Sunday, July 27, 2014

Last Preparations Before Session 7

A few of us headed out to remove Air Potato vines and other vegetation in preparation for next week's start of Session 7 at Lake Lotus. Rains have been feeding the grasses of late but fortunately the rangers mowed again and the net lanes look great!

Net Lanes

Guinea Grass has rebounded after their poisoning by the city, as predicted, but the mowing leaves us with clear sailing all along the river.

Net Lanes

Just after Andrew took the above photo, a Wild Turkey strode out from the area around Net 14. What!?!.

Wild Turkey

Turkey seem to be making a nice growth in population around the state but you don't often see them in these parts. They have been reported in the past and can be found in more urban areas to the South.

Wild Turkey

The female Turkey was a bit weary at first but soon walked along the lanes and ate grass seeds as we set in to work.

Wild Turkey

She even stayed close by as we yanked vines a mere 10 yards away. Maybe a capture at some future point? Need to check if we have bands for them!

Wild Turkey

Closer to the lake, a Spiny Orb Weaver begins to repair its web after a night of bugs as the sunlight creates a web-bow.

Spiny Orb Weaver

Before we left, we could hear some croaking out in the marsh. Christine managed to find a few of the baby American Alligators making the noise near Net 21. We will be on the lookout for them and Mama next week.

American Alligator

So, things look ready for our next 10 months of banding. Our 7th year here along the Little Wekiva River. We had some great return data last year and some new species, too. Can't wait for another interesting year.

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Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, August 3rd.
All nets will be opened by 6:20 A.M.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

July Weeding Brings a Surprise

A few of us headed out to the banding site to do some of our Summertime weeding before the start of Session 7 in August. Tools and cameras in hand, Richard started near the table while Andrew and Christine head toward the far end of the net lanes. About halfway down, a peculiar chirping could be heard up ahead. Once at the snags by Net 8 the source was clear. A flock of Swallow-tailed Kites!

This is the same spot Richard and Christine found the seven Kites a couple of weeks ago. Moving to get the sunlight at their backs they counted to make sure there were still seven. There were...plus three! Ten Swallow-tailed Kites were adorning the branches in the morning Sun.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Now it was picture time for a while as we tried to see if we could tell the adults from the juveniles.

Swallow-tailed Kite

They were facing at all angles so we gathered as many shots as we could.

Swallow-tailed Kite

This Swallow-tailed Kite decided that sitting was better than perching upright.

Swallow-tailed Kite

This bird was pretty fluffy compared to most of the obvious adults and could be one of the younger birds.

Swallow-tailed Kite

This could be the other juvenile Swallow-tailed Kite and like the one above shows a tan belly and fluffier feathers.

Swallow-tailed Kite

But we were here to do some weeding so we had to enjoy our few minutes of awe and move along. While Christine weeded at this spot, Andrew headed down to Net 21, fearing the worst. As expected, the last net was blocked by choking vegetation as it gets in the Summer. It took over an hour to clear the once obvious path from Willows which were being weighed down by invasive Skunk Vine. Fortunately, the net area itself was fairly clear.

Choking Vegetation

While clearing the net area, Andrew heard that chirping again and looked up. The Swallow-tailed Kite were circling just over head! Time to head back up the trail for the camera and try for flight shots.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Seven of the Kites were soaring high above while the remaining three stayed lower for some nice clear views.

Swallow-tailed Kite

One bird was even preening as it flew! A couple minutes later the birds chirped very loudly at one another and zoomed off to the East in search of food.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Susan had joined the weeding crew while that was happening and after another 45 minutes we decided we had done enough for this morning and packed up. Richard, Andrew, and Susan pose with some tools.

Weeding Crew

Richard and Christine were the next to pose before we left for our cars.

Weeding Crew

Andrew went over to the park side to try and find Ranger Frank to see about mowing soon. Then we could finish the remaining chores before the new Session began. However, Frank was not in today so a walk along the boardwalk was in order. Near the beginning of the boardwalk a caterpillar was strolling along. Could be a Yellow-necked Caterpillar? Hmmm....

Caterpillar

There were not a lot of birds around today. Eventually, a Great Blue Heron came into view searching for food at the lake's edge.

Great Blue Heron

Dragonflies darted back and forth just beyond the railings.

Dragonfly

The Scarlet Rose Mallows, (Hibiscus coccineus), were blooming in their usual spot bringing a splash of color among the greens and browns.

Scarlet Rose Mallow

Despite the lack of bird song, there were a few Northern Parula lurking deep in the foliage.

Northern Parula

We will be back in a couple of weeks to finish our weeding and make sure things are in order for August. However, another trip to check on the Kite flock might have to go on the calendar.

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Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, August 3rd.
All nets will be opened by 6:20 A.M.