Monday, February 11: CREW Bird Rookery Swamp
It seemed a little soon to experience early summer weather, but the starting temperature was just below 70º and it was in the upper 80s by the early afternoon. And it was humid to start the day.
Herps and insects enjoyed the warmer temperatures.
The Green Treefrog at the left found a nice secluded spot by climbing up a Pickerelweed stem and resting just below the flowers. It was the only treefrog or frog seen.
Snakes came out to enjoy the sun and warmth as well.
The Black Racer at the upper right was a little before the 4-mile post, resting in the grass. It was very laid back for a racer and didn't move at all as I walked up to it.
The Banded Water Snake at the lower right was a little further down the trail where it found a nice, half-submerged log to bask.
Other herps included Red-bellied Turtles, a Florida Soft-shelled Turtle, and 40 gators.
Most of the gators were less than five feet in length, but a few big ones were out and about. The largest was just before the trestle bridge and was in the vicinity of 12-13 feet long. I didn't make it all the way to the 5-mile post because one moderate-sized female, perhaps eight or nine feet in length, was in the middle of the trail and a half dozen young gators were around her. That seemed like an ideal spot to turn back.
Nice avian sightings included a pair of Painted Buntings a little past TM2. The male flew down into deeper vegetation, but the female stayed up and picked Spanish Needle seeds off of their stalks. She was joined by a female Cardinal who did the same thing.
All of the regular herons, egrets, and night herons were present, but in fewer numbers than last week. Only 19 Black-crowned Night Herons were spotted and only 25 Great Egrets. One of the prettier observations was the young Tricolored Heron at the right. It will eventually molt away most of the reddish-brown plumage.
Only two Wood Ducks were spotted this week as they flew over and there were only four Palm Warblers. The only other warblers were Common Yellowthroats.
Insect numbers were up with the warm and sunny weather. As usual, White Peacocks (47 individuals) and Barred Yellows (11 individuals) were the most often seen. Other species included Gulf Fritillary, Tropical Checker, Phaon Crescent, Palamedes Swallowtail, and the Monarch butterfly in the photo.
Dragonflies began appearing again with the warm temperatures, but their numbers were few. Only Eastern Pondhawks and Blue Dashers were seen, and not many of each of those.
The only mammals were Raccoons -- two large males on their own and one female with two juveniles following her. One of the juveniles was much more independent, wandering off on its own for short periods while the other stayed very close to its mother. There was fresh Bobcat scat in several spots, but no sign of the actual animal.
Friday, February 15: Corkscrew
Perfect weather lasted all day although it was somewhat quiet early in the morning. Painted Buntings, Mourning Doves, and an Ovenbird were under the Bunting House feeders while White-eyed Vireos called from the vegetation.
A quick trip to the lakes found a Limpkin, several Anhingas, and Red-shouldered Hawks exchanging places in the nest at the north lake. Catbirds were dining on Cabbage Palm berries in the pine flatwood.
Then, it was up to the Blair Center and the library to get ready for 2nd graders. The Painted Bunting and Indigo Bunting in the photo at the right were waiting their turns at the Blair Center Feeders. A male Indigo Bunting was nearby and showing a little more blue in its plumage.
Activities on the Insect Adventure trail went well and the kids were very good on the boardwalk, finding lots of spiders, some Whirlagig Beetles and a Water Strider, and watching two Great Egrets foraging and one Red-shouldered Hawk high in a cypress eating breakfast. That reminded them that they were hungry too, so we moved on.
A small gator was in the dip netting pond, so we didn't dip net. The two activities that the students seemed to most enjoy were the wearing of the compound eye goggles and watching the Ant Lions catch Fire Ants. When one of the groups finished the scavenger hunt ahead of the others, they went back to the Ant Lion tank to watch some more.
The other favorite was when Debbie brought out one of her small gators and the students got to touch it. Three got a kick out of giving it a modified high five with one finger to one of its rear paws.