Monday, October 14: 6-mile Cypress North
Although 37 species of birds were identified, it was basically duck day. The marsh at the southwestern corner of the preserve was just the right depth for Blue-winged Teal and Mottled Ducks to and forage. A total of 273 teal were counted, in three large flocks. Because they tended to take to the air at the slightest disturbance, the only way to really count them was to take wide angle photographs and then count the number later when the photos could be enlarged on the computer. Even then, I undoubtedly missed some.
The Mottled Ducks were the next most often seen species, but with only 31 individuals. They tended to be a little less skittish and would stay in one spot long enough to get a count.
While the pine flatwood at the start of the trail was dry, it had been under water recently judging by all of the empty Apple Snail shells in the trail. One Limpkin was still walking through the grass checking for any missed snails near the trail head.
More Limpkins were in the marsh with the ducks. Sixteen were counted, with 15 of them foraging in the shallow waters.
They weren't the only birds looking for snails. The two Snail Kites at the right, a female and a male, were perched close to the water and keeping an eye open for snails. Judging by the number of empty shells everywhere, everyone had been eating very well.
The regular crew of wading birds were also foraging successfully. Most common were Glossy Ibis followed by Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, White Ibis, Great Egrets, and Great Blue Herons. A pair of Sandhill Cranes called in the distance, but they weren't in the marsh. Other birds in the marsh were Common Gallinules, Killdeer, and one Pied-billed Grebe. Cattle Egrets were nearby, but they were in the trees bordering a ranch where several cattle stood in the shade of a large oak tree.
Only one Osprey was in the air over the marsh. Several times it splashed down into the water, but it didn't seem to come up with anything. Twice it remained in the water after a splash down and rested, sometimes dipping all the way under and other times just standing there as if it were enjoying the cool water.
It was a little unexpected to find no yellowlegs, sandpipers, or Belted Kingfishers. The water levels appeared to be just right for them to hunt.
Away from the marsh, other species thrived in the oak hammocks, cypress domes, and pine flatwood. The morning started off very well with the Limpkin by the parking lot and a Northern Bobwhite calling nearby.
Most common were Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Blue Jays. Seven Red-headed Woodpeckers were also seen, five adults and two very young juveniles totally lacking a red head. In Addition to a half dozen Red-shouldered Hawks, one Red-tailed Hawk flew over in the early afternoon.
Not many small birds were seen. The only warblers were Palm Warblers. Other smaller birds were House Wrens (but no Carolina Wrens), Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Northern Cardinals, and both Catbirds and Northern Mockingbirds.
The open, tall grassy areas were great for butterflies. Fourteen species were identified plus a few small skippers that didn't stop or hold still long enough for identification.
The best of those were one Zebra Swallowtail, one Spicebush Swallowtail, one Palamedes Swallowtail, and one Zebra Longwing.
The most often seen were, as usual, White Peacocks with just over three dozen individuals counted. There were a really large number of sulphurs -- 24 Cloudless Sulphurs and 10 really bright Orange-barred Sulphurs, A dozen Barred Yellows were low in the grass. Other species with multiple individuals were Common Buckeyes, Viceroys, Gulf Fritillaries, and Gray Hairstreaks.
Dragonflies were harder to find. Many were darting over the marsh, but they weren't close enough to tell what they were. Only seven species were positively identified. Most common were Halloween Pennants and Eastern Pondhawks followed by Common Green Darners and Black Saddlebags. The only herps were Oak Toads, a couple of very tiny Green Treefrogs, and Brown Anoles.
Wednesday, October 16: Flint Pen Strand
The different habitats provided a varied list of birds with 43 species identified.
The yellow trail through the pine flatwood and along the canal had the woodpeckers including five Red-headed Woodpeckers plus Red-bellied, Downy, and Pileated; Blue Jays; all of Black-crowned Night Herons; and surprisingly the majority of the half dozen Ospreys that were seen during the day.
The Green Heron at the lower left was the only one of its kind seen. It looks as though it's trying to do the hokey-pokey, but it was actually just climbing a little higher up on its perch.
Red-shouldered Hawks and American Crows dominated the Melaleuca desert with more of the Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a lot of Northern Mockingbirds.
Wood Storks flew over the open meadows between the yellow trail and the main marsh and lakes.
Once at the marsh, shore birds and water birds were prevalent. More Osprey, a Belted Kingfisher
The greatest number of those were 23 Least Sandpipers, 15 Killdeer, 12 Greater Yellowlegs, White and Glossy Ibis, and all of the Tricolored Herons. The White Ibis were the most often seen species of all birds with 82 individuals counted.
Some nice individual sightings were the young Pied-billed Grebe at the upper left, Roseate Spoonbill, Common Gallinules, Mottled Ducks, and a new species for Flint Pen Strand with one American Avocet.
The only warbler species spotted during the day were Common Yellowthroat and Palm Warbler. Gray Catbirds have finally arrived in numbers rather than just a few individuals. Somewhat unexpected was only one Northern Cardinal and the lack of vultures. Only two Turkey Vultures were seen in the early afternoon, and no Black Vultures were seen the entire day.
Only seven species of butterflies and seven species of dragonflies were seen. The most common butterflies were 35 Gulf Fritillaries and 33 White Peacocks. Halloween Pennants and Needham's Skimmers were the most frequently seen dragonflies.
Friday, October 18: Corkscrew
Wildlife was relatively quiet for visitors until they got to the north lake.
There, mother gator and at least a half dozen of this year's offspring were right beside the boardwalk beneath the Apple Snail Egg sign.
Families with little kids all stopped and even the youngest could find at least one baby gator.
Mother was out early in the morning, but by late morning and early afternoon, she had disappeared and just the tiny gators were visible. Mother was somewhere very nearby, but she didn't reveal herself for people passing by then.
A juvenile gator, maybe two feet long, was on a log a little past the Marinelli rain shelter, and an older one about four feet long was foraging and snapping at things in the water across from the first water gauge.
Other herps were a Black Racer and both Green and Brown Anoles. Quite a few Green Treefrogs were up enjoying the sun in multiple places along the boardwalk.
Mammals were just Gray Squirrels and Raccoons, and only for species of butterflies were seen.
We eventually wound up with 29 species of birds, but other than Red-bellied Woodpeckers none were really numerous. One Green Heron was along the shortcut trail, and at the north lake one adult Little Blue Heron walked along the boardwalk railing although later it and a juvenile Little Blue Heron flew over, and one Belted Kingfisher flew over.
Eastern Phoebes have returned and were calling. The one at the left foraged at the north lake while another was in the wet prairie along the exit trail. An Eastern Wood Pewee was also seen.
Pileated Woodpeckers were vocal as were Great-crested Flycatchers.
Small birds included Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Tufted Titmice, a male Painted Bunting at the Bunting House feeder, Carolina Wrens, and White-eyed Vireos. Lots of Catbirds were calling too, mostly in the pine flatwood.
Warblers we saw or heard were mostly Palm Warblers and Common Yellowthroats. The Palm Warbler at the right was out early in the morning near the first water gauge.