Monday, April 27, 2015

A Quiet, Windy Earth Day

We had no Earth Day celebration at Lake Lotus last year but it was brought back by the city of Altamonte Springs this year. We arrived at 6:30 A.M. and began setting nets. Before we were done with all 7 nets we had a female Cardinal in the very first one near the banding table. The weather was forecast for rain and wind most of the day. We got lucky on the rain side but it was gusting pretty strong from start to finish.

The event began later this year. 10 A.M. is getting close to the time we go home on our usual banding days and we caught most of our birds before the general public was let in. Besides a group on a reserved morning hike, few others got to see the sunrise out on the pier.

Pier Sunrise

There was not a lot of bird action the previous day as Andrew hauled gear across the river so it was nice to see that Phyllis had a migrant Ovenbird out next to the river.


Back out on the pier, one of the resident Limpkin flew up to the railing to survey the humans that got early today.


Down in the lake a Great Blue Heron strode through the shallow water.

Great Blue Heron

The wind grew stronger as the hours continued on. This Vicroy spent several minutes struggling against it until it finally was able to find purchase and rest out of the gusts for a while.


At the mouth of the river, a Tricolored Heron was busy finding breakfast up against the shoreline.

Tricolored Heron

Meanwhile, another Limpkin pried a shelled snack from the sand.


We caught a number of dragonflies today including this interesting one we identified as a Blackwater Clubtail.

Blackwater Clubtail

Susan discovered a Caterpillar on the edge of the boardwalk. Unfortunately, it was an ex-caterpillar now that the eggs of a parasitic wasp that were laid upon it have apparently hatched.


Becky brought in a feisty male Northern Cardinal. Probably the mate of the female we captured earlier.

Northern Cardinal

Avery was busy finding insects near the banding table and beyond. One of the dragonflies around today was this Great Blue Skimmer.

Great Blue Skimmer

He then found a small skipper.


Later, Andrew also found what appears to be the same species but located in another part of the property. We decided that they were Ocola Skippers.


Along the banks of the river we found some Twin Flower trying to hide beneath some other foliage. The ant had no trouble finding it.

Twin Flower

Out along the boardwalk near the Window on the Lake the Buttonbush plants are in full bloom and attracting a large variety of insects like this green fly.


Higher up, a Monarch probes across every bit of surface methodically.


Deeper in the woods a Common Yellowthroat worked his way toward the lake.

Common Yellowthroat

The Poison Ivy is looking mighty healthy right now and the berries, once ripe, will be a treat for the birds in the area.

Poison Ivy

In a very shady part of the boardwalk we had been hearing Carolina Wrens all morning. We finally had a chance to watch a couple of them as they foraged and photos confirmed that these are some of the birds we have banded in the past, perhaps during a previous Earth Day demonstration.

Carolina Wren

A woman came by to ask if Richard and Christine had any bat houses among their nest boxes but they did not. There was a bat house near one of our nets and somehow no one seemed to have discovered that a skeletonize bat was clinging to the structure. Odd.


We had a pair of American Alligator sightings today. Adrian was close by but we didn't have our cameras with us at the time. Later, Pat was found basking farther up the Little Wekiva below where the banding table is on the opposite side.

American Alligator

Near the pathway where we had the majority of our nets set we noticed some Blue-eyed Grass in bloom. Pretty little flower.

Blue-eyed Grass

Soon, we noticed a couple of other blooms nearby. They had the structure of Blue-eyed Grass but some were white...

Blue-eyed Grass

...while others were yellow. Yellow Blue-eyed Grass?

Blue-eyed Grass

Next to the banding table, a Red-bellied Woodpecker would sneak through the woods and peer out every now and then before leaping for a ripe blackberry growing along the edge of the grassy expanse next to the roadside.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Lynn found a lovely white caterpillar munching away on a leaf.


The only bird we captured during the actual Earth Day schedule was brought to the table. Fortunately there were a lot of folks around to witness our prize.


It was a Northern Parula. It already had a band on it.

Northern Parula

Turns out we banded this bird nearly two years ago on the opposite side of the river. It was captured in Net 10 which is basically directly across from where we netted it today.

Northern Parula

We always try to allow someone from the crowd to release our banded birds. It is a thrill for people of every age. Most birds take off quickly once it has a chance. This Northern Parula was no exception. Now you see it in the hand...

Northern Parula

...and in a split second it is a blur and back into the trees.

Northern Parula

While we didn't get as many birds as we had hoped it was Earth Day we were observing so at least we found enough Nature in other areas to make it a fun day. The rain hit as we were taking down the last net so the timing was perfect. Here's hoping for a day of nicer weather next year.

Thanks go to everyone who showed up and helped today. Not yet mentioned, Alease, Augustine, and Ike. Can't do these things without the volunteers!
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, May 3rd.
All nets will be opened by 6:15 A.M.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cloudy with a Chance...

We enjoyed the pretty sunrise but the clouds soon washed out the skies and became a wet blanket over our hopes for a good migration day. Catbirds were our only migrants and very little movement was seen in the trees around the area.


Our first bird was another resident Carolina Wren with a brood patch meaning it was out for a morning feeding round when it hit the nets. It was processed and released quick to resume its chores.

Carolina Wren

Next up, a female Northern Cardinal was brought in.

Northern Cardinal

Paul, our guest from last week, returned and he braved a chance to release the bird. He did get his initiation into the 'biten by a Cardinal' club.

Northern Cardinal

He was then called over by Richard who was checking the nest boxes. Flying Squirrels were nestled down under a pile of Spanish Moss.

Flying Squirrel

No Coral Snakes today but a Black Racer did swing by for a quick visit.

Black Racer

We were glad to have Lynn come back out to the banding site. She has a great knack for noticing the interesting insects and flowers in the area and getting great photos of them. One of her first subjects (after the sunrise) was a Robber Fly (Family of 7,000 species known as Asilidae).

Robber Fly

Pill Bug, Armadillidium vulgare, on a twig. When we were kids here in Florida we called them roly polies, or doodle bugs.

Pill Bug

A Bagworm Moth was just hanging around along the trail.


Many Tent caterpillars are around. Some ore in their 'tents' and some are out foraging.


This rather odd looking caterpillar was also out looking for food.


Cottonwood Leaf Beetles are seen around the grasses all along the river.

Cottonwood Leaf Beetle

Our other birds for the day were Gray Catbirds. Paul got to process them before we closed up for the morning.

Gray Catbird

We made a couple more trips down the lanes but with the bugs singing loudly already we knew the day was about over. Down near the lake we discovered a damselfly that Avery quickly helped us learn was called a Duck Weed Firetail.

Duck Weed Firetail

Though turtles of many species call Lake Lotus home we hardly see them up in the river. This Red-bellied cooter was just past the mouth of the river by Net 21.

Red-bellied cooter

A damselfly and grasshopper seemed to be in a discussion on a stalk of grass.


We left the net lanes in the good hands (wings) of the Barred Owls and headed home a little earlier than scheduled.

Barred Owl

Still a bit more of migration to go and we hope to catch some birds next Sunday when we are giving bird banding demonstrations for the park's Earth Day event. Last year we had many good species to show to the visiting public. Fingers crossed.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 26th across the river in Lake Lotus Park.
All nets will be opened by 7:30 A.M. but the event does not begin until 10 A.M.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

April Showers Bring Special Visitors

Heavy rains pounded the area last night but the river did not seem to be much higher than last week. They did usher in a couple of visitors to the site today and captures were up a bit from last week but typical for this time of year.

Andrew set Net 21 just before dawn and began to hear several birds in the surrounding brush. With a little pishing a Swamp Sparrow flew in to investigate and flew out directly into the net. We thought the sparrows already left as we heard none of them last week. But there were several out by the lake still.

Swamp Sparrow

Just after that our first visitor arrived at the same net. Paul is a bander (ringer) in the UK and spent some vacation time with us this morning. On the next trip down the net lanes a Carolina Wren escaped from Net 14 but another didn't from nearby Net 9.

Carolina Wren

Two Gray Catbirds were also retrieved and Paul got to process them both.

Paul Hawkins

Also on that run, we captured a House Wren. All three of those species will be headed home anytime now.

House Wren

The Barred Owls, however, live here permanently and the baby was seen and heard in the dark in an oak near Net 12. The adults put on quite a show as they gathered food for their chick who had now moved back in the woods. For the safety of the other birds in the area we took down 4 nets as to not tempt the adults with an easy meal. After eating, they settled into resting spots. One adult on one edge of the tree canopy...

Barred Owl

...the other on the opposite side but they faced one another.

Barred Owl

Our second special visitor arrived back at the banding table where Richard was resting his ankle. You can see Richard's feet to the left of the photo but can you spot the visitor?

Coral Snake

The Coral Snake slithered out of the vegetation and went directly under Richard's chairs and back toward the opposite side of the table and back into the woods. Been trying to get a good shot of this snake for years. Glad Christine had the presence of mind to grab the camera.

Coral Snake

This particular Coral Snake must be living close by as it has been seen many times in the general area. Remember: "Red next to yellow..."

Coral Snake

Around the same time, Christine extracted a male Common Yellowthroat from the nets. Could be a local or a migrant bird.

Common Yellowthroat

Our final capture of the day was another Carolina Wren. She is at least 4 years old and probably older judging by that lovely plumage. We banded her as an adult 2 years ago.

Carolina Wren

Should be time for some other migrants to arrive by next weekend.
Next (planned) Banding Day: Sunday, April 19th.
All nets will be opened by 6:30 A.M.