Sunday, December 21, 2014

First Day of Winter

We mostly had recaptures today an most were our "1A" group. Northern Cardinals and Gray Catbirds are two of our most banded species here through the year and both get a 1A band. We also managed to pick up a few more migrants and the number of captured birds was up from the past two weeks, though it was still pretty quiet.

Gray Catbirds tied Cardinals for captures today. One of the first things pointed out to new visitors and banders is an easy way to age Catbirds. When they are born, they have white to pink upper palettes. Once they are fully adult, the palette is solid black. Fortunately, most Catbirds readily bite at your fingers so it is pretty simple to check.

So, this bird is a juvenile.

Gray Catbird

House Wrens are sometimes heard milling about and scolding in the grasses but we are not catching a lot of them, either, this year.

House Wren

Another Gray Catbird poses before being released.

Gray Catbird

The end of the lanes has undergone such a drastic change over the last two months. We have spent some time just trying to figure out if we need to tweak the position of Net 21 or make some other changes. Andrew has been standing near the edge of the net for a few weeks and noticed something consistent. Birds either spot the net coming in from the East (thanks to the early sunlight) or fly high coming from the West as the trees line up straight from one side to another.

Should we just cut things at a lower level? Try to move the net at some weird angle? For now, we cleared out all of the dead Willow branches and the Skunk Vine that was tangled around them. This left us with a fairly open space on the Eastern side. Maybe the birds would be enticed to fly through before swooping upward above the net. Within minutes, a Western Palm Warbler did just that.

Western Palm Warbler

We will have to wait to do a full morning test but that seemed interesting and promising. American Goldfinches and other warblers are feeding out here and this might increase our chances for a while. It will have to wait until 2015, though. We are taking the next week off for Christmas.

It might take moving the entire net placement at some point but at least we can give this spot a chance for a while longer. Until the park decides to scrape out the entire mouth of the river.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, January 4th.
All nets will be opened by 6:50 A.M.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Quiet But Fun

Well, another slow day added to an already overall slow season. Just doesn't seem to be as many birds around this year. Even off-site we aren't seeing big numbers of...anything. Data is data, though.

Even before the light was up we could see that the dock, which was tumbled during the last flood, had been been righted as of last week. Now they just have to get some post holes made to secure it again.


As we were setting nets it crossed our minds that we have yet to catch a Ruby-crowned Kinglet this season. Right on cue, we got our first. An adult female, which lacks the ruby crown.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Checking on Net 21 just after sunrise, Andrew heard an Eastern Phoebe passing close by, calling along the way. If not for that sound he wouldn't have looked to the left to find a Great Blue Heron standing atop a branch just across the river.

Great Blue Heron

40 yards to the right, an American Goldfinch swooped in to survey the surroundings. Will this be the year we finally catch one?

American Goldfinch

Two months ago the September flooding gave us a treat by depositing a lot of sediment to give us a new beach along the area for Net 21. It was a welcome sight and made for easier potential bird extractions by the riverside.

Net 21

This latest flood had the opposite effect. Large sections of the river bank have been washed away. Now we have to consider a way to shore up the lane or move out of a very productive net placement.

Net 21

While we ponder that situation there is always time to check out what is happening above us. The most obvious was the cry of a Red-shouldered Hawk. It landed in a pine tree by the road and began to add to the nest. So soon?

Red-shouldered Hawk

High overhead, a flock of Double-crested Cormorants headed toward the lake. Later we would go out in the muck toward the lake to have a look around. 100's of those cormorants weren't first to the party!!

Double-crested Cormorant

Flying in the opposite direction, an American Robin zoomed along toward the East.

American Robin


As the Cypress trees head toward hibernation they continue to shine bright in the early morning sunshine.


Below the canopy, Becki discovered a Ladybug pupa clinging to a tree trunk.

A few wading birds were moving upstream today. First was a Snowy Egret that got spooked by us walking by before noticing it. Later, a Limpkin was found reflecting nicely against the water.


It is not too rare to have the Limpkins this far up-river but they usually stick to the lake and the reeds.


One last bird for the day (after our recaptured Northern Cardinal) was a Carolina Wren. Another one for the books.

Carolina Wren

The sunlight was increasing and Ranger Frank spotted an adult American Alligator in the marsh before the lake. Didn't have the camera for that but by the time we got to the banding table Frank spotted another Alligator sunning above the river.

American Alligator

6 to 8 feet above the river! This American Alligator had to get up there somehow. There is a gentle slope to the right but who knows. Interestingly, Andrew was down by the river at this spot an our ago with no gator sightings.

American Alligator

We wrapped up for the day with a lot of species sightings but the existing birds had no interest in flying low. On the way home, Andrew decided to check on the Hooded Mergansers again in Maitland Center. Several male and female birds were spotted in one of the retention ponds.

Hooded Merganser

One more week before Christmas and we decide on banding around the holidays. Stay tuned!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, December 21st.
All nets will be opened by 6:45 A.M.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Could Have Slept In

Hey, guess what? The forecast was wrong. Again. It was suppose to be partly cloudy with 4 mph winds. Instead, it was totally cloudy, misty sprinkles, and gusts to 15 or more. Not many birds moving at all. There were a few feeding flocks that came and went in short bursts but nothing feeding in the trees much. Nothing on the lake. Nothing...anywhere, really.

At least we captured a couple of birds. First up was a Swamp Sparrow in Net 19. This seemed odd. 19 is on the high side of the net lanes. Most of our Swampies are captured near the lake. Turns out that this recapture was first captured and banded in early November just 40 yards even farther on high ground. Hmmmm. It must be confused.

Swamp Sparrow

The water is down quite a bit since last week so we could get out to Net 21. The landscape is completely changed again. The last flood brought us a new beach and more land to walk on. This flood took away all of that and more. Once the area dries a bit more we will take photos to compare but we had little time today as we had to do some debris clearing and bridge replacing.

Last week we couldn't see the one palette that led to Net 21. It was gone with the water. The other palette before that are now 30 yards out int he marsh, never to be reclaimed. Once the sun was up, Andrew spotted the other palette. 50 yards toward the lake but wedged against a tree. At least we could rescue that.

Good thing we could set Net 21 because it provided the only other bird of our morning. A Western Palm Warbler. Many were coming across from the marsh but most flew out over the lake above the trees.

Western Palm Warbler

The wind was still gusting and our time was up. Next week is suppose to be clear. We will welcome the sunshine.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, December 14th.
All nets will be opened by 6:40 A.M.