Sunday, February 22, 2015


We took our usual Sunday banding day off after our awesome day at the Orlando Wetlands Festival noted in our last post. Still, someone had to get the gear back to Lake Lotus so Andrew stopped by to complete the task. Seems the river was up a bit since last week. Don't recall that much rain.

Guess a check on the palette bridges is in order. On the way to the lake, Ranger Frank was found installing the new dock after dismantling the damaged one from a few months ago.

Ranger Frank Higgins

Behind Net 18 a Snowy Egret lept from log to log to pluck small prey from the water.

Snowy Egret

Andrew found the first palette in place and as he stepped on it a large splash jolted him from the right. One of our American Alligators thrashed in the marsh but did not disappear this time. We have several gators in the area lately. Some question if they are male or female. This 9-footer by the lake is from here on out known as Leslie. Gender to be determined.

American Alligator

15 yards along, behind Net 21, the male Red-winged Blackbird we posted before was still back and calling in the Maples.

Red-winged Blackbird

Things seem to be in order for next week's return of banding at Lotus. If the weather is not as wet as currently predicted.

TWO NOTES: We are not banding on March 1st due to forecast rain. Also, the following week is Daylight Savings Time so set your clocks FORWARD one hour.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, March 8th.
All nets will be opened by 7:15 A.M.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Orlando Wetlands Festival: 82

The Orlando Wetlands has been a windy and quiet event for us the past few years. Seems the weather has just been turning right as the weekend arrives. The forecast for today was suppose to be clear and perfect. When we showed up to begin setting nets we were under cloudy skies with spritzes of moisture. Great. It wasn't windy yet but was now being called for by noon.

We pounded in the last of the rebar and got the nets up around 8AM and hoped for the best. Birds were flying down near the end of the net lanes so maybe we could catch a few. Before we reached the table again birds began to hit the nets. Four and five at a time!

A Gray Catbird was the first bird banded today.

Gray Catbird

Becki took the first round of banding while Andrew figured if anything else to added to the lanes and Susan kept records while Christine continued back down for more birds to extract. The tree limbs and cart were filling with bags.

Banding Table

Most of our birds today were Myrtle Warblers. Most just call them Yellow-rumped Warblers but there are two sub-species that we need to track and most of the Eastern birds are Myrtles.

Myrtle Warbler

Meanwhile, the bags kept coming in as fast as we could process the previous batches.


Our first group of the morning was following our friend Lorne Malo out for some bird watching. They got to release a few Myrtles back into the wild for us.

Photo Op of a Warbler Release

Soon, another couple ventured by and both got a chance to do the same. There was no shortage of birds to be released.

Releasing a Myrtle Warbler

Our next surprise of the morning, besides the large amount of warblers, was a male Painted Bunting. We have not had one here in the many years we have banded at the event.

Painted Bunting

More Catbirds followed and then we began to catch Northern Cardinals who were sporting brood patches. Nests are either nearby or being formed.

Northern Cardinal

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are difficult to catch. They seem to see the nets better than most birds. This male hit the net early and was caught again just near the end of the day.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Our next surprise, Common Ground Doves. The past couple of years found a couple of them crossing the net lane area but they never hit the nets. Today we caught and banded four! A first for all of us to have in hand.

Common Ground Dove

As mentioned above, we allow some of the public to release birds after we band them but we keep them away from Northern Cardinals. They can inflict a nasty pinch with their strong jaws. They are not part of the grosbeak family for nothing. Even at the risk of a bite on the fingers you can tell when a bander is enjoying a morning with full nets.

Northern Cardinal

Flitting around with the Myrtle Warbles was a House Wren.

House Wren

Not long after our male Painted Bunting was banded and released we began to see a female hanging around the feeders near the Education Center across from the banding table.

Painted Bunting

The Myrtle Warblers kept hitting the nets. Interestingly, most were males. This one was ahead of the others in brighter molt and decided to take a thread from the bag before heading back to the marsh.

Myrtle Warbler

More brave youngsters released a couple of warblers for us. It is always satisfying to see the joy on a child's face as they hold and release a bird. The connection is electric and smiles are lasting within and without.

Brave Boys releasing a Warbler

White-eyed Vireos were being heard just after dawn and we caught two today.

White-eyed Vireo

Group after group of eager young folks gathered around as we continued to band. We did not have a break for 3 1/2 hours but were enjoying every bit of it.

Girl Scouts

Eventually, Becki had to lead a hike near one. The wind picked up around noon so that put an end to our bounty but we caught a few more birds for the rest of the day but maybe every 20 minutes instead of every 3.


While on her hike, the group saw some nice Florida specialties like Purple Gallinule. Hopefully, it was keeping a sideways glance on the gator lurking just behind it.

Purple Gallinule

Up on a palm stump, a light-morphed Red-shouldered Hawk kept watch for prey. Florida has a unique light-morph species that live here year-round.

Red-shouldered Hawk

More male Myrtle Warblers? Certainly. The final tally of this species was 52! We had one year of 33 of them so this was a record breaking year in all regards.

Myrtle Warbler

Another new species was in the area today and we caught three of them. Savannah Sparrows were digging for leftover seed under a feeder but ended up with some extra jewelry by day's end.

Savannah Sparrow

A thrilled guest got to release the second Savannah Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow

As the day was settling down family members arrived on the scene. Andrew's wife Carolyn stopped by as did friends of Richard's family. Cami, Chloe and Jeremy Sensenig watched a Cardinal being extracted. Somehow we failed to get a shot of Richard at his station but his son, Eric (in green), was there for some of the fun.

Extracting a Cardinal

Phyllis took a break from watching nets to help record numbers as we banded a female Cardinal.

Banding Table

Christine got the final Common Ground Dove out of the net near the table.

Extracting a Common Ground Dove

Our final species of the day was another surprise. A Western Palm Warbler. Yellow-rumps are always around this time of year at the Wetlands but it is more difficult to find the Palm Warblers in this spot.

Palm Warbler

Just before we wound down for the day, Orange Audubon member Varsha Bhadkamkar stopped by to share a photo. She refound our banded male Painted Bunting munching grass seeds, as they are wont to do, just around the corner from where it was first caught. This shows how banding is not a traumatic event and birds are quickly back to their foraging and travels immediately after being released. Maybe we can recapture it next year and add to our data.

Painted Bunting

Speaking of recaptures, we did get an interesting one. A Myrtle Warbler we first banded 4 years ago at this very spot. A sure sign that birds return to the same places year after year. We have many examples of this from previous bandings at Lake Lotus and Wekiva Springs. Studies that we do help determine favorable habitats for wintering birds and add to the list of wandering migrants in general and give us some information about the longevity of some birds, especially if we band them in their first year.

82. Our final total for the day. Those are first of October best-of migrating numbers. Having that in mid-February is spectacular. Here's hoping for another excellent year on 2016 at the Wetlands.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, March 1st.
All nets will be opened by 6:20 A.M.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Then There Was the Wind

We knew we wouldn't have too much time before the weather turned by mid-morning but four of us turned up to see what we could find before then. Just after dawn we recaptured a Hermit Thrush first banded last November.

Hermit Thrush

A short while later we captured a new female Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal

Our last official bird of the morning was a new female Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

More flowers are springing into view like numerous Tassel Flowers along the river bank.

Tassel Flower

We had no views of American Alligators coming out into the sunlight but we did find another nice track down near the lake that let us know they were close by recently.

American Alligator

Late in the morning the Yellow-rumped Warblers began feeding high up in the Willows. With the wind gusting stronger by the minute we decided to head home.

Myrtle Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler

We will not be at Lake Lotus next Sunday as we will be spending all Saturday at the Orlando Wetlands Festival. We will head back to Lake Lotus March 1st.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Saturday, February 21st at the Orlando Wetlands Festival.
All nets will be opened by 7:35 A.M.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

More Flora Than Fauna

Our day back at 'home' after the Birdapalooza was a bit quieter. All of our birds were captured before 8:30 AM and then everything around stayed high in the treetops to feed on the insects in the sunlight. We did get a few Gray Catbirds. While trying to take photos as usual, Andrew's old camera drained its batteries. Time to try the phone camera. Not really good in the early light. So we missed shots of the Hermit Thrush and House Wren we also brought in.

Gray Catbird

The sunrise works a little better as he had to haul the poles back to the banding table after the festival.


As soon as the light began to creep across our area we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of Bowl and Doily Spider webs which is quite common this time of year, especially with the morning dew highlighting them.

Bowl and Doily Spider

All of our birds were recaptures today. House Wren, Hermit Thrush, and Catbirds. So, as always, we focus on other flora and fauna while waiting for more birds to join us. Next to Net 14 fungus is springing up in the crook of an old stump.


Deep in the shade by Net 1 our Stoppers are beginning to bloom.


Along the river, the Wax Myrtle we have planted are thriving and one is starting to form the first signs of fruit.

Wax Myrtle

The Little Wekiva itself is looking nice after the latest rain.


On the adjoining property, a Great Blue Heron rests in a Bottle brush tree.

Great Blue Heron

Near Nets 9 and 13 we are again noticing signs of our Bobcat using the area for a territory.


In a stump nearly submerged by the fluctuating water levels a spider has claimed a temporary stronghold.

Spider Web

On the opposite side of the river an Eastern Phoebe hunted in the shallow side of the marsh.

Eastern Phoebe

Oxalis continues to extend its reach around the area collecting droplets before the heat of the day evaporates them.


Earth Smoke is also spreading up and down the net lanes and blooming. Next will be the Crane's Bill plants.

Earth Smoke

Thistle species are waking up now. Florida has a lot of yellow in the Fall and Winter before the other colors spring to life.


For instance, the Spider Worts are now popping up in their usual locations that we walk and soon will draw in bumble bees and honey bees as the flowers start to dominate the river side.

Spider Wort

Darting through the Maples, a Blue-headed Vireo feeds and sings as it flits from branch to branch.

Blue-headed Vireo

Near the lake a male Red-winged Blackbird pranced from branch to branch and sang its territorial songs. Every now and then it would look down for a relaxed pose.

Red-winged Blackbird

The Holly planted a couple of years ago are doing quite well and sporting tons of red berries. If only we could get Waxwings or Robins to fly down to feast while we are set on Sundays!


Right on schedule, as the light kissed the river bank before we headed out, our lovely girl wandered up to bask. Maybe we have to give her a name based on that toothy showing?

American Alligator

Next Sunday will be a little chilly and part of the Great Backyard Bird Count so go out and report birds seen for the weekend be added to the list!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, February 15th.
All nets will be opened by 6:35 A.M. Sunday.