Saturday, August 8 & Tuesday, August 11: My lot

A bit of a distraction slowed me on my way to check the Swallow-tailed Kite roost. A mother bear and cub sauntered across the road, seemingly unconcerned that I was there. They looked like the same pair that had visited the water tub in my front yard last week. After they continued into the woods, I continued on my way past them.

At first, there didn't seem to be very many kites visible at the roost, either from the canal side or the road side. Eventually I found 17 on my property and another three two lots to the south. One was still asleep but the others were awake and preening.

A little before eight o'clock the first of them began flying, but only to neighboring perches. One flew in from the west and joined the others already at the roost.

One Red-shouldered Hawk was perched at the top of a snag not far from the kites, but neither appeared to mind the presence of the other.

The young Cooper's Hawk above was just to the south of the kites and another Red-shouldered Hawk was to the north.

Other wildlife included Mourning Doves, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, one Northern Flicker, Gray Squirrels, Cardinals, and Blue Jays. None of the herons or ducks were present this morning.

On Tuesday, some kites were still here, although only 15 were seen.

The first two to take to the air left around 8:30 and headed east to forage. The rest were still preening, stretching wings, and getting ready to go.

The grasses along the canal were really tall and wet. Dragonflies and butterflies were active, but other than one Snowy Egret, not much else was. Butterflies were just White Peacocks and Barred Yellows.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks called from the west side of the canal as did Blue Jays, but all were deeper in the cypress trees.

Red-shouldered Hawks, Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Mourning Doves were vocal and beginning to move around on the east side of the canal where the kites were roosting.

Wednesday, August 12: Flint Pen Strand

A planned meeting in the later morning shortened the amount of time available to be on the trails. So I spent the whole morning around the lakes and in the marsh, and it was still a great time. Two warblers seen early in the morning were the first in quite a while.

Both the male American Redstart and the male Black-and-white Warbler at the lower left were foraging in the cypress dome just south of the west lake. Other little birds were in there, too, but they were very active and far enough back in the vegetation that it wasn't possible to identify them.

The Loggerhead Shrike at the left was in the same area but in a different part of the cypress.

In all, 26 species of birds were spotted. One Spotted Sandpiper was the most unexpected. Water levels were really up after the recent rains, so there wasn't a lot of open shore for the small water's edge birds. No Killdeer or Black-necked Stilts were seen or heard. The sandpiper was at the edge of the west lake in between two feuding Great Blue Herons.

One of the most interesting observations was a group of five Black-bellied Whistling Ducks that circled a perched Bald Eagle. After their first few laps around the eagle, I glanced at my watch and timed them for a little over another four minutes

At first, they were flying counter-clockwise, but towards the end they switched and were going clockwise around the eagle. The radius around the eagle decreased with each lap, but they never got too close. The ducks were silent the whole time, but they were definitely focused on the eagle.

The eagle, for its part, watched them but didn't seem overly concerned. The ducks eventually flew off, and the eagle stayed on its perch for the rest of the morning.

Other than one Red-shouldered Hawk, the eagle was the only raptor at the lakes/marsh. However, another CREW volunteer was on the yellow and red trails to the west and spotted two Great Horned Owls perched together in their regular pine grove.

With the rain and water, lots of insects should have been out. Fortunately, there were very few mosquitoes and no Deer Flies.

The most intimidating looking insect was the Robber Fly.

It looks pretty mean, but unless it's provoked, it is not going to bother people. It does prey on other insects.

Although there weren't very many butterfly species, all of the water really brought out the dragonfly and damselfly species.

One batch of dragonflies must have just emerged at the south end of Poorman's Pass. I counted a minimum of 80 Blue Dashers hovering over the water there about 10-12 feet above the ground. I didn't see any little insects that they might have been feeding on, but there were probably some there. I don't know what a group of dragonflies is called; it's surely not a "flock."

The other large numbers were for Needham's Skimmers. 93 were counted, but not all together. Many were coupled together and dipping to the water's surface to deposit eggs.

Some of the prettiest dragonflies were the Roseate Skimmers. The one at the left cooperated nicely by landing while the others were continually in the air.

Friday, August 14: My lot

The last of the young Swallow-tailed Kites are still here. A clear, sunny morning found 17 of them still perched in the cypress trees. Two trees had four kites each, and the rest were individuals in separate trees.

Wind directions have not been favorable for them to leave yet. They'll need a strong northerly or northeasterly wind to push them across the Gulf if they're going to survive their first migration.

In the past when those winds were not there, some kites have flown north on the southerly winds and then followed the Gulf coast around to Texas and then south.

Mid August is usually the last we see of the kites, so this group ought to be on its way soon.