Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Tomato Fields, Plus

Thursday November 23rd

White-crowned Sparrow
Our wintering birds are starting to show up in our sunny corner of Florida. We always enjoy their arrival and sometimes rarities are among them.  Last winter we had a pair of Brants visit us for a few weeks.  This past week, another goose species has shown up. A juvenile Greater White-fronted Goose has been located in a pasture along North River Road. Any wild goose species is uncommon in our area, but I don't recall any reports on Greater White-fronted Geese.

A very distant look at the Greater White-fronted Goose
with a few Blue-winged Teal

I was able to observe the bird last Sunday morning in the company of several ardent Birders.  A scope is necessary as the bird will keep its distance. Was too far for my photography.

Yesterday I headed out early for the flooded Tomato Fields along Oil Well Road, near Ava Marie in Collier County. This time of year this location hosted numerous variety of birdlife - waterfowl, Canvasback, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Mottled Ducks, American Coots and Pied-billed Grebes. But there were Huge numbers of American White Pelicans, Great Egrets and the rest of the waders. Water is a bit deep yet for any yellowlegs, avocets or black-necked stilts.  Maybe later
The Canvasbacks wouldn't come close enough
for any good pics
waders, peeps, etc, for a few weeks before it dries up. The variety of waterfowl is a short list at this time -

A few miles east on Oil Well Road is a location called the Two Bridges. Went to this location to look for Western Kingbirds, which was located actually about a mile west of the Two Bridges. Had an interesting observation were a half dozen birds roosting in a pair of barren trees. Due to the lighting conditions I couldn't make out what they were until they flew. Snail Kites. Other species here included lots of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and Blue-winged Teal, American Bittern, Anhingas, Cormorants, Limpkins, Grebes, Black-crowned Night-herons and Palm Warblers.

Next was a bit of a drive to the Big Cypress National Preserve--Oasis Visitor Center out on the Tamaimi Trail by the Everglades. David True has been reporting some nice sightings from here.  Especially sparrows. I was interested in getting a picture or two of a White-crowned Sparrow and rewarded with a bird willing to pose. 

Gator at Two Bridges

American Bittern

Western Kingbird

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gunners Trail

Thursday November 16th

Much of the Gunners Trail remains quite wet
Wild Turkey Strand Preserve is a large parcel of Lee County property acquired as part the 20/20 program to preserve environmental sensitive lands. Much of this property was formally part of the Buckingham Army Air Force Flexible Gunnery Training Base. The base was operational from 1942 till 1945 were 50,000 American servicemen trained in aerial gunnery for service aboard bombers.

Today the Gunner's Trail is a part of the Wild Turkey Strand Preserve were remnants from the former gunnery school can be observed along the trail. It is also a place for the observation of Florida wetlands. A further purpose for the property is a wildlife corridor. Florida panthers have been seen off the trail as well

Download Buckingham Army Air Field brochure 

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve Trail Map
House Wren

A couple of days ago I took a walk on the 1.8 mile Gunner's Trail, which was quite wet. It will dry down later.

Gray Catbirds, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers and House Wrens were very active today. The marshy areas hosted Belted KingfisherAmerican Coots, Common Gallinules, Purple Gallinules, Limpkins, Blue-winged Teals, Mottled Ducks, Black-belled Whistling Ducks, Anhingas, Wilson's Snipe, Glossy and White Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons and other waders.

Other birds on the day included Snail Kites, Red-shouldered Hawks, Northern Harrier, Tree Swallows, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Northern Cardinals, Downy Woodpecker and several Swamp Sparrows.

Probably a Golden-winged Skimmer

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Limpkin Babies

Saturday November 11th

I had heard that the pair of limpkins at Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve now had four chicks. Today I was fortunate to be able to observe this limpkin family. I understand that they had hatched about two weeks ago. Both parents were actively hunting for apple snails to feed their large brood.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Atala Butterflies

Saturday, November 4th

Atala Butterflies emerging from chrysalis

Back in mid-October, I was visiting Rotary Park in Cape Coral on a quest for interesting birds. But the most interesting subject was seen in the Butterfly House. Sheryl Anderson invited me to witness the emergence of a pair of beautiful Atala Butterflies.

The Atala or Coontie Hair Hairstreak is a, once on the edge of extinction, rare species whose range existed within the southeastern corner of Florida, in Cuba  and  the Bahamas. The cause for its demise in Florida, was the over harvesting of its host, larval plant. The Coontie is cycad species of plant, native to Florida, which is very important in the Atala' life cycle. The adults lay their eggs on this plant and were the emerging caterpillars will feed on its leaves. The plant is poisonous for most creatures, but Atala thrive on them. The ingested toxins also makes the Atala caterpillar undesirable to potential predator species looking for a meal.

The Indigenous peoples of Florida including the Calusa and Timucuans, and later with Seminoles considered the Coontie plants to be an import food source. The roots and stalk would be pounded to a pulp and the toxins would be rinse away. The starch produced from this process would be used in making Coontie Bread.

Early European settlers also learned to harvest the Coontie for its starch. By the 1830s, entrepreneurs began commercial harvesting the Coontie, which lasted into 1926. Tons of the plant were harvested and the product was marketed as Florida Arrowroot. This massive harvesting along with land development almost eliminated the wild Coontie plant.

The Coontie is now making a comeback and, though still rare, so  is the Atala Butterfly. The Butterfly Garden and House at Rotary Park  are  actively involved in this revival.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Six-Mile Cypress Slough Reopens

Wednesday November 1st

It has be about fifty days since Hurricane Irma struck. Very slowly our public parks and preserves have been able to reopen. Today Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve has opened, partly.

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue - Gray Gnatcatcher
Half of the boardwalk remained closed awaiting its final clean-up.

Spent about an hour their today. So much of the canopy has been defoliated and dead snags and limbs had come down, leaving a lot more open space. Should make it a bit easier to observe the birds.

Saw my FOS Blue-headed Vireos and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Other birds today included Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, lots of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Palm, Pine, Northern Parula and Prairie Warblers.

Apple Snail shells found at the Gunnery Trail.
They would have been left behind by either
Limpkins or Snail Kites, which feed on them

Earlier in the morning stopped at the Gunnery Trail at Turkey Strand Preserve. and had a FOS Sora calling, more Yellow-rumped, Pine, Palm and Common Yellowthroat Warblers, tons of Gray Catbirds and numerous waders. Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Mottled Ducks, Blue-winged Teal and Common Gallinules were seen as well.


A female Black-throated Blue Warbler seen at Rotary Park in Cape Coral

A Black-and-White Warbler at Rotary Park

Also heard a report of an Ani seen by Meg in the Estero Buffer Preserve. Sounds intriguing.

Gray-headed Swamphen at Harns Marsh

Tricolored Heron at Harns Marsh

Red-shouldered Hawk at Harns Marsh

Red-tailed Hawk at Harns Marsh

A Polka-dotted Batfish seen in the shallows at Bunche Beach

Prairie Warbler at Lakes Park

Palm Warbler at Lakes Park

Northern Parula at Sugden Park

Black-and-White Warbler at Sugden Park

American Redstart at Sugden Park
A Black-throated Green Warbler at Sugden Park

A Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher at Sugden Park

A Common Yellowthroat at Sugden Park