Monday, May 18: CREW Cypress Dome

According to the weather forecast early in the morning, it was supposed to be mostly cloudy early with only a 40% chance of afternoon storms. The weather forecasters sure blew that one.

There was dense fog at the start and then around 8:30, the thunder began, first in the distance and then closer, and then it rained. So the hike was cut short by a bit. Early before the rain, lots of Squirrel Treefrogs were calling all along the trail. I should have listened to the treefrogs instead of the human forecasters. The frogs knew!

With the fog, nothing was in the air at the start. Eventually, some Red-bellied Woodpeckers began flying from one tree to the next. But all of the larger birds stayed at their roosts.

The largest of those were Black Vultures with 106 counted in multiple trees at their regular night time roost.

Swallow-tailed Kites were either perched or at nests. They were the second most seen species, but with only 15 spotted.

The largest single roost was just six kites in one snag. Others were individuals perched near nests.

Kite chicks are almost adult size although none have fledged yet. The juvenile in the photo sat on the edge of its nest while its sibling was nestled down in the nest. The second chick's tail and wing tips are just visible toward the lower right behind the large spider web.

The Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Northern Cardinals were the next most often seen birds, but no other species made it into double figures.

Everything had really dried up. Even the ditch between Cypress Dome and Caracara Prairie was mostly dry. Neither of the large gators was visible in the one spot that still retained some water, so either they were below the surface or they gave up and moved to a better site. Other than the treefrogs, the only herps were Brown Anoles.

Wednesday, May 13: CREW Marsh Trails

The poor Barred Owl at the near right was not having a good morning. The bit of fuzzy on the back of the head suggests that it may be one of this year's fledglings. It was getting no respect.

I rounded a sharp bend in the trail and the owl was right there in a low pine about head high.

It flew as soon as it saw me, and the instant it was in the air, a Red-shouldered Hawk was in the air right behind it. The owl flew up to the limb in the photo and turned to face the hawk, which veered off and continued on its way.

But as soon as the hawk was gone, a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and began circling directly over the owl and calling.

As they got closer and closer to the owl, it flew off again, this time to a large pine where it landed in a spot with some branches close over its head and around its sides where it wouldn't be harassed as easily.

The kites circled one or two more times and then satisfied, they flew off as well.

The owl wasn't seen again, but later a half dozen kites were perched in two snags just a little further down the trail. When a predator like an owl, even a young inexperienced one, appears, kites will collect and harass it until it's well away from their roosts and nesting areas.

Other birds were the regulars. The most often seen were Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, and Northern Cardinals.

One of the nicest observations of the morning was audio rather than visual. With the recent rains, treefrogs were beginning to call.

Lots of Squirrel Treefrogs have been calling this week and last, and today they were joined by a chorus of Green Treefrogs and one Pinewoods Treefrog. It was the first time hearing a Pinewood Treefrog since the start of last summer.

While the Marsh Trails aren't as good for bird, herp, and mammal sightings, they are the best for blooming plants.

Pictured are the native Butterflyweed with six blooms open and five buds all on the same stalk. Lots of the Grass Pink Orchids were in bloom along the alternate marsh trail. The one on the right still has some morning dew clinging to the petals.

Salt Marsh Mallow were beginning to bloom and one of the large Swamp Hibiscus was in full bloom. Unfortunately, it was off of the trail and in the middle of a lot of Sawgrass, so I chose not to get close enough for a decent photo.

Other colorful blooms were the Five-petal Sabatia, Morning Glory, Star-topped Sedge, Mist Flower, and several very large and showy but as yet unidentified white blooms.