Saturday, February 10: Lee County 20/20

Another route and new birds to add to the overall species list! New species today included a Brown Pelican flying west, 37 Double-crested Cormorants, an Osprey, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Although we only had 39 species total today, we're up to 61 total species of birds for the three days we've been surveying wildlife.

Much of our route today was through Melaleuca, which is a pretty sterile environment for wildlife. We did pass through two cypress domes and some stands of pines where most of the activity occurred.

Many more Cardinals were in the ecotones between habitats. The male at the right was one of three that seemed to be having a song competition.

We only saw one Bald Eagle today, the nice adult pictured at the left. It circled several times over one of the large, artificial ponds before heading off. That pond was also where the pelican and cormorants were seen, but the only birds at water level were an Anhinga and a Little Blue Heron. There was also one gator in the middle of it.

The birds seen most often were Blue-gray Gnatcatchers followed in order by Yellow-rumped Warblers, Double-crested Cormorants, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Palm Warblers. In addition to the eagle, the raptors were Osprey, Barred Owl, and Red-shouldered Hawk. In spite of what should have been great hawk habitat, only two of the Red-shouldered Hawks were seen.

Only a half dozen Bluebirds were seen, all in the open areas below power lines. The one at the left caught a nice sphinx moth caterpillar in the grass and flew up to a perch to begin getting it into swallowable condition.

A number of new plant species were added to our overall list as well. Those in bloom included Common Dayflower, Showy Milkwort, and Star Rush. We also found several Butterfly Orchids, none in bloom, in one of the cypress domes as well as seven species of Tillandsia.

New dragonfly or damselfly species included Halloween Pennants, Needham's Skimmer, and Citrine Forktail. The most common were the Halloween Pennants. One is in the photo at the lower right.

The Killdeer in the upper right photo was one of 14 that were foraging along the muddy banks of the drying little ponds.

Two Palm Warblers and a Pine Warbler share a Wax Myrtle shrub in the photo at the left. Most of the time, the Pine Warblers were in the more heavily wooded areas along with an occasional Prairie Warbler and Black-and-white Warbler.

Good sightings continued in the evening at my front yard feeders.

A female Painted Bunting and the Chipping Sparrow were sharing dinner at one of the feeders while a male bunting and two more females were foraging in the ferns and Sea Grape by the front lanai. All seemed to be quite content with their respective situations.

Catbirds, Cardinals, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler stopped by the water feature for a drink as did several of the Goldfinches, and Mourning Doves were busy under the feeders picking up seed that the smaller birds at the feeders were dropping.

By Wednesday, many of the Goldfinches were gone. It seems a bit early for them to be heading north, and none of the males had really started to turn bright yellow in spots. Perhaps they found feeders elsewhere where there was less competition for food. Chipping Sparrows were more common as usual, and Tufted Titmice have returned in numbers and the buntings seem happier without all of the other small birds at the feeders.

Friday, February 16: Corkscrew

Ideal morning weather was matched with excellent sightings. Green Herons, Red-shouldered Hawks, the Great Blue Heron, warblers, sapsuckers, a Wood Stork, and a Northern Flicker were all near the first water gauge.

The adult stork at the right flew in and immediately began foraging. By using both the wing spread technique and foot pumping, it seemed to stir plenty of crayfish which were easily captured and swallowed.

It had bright pink feet, so it may well have been gathering food to take back to a nest with chicks. Once it had satisfied its quest for food, it flew off.

Even better sightings awaited along the shortcut trail.

Along the way, the pair of Red-shouldered Hawks whose nest is toward the start of the shortcut trail flew to a cypress limb and reaffirmed their relationship. The photo of the pair below almost begs for a humorous caption.

The Summer Tanager and the Baltimore Oriole at the right were about half way across the shortcut trail, foraging in the Coastal Plain Willows.

The tanager continued to move along the trail and was last seen in the Pond Apple thicket between the lakes. We did see it catch one bee and eat it, but it did not move over to the fallen top of the bee tree where bees beginning to go back into the old nest hole.

At the end of the shortcut trail, the right-winged Limpkin was foraging in the water and more Limpkins were calling, flying overhead, and perching in cypress trees. One particularly vocal Limpkin was across from the south lake rain shelter a little over half way up a tall cypress.

At the north lake, the Anhinga chicks began several branches away from the nest. They were jumping and hopping on limbs and somehow managing to keep their balance. Then two of the chicks intentionally dove into the water, swam to the island, turned, and swam back to their starting points. They knew how to submerge and swim, but they didn't seem to know how to catch anything.

The eldest (and largest) of the trio perched on a low branch just above the water and played catch with sticks and leaves it picked up, tossing them into the air and catching them. Once they learn how to spear fish, they will have practiced how to toss them into the air and catch and swallow.

Several large gators were in each lake, but none at the north lake were near the island or the Anhingas.

Red-bellied Turtles and Pig Frogs were at the north lake.

The Pig Frogs were in their customary location near the Stevens gauge bench and the Red-bellied Turtles were on the bank opposite the Box 5 bench. Two of the turtles are at the left. The only other herps other than Brown and Green Anoles and Green Treefrogs were one very small Banded Water Snake a little before the first water gauge and a Black Racer closer to the pine flatwood.

Butterflies were limited to Viceroy, White Peacock, and Orange-barred Sulphur. The Rambur's Forktail at the top of the page patiently posed near the first water gauge, but other dragonflies other than Eastern Pondhawks and Blue Dashers were not common.