Monday, November 5: Caracara Prairie Preserve

With last week's sighting of three Crested Caracara in Imperial Marsh, it was time to check Caracara Prairie Preserve, which is just down the road, to see if there were any signs of nesting activity. It had been a year and a half since I found the last Crested Caracara nest there.

To that end, I avoided the trail and instead went cross country trying to stay near open prairies/marshes and tall Cabbage Palms where the Crested Caracara nest. It was a notably unsuccessful morning as far as sighting any of the Crested Caracara. However, new areas were explored and there were plenty of other nice sightings.

One was finding 11 Sandhill Cranes. The group of four above were along the edge of a marsh at the southern end of the preserve. They were just finishing preening and getting ready to settle down for a little rest. Two others were in a different marsh in the western section and the others were around two marshes at the north end.

Also near the southern marsh were the three Wild Turkeys at the left. Surprisingly, none of them ran off or even seem bothered when they spotted me. But the one in the center did stand and watch me the whole time while the other two foraged. They eventually moved into the thicker vegetation closer to the marsh.

While walking through the marsh, one Wilson's Snipe was flushed, which was also an uncommon sighting.

The marsh was full of the Purple Bladderwort plants in bloom. Yellow Bladderwort are very common, but it was unusual to see so many of the purple.

The Barred Owl at the upper left was one of two seen. This one was being harassed by three Blue Jays but seemed content to perch and watch the action.

Starting in the prairies brought other sightings that usually are not seen from the trail, which goes mostly through pine, cypress, and a few marshes.

One was a pair of Savannah Sparrows that flew up into a dead brush pile long enough to see them and get a photograph. Another was an American Kestrel which was at its regular spot on a snag between two fields.

For the morning, 38 species of birds were identified. Most often seen were Tree Swallows when over five dozen of them were dipping into a small pond in the northern area to get drinks before heading out for the rest of their day. Common Gallinules, herons, and egrets were in the reeds and grasses surrounding the pond.

After the swallows, the greatest numbers of individuals were Palm Warblers, Mourning Doves, Red-shouldered Hawks, White Ibis, Great Egrets, and the Sandhill Cranes.

Ten species of butterflies were identified, The most common being White Peacocks, Barred Yellows, Phaon Crescents, and Common Buckeyes.

There were also 10 species of dragonflies/damselflies identified, plus one that still remains unidentified. Most common there were Eastern Pondhawks followed by Band-winged Dragonlets, Rambur's Forktails, and Blue Dashers.

The Rambur's Forktail at the right, three Citrine Forktails, and Halloween Pennants were all in the marsh at the south end.

Wednesday, November 7: CREW Bird Rookery Swamp

Wildlife was very cooperative and varied this week. Observations included 45 species of birds and 17 species of butterflies plus a nice assortment of herps.

Two of the really nice bird observations came early between the end of the boardwalk and Ida's Pond. The first was an American Bittern that flew up from the grasses beside the trail and went further back into the deeper water and higher grasses.

The second was strange and a new species for the BRS list. As I approached Ida's Pond, a Green Heron gave out one loud squawk and flew right at me. It passed just behind me, about knee high, with a Merlin in hot pursuit. But when the Merlin saw me, it veered upwards and landed on a limb overhead. After one glance back in my direction, it flew away. The heron was hiding in the thick grasses and was very quiet.

Other good bird sightings included four Wood Ducks (two sets of two females), a Limpkin, a pair of Eastern Wood Pewees, and one female Painted Bunting.

The most often seen bird species were Blue-gray Gnatcatchers with 38 individuals. They were followed by 28 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, 27 Gray Catbirds, 23 Turkey Vultures at their night time roost, and 20 Palm Warblers.

Other species with uncommonly high individual numbers were Black-crowned Night Herons (13) and Great Blue Herons (10). It was the first time that there were more Great Blue Herons than any other of the heron or egret species.

The only warblers were Black-and-white Warblers, Palm and Pine Warblers, an American Redstart, and Common Yellowthroats.

Herps were a mixed group. Only 23 gators were spotted and turtles were limited to Red-bellied, Soft-shelled, and a lone Chicken Turtle. The Chicken Turtle was in almost the exact same spot as it was last week. The shell of a Florida Mud Turtle was beside the trail, but the turtle itself had long since disappeared.

Amphibians included Pig Frogs, Green Treefrogs, and an Oak Toad. All were silent.

Dragonflies were a tad on the scarce side. Only six species were identified, and there weren't very many of any of those. There were only a dozen Eastern Pondhawks while other species were Halloween Pennants, Carolina Saddlebags, Eastern Amberwings, Blue Dashers, and Needham's Skimmers.

Mammals were few but interesting. The large male River Otter at the right came up on the trail in the early afternoon, lumbered toward me for a short while, and then slipped back into the water. Instead of swimming around on the surface and looking around, once it was in the water, it swam below the surface except for sticking its head out for a breath of air. It was an otter on a mission.

The other mammal was a Gray Squirrel walking down the trail with one of its offspring in its mouth. It would walk 10-15 feet, stop and rest, and then start up again. It, too, was on a mission and walked right past me to wherever its new home was going to be.

Butterflies were amazing, not in their numbers but in their variety.

Of the 17 species identified, only White Peacocks, Barred Yellows, and Tropical Checkers had 10 or more individuals. White Peacocks were most numerous with 45 individuals counted.

Joining the regular cast of characters were four Clouded Skippers, four Dorantes Longtails, and a Gray Hairstreak. Swallowtail numbers were really down with only eight Tiger Swallowtails and one Palamedes Swallowtail seen. But finding two Monarchs in addition to Ruddy Daggerwings, Gulf Fritillaries and Viceroys made up for the low numbers.

The photo below is of one of the Monarchs sipping nectar from Mist Flower and a Tiger Swallowtail doing the same at a Pickerelweed bloom.

On a totally unrelated note, I run a spell check when I'm done, and although it flags scientific names as unknown, it should do well on regular words. Last week it must have been having a bad day.

It should know the word mitigation, but instead it let migitigation slip through. If anyone noticed, sorry about that.

There's no Friday report from Corkscrew this week; instead, I was a co-leader for a field trip at Bird Rookery Swamp for an Advanced Marine Science class from Naples High School.

since August 31, 2018

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