Thursday, June 22: CREW Marsh Trails
A sunny morning and a weather forecast that did not include rain prompted a last minute trip to the CREW Trust's Marsh Trails to see how they were faring after all of the rain. It had been a little over 11 weeks since the last visit to those trails.
It was wet but passable. The deepest water in the trails was in the Flatwood Trail, which is almost all pine. That area should have been the driest, but it turned out to be the wettest. Parts of the trail was under 14-15 inches of water although there were some drier spots. The grasses were high, so with each step, mosquitoes stirred from their grassy perches to become obnoxious.
The Marsh Overlook Trail was the driest of the three trails and much more manageable with only three to four inches of water. The overlook tower itself was the nicest spot because it was high and there were fewer mosquitoes up there and because there was a lot of wildlife along the perimeter of the marsh and in the marsh.
Five Limpkins were identified although there may have been more. Two were visible on the vegetation toward the edges of the marsh, at least two called from in the high grasses to the east in the marsh, and another called from the west. More may have been in the grasses because only the two visible Limpkins flew, but the calls came from different areas in the grasses. Swallow-tailed Kites, White Ibis, and a few Great Egrets flew over while Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, and White-eyed Vireos called from in the marsh.
Large choruses of Florida Cricket Frogs and Green Treefrogs provided continual music while Pig Frogs occasionally chimed in.
The Pop Ash Trail had water up to six inches deep and was the most scenic of the three trails. A view of the wettest part of the trail is at the left.
The ground was mostly dry by the education pavilion with just occasional puddles of a couple of inches in the trail. The White-tailed Deer at the upper left was in the trail and a bit nervous -- tail raised and stomping front legs. She stood and watched if I stood still, but movement spooked her and she bounded off into the vegetation.
When I got to the spot where she left the trail and looked in that direction, a large and majestic stag was standing there looking back at me. Unfortunately, there were too many little branches between us to get a decent photograph. He quickly moved off when I tried to get closer for a better photo.
Other wildlife was a little more cooperative.
The Oak Toad at the right was in the trail hiding in the grasses. Although there was plenty of water, the toads were silent all morning.
Cottontail and Marsh Rabbits were feeding on fresh grasses in the trails but moved to the safety of low, dense vegetation when they spotted movement.
In all, 18 species of birds were identified. Mourning Doves, Cardinals, White Ibis, and Carolina Wrens were the most common. Very few butterflies and dragonflies were out.
BIRD ROOKERY SWAMP NOTE: Due to the severe weather last week, boardwalk construction was delayed a bit. Bird Rookery Swamp will remain closed to the public through Friday, June 30. Check the CREW Trust web site for any updates or changes.
Friday, June 23: Corkscrew
While it was sunny all day, the humidity was truly oppressive. The weather forecasters predicted "Feel like" temperatures of over 100º and they were certainly correct with that prediction.
Mosquitoes along the boardwalk weren't bad as long as people were in motion, but stopping to look or listen to something attracted a crowd of them very quickly. Hopefully the Gambusia, mollies, and killifish will reproduce rapidly and return quickly to consume the mosquito larva in the water.
Wading birds still haven't returned, probably because the water is now too deep for them and just as likely because there is a scarcity of prey until everything repopulates. The same may also be true of the gators because there isn't easily available food in the deeper water. Today, we didn't see any although visitors said they had seen one gator.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks were very common and very vocal for most of the morning. The were calling from the trees near the Alligator Den rain shelter and flying over all parts of the sanctuary. They and Tufted Titmice were the most common of the bird species.
Much of the wildlife was in the drier areas nearer the Blair Center.
The female Ruby-throated Humming bird at the upper left was enjoying nectar from the Firebush plants in the Rosekrans Wildflower and Butterfly Garden. Zebra Longwings, bees, and Metallic Green Flies were regulars there too.
The Carolina Wren and Northern Cardinal at the left were both around the Blair Center feeders. Many of the feeders are empty or have moldy seed stuck at the bottom, so the Cardinal was feeding on the ground. The wren was hunting for caterpillars and insects on the nearby broadleaf plants.
More of the Fall Webworm caterpillars were on the boardwalk, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos usually appear as soon as there are enough caterpillars. Today the cuckoos were heard and ought to become more numerous as more of the caterpillars hatch out.
The Great-crested Flycatcher at the top of the page alternated between anting on the boardwalk near the Bunting House and flying up to a low branch to preen. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were in the same area but generally prefer the boardwalk railing to the actual boardwalk.
We only observed five species of butterflies, and there weren't very many of each of those. But right now there aren't many nectar plants with lots of blooms.
The Epidendrum amphistomum and the Butterfly Orchid along the spur leading to the observation platform are done blooming and there are no signs of buds on the Ghost Orchid yet, although it should be about time. The showiest flowers in the swamp were Swamp Lilies and Scarlet Hibiscus.