Monday, September 17: Lee County 20/20

The road going in was a little drier than last time, but the pastures and prairies weren't. Many of the wading birds found depressions in the pastures where many foraged together. The Wood Stork and Roseate Spoonbill at the left were in one such wet spot, accompanied by White Ibis and Snowy Egrets.

Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, and Tri-colored Herons tended to be more individualistic and foraged on their own. The Green Heron at the lower left was one of seven seen, all of which clucked loudly and flew to nearby branches at my approach.

All six of the Black-crowned Night Herons seen were in close proximity to each other at the start. All but one were adults.

The most often seen species were Cattle Egrets, primarily because there were a lot of cattle on the main path. The cattle were naturally curious and came over to observe me. When I didn't seem interesting to them, they moved on, followed by the egrets.

However, the large size of the herd, which included a couple of bulls, altered the planned original route. Instead, the wet prairies and flooded pastures surrounded by cypress and pine seemed to be a good option.

That's where the storks and spoonbills were, so it worked out well. There were also a lot of dragonflies and damselflies in the waist-high grasses, eight species overall. Walking through the knee-deep water was somewhat arduous and slow, so there was more opportunity to see the smaller insects in the grasses.

Tops were Rambur's Forktails and Citrine Forktails, which are usually hard to spot. The Rambur's Forktails were more common and included adult males and females as well as some immature ones like the female at the right.

Butterflies, on the other hand, were scarce, probably because not many plants that would attract them were in bloom, especially in the water.

Even White Peacocks were scarce and only thirteen were observed, most until until toward the end. Other species -- Cloudless Sulphur, Phaon Crescent, Red-waisted Florella Moth, Bella Moth -- were only one of each.

And surprisingly with all of the water, the only herps were Green, Squirrel, and Cuban Treefrogs plus one Brown Anole.

Thursday, September 20: CREW Flint Pen Strand

The number of bird observations at this week's hike was about the same as last week, but the species were quite a bit different.

Birds observed this week that we didn't see last week were Bald Eagles, a flock of Least Sandpipers, Loggerhead Shrike, American Redstart, and Palm Warbler.

The Bald Eagle at the far left was one of two observed. The adult stayed in the same general area the entire morning, so we saw it at the start of the morning and then again as we were leaving in the late morning.

The second eagle was a juvenile that was soaring high above us farther north on our route. It was mostly dark with just a hint of white on the tail.

The sandpipers also remained in the same general area throughout the morning, foraging in the wet sands by the edges of water. The group at the top of the page was part of the larger flock. They were very tiny compared to the Killdeer that were foraging nearby and were tolerant of our presence, only flying off with lots of little peeps when we were almost beside them.

The most surprising sighting was of two Palm Warblers. We think of them as being among the last of the winter migrants to arrive, but these two were already here in the middle of September.

The most numerous of the thirty species of birds were White Ibis (one huge flock flew overhead) followed by Mottled Duck, Least Sandpiper, and Little Blue Heron.

Belted Kingfishers were among the more entertaining birds seen. Two of the four we saw spent the entire morning noisily chasing each other through the pines and cypress. Occasionally they would land in the same tree, look at each other, raise their crests, and then take off again.

Because we were in or around water and on sandy spits most of the time, butterflies were uncommon sightings. We only saw four species and the most often observed of those were four White Peacocks. Dragonflies were more numerous. The most often seen were 16 Halloween Pennants and 15 Needham's Skimmers.

All of the gators that we saw were large ones. In contrast, the smallest herps were Oak Toads and the baby Banded Water Snake at the right. Its minute size and bright colors suggest that it was very recently born. It appears much larger in the photo than it did in real life.

Friday, September 21: Corkscrew

Although it wasn't a great day for numbers of species, what was there compensated quite nicely.

One of the colorful spots with interesting wildlife was the Rosekrans Butterfly & Wildflower Garden by the Living Machine. The large Firebush plants had multiple red blooms to attract nectar feeders.

Among the brightest were the female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the left who plunged right in to open blooms. It took her three trips before she finally was within range of the camera. The other visitor was the Green Orchid Bee at the lower left who did the same as the hummingbird but without the aid of a long bill and tongue to get far down into the bloom.

Honey Bees and a variety of small flies and beetles were also all over the blooms.

More bright red blooms, these near the wildlife crossing, were the tiny Scarlet Creepers which are in the Ipomoea or Morning Glory family. They weren't attracting the variety of pollinators that the Firebush plants were.

Yellow was another bright color that was in several places. More of the Narrow-leaf Sunflowers are starting to bloom, also by the wildlife crossing, and the plants are much taller and most have buds. They should be outstanding in another week or two. More bright yellow came with a Prothonotary Warbler. White-eyed Vireos were common, but their yellows were much paler.

Warblers were generally scarce. The only others that we saw were a Louisiana Waterthrush and the male Black-throated Blue Warbler at the right which was over the bench on the shortcut trail.

The observation platform was also a good spot for finding birds. Anhingas were plentiful and seemed to be playing "King of the Hill" at one of the taller cypress trees over the water. One would perch at the very top until another flew in and took the spot. It would stay until another came in and displaced it.

Meanwhile, one Anhinga was below the trees on a perch at the top of one of the piles of dead willows and another at the base of the cypress tree nearest the platform. Another Anhinga was perched on the top of the snag beside the boardwalk leading to the platform.

One Green Heron foraged on one side the pile of willow branches below the Anhinga on the willow pile while the young Common Gallinule at the left foraged on the opposite side. It disappeared into the tall grasses.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, White-eyed Vireos, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and one male Red-winged Blackbird were in the taller vegetation there.

Herps seen included the baby gators at the north lake, Pig Frogs and Green Treefrogs, Green and Brown Anoles, and one Red-bellied Turtle that was at the end of the shortcut trail between the lakes.

since August 31, 2018

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