Tuesday, January 21: Cypress Dome & Caracara Prairie Preserve

Saturday and Monday (January 18 & 20) were at Gargiulo South mist netting and banding sparrows. The percentage of new and recaptures on both days was almost 50/50 with 27 sparrows captured on Saturday and 21 on Monday. The species were Swamp Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, and Grasshopper Sparrow. Palm Warblers and a couple of House Wrens flew into the mist nets too, but they were quickly released.

On a chilly Tuesday morning, we started at Cypress Dome just after sunrise and crossed over into Caracara Prairie Preserve. With the cold and a moderate breeze, we only identified 31 species of birds.

Most often seen were Cattle Egrets. Some were walking with the cattle, but many found a sunny, sheltered side of a small mound near a marsh and chose to nestle down and fluff out their feathers to stay warm. Other birds foraging in the marsh were White Ibis, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Great Blue Herons, and one Tricolored Heron. The ibis were the second most frequently observed species.

We only saw seven Sandhill Cranes. Most had paired up and were peacefully foraging in isolated groups. But the pairs did call back and forth.

The best sightings of the day were a Merlin and an American Kestrel.

A quick stop at the CREW office on the way home to drop off some materials netted some more species, notably a large tom Wild Turkey that was displaying even though there were no hens nearby. There were also Sandhill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, White Ibis, and the Wood Storks at the top of the page. That group of juveniles stayed together on the ground while adults were higher in the trees.

Thursday, January 23: Estero Bay Preserve State Park

The state park in Estero was a new trip for me to see what it was like. I only walked the Estero River Scrub trails, which are at the west end of Broadway Street in Estero. It was disappointing.

The trails are not well marked and the west side of the yellow trail suddenly becomes wet and muddy without any warning as it goes through mangroves. I used my GPS tracker and made my own trail through a drier section bordering the mangroves rather than walk through ankle deep water.

The description of the scrub trail on the official park web site says it is "home to gopher tortoises, snakes, lizards and a myriad of bird species."

I didn't see any tortoises or their burrows, I didn't see any snakes, and I didn't see any lizards. There were some Raccoon tracks in the mud.

The "myriad" of bird species I saw were two Northern Mockingbirds, one Blue Jay, one Osprey, two Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a dozen Turkey Vultures. The only other species that I heard were one Northern Cardinal and one Fish Crow. That's not a very impressive "myriad" of bird species.

The orange and red trails are flat and dry. It really is a good example of scrub habitat with the predominant plant species of Saw Palmetto and Slash Pine. Those two trails are mowed and wide and great for walking dogs, but there's not much else to see

There is a second trail system in a different section of the park, accessible from Winkler off of Summerlin Road, that is supposed to have two observation towers overlooking wetlands where, according to the park's web site, wading and shore birds are plentiful. That will be a trip for another day, and hopefully a more productive one.

Friday, January 24: Corkscrew

A quick trip to the lakes before the 2nd graders arrived was surprisingly productive.

The River Otter at the right was extremely active at the south lake and rarely paused with its head above water for more than a second or two before diving below the surface again. It did catch two fish while we were watching, but it took them up on land to eat behind some Alligator Flag plants and was difficult to see there.

Anhingas were perched in the limbs but chose not to go down into the water, at least while we were looking.

On the way to the north lake, the Great Blue Heron at the left flew in and landed opposite the end of the short cut trail. It stayed on top of the vegetation for moments before walking down the back side to look for some fish of its own.

Small birds were active in the same area. They were mostly Blue-gray Gnatcatchers with some Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, and a Palm Warbler mixed in to the group.

Arnie and I were standing just before the Stevens gauge when a Barred Owl flew in front of us and landed back in the thicket of Pond Apple trees.

It watched a Gray Squirrel very closely but did not make an attempt to catch it. It settled into its spot and was there all morning.

Then, it was time to go to the library to meet the second graders. This week they were from Lely Elementary. My group was really well behaved and seemed to have a lot of fun at each of the stations.

When we reached the library and pond, Debbie brought out the young gator and all of the kids touched the gator. At the scavenger hunt station, Debbie brought out the Red Rat Snake. The kids were reluctant to touch it at first, but after one brave soul volunteered to hold the snake, they all wanted to, and their teacher took photos of each of them with the snake around their shoulders.

Then, it was lunch time for the kids.

We volunteers met in the Bunting House later to tally the morning's observations and wound up with 50 bird species for the morning.