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.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Another Kingfisher On a Cold Morning

Time to bundle up! Temps dropped to 45 degrees for the first time this season and a light wind made it feel just a bit cooler as we set nets well before dawn. Hey, at least we didn't have to worry about bugs for most of the morning. Most of the volunteers slept in longer than expected but we got nets up by 6:30 and found that most o the birds were sleeping in, too.

Several Gray Catbirds were heard calling before 7 AM and we caught one fairly quickly. Andrew's camera was on the fritz for a bit so we share a shot from the same time last year. Know what? They all look about the same all year.


The second bird of the morning was our first Swamp Sparrow of the season. They are a week late but that is OK. Still having camera issues so this one is also from exactly a year ago. Swamp Sparrows also almost always look the same.

Swamp Sparrow

The cold, clear morning didn't provide much for us to band today and we only saw two Warbler species. Palm and Yellow-rumped. But of these spent more time yards from the nets but we eventually caught an Eastern Phoebe. We hear them most of the day and hope they will drift through the net areas.

Eastern Phoebe

The Belted Kingfishers were very vociferous this morning. They were calling in different spots and even sitting next to one another and calling back and forth for quite awhile before beginning their patrols up and down the river. Eventually, we caught and banded our second Kingfisher ever at Lake Lotus. An adult female,

Belted Kingfisher

The day grew very quiet so we closed up a bit early. While getting Net 2 down we discovered another bird in waiting. A female Indigo Bunting. Not a bad way to end the morning.

Indigo Bunting

So, strong winds probably kept most bird aloft for the morning but we are seeing more Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Myrtles in the area so captures should increase again, soon. On the way out of the banding area, Andrew swung by a local office park and found the first Hooded Mergansers of the season foraging in a retention pond.

Hooded Merganser

Here is to catching the first Myrtle Warblers next week when it will be about 10 degrees warmer!

!!!UPDATE!!! No banding on November 9th. Rains are forecast to begin Saturday night and possibly last through most of Sunday. ______________________________________
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, November 16th.
All nets will be opened by 6:15 A.M.