Wednesday, April 14: Fakahatchee
Normally, our monthly bio blitz along Janes Scenic Drive is fairly quiet, especially at my station. But today was a little different.
To start with, mammals were much more evident. Two Everglades Minks were spotted, both crossing Janes Scenic Drive and within 20 minutes of each other. Gray Squirrels were chatting, and the White-tailed Deer in the photo at the lower right made an appearance, crossing JSD not far from where the mink had crossed.
Then, there was the Barred Owl at the right. It was just stirring and beginning to preen to get ready for its day.
The most often seen of all wildlife were Zebra Longwings. A night time roost was just north of my station and a group of 16 were in constant flight in the one area. The one in the photo stopped to rest (when butterflies rest, their wings are up; when they're warming up, the wings are spread). For the morning, 24 Zebra Longwings were counted.
Other butterflies included Julia, Tiger Swallowtail, and Palamedes Swallowtail.
The second most common species were Gray Catbirds.
The catbird at the top of the page was one of several eating ripe fruit on a Strangler Fig. Others were dining on the ripe fruit of the Royal Palms. Twenty-two catbirds were observed at my station, and more were along JSD driving to and from my station. Catbirds are among the last of the winter visitors to migrate north, and these were really bulking up for their trip.
Even with an abundance of available food, they were still chasing each other away from their preferred foraging areas.
The noisiest of the birds were American Crows.
There were only three of them, but they were constantly calling, trying to chase a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks away.
When the hawks finally flew off, the crows settled down and were almost quiet for the rest of the morning.
Herps at my spot were just Brown Anoles and a Squirrel Treefrog that called once. However, further along JSD a monster gator basked beside the road. It drew quite a crowd of spectators.
The only other insects were a pair of Regal Darners patrolling their territories, a Needham's Skimmer, and Honey Bees that were visiting the variety of plants in bloom.
Thursday, April 15: CREW Cypress Dome
Twelve nests were checked today. Eleven were known nests and the twelfth one was a new nest this season although it was used last season. Ten of the twelve had kites prone in the nests on eggs, but two of the nests had hatchlings.
The head of one of the very new kites is circled in the photo at the right. The parents in each of the nests were standing in the nest, lowering their heads into the nests to feed the chicks, raising their heads, and then repeating often. There were no chicks last week in the two nests, so these new little kites are less than a week old.
One other of last season's nests was checked because of kite activity in the air near it. One adult was sitting in the nest, but it flew off and hadn't returned for 20 minutes, so that is probably not an active nest. Yet.
Twenty-two species of birds were seen. The most unexpected were a Prairie Warbler and a Limpkin.
Another surprise was the Florida Box Turtle at the upper left. It retreated into its shell at my approach.
Other herps were Squirrel Treefrogs that called, Brown Anoles, and the big gator in the photo. It was thirteen to fourteen feet long and slowly swam through its pond to the bank. Because water levels are low, it expended a lot of energy climbing up the bank to find a place to bask, and it stayed there for the rest of the morning.
Another pleasant sighting was the Grass Pink Orchid at the left. It was growing at the edge of a meadow among lots of bright Butterflyweed blooms. It was the first one seen in Cypress Dome this year.