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.

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