Saturday, January 9: Flint Pen Strand

The first two sightings in the morning were an Osprey and a Bald Eagle, an ideal way to begin a day.

The immature eagle at the right, probably about a year to a year and a half old, was perched in a pine beside the lakes parking lot. The early sky was completely overcast, so lighting wasn't great, but it was hard to mistake that beak as belonging to any other kind of bird.

Water levels were a little lower than last week, but not by much. However, the lakes were down enough that there were patches of sandy shore, and small shorebirds showed up. We saw Least Sandpipers, one Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, and Killdeer.

In addition to Osprey and Belted Kingfishers in the air over the lakes, one Royal Tern made a couple of passes before flying on to the north.

The tern looked really large as it flew low over us. It's a little unusual for one to be this far inland, but it was here last season, too.

Larger birds were taking advantage of the good fishing too. The edges of the lakes teemed with Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, White and Glossy Ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and a pair of Roseate Spoonbills. One Wood Stork flew over but it didn't land.

The Roseate Spoonbill at the top of the page was foraging in a shallow channel where water flowed between the marsh and the lake where it startled a large fish, probably a bass. The water wasn't deep enough for the bass to swim to the lake, so it "jumped" multiple times trying to get there. That in turn startled the spoonbill. Both are in the photo; the fish has just landed after one jump and is taking off for another try.

We eventually identified 43 species of birds during the morning. The most often seen were Fish Crows with one large flock of just under six dozen rising in the sky at the south end of the lakes in the late morning.

In addition to the Osprey and Bald Eagle, other raptors were a male Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawks, and the pair of Great Horned Owls. The only warblers were Common Yellowthroat, Pine, Palm, and Yellow-rumped.

After the Fish Crows, the most often seen species were 53 Little Blue Herons and 43 White Ibis. The percentage of immature/adult Little Blue Herons was about 60%/40%. They would rise up in a cloud of blue and white birds and then settle back down into the tall grasses and vegetation in the flooded marsh.

Some of the most striking birds were Loggerhead Shrikes. One pair along the trail was going through courtship rituals. The male would catch something to eat, fly up, and present it to the female. Both of those shrikes are extremely accustomed to people. We could pass within 10 feet of them and they would just sit on their perches and essentially ignore us.

With cool temperatures and a healthy north wind, insects were scarce. Even the small birds stayed close to the ground in sheltered vegetation. Only five species of butterflies were found, almost all low on the south side of vegetation away from the wind. The most common were 11 Gulf Fritillaries.

We did spot 11 gators, mostly floating on the surface of the lakes. One little clutch of baby gators was at the north end of the marsh in the reeds and Alligator Flag by the Kehl canal.

Thursday, January 14: Edison Farms Preserve

Weather was totally inappropriate for photography. After two nights of rain, everything was wet, the skies were completely overcast making anything above the line of dense vegetation mostly just a silhouette and most things in the vegetation too dark.

The pair of Pied-billed Grebes at the left were nice because they were low, in a more open area, and because they weren't overly active. It was just a matter of waiting for them to pop above the water's surface.

Other birds were low, but they didn't stay still long enough or come far enough into a clearing. Those included Palm Warblers, Pine Warblers, some extremely skittish Blue-winged Teal, and five immature Black-crowned Night Herons that flew back into a dense cypress dome at our approach.

The half dozen Eastern Bluebirds and Belted Kingfishers that we saw were all higher up, and they weren't staying still either.

Good sightings among the 38 species of birds we identified, in addition to the bluebirds, grebes and the teal, were a lone adult Bald Eagle and a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks. One of the meadowlarks was in the road in front of us and disappeared into the tall grasses at the edge and the other we heard calling from one of the pastures to the east.

We didn't make it into any of the pastures because there was still high water between us and the fields.

The most common of the birds were White Ibis, mostly in one huge flock at the southern end of the preserve. Some Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were mixed in with that group of ibis. Additionally, lots of Palm Warblers and Common Grackles became active in the late morning. We did see three American Kestrels, but they were on the power lines above a field just on the other side of the preserve boundary.

Friday, January 15: SFWMD Gargiulo fields

It was wet and foggy moving through the dense grasses and vegetation after the recent rains. We were at the far west end of the fields at net lines five and six mist netting and banding sparrows. That is where the plants are densest. No one finished the morning dry. But we did capture some nice birds.

Non-target birds like the female Common Yellowthroat at the left were immediately released. Other non-target species were Palm Warblers, a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and one House Wren.

Data was taken on target birds that had been previously banded and new species were banded and their data was recorded.

Last week most of the sparrows that were netted were previously banded recaptures. Today, however, the majority were new captures that received their bands.

Those were mostly Grasshopper Sparrows like the one at the lower left, but we also got one new Swamp Sparrow. There weren't any Savannah Sparrows today.

Other sightings that weren't in the nets included one Limpkin, lots of Cattle Egrets roosting at the tops of two pine trees to the west, Great Egrets and Tree Swallows flying over, Mourning Doves on the ground, and Eastern Meadowlarks and a pair of Woodcocks that called from elsewhere in the grasses.

The only non bird wildlife, other than multitudes of spiders in their dew-laden webs in the grasses, was just one White-tailed Deer.