Monday, June 10: Flint Pen Strand

The weather forecast was for likely rain and thunderstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday, so today seemed like the safest day to check out Flint Pen Strand. It was cloudy most of the morning with rare spots of sunshine. But it was hot and humid with the incoming weather system.

Some of the clouds were impressive at sunrise. The ones at the left are looking northwest from the banks of the west lake. The clouds were a little too thick to the east for any nice sunrise formations and colors.

The temperature before sunrise was just under 80º and it only warmed up to 83º three hours later. The humidity was equally static, starting at 89% and ending at 85%. There wasn't much movement or variety in wildlife either.

Only 22 species of birds were spotted and only five species each of butterflies and dragonflies. They must all have sensed a drop in pressure with the approaching weather front.

Grackles were everywhere. Both Common Grackles and Boat-tailed Grackles now have fledglings out with parents, so large groups were common. Thirty-two Boat-tailed Grackles were observed, but judging by all of the calls, many more were down in the marsh grasses. Thirty Common Grackles were seen. Even more Red-winged Blackbirds were present with 19 individuals counted. They were very noisy deep in the Cattails, so that was definitely a lower number as well.

The other plentiful birds were Common Ground Doves. Nineteen of those were seen.

Last week's clusters of wading birds in small pockets of water in the marsh were gone today. There was still water, but the birds exhausted the available prey and were elsewhere this morning.

Nevertheless, there were some wading birds. One juvenile Tricolored Heron was along the bank of the island in the east lake, two Great Egrets flew over, and two Great Blue Herons and one Glossy Ibis were still in the shallows hunting prey.

Two Green Herons were in different areas. One was roosting by the canal at the north end of the marsh while the other, in the photo at the top of the page, was waiting patiently for something good to eat to swim by at the water's edge at the south end of Poorman's Pass.

The Great Blue Heron in the panel below found one filling meal in the gator hole at the north end of the marsh. It carried its fish to a shallower spot, spend a good deal of time orienting it so it would go down head first, and then spent more time soaking the now dead fish in water. Perhaps that was to wet it down enough that it would go down the heron's throat a little easier. Finally, with one big gulp, the heron swallowed the entire fish, and extended its head and neck so the meal would have a straight shot down.

One nice sighting was what was most likely a Round-tailed Muskrat. The little animals scurried across Vincent Road and into the vegetation so quickly that there wasn't time for even a fast, blurry photo. It was either a Muskrat or an immensely large Wood Rat. Other mammals were just White-tailed Deer.

My yard

The rains began Monday night and continued for the rest of the week. So other than trips to the mailbox and to fill bird feeders, it was mostly a stay inside week.

The wet weather was never intense, but it was steady. Fortunately (?) the area had been in a drought situation before the rains, so a lot of the initial rainfall was quickly absorbed into the ground. After that, not so much. The street in front of my house had standing ankle deep water when I wheeled the trash bin to the street Thursday evening for Friday pickup. I had to wheel it back because each time a car drove through the water, the waves caused the trash bin to float off. The house is dry although some water started to creep onto the back porch.

There was lots of interesting wildlife in the yard to keep me entertained during the week.

The pair of Gray Foxes visited nightly. The one in the photo, taken on Wednesday evening through my bedroom window, comes early while there is still light. It must be lurking in the palmettos and watching and waiting. I usually put peanuts out around 8 o'clock, and it was already eating by 8:10 when I was back in the house and walked through the bedroom.

It and its mate are regulars early in the evening. Then, the Virginia Opossums come around 10 o'clock, the Raccoons around midnight, and then the foxes and opossums are back from about 3-5 AM.

Occasional visitors are Cottontail Rabbits and a Nine-banded Armadillo. The Southern Flying Squirrels were only captured by one trail cam at the start of the week, and no bears visited during the week.

One special visitor Wednesday night meandered through the yard, first by the bedroom window and then in front of the house. It's the first time one has been on camera since 2022. Here's a video of it passing by the first trail cam. That's one lucky opossum.

Daytime birds have been the regulars -- lots of Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, Common Ground Doves, Tufted Titmice, and Blue Jays around and under the feeders. Common Nighthawks overhead in the evening and early morning. and Brown Thrashers, Northern Flickers, Mockingbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Great-crested Flycatchers, and Carolina Wrens foraging in more open areas to the side of the house.

The only daytime mammals that I've seen have been Gray Squirrels, Cottontail Rabbits, and Hispid Cotton Rats.