Sunday, September 28, 2014

Need a Boat to Get to October

Central Florida has been having a lot of rain as of late. Cities on the Atlantic Coast have experienced some flooding and reports are now also coming from the Gulf Coast. Our friend Paul alerted us that we might need a kayak this weekend. Andrew headed out to check in person and, indeed, the Little Wekiva River is running high.

The dock used for school groups to explore the river is going under. The water is so high that our last three net sets are out of commission for Sunday. If it rains too much more we loose another couple. A shame since we have been catching most birds down at this end this month.


By 11 AM there wasn't too much activity in the area except for a couple of Black Racers grabbing the brief sunshine.

Black Racer

It did rain again overnight but the water did not rise anymore. We would still be wet through the morning. We set nets and waited for dawn. Surprisingly, we had our largest number of Ovenbird captures in one day. Perhaps ever.


Not long after sunrise, Christine noticed some large debris in the river. We had to take one of the net poles down to reach it without falling in.


Christine was now the proud owner of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles balloon!


A couple of Carolina Wrens were captured today including this one that was molting in a new tail.

Carolina Wren

Unlike last week, we weren't seeing Common Yellowthroats all over the place. Finally, we caught three in the space of a few minutes. All were males and this juvenile was having a bad hair morning.

Common Yellowthroat

A slightly older bird was caught. Its face mask was just beginning to take shape.

Common Yellowthroat

Along with that bird was a fully adult male Common Yellowthroat.

Common Yellowthroat

You can really tell the water is high when the small stream from Bosse Lake up the road blends in level with the Little Wekiva.


Fortunately, we aren't seeing too much trash, besides that ballon, washing down right now. The river banks are getting a beating, though. Just past the swamped dock a large tree was discovered falling into the river from the erosion. Andrew went over to get a better look an as he got to the edge of the river something large was spotted undulating just beneath the surface. Hmmm...


A White-eyed Vireo added to our species count as the Sun began to break through the clouds.

White-eyed Vireo

It was soon followed by a Northern Cardinal. One of our new volunteers, Joe, extracted it and was now initiated into the 'bitten by a Cardinal' club.

Northern Cardinal

A few more birds were captured and we managed our first Gray Catbird of the season. A sure sign the the migration peak is nearly upon us!

Gray Catbird

The morning was almost over and we inspected that fallen tree again. This time we knew the source of that earlier undulation. A 6-foot American Alligator was resting at the base of the tilting tree. Andrew tried for a closer shot but the critter spooked and launched back into the water. Surprised this is the first one this far up the river so far. So far.

American Alligator

More rain is expected this week but is to let up by mid-week. If the water drops enough we might be able to get to the far end of the net lanes but we wonder if the farthest position, Net 21, is a total loss from all of the erosion. We shall see.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, October 5th.
All nets will be opened by 6:50 A.M.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Common Yellowthroats Break Through

A sure sign that we are approaching the peak of migration. A growing sting of captured birds by mid-morning.


For the past two weeks, storm fronts have capped the state and blocked our expected numbers of birds. Today, just after the latest front cleared overnight, Common Yellowthroats have flooded into the area. We were catching them all morning including juvenile and adult females...

Common Yellowthroat

...the expected juvenile males...

Common Yellowthroat

...and a good amount of adult males which typically arrive after the above groups.

Common Yellowthroat

Ovenbirds are still moving through in decent numbers, too.


It was nice to see some Northern Waterthrushes during the day. They are usually one of the earliest migrants and trail off about now.

Northern Waterthrush

All of this rain in the past few weeks is aiding the spread of fungi including all variety of mushrooms in many shapes and colors along the paths and into the surrounding woods.


Once the Sun rose high enough, dragonflies emerged to forage and Lynn found a couple of nice species. We seem to have a nice population of Georgia River Cruisers at certain times of the year.


We had to contact our local dragonfly expert and fellow birder, Paul Hueber, to ID this Great Blue Skimmer.

Great Blue Skimmer

Back at the table, Andrew pauses to search for the source of an overhead bird call as Avery, now a common face at the site (and an avid Nature explorer) helps to record data.


Meanwhile, a bug spent a long time cruising Andrew's notebook.


It took a bit longer to begin capturing local birds but we did capture a couple of Carolina Wrens along the way.

Carolina Wren

We have our share of spiders out in the wild but a beautiful Argiope (AR GEE OH PEE) caught our attention the most just below the banding table. Sometimes called a Black and Yellow Garden Spider, Wikipedia suggests "The etymology of the name (Argiope) is from a Greek name meaning "silver-faced.""


Another sign of migrating birds are the Red-shouldered Hawks foraging in almost complete silence today.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Down by the lake at Net 21, Andrew and Christine remove yet another Common Yellowthroat.

Net 21

Also in that net at the same time was a female American Redstart.

American Redstart

Always on the lookout for interesting photo opportunities, Lynn found a bug on one of the nets.


While Charles was fixing pole strings that we use to secure the nets, he extracted our first White-eyed Vireo of the Session. This is a prime time for them to move through. Local birds do exist here year-round but this bird was full of fat indicating it was a migrant.

White-eyed Vireo

Just after we were discussing that we had not captured any local Northern Cardinals today we wrapped up the day with a recaptured male that we first banded last October.

Northern Cardinal

If the fronts cooperate we should continue larger number of birds for a few weeks. Catbirds and Indigo Buntings should be upcoming soon and full weekend banding might be in order. Our favorite time of the year!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, September 28th.
All nets will be opened by 6:45 A.M.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

More Migrants but Not Enough

The day felt like it would be a bit more comfortable at 5:30 AM but, as usual, the sweat started at 6 AM. A front to the North and the other in the South lent us clear skies but limited birds for the morning. Fortunately, most were migrants that were expected by now and missed last week due to another front to the North. Our most captured species was the Northern Waterthrush which were caught up and down the net lanes throughout the morning.

Northern Waterthrush

Locals are nearly always added to the list like our recapture of a Carolina Wren.

Carolina Wren

Northern Cardinals are our other main locals and we are catching most of them in the same area this year including a female.

Northern Cardinal

A frequent visitor and avid birder, Avery is near the table often waiting for a possible Life Bird for his list. Even though we are a couple of weeks from the peak of migration, today would be a day to add one to his list.


Halfway through the morning, birthday boy Andrew walked back to check Net 2 and discovered a bird in the net. From a distance it looked like it might be a Black and White Warbler but closer inspection revealed a perfect present. A Worm-eating Warbler! Only the third we have captured and definitely a new Life Bird for Avery.

Worm-eating Warbler

Last week should have delivered us a couple of species but the weather seemed to be holding them back. Today we verified both were back. We captured a female Common Yellowthroat and watched a Veery right by the banding table.

Common Yellowthroat

We captured a couple on Ovenbirds as the morning was drawing to an end.


One of our new volunteers, Angela, extracted and processed our final bird of the day. A recaptured male Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal

Next week takes us closer to migration peak. Hope to capture even more birds than today but we had a nice mix.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, September 21st.
All nets will be opened by 6:45 A.M.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Otters and Gators and Bears. Oh, My!

A new year of banding but it is still raining on Saturday night. So, we had another morning of soggy feet and feeling like we were in a sauna. Cooler weather has to be just around the corner, right? Right?

The day began by setting nets, as usual. The last net to go up is 21 which is put up as soon as there is light so we can see better. It is by the mouth of the river and just need a better view of any possible critters. As Andrew headed down the lane he could see a splotch up ahead that wasn't there earlier? A newly fallen branch? A few steps farther and it moved. A cat? Yet another step and the otter wheeled in the opposite direction and bounded toward the lake.

We do see otters from time to time but rarely run up on them on the paths and never before dawn.

Once the net was up, the return trip found a recaptured Brown Thrasher not far away. This was actually a juvenile we banded just two weeks ago but at the other end of the lane near the table.

Brown Thrasher

We checked Net 8 and then 14 where Christine discovered an Ovenbird waiting to be retrieved. Most of us headed back to the table to process the data on the birds while Charles headed back toward the end on his own.


As we were finishing our tasks, Charles returned, camera in hand. Seems that as he headed back he also rechecked Net 8 and found something other than a bird. A Black Bear was sitting just behind the net! It just sat there and posed for a photo.

Black Bear

Ranger Frank showed up later and said there was a bear hanging around that seemed to be desperately searching for food. It even approached a pavilion full of people lately. Plans are probably going to end up with the FWC trapping and relocating the animal.

Andrew headed back down the lanes to see if the bear was still there for a photo but it had moved on already. He continued to Net 21, scaring up frogs along the way. Near the net he scanned it with binoculars and could see a Carolina Wren at the far end. Moving closer, he heard a croaking sound and realized that he was standing on something and assumed it was another frog. Stepping back quickly revealed that it was no frog. It was an American Alligator!

American Alligator

This is the main reason we don't put this net up until first light. This is the first time it has happened, though. The young gator, about 2 and 1/2 feet long, quickly recovered but stood its ground. It took quite a while before the gator slowly retreated far enough backwards to allow a bit of passage. While stepping around it, it made a lunge for Andrew's leg but missed. Even without teeth it was a fearsome display for such a small reptile. Once the wren was retrieved, the gator had disappeared back into the water.

Quite an exciting morning! Just need more birds. on the return trip a juvenile Northern Cardinal was waiting in Net 22. This is the second young Cardinal in a couple weeks that had a lot of white feathers on the breast. Same brood, perhaps.

Northern Cardinal

Our final bird of the morning was another welcome migrant. A Northern Waterthrush that was in little mood for a photo.

Northern Waterthrush

A low pressure system has been sitting in Northern Florida for a few days and most migrating birds are stuck behind it. We should be seeing Common Yellowthroats and Veery by now. Once this system draws up the coast we should have a much higher bird count.

Don't know if we could, or want, to match the exciting events of today! Only birds would be just fine.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, September 14th.
All nets will be opened by 6:40 A.M.