river. The last flood left us with a new beach over there. Did that increase or get washed away? Time will tell.


Heading back up the lanes we noticed our random native Coffee plant had set some fruit. Birds love this stuff.


High above our heads, a Black and White Warbler was quickly foraging for bugs in the maples.

Black and White Warbler

A smaller shape was spotted a little higher. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet. We usually start catching them by now but they have stayed in the tree tops this season.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

The rangers have another dock farther up the river which is on higher ground. It survived this round of flooding. In a couple areas some trees have fallen from the eroding banks and are busy collecting trash among their branches.


We wrapped up the morning and had a Hermit Thrush waiting for us in Net 2 by the banding table. Thrushes have been very scarce this year even at other banding spots in the state.

Hermit Thrush

On the way home, Andrew stopped to look for Hooded Mergansers in Maitland Center. There were a few mingling with the Mallards but mostly stayed in the shadows. Every now and then one or two would drift out into the sunshine.

Hooded Merganser

Male Hooded Mergansers are the showy ones but the females are still attractive. In the light you can make out all of the subtle color changes they wear.

Hooded Merganser

Maybe the rain will hold off for us and we can get back out to the end of the lanes next week and assess the new river channel formed by the new sediment.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, December 7th.
All nets will be opened by 6:35 A.M.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Braving a New Front

Our day was in doubt even up until late Saturday but we chanced the banding day in hopes of catching anything before the next wave might appear and wash us out. It was a pretty typical mid-November morning, even with the threat of rain. All of our first birds were recaptures, including an adult Carolina Wren.

Carolina Wren

We did not take a photo of the recaptured House Wren but we also caught a male Northern Cardinal in that same net and he was banded just earlier this year..

Northern Cardinal

Things quickly grew quiet and we puttered about for a long while before another Northern Cardinal was brought in. The fun thing about our Cardinals here is that the females can be super reddish as this bird shows. However, the brown back proves that this is, indeed, an adult female.

Northern Cardinal

Clouds were passing through in fast waves and even sent us a brief sprinkle but we stayed open for a little longer hoping for anything else in the nets. Andrew called the day early and as he came back up the lanes he flushed a Swamp Sparrow into Net 10 as we were closing up.

Swamp Sparrow

Capture numbers are in line with this time of year but we could sure use a bit more clear air. Next week looks to be on tap for a beautiful outing. Shouldn't be long before the Winter birds settle in and begin feeding and flying about more in the crisp Fall air.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, November 30th.
All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Beautiful Day, Fewer Birds

We were disappointed to be washed out last week but that is Florida in the mid-Fall. Fronts move through in much more erratic patterns for a while as the last of the migrants head our way. Most of the primary species have already flown through and we await the last stragglers to find us. American Robins are beginning to pass through and we have even heard reports of the first American Goldfinches showing up along the coast.

Meanwhile, we deal with the remaining birds on a beautiful morning in Central Florida. Could be feast or famine this time of year. Today was a mixed bag and actually a little better than expected. We finally caught our first Hermit Thrush of the season this morning.

Hermit Thrush

We recaptured two Carolina Wrens today, one of which was first banded nearly 4 years ago and it was determined that it was an adult then. So, this bird is over five-years-old now and doing quite well.

Carolina Wren

The first burst of the morning took an extra 30 minutes to get started and one of the first birds was a new juvenile Gray Catbird.

Gray Catbird

In an adjacent net we captured yet another new male adult Northern Cardinal. Where are all of these new birds coming from? Cardinals are not known to migrate much but we keep getting new birds regularly.

Northern Cardinal

The area at the mouth of the river is drying out but is still a bit mucky. Andrew couldn't resist trying to reestablish the trail from last year and made it to the lake's edge. From this vantage point we could see to the opposite side of the lake. At one point, four species of birds were atop the "Window on the Lake" structure. Can you spot all four?

From top to bottom, a Wood Stork, a Snowy Egret, two Double-crested Cormorants, and one of the Wintering Belted Kingfishers.

Lake Lotus

Meanwhile, Becki got to process a White-eyed Vireo which seemed like it wanted to head back out to feed as soon as possible.

White-eyed Vireo

Heading back toward the lake, a pair of Eastern Phoebes fought over territory but landed briefly. Long enough for a photo.

Eastern Phoebe

We were hoping to get a photo of one of the many Swamp Sparrows along the water but they were just too fast to document. However, a few Common Yellowthroats were more accommodating, including this female.

Common Yellowthroat

Our second Northern Cardinal of the morning was trying to be an escape artist. As Becki was grabbing the bag to begin the data collection the bird was emerging from a small hole in the bottom of the bag! Fortunately, it was noticed quickly and she was secured and processed and soon released. She was first banded many years ago.

Northern Cardinal

When Christine and Phyllis handed off the Cardinal to the returning crew they mentioned that they were hoping to catch the Western Palm Warbler that was by Net 19 but could not. It soon flew into the same net a few minutes later.

Western Palm Warbler

Overall, a better day than expected. Especially since the radars have been quiet all week and conditions were just to good for birds to just stop and hang around. It is always nice to just get some fresh air in the woods, though. We even replaced some bridges and forged a new trail for the coming months and enjoyed the company, as always.


What will next week bring? Stay tuned.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, November 23rd.
All nets will be opened by 6:25 A.M.