Tuesday, November 17: Flint Pen Strand
A cold front passed through the night before, but although the temperatures weren't appreciably cooler, the humidity was. It was a nice morning to be out.
We began just before sunrise and were treated to large flocks of wading birds flying in. White Ibis were expected, but what wasn't was a large flock of Little Blue Herons.
It was a mixture of adults and juveniles, mostly adults, comprised of two dozen Little Blue Herons plus two Tricolored Herons.
For the day, we counted 35 Little Blue Herons and 23 Tricolored Herons.
A few lingered around the lakes, but the vast majority found prime feeding habitat along Poorman's Pass to the east and north of the lakes.
They were joined there by Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and White Ibis. The lone Wood Stork seen flew deeper into the flooded pine area.
We only saw and heard a half dozen Green Herons. Most of those were in the vegetation along the Kehl Canal at the northern edge of the marsh.
One Great Horned Owl was perched along a side trail in the pines east of Poorman's Pass where a pair is frequently found. Another CREW Trust volunteer found a second pair of Great Horned Owls along the red trail well to the west in the same morning, so there are at least two pairs of Great Horned Owls that have established residence in the southern portion of Flint Pen Strand.
Other raptors today were several Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawks, and one Merlin. The Merlin flew out from the pines late in the morning, glided low over the east lake, and then flew north back into the pines.
Water levels were up a little more since last Friday and the deepest parts of the trails that we traversed in the morning and early afternoon were around 16 inches in the north portion of the red trail. We avoided one known area of deeper water on the south part of that trail by going a little cross country through the vegetation.
The high grasses and other plants plus the water were ideal habitats for dragonflies and damselflies. The female Rambur's Forktail at the left was the only female of that species that we saw; males were much more common. Citrine Forktails were the other noticeable damselfly species.
By far the most common were Eastern Pondhawks with 131 individuals positively identified. Other high counts for dragonflies were 42 Halloween Pennants, 38 Needham's Skimmers, and 21 Band-winged Dragonlets.
Butterflies weren't as numerous as when the temperatures were warmer and the wind calmer. However, we did identify 10 species.
The most frequently seen were 25 Gulf Fritillaries and 21 Barred Yellows. An especially nice sighting was a Monarch butterfly getting nectar from a Scarlet Milkweed. When it had satisfied its hunger, it appeared to be depositing eggs on the leaves of the milkweed. Once it flew away, we walked closer but we couldn't see any of the eggs.
However, we did find two Monarch caterpillars busily eating the leaves. The one below was at the top of one of the stalks while the other was on the underside of a leaf closer to the ground.
Another winter visitor arrived in a large flock of American Goldfinches -- the Pine Siskin at the right. It's been several years since one has been here. Still no sightings of Chipping Sparrows yet.
With the Goldfinches mobbing the feeders, the Pine Siskin and Painted Buntings are having to pick times when the Goldfinches aren't there. But the buntings are larger and if they get there first, the Goldfinches don't run them off.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers still rule the feeders and Cardinals and Tufted Titmice manage to get in for sunflower seeds too. Catbirds are present but aren't seed eaters, so they stay off on their own and just stop by for a drink from the water tub.
The Goldfinches are really sloppy eaters and spill a lot of bird seed, so the ground feeders like the Mourning Doves are having a great time.
The trail cams this week have recorded videos of a large Black Bear, Bobcat, Opossum, Gray Fox, and lots of Raccoon, Cottontail Rabbit, and Gray Squirrels passing through the front yard near the feeders. The Coyotes haven't shown up on the cameras since last weekend.