Friday, September 22: Flint Pen Strand

The morning began rather early, 35 minutes before sunrise and 15 minutes before first light. The goal was to listen and perhaps hear owls calling, but they must have been elsewhere because the only noise in the dark came from mosquitoes.

A little after first light, Northern Cardinals and Northern Mockingbirds began calling. Eventually others joined in. Other than White Ibis and some Tricolored Herons flying over, not much happened before sunrise, with one exception.

The Belted Kingfisher at the bottom right was calling and landed in a snag by the east lake. Normally, kingfishers catch small fish, but this one landed with a Crayfish in its bill. It took a little work, but it did manage to swallow the pre-dawn meal. One Red-headed Woodpecker called from the pines west of the lakes parking lot, but there wasn't enough light to pick it out among the dark snags.

The pair of Sandhill Cranes was foraging in the marsh, but it wasn't until well after sunrise that they began calling and then flew out to the south. Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons joined the Tricolored Herons in the water areas in the marsh. With recent rains, there was much more water and the wading bird numbers were noticeably higher than they were last week.

The most frequently seen were seven Tricolored Herons and seven Little Blue Herons. Most of the Little Blue Herons were juveniles like the one at the right. Other wading birds foraging in the water and on the ground were Snowy Egrets, a pair of Limpkins, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, and Green Herons. The only shore birds that were seen were Killdeer.

The most often seen of all species were over five dozen Boat-tailed Grackles. Surprisingly, the next most common were 17 Northern Mockingbirds. Several family clusters of four to five mockingbirds were present with the adult sized juveniles still harassing their parents for food.

The hike through the ridge in the middle of the marsh didn't yield as much activity as the past several weeks, but the grasses and vegetation were between thigh and waist high, and wet with dew, so a lot of the insects may have been lower where they weren't as easy to locate.

Even the tiny Squirrel Treefrogs stayed hidden in the leaves unless they were flushed into moving. And then, they usually disappeared lower in the plants.

Other herps were 13 gators, all large and in the two lakes; Pig Frogs, Cricket Frogs, and one little Cuban Treefrog.

Insects everywhere were a little harder to find. Only nine species of butterflies and 12 species of dragonflies were identified.

As usual, Gulf Fritillaries were the most often seen butterflies. They were followed by the Red-waisted Florella Moths, White Peacocks, and Barred Yellows. One Monarch was spotted in the pines parking lot.

Needham's Skimmers and Band-winged Dragonlets were the most common dragonflies. Four of the striking Common Green Darners were active. One along Old Bonita Beach Road was hiding in the low vegetation. When a large insect flew over, it darted straight up, snagged the thing in the air, and dropped down to its ambush hiding spot to dine.

One common plant in FPS was very uncommon. Passionvines were plentiful in the drier parts along the trails. Many of already developed the bright red seed pods while others still have the pretty purple blooms.

But one plant had all white blooms without even a tinge of purple along the petal edges. Three blooms were open and all were the same with white petals.

Honey Bees didn't seem to mind the color change although most seem to have preferred the yellow blooms on Wedelia, Spadderdock, Golden Aster, and Partridge Pea.

My yard

It was a relatively quiet week on the trail cams. The pair of Gray Foxes showed up every night as did two male Virginia Opossums, although the opossums were never together. One Raccoon showed up three nights.

Big mother bear only showed up on the trail cams three nights during the week. It must be hot in that heavy fur coat because she was almost always panting and usually started by drinking some water from the tub and then taking another drink before leaving. More scat is appearing in different parts of the yard, so she is making herself at home. Most of it is still full of the seeds from Saw Palmetto plants. The fruit is just ripe right now, so she is taking advantage.