Tuesday, October 12: CREW Flint Pen Strand
More snowbirds are returning. This morning, Gray Catbirds were back and very vocal in the wooded areas, especially along Ridge Road and in the cypress dome north of the marsh, and more Palm Warblers were foraging in the drier parts of the trails. Belted Kingfishers have been here for several weeks now, but their numbers are increasing.
Parts of the marsh and lakes where the wood warblers would be found aren't really accessible enough yet due to the high water levels, so there may be warblers in those areas but we couldn't get to them. The only other warbler besides the Palm Warblers were some Common Yellowthroats. They were in the tall grasses and other emergent plants in the middle of the marsh.
The Great-crested Flycatcher at the left watched us pass through the pines on Ridge Road on our way to look for the Great Horned Owls. Only one of the owls was present this morning, and it spent most of its time sleeping, just occasionally opening its eyes at a disturbance and then quickly closing them again.
The pair of Barred Owls that usually flies into the south cypress dome after a night of foraging wasn't seen this morning. They either returned earlier than usual, or they were still out while we were there.
Other pre-dawn birds were the usuals.
Large flights of White Ibis, today numbering over 350 individuals, came in several waves. There were more Great Egrets flying in than usual, but fewer Tricolored Herons and Little Blue Herons. We only saw five Glossy Ibis fly over.
Great Blue Herons may spend their nights in the marsh and surrounding woods because we don't see them fly in -- they are already there although they begin moving about as sunrise approaches..
Butterflies were still rather scarce with Barred Yellows and Gulf Fritillaries being the only species with individual numbers in double digits.
The subtle blue shades of the Long-tailed Skipper at the right and one Ceraunus Blue contrasted with the brighter colors on Gulf Fritillaries, Palamedes Swallowtails, Phaon Crescents, and White Peacocks
Dragonflies and damselflies had the most vivid colors, especially the bright red male Needham's Skimmers and the blue and green Common Green Darners.
As usual, Halloween Pennants outnumbered everything else. except for the White Ibis. We counted 184 of those and that was undoubtedly an under count. Other plentiful species were 89 Needham's Skimmers, 45 Eastern Pondhawks, and 24 Rambur's Forktails.
While birds like the Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers were vocal all morning. Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Great Egrets were noisy when disturbed. But surprisingly, frogs were completely quiet.
Pig Frogs and Florida Cricket Frogs have been heard regularly, but today they were all quiet. The only herps we saw were gators Oak Toads, and treefrogs. The tiny Squirrel Treefrog at the right found a safe hiding place in the folded over leaf of a Coco Plum in one of the higher areas in the marsh. We only saw one Green Treefrog, and it was clinging to a reed in a wetter area of the marsh.
Water levels were still high, even more so than last week. The deepest part was on the purple trail north of the marsh where the water's depth was a refreshing 30 inches. Most of the other areas in the marsh were only knee deep or slightly above.
That meant that there was relatively little shallow shore for shore birds to utilize, and we didn't see or hear any.
Thursday, October 14: CREW Flint Pen Strand
A return visit to the lakes/marsh and to parts of the red and yellow trails yielded different species of birds than were seen on Tuesday plus a greater variety of birds.
One of the Great Horned Owls was in the same tree as earlier in the week and on the same branch. It had at least turned around, and it slept the entire time we watched.
One of the Barred Owls flew into its cypress dome by the lakes parking lot before sunrise, but the second Barred Owl was still absent.
Another new sighting today was the pair of Sandhill Cranes at the top of the page. They flew over the western edge of the marsh, heading south for the day.
White Ibis numbers were down again with only 287 counted. However, there were more Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons, and Little Blue Herons.
Other waders were Green Herons, Snowy Egrets, and Great Blue Herons.
More species seen today that weren't found on Tuesday included Mottled Ducks, Black Vultures, Northern Cardinals, Red-headed Woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker below, Common Grackles, and the adult Bald Eagle at the right.
The eagle was perched in a lone pine tree near the yellow trail and west of the boatyard pond. The eagle was a bonus sighting while searching for the Red-headed Woodpeckers. Just two of them were spotted, one juvenile with a not-quite-red head and one adult.
Another juvenile that hadn't acquired its adult colors was a Common Gallinule. It and one adult were in the reeds toward the northern end of the marsh. A third gallinule called from its regular territory between the two lakes.
We also saw more Gray Catbirds and Palm Warblers than before as they continue to arrive for their winter season.
Butterflies were the regular species. Gulf Fritillaries were the most common followed by White Peacocks, Zebra Longwings, and Barred Yellows.
Dragonflies and damselflies were the same group, too, although there were lots of individuals.
We counted at least 158 Halloween Pennants and 106 Needham's Skimmers. Eastern Pondhawks were pretty common, too, with 74 individuals counted. Band-winged Dragonlets, Blue Dashers, and Rambur's Forktails were the only other of the 12 total species with numbers in double figures.
Herps weren't plentiful. Only eight gators were seen, all big ones, and the numbers for Pig Frogs, Green Green Treefrogs, Cuban Treefrogs, Florida Cricket Frogs, and Brown Anoles were all in single digit numbers.
Thirty-seven species of birds were tallied combining the sightings for the two days, which wasn't bad for the middle of October.
There were more birds that should have been there but we didn't see or hear. That was mostly due to the high water that wasn't favorable for small shore birds and that made some of the wooded areas were warblers were likely to be too inaccessible.