.January 6-12

One more yard photo above: A pair of Goldfinches and a pair of female Painted Buntings dropped down from the feeders for a drink. A family of Raccoons -- mother and three young ones -- have also discovered the water; fortunately, it's too deep for them to wade.

Wednesday, January 10: Fakahatchee

The collective name for a large group of crows is a "murder of crows," so maybe this cluster of four might be called a "justifiable homicide of crows." They were eventually joined by two more along Janes Scenic Drive during the monthly Bio Blitz.

There were only 16 species of birds at my station, and while volunteers at other stations didn't have many more, they were different species, so as a group, we probably had upwards to 40 species.

The morning began with rather dense fog, so not much was stirring.

In the "Things That Go Bump in the Night" category, one surprising sighting in the fog was a mother bear and a very small cub on Janes Scenic Drive just a little north of where I was standing.

I never saw them come up onto JSD in the fog, but suddenly they were just there. And as suddenly as they appeared, they crossed the road and into the vegetation. It was refreshing to see them, even in the thick fog.

The crows showed up a little later as some of the fog began to burn off and it was easier to see things more clearly.

One of the better bird sightings were two Green Herons, one on each side of the road but reasonably near to each other. Both were low in the branches and fallen limbs foraging.

A lone Barred Owl called, but it was too far into the dense vegetation to get a visual observation. After the crows, the most often observed birds were Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Great-crested Flycatchers.

Two of the hawks were on a nest which may already have chicks in it. One of the hawks, presumably the female, would fly in with something small in her beak, make some very soft sounds, and repeatedly put her head down as though she were feeding something. When she was done, she would fly off and the second hawk pictured here would fly in, call loudly from the edge, and then settle down into the nest.

The bears were the only mammals I saw, and the only herp was one gator which crawled up on the edge of the drive to bask in a semi-sunny spot late in the morning. Other than a few small mosquitoes, no insects were seen. But there were lots of the Leucauge argyra Orchard Spiders in their dew laden webs.

Thursday, January 11: Dinner Island Ranch

My first visit to Dinner Island Ranch in Hendry County was a very successful one. Our intrepid group of seven identified 63 species of birds along CR 833 and at the ranch, and we had great views of most of them.

Multitudes of Golden Apple Snail shells were along part of the drive in the ranch, so our Limpkin sightings were in double figures with 11 individuals observed.

The most often seen species was, naturally, Cattle Egret, which were around and riding on top of the cattle on the ranch. Birds with pleasantly high numbers in addition to the Limpkins were 10 Belted Kingfishers, 19 Eastern Meadowlarks, and 12 Savannah Sparrows.

We expected to find Snail Kites there because of the snail presence, but we didn't see any today.

Raptors that were there were Red-shouldered Hawks, Barred Owl, American Kestrel (bottom left photo), and Northern Harriers (several females and one gray ghost).

Plenty of birds were scattered around the marshes and ponds and in the fields.

The American Bittern above was one of two seen. All of the inland egrets and herons were present plus Black-crowned Night Herons.

We came upon one group of five adult Purple Gallinules. Other species associated with water included Spotted, Solitary, and Least Sandpipers; Lesser Yellowlegs; Common Gallinules; White Ibis; Belted Kingfishers (bottom right photo); and a large flock of White Pelicans that flew over.

A special sighting and a life bird for me was one Clay-colored Sparrow. It's a very rare visitor to Florida and according to most range maps, shouldn't be here at all. It's to the left.

Other sparrows, which are much more common, were Grasshopper Sparrows (center photo), and Savannah Sparrows (right photo).

The only mammal we saw was one very large Raccoon. It came out of the water from a ditch and started up the bank into the grasses. But two Crested Caracara were on the ground and took offense. One of the birds quickly strode toward the Raccoon, which quickly retreated. Then, the Caracara both resumed their foraging and preening in the field. Herps were limited to one Soft-shelled Turtle and many Alligators. The gators ranged in size from very small to rather massive.

Friday, January 12: Corkscrew

The fog was mostly absent this morning, but with the exception of a very brief time in late morning, the skies were completely gray as another cold front began to move into the area. That made all of the little birds in the tops of the cypress just silhouettes, so many went unidentified. Nevertheless, we did come up with 40 species of birds.

It was a good day for herps. In addition to the Pig Frog and Green Treefrogs at the left, we saw Cuban Treefrog, Leopard Frog, Alligator, Banded Water Snake, Water Moccasin, Black Racer, and Brown and Green Anoles. This Pig Frog was in the usual spot at the north lake, and the pair of Green Treefrogs in the photo were just before the open bench at the south end of the wet prairie.

No butterflies were seen and very few dragonflies. Mammals were just Raccoon and Gray Squirrel.

One female Wild Turkey has become a somewhat common sighting around the Gator Hole. The interns living there have named her "Mel" and say she is a regular.

The female Anhinga spent the morning on the nest. There is at least one chick in the nest, but she kept it well hidden and covered. The male perched on a limb above the nest, but we didn't see a changing of the guard when it might have been possible to see a small head and bill or two pointed up for a possible feeding.

Red-shouldered Hawks should also have chicks in the nest, but we didn't see any activity at the nest along the shortcut trail, and there may be chicks in the Barred Owl cavities, but no one has seen them. The water levels are still a bit high for the hawk and owl parents to come within sight of the boardwalk where they might be getting crayfish and frogs to feed the chicks.

There was no sign of the Purple Gallinule at the south lake, but one did call in the open area across from the first water gauge. A Limpkin and a Pied-billed Grebe were in the same area.

The only blooming orchid we saw was the Epidendrum amphistomum at the right which was along the spur leading to the observation platform. Clamshell orchids are blooming at other sites, but none along the boardwalk had blooms. Some of the Polystachya orchids appear to have small buds, but none of them were in bloom either.