Monday, May 22: Flint Pen Strand

Another new species was added to the FWC CREW wildlife management area in the morning. The Spot-winged Glider above was very cooperative and hovered right beside me without darting off, even with the camera pointed right at it. That brings us up to 24 species of dragonflies and seven species of damselflies that have been identified.

The other nice discovery during the morning hike was a pair of nesting Black-necked Stilts.

Their nests are typically shallow scrapes in sand. What's uncommon is that literature says they are typically colony nesters with other stilts and shorebirds.

This pair is all by itself. Several years ago a pair of stilts tried nesting, but Fish Crows discovered the nest and a mob of them overwhelmed the stilts and destroyed the eggs. Hopefully, this year will be more successful for the stilts.

Although the morning sky was clear, it was very foggy before sunrise. The regular cast of characters were present before the sun eventually rose.

The Roseate Spoonbill at the left was in its normal spot, joined by one of the Black-necked Stilts, an immature Little Blue Heron, and a pair of Common Gallinules. Gators floated on lake's surface in the deeper areas. A Great Blue Heron rested on a different sandbar in the west lake.

The pair of Sandhill Cranes was preening on their sandbar in the east lake. When they were ready for the morning, they began calling and flew off.

Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Boat-tailed Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, and Great-crested Flycatchers all called from the cypress dome and surrounding pines, and the quartet of Wild Turkeys moved from the nighttime roost in the understory of the cypress dome and crossed into the grasses and pines to the west. The two poults had grown but were still tiny compared to the two hens.

When the sun was up and the fog was gone, other birds seen around the lakes included Green Herons, Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, and Double-crested Cormorants. No ducks were present this week.

It was a deer morning later on. One group of four does was in the middle of the marsh, another trio of does was in the northwest corner of the marsh, and four more White-tailed Deer, one doe and three stags, browsed in the Wax Myrtle between the marsh and the canal.

There weren't very many butterflies because there weren't very many plants with blooms. However, seven species of dragonflies including the Spot-winged Glider at the top were seen. With rain the night before, Green Treefrogs and Squirrel Treefrogs called most of the morning.

Tuesday, May 23: Cypress Dome

Several Swallow-tailed Kite nest attempts have failed, but those with chicks are nearing fledge time. The chick at the right was standing on the edge of its nest and moving around. I didn't see any wing stretching, but it should be ready to branch and fledge any day now. It was vocalizing, calling for its parents and a pair was flying overhead, but they didn't come to it.

Another nest had two nearly adult size chicks with their adult plumage except for the buff color on the breasts. Both parents were in the air around this nest as well but didn't land.

Only 16 kites were spotted this morning, counting chicks. Six of those were roosting in the same tree early. Three more were at a different tree but not too far off.

Other than the Black Vulture nighttime roost, other birds were few.

Two Black-crowned Night Herons, a juvenile and an adult, were by the ditch. All of the others were the regulars, mostly Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Great-crested Flycatchers.

One nice sighting was the Black Racer at the right. It was getting some sun and was not inclined to move even when confronted with a camera right in front of it.

Another new species for the CREW area was identified, and two different individuals were spotted in different areas. It's a Poecilanthrax lucifer, one of the bee flies. I couldn't find a common name for it anywhere online. But with anthrax and lucifer in its scientific name, it probably doesn't need a graphic common name.

The fly itself is not a danger to others, but it is evil to webworm caterpillars and tent caterpillars. It lays eggs in the caterpillars and the larva eat their way out.

One of my favorite kinds of blooms are opening -- Buttonbush. The flowers are really intriguing and unique.

Herps in addition to the Black Racer were just gators, Brown Anoles, and treefrogs. Rain the day before got the Squirrel Treefrogs and Green Treefrogs excited and they were calling much of the morning. And one Pinewoods Treefrog was heard around nine in the morning.

Friday, May 26: Pepper Ranch Preserve

The rains made a big difference in how things looked. Water levels themselves weren't appreciably higher, but all of the Resurrection Ferns on the big oaks were green and full. Even pastures seemed greener.

The array of raptors was fuller too. Both adult Bald Eagles were on their perch near the ranger station, Red-shouldered Hawks were plentiful, and one of the adult Crested Caracaras was at the top of one of its regular pine trees. It flew off shortly after and was walking in one of the pastures. Neither the juvenile Bald Eagle or the juvenile Crested Caracara were visible.

A half dozen Swallow-tailed Kites were in the air, most foraging over the pines near the B Marsh.

Although the juvenile raptors were absent, other young birds were seen.

The young Common Gallinule in the photo was walking at the water's edge of Lake Trafford with an adult close by. A Limpkin and a Tricolored Heron were in the same general area. The Limpkin was one of four seen.

The most unexpected chick sighting was a pair of Least Bitterns in the Cattails below the observation deck. Their photos are below. They were "clicking" near the water's edge to begin with and weren't very visible. Patience paid off as they eventually climbed the Cattails and emerged into the open. One adult Least Bittern was seen, but it flew by and wasn't with the two chicks during my time on the observation deck.

Other young birds were a quartet of small Wild Turkey poults running around with two hens in the tall grasses bordering a pasture.

Green Herons, an Anhinga and Great Egret, Boat-tailed Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and roosting Cattle Egrets and Little Blue Herons were other species seen from the observation deck.

Another positive observation resulting from the rains were some Zephyr Lilies, or Rain Lilies, that were in bloom near the southern parking area for the Sunflower Trace trails.

Only 33 species of birds were identified with Cattle Egrets naturally being the most common.

Only six Sandhill Cranes were in the meadows and pastures, and an equal number of Eastern Meadowlarks were singing from fence posts and tufts of grass. The only other species with numbers in double figures were Northern Cardinals and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Mammals were just White-tailed Deer and Gray Squirrels. Herps included 22 gators plus Brown Anoles and lots of vocalizations from Green Treefrogs and Squirrel Treefrogs.

Here are the photos of the young Least Bitterns.