Saturday, April 6: Edison Farms
Two and a half months have passed since I was last in Edison Farms. There was still water along the FPL easement with the appropriate wading birds, but most of the trails and cow paths I took were very dry. That made walking easy.
The morning began wonderfully when first birds seen were two Great Horned Owls. One was perched in a snag and the other flew up to a pine next to it. A little way up the easement, the juvenile Bald Eagle at the far left was resting in another pine. An adult was seen later flying over one of the ponds along the western edge of the preserve.
Just before I turned off of the easement and into the pine and cypress forests where mitigation work has been completed, a small herd of White-tailed Deer crossed in front of me. The two fawns at the top of the page were part of the group of seven.
Later by the pond, I accidentally flushed a really young fawn that was lying in the tall grasses. It couldn't have been more than a week or two old. It bounded into the trees to the north, but not so far away that its mother would not have trouble locating it.
The first bird seen in the pine flatwood was the Eastern Meadowlark at the near left. It was the only one of its species that was seen or heard, and this one was being quiet.
For the morning, the most often seen of the 38 species were 46 White Ibis in the shallow ponds by the easement. They were in mixed flocks with Glossy Ibis, Snowy Egrets, and occasional Cattle Egrets. The Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Heron, Wood Storks, and Green Herons tended to be off by themselves although the Great Blue Herons were usually in pairs.
Other good sightings around the small ponds were Killdeer, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and three Solitary Sandpipers. The sandpipers were foraging with the Greater Yellowlegs, and the difference in sizes was really noticeable.
Only three Eastern Bluebirds and three Swallow-tailed Kites were seen. Usually at least a half dozen of the bluebirds are present. One mild surprise was finding a group of Boat-tailed Grackles in some Cattails by a pond. Seeing the grackles themselves wasn't a big surprise, but they were strikingly pretty in a natural environment with the sun highlighting some of their almost iridescent plumage.
Wednesday, April 10: CREW Cypress Dome
This week's check of Swallow-tailed Kite nesting was in a different zone, and seven nests were observed. All had adults incubating, and in one of them, the adult was restless, moving about while still sitting in the nest. That usually indicates that eggs have hatched and there are tiny little kites starting to move about under the adult.
Unfortunately, that particular nest is not located where it will be easy to see the chicks until they are almost ready to fledge.
The nest at the right was one where the adult was still sitting quietly, so it is still incubating eggs.
In all, 22 individual Swallow-tailed Kites were seen. Those not on nests were either foraging in nearby tree tops, circling high in the air, or in one instance, chasing a Red-shouldered Hawk away that flew a little too close to the nest area and had to be rather rudely informed that it wasn't welcome there. The hawk moved away quickly.
The kites were the most often seen species of birds other than Cattle Egrets, which were in a group in a marsh rather than around cattle. Cardinals were also abundant. A pair of Sandhill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, and several Wild Turkey hens were the largest birds, and both vultures were overhead once the sun came out and the wind picked up.
While the day was for checking kite nests, there was other activity. Seven species of butterflies were identified. White Peacocks were again the most common, followed by Gulf Fritillaries. The fritillary at the left was very accommodating posing for its photograph. Even the head and eyes are the mixture of orange, black, and white.
The only swallowtail seen was a lone Giant Swallowtail near the border with Caracara Prairie Preserve.
Dragonflies weren't plentiful but the variety was nice. A pair of Regal Darners in the upper left photo were flying in tandem and after circling several times, they eventually landed. Eastern Pondhawks and Needham's Skimmers were the most often seen.
The only mammals seen were White-tailed Deer, lots of Cottontail Rabbits, and Gray Squirrels. After yesterday's and this morning's rain, there were fresh Bobcat tracks in some of the muddy parts of one of the marshes, but the cats themselves weren't seen.
Friday, April 12: Corkscrew
For a hot and relatively windless day, there was quite a bit to see.
The Barred Owl at the near right was between the Otter Watch rain shelter and the Ghost Orchid tree, closer to the rain shelter. Early in the morning it was by itself, scanning the water below for anything edible. Several groups of visitors enjoyed seeing it, but eventually it saw something and flew down behind the low vegetation.
Later in the morning, it and another were flying around together in the same general area.
Water levels have dropped. The first water gauge still has water, but it is below the zero mark. There's still a little too much water in the lakes to concentrate the fish for wading birds and gators, but at least we're starting to see more of them.
Today an adult Black-crowned Night Heron was at the water's edge at the north lake while a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron was foraging just before the south lake rain shelter. A Limpkin flew over the north lake and headed to the open area behind the island. Green Herons, Great Egrets, and a juvenile Little Blue Heron were all in the water below the observation tower.
The canopy along the boardwalk has really filled in since trees and plants have all leafed out. Many birds were calling, but it was harder to find them in all of the vegetation. Great-crested Flycatchers, Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers were especially vocal. The only warblers seen were a Worm-eating Warbler near the Ed Carlson bench, a pair of Common Yellowthroats along the observation platform spur just before the incline begins, and Northern Parulas calling near the Royal Palm bench. A group of birders saw a Sedge Wren at the south end of the wet prairie.
Painted Buntings were still at the Bunting House feeder, and Indigo Buntings were by the Blair Center feeders. The Common Ground Dove at the upper right found a nice, shady spot to get a drink of water in the water feature under the Blair Center feeders.
Lots of the Buttonbush are in full bloom along the observation platform spur, all attracting honey bees.
With the hotter weather, gators were more common. One 10-11 footer started in front of the Alligator Den rain shelter and swam under the boardwalk to almost Sign 8 before veering off and out of sight. A female gator and several juveniles appeared by the north lake in the late morning.
The only turtle was a large Red-bellied Turtle near the Dodson spur. Lots of Green Anoles were on and near the boardwalk, while the Brown Anole at the left was flashing everyone along the observation platform spur.
Frogs both seen and heard were Pig Frogs, Green Treefrogs, and Squirrel Treefrogs.