Oh, Fickle February. We never know what you will bring.
Since the Orlando Wetlands Festival was moved to February several years ago the weather has been unpredictable every year. One year it was freezing with frost coating everything until mid-morning. Another year it rained so hard they had to cancel the event. Yet another was quite pleasant and we captured dozens of birds. This year we would have gusty winds all day long. At least we could enjoy the Moon setting as we set poles and nets.
As dawn broke so did the silence. Sandhill Cranes began flying in from across the road and headed to the main wetlands ponds.
We were pleased that we actually caught 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers as we were setting up nets. Maybe it would be a productive day after all.
Danny brought Brandy for the experience and some bird watching and she got to release one of our 'early birds'.
Across from the banding table a Northern Cardinal asks a good question. "Where is all the bird seed?" Usually full, the feeders were empty. A shame. We always count on watching Goldfinches there every year.
It was suppose to be windy but sunny all day. So where did this storm come from? Part of a trailing cold front threw a batch of, thankfully, light rain and we had to close the nets for a hour or so. Gave some of us a chance to head to the main part of the event and get our yearly T-shirts.
The rain was letting up so we re-opened the nets. Soon, we captured a female Northern Cardinal. We actually banded her at last year's event. Glad to see her still doing fine.
One of the event guests was allowed to release the Northern Cardinal. Pretty brave. Cardinals can often give a nasty bite.
Some of ponds nearby were full of birds and many of us took shifts to have a look. Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal were some of the most abundant species close to the shore as the storm tried to blow through.
Out by some of the Sandhill Cranes a White-faced Ibis stood around while a Glossy Ibis continued to feed in the shallows.
The tranquil scene was suddenly a raucous frenzy as American Coots began to squawk and rush about sending of a ripple through the flocks. What could cause such a panic attack? A Bald Eagle quickly arrived overhead looking for breakfast. Yep. That will do it.
Back at the nets, Becki, Lynn, and Stacie extract a Gray Catbird for banding.
A very intent boy was here doing bird watching and was very excited about the banding station. The wind was keeping birds out of the nets more often than not so when we brought the Catbird to the table he noticed and rushed over with his Dad in tow. We let him release the now banded bird.
Think it left an impression?
Up on the roadside, Richard dispensed knowledge on migrating birds, native plants, and sold some nest boxes along the way.
Did we mention wind? The gusts were literally throwing birds out of the nets as we watched helplessly. Fortunately, a House Wren kept a tight grip on the net as Andrew got to it. One of the Nature hikes walked by at the same time. The visitors got to the see the extraction and a close-up of the wren before we banded it.
Note the wind blowing the nets in both directions at once! It was a brutal day, wind-wise.
Lynn's turn for a walk and she quickly found a Palm Warbler feeding along the shore of the ponds.
Black Skimmers were coming in to rest on a shore not far from the berm roads. Other birds normally seen miles away on the Atlantic beaches like Royal and Foster's Tern joined the Skimmers while Dowitchers fed around them.
A Long-tailed Skipper sits on a leaf as the sunlight finally comes out for good.
White Pelicans drift by in the ponds. Later in the day, a huge flock of them wheeled overhead.
Purple Gallinule breed here but it is still a thrill to see one out in the open.
More Yellow-rumped Warblers were slowly being captured during the day. A guest who wants to go into Nature Studies gets to release this warbler. Andrew is not attempting to give Becki rabbit ears but is, instead, demonstrating how to begin to hold the bird.
Crowds drift by at times and hopefully we have a bird in hand when they do.
Look who is back to see bird banding in action.
Another youngster gets to release this Yellow-rumped Warbler. One of our recaptured Yellow-rumps was actually banded three years ago at this event. Given the poor conditions, this was an excellent piece of data for the day.
This Eastern Phoebe was taunting us for the 2nd half of the day. It had no problem getting around the nets and was seen flying directly to them to grab insects before quickly retreating to the bushes.
The wind gusts were getting strong as the day wore on. Almost time to close up. A group of hikers alerted us to our final warbler of the day.
Jason, a guest of Becki's, got the opportunity to hold the Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Off it goes back to the vegetation. Time for us to head out a little early. Little chance of catching more birds in this windy mess.
Despite the high winds we had a pretty good day educating guests and taking in the sites. All we ask for next year is a calm day.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, February 23th.
All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.