Monday, June 19, 2017

The Water is Rising

Sunday June 18th

I hadn't planned on walking the four miles around the north cell at Harns Marsh, but the weather was tolerable. Not terribly hot, not very buggy, there was a nice breeze and its not raining.

Sandhill Crane at Harns Marsh

Harns Marsh is operated as a storm water retention facility by the East County Water Control District to control flooding in the area. Just a few weeks ago the marsh along with this entire region  of Florida were suffering from drought conditions. Most all of the wetlands here had dried out.  Drainage ditches had dried out and were populated with vultures working over the remains of the many dead fish left behind. These conditions were also bad on the wildlife depending on these wetlands Limpkins and many other wading birds have been concentrating at the few wet holes still remaining. Species like the gray-headed swamphens and purple gallinules have disappeared.

Brownheaded Cowbird seen at Harns Marsh

But the rains have arrived.  Heavy rains.  Lots of water. Lots of sheet flow. All of these dried out canals, lakes and wetlands are now full.  Very Full. Today the water levels are too high and moving too swiftly at Harns Marsh for the wading birds. But today I'm walking the four miles to see if any of the swamphens or purple gallinules could be relocated elsewhere on the property. Did sight a couple of Snail Kites and a count of sixteen Limpkins, plus a Least Bittern and a handful of Mottled Ducks. But no swamphens or purple gallinules.

There is a species that benefits from the earlier dry down conditions. The Wood Stork. Wood Stork nesting is about water levels. A good wet season, enabling prey species to multiply followed by a drying down, to concentrate these food sources needed for raising their hatchlings. This nesting season saw the first nesting colony at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary since 2014 with as many as four hundred nests. These numbers as a fraction of the annual thousand nest that used to colonize Corkscrew Swamp not that long ago. As our human population expanses in south Florida all our wading birds are suffering

Live Apple Snail photographed at Harns Marsh

Friday, June 16, 2017

Florida Reptiles

Friday, June 15th

Mama Gator with Hatchling at Apple Pond Trail on Sanibel

Southern Florida is currently in our annual Birding Doldrums. Its the slowest time of the year to enjoy birding activities.  We do have many species which are either residents like Rosette Spoonbills or summer visitors here for nesting such as Gray Kingbirds or Swallow-tailed Kites. Migration has ended for now and so many wintering visitors have left to nest in the North such as Yellow-rumped Warblers or American Avocets. Later, as the summer progresses lots of birders will augment the slow
birding by with observations on Dragon Flies and Butterflies.

This American Crocodile was found along a canal in Miami-Dade County

 I, also, like to make observations on the reptile life we have here in Florida. We have native and many exotic reptile species inhabiting every possible eco-system. Here a few of the species I have managed to photograph. 

Box Turtle displaying a very wore shell, seen at Babcock-Webb
House Gecko (exotic) can be found on the exterior of many buildings

Yellow Rat Snake from Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Black Racer - Very Common Species

Water Moccasin - Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Ring-necked Snake
A healthier looking Florida Box Turtle

Puerto Rico Crested Anole (exotic) seen in Coral Gables
Bark Anole (exotic) seen in Coral Gables
Knight Anole (exotic) Seen in Coral Gables

African Rainbow Agama (exotic) seen in Coral Gables

African Rainbow Agama seen in Coral Gables

Green Iguana (exotic) are rather Common in South Florida

Basilisk Lizard (Exotic) seen in several counties in south Florida
Scarlet Kingsnake
Gopher Tortoise
Ornate Terrapin seen at Ding Darling NWR
Florida Ribbon Snake seen at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Spiny Tailed Iguana (exotic) seen in Miami

Brown Cuban Anole (exotic)

Brown Cuban Anole seen at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
A Northern Curly Tailed Lizard (exotic) found in the Florida Keys
Green Anole

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Life on the Beach

Sunday May 21st

Recently made several visits to see whats happening along our shore line. Many of the shorebirds have already left for the the far North to nest, but some nest here as well. Some of these shorebirds, too young yet for nesting, will remain in the area for the summer.

Wilson's Plover

Local populations of Wilson' Plover, Snowy Plovers, American Oystercatcher nest on the beach on our barrier islands - Sanibel, Captiva, Cayo Costa and Estero Islands and Lovers Key.

Least Terns are arriving from their pelagic haunts to nest at their growing colony at Carlos Point on Estero Island.  They will be joined next month by Black Skimmers for their own nesting season.

Wilson's Plover are nesting at Ft Myers Beach

 Sea Turtle nesting season has also begun. Hopefully we'll see a good hatch this year.
To learn more on the subject visit Turtle Time.

We usually see Black Bellied Plovers  in their less impressive winter  molt
They have now molted into their more colorful breeding molt

Male Sanderling in breeding molt

Sanderling in alternate or breeding molt

Least Terns have arrived to nest at Carlos Point on Ft Myers Beach


Fiddler Crab found at Bunche Beach
Believe it is an Atlantic Sand Fiddler Crab

Fiddler Crab

Snowy Plover Chick

American Oystercatcher

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Last Hurrah

Sunday May 7th

Ruby Throated Hummingbird seen at Bowditch Point Park

Locally, the start of May heralds the waning of the Spring Bird Migration. So far we have been experiencing an unexceptionally low movement of neotropic birds. The prevailing winds have been pushing the migrating birds away from southwest Florida more toward the more western landfalls on the Gulf Coast. But just this past Friday the weather pattern had changed, pushing birds our way. Thus creating our Last Hurrah.

Female Rose Breasted Grosbeak

 I personally was able to find a few these new arrivals, but many birders who visited the Sanibel Lighthouse Park, Freedom Park in Naples and down on Marco Island,  had a great day.  Many warblers, thrushes, vireos, grosbeaks, buntings, cuckoos, bobolinks, tanager species, as well as, lots of hungry Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds were om hand. It wasn't Magee Marsh, but a very satisfying occasion.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Indigo Buntings singing from the trees

Black-and-White Warbler

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Still Looking for Birds

Tuesday, April 25th

Rose early on the final day in the Keys to make a final look for Roseate Terns at the Marathon Government Center. Arriving at sun rise, the site was fairly quite with a Least Terns and Magnificent Frigatebird flying over head. But shortly a large flock of Roseate Terns flew in. A White-crowned Pigeon seen in the parking lot. Time to move on.
Cape May Warbler seen at Key Largo Hammock State Park

Made a return stop nest at Key Largo Hammock State Park and walked the one mile Loop Trail. Aside from Cardinals, White-eyed Vireos, Palm Warblers and a lone Cape May Warbler the location was fairly quite.

Key Largo Hammock

Sight along the Loop Trail at Key Largo Hammock Park

Before leaving the Keys made another return stop to look for the Cuban Golden Yellow Warblers at Card Sound Road toll booth area. After parking, was immediately rewarded with a singing yellow warbler with in a few feet. The Golden is a Yellow Warbler sub-species from Cuba and the Caribbean and barely reaches into the mangroves of the Florida Keys.
Cuban Golden Yellow Warbler

Northern Curly-tailed Lizard seen at Card Sound Road
Next made another return stop at Lucky Hammock, just outside of Everglades National Park. The site was loaded with Flycatchers. Eastern Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Gray Kingbird, Tropical Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers.

Western Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird
Tropical Kingbird

From Lucky Hammock headed up to Coral Gables to Matheson Hammock Park were American Redstarts were dominate.  Other warblers seen included Blackpoll, Prairie, Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue, Cape May and Black-and-White. Other birds included Short-tailed Hawk, Chimney Swift and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. As for exotics birds seen a pair of Common Hill Mynas and a trio of Yellow-chevroned Parakeets.

Common Hill Myna
Matheson Hammock Park also hosts numerous exotic lizards - Basilisk lizards, African Rainbow Agamas, Green Iguanas, Crested Anoles and Knight Anoles.

Knight Anole

Crested Anole
One last stop, a return visit to the Snapper Creek Canal Cave Swallow Colony. On Sunday it was too rainy, but today Cave Swallows were zipping in and out of their nesting site below the Sunset Ave bridge. This wraps up my birding vacation. Lots of good sights , missed some too. Maybe next year.