Tuesday, August 8: CREW Bird Rookery Swamp
Another hot humid beginning to the day only got hotter and more humid. The temperature at sunrise was 79º and by the time I left just before one o'clock it had risen to over 94º. The Pig Frog at the top of the page had the right idea: stretch out in the cool water and let the current carry it along. Had it not been for the presence of gators, wading in the water sounded like a pleasant way to finish up the hike.
The Black Vulture at the right had the next best idea -- hydrate with cool water. It drank for several minutes and allowed me to get quite close. It never did leave its watering hole, but it raised up and watched closely as I detoured around its spot.
Another bird that let me get quite close was the Pileated Woodpecker at the left. It had found a rich source of food in a small snag beside the trail and let me walk right past without leaving. Its mate on an adjacent tree was a little more cautious and flew off, maybe because she didn't have as much of a plentiful source of food.
With a few exceptions, numbers of individual critters were lower than last week, and some of last week's observations weren't present today. Those included Barred Owls, Downy Woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Snowy Egrets.
However, some species seen and heard today weren't observed last week, most noticeably Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Swallow-tailed Kites, Mottled Ducks, and a Black-and-white Warbler.
The arrival of the cuckoos corresponds with the hatching of the Fall Webworm caterpillars. Cuckoos are one of the very few bird species that will eat fuzzy caterpillars. The seven Swallow-tailed Kites were at the regular summer roost. They may be procrastinators who put off leaving with the rest of the flock from two weeks ago. The two ducks were fly-overs near the lakes, and a Louisiana Waterthrush, one of five seen today, contributed to the Black-and-white Warbler sighting.
The waterthrush at the right flew low across the trail ahead of me, so I walked very slowly around a cypress to get a better look and see which waterthrush it was. While I was watching the waterthrush, the Black-and-white Warbler began working its way down a trunk of a nearby tree. It would never have been spotted and there not be the waterthrush stop. Also in the vegetation there were White-eyed Vireos, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Tufted Titmice.
An unexpected sighting was the Bobcat at the near right. It was meandering down the trail ahead of me very early in the morning, so most of the view was of its rear end going away from me. But it did stop once to look around, allowing for a very hurried photo, before it turned off and disappeared into the cypress forest.
Only 21 species of birds were observed during the day with the regular crew of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Carolina Wrens being the most common.
Fourteen species of butterflies were identified, plus quite a few medium sized brown moths were active but unidentified. Most common of the butterflies were White Peacocks, Tropical Checkers, Palamedes Swallowtails, and Viceroys. Seven of the butterflies were skippers who seem to be thriving in the tall grasses.
Eastern Pondhawks were the most plentiful of the seven species of dragonflies identified, followed by Needham's Skimmers, Band-winged Dragonlets, and Blue Dashers. One Regal Darner was a nice addition to the list.
Friday, August 11: Corkscrew
It seemed like a slow and quiet day, but by noon, we had identified 26 species of birds and six species of frogs. The only warblers that were seen today were a pair of Louisiana Waterthrushes that were calling to each other near the Carol Ann May bench.
Water levels were up after the night time and early morning rains -- 2.3 inches fell at Corkscrew -- with the water up the the lower bolts on the boardwalk cross beams.
Most active and common of the birds were Carolina Wrens. Young wrens had the size and appearance of adults, but they were still being fed. An adult would catch a caterpillar and another wren would magically appear. Then the adult would give the younger one the caterpillar and fly off to look for more.
Not many of the water birds were at the lakes. Limpkins called, but that was it. One Anhinga was perched at the very top of a lone cypress tree opposite the first water gauge, and Great Egrets were foraging in the wet prairie past the Plume Hunter spur. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and a Little Blue Heron were fly-overs, but none were on or near the ground.
Blooming plants, especially the Fragrant Water Lilies like the one at the left, Sagittaria, Pickerelweed, a few Swamp Lilies, Scarlet Hibiscus, Winged Loosestrife, Hypericum, and Salt Marsh Mallow were the most noticeable flowers. The Swamp Hibiscus along the Plume Hunter spur were in bloom, but the rain had beaten most of them down.
Polystachya orchids were the only ones in bloom. There was still no sign of activity at the Ghost Orchid. Other orchids like the E. amphistomum, E. rigidum, E. tampensis, and the Cowhorn Orchids all had new growth and healthy green leaves but no sign of impending blossoms.
The morning rains hampered butterfly activity. The only species seen were Brazilian Skippers, Viceroys, and a lone Silver-spotted Skipper in the wet prairie.
Mammals were limited to Raccoons, Gray Squirrels, and a Cottontail Rabbit. There were a lot of visitors, though, many with children.
Only one gator was spotted, and no turtles or snakes. Other lizards were Green Anoles and Brown Anoles. The list of frogs and their ilk included Pig Frogs, a Leopard Frog, lots of Green Treefrogs, Cuban Treefrogs, Greenhouse Frogs, Florida Cricket Frogs, and an Oak Toad.
The Green Treefrog at the left with its toes splayed out was at the north lake, and although they could be found everywhere along the boardwalk, most of them were on Sagittaria leaves toward the south end of the wet prairie.