Tuesday, January 24: Flint Pen Strand
The morning was crisp but very entertaining. A steady wind and temperatures in the 50s made the start of the morning quite refreshing, especially since we started about a half hour before sunrise.
We were greeted by a massive flock of around 350 Common Grackles flying out from their nighttime roost and into the neighborhoods to the south. Meanwhile, ibis, herons and egrets were all flying in from their nighttime roosts in the neighborhoods.
Not all of the species of birds that we observed last week were present this week, but new ones arrived to compensate. Tops among those was a small flock of 14 Cedar Waxwings.
The juvenile Purple Gallinule at the left was also new this week. It wasn't having a peaceful day, however, because an adult Common Gallinule snapped at it whenever it got too close. But there was no actual physical altercation.
Other birds were a bit on the grouchy side as well.
The Anhinga at the right was especially anti-social, but gutsy. It decided a nearby Great Blue Heron was not welcome and actually hopped up out of the water and is charging at the Great Blue in the photo. Not many birds can intimidate a Great Blue Heron, or even want to try. This Anhinga was the exception.
And it wasn't a one-and-done thing either. The heron retreated, but apparently not far enough to suit the Anhinga, so it charged again and chased the heron further away. Apparently not satisfied, it turned it attention to a Great Egret and chased it until the egret flew away.
Snowy Egrets were their usual cantankerous bunch around a good feeding area. The one at the right was exceptionally bossy and would run or fly after any other Snowy that got close or looked as though it had found a good feeding spot.
The Snowy was so busy chasing others that we never saw it try to get any food for itself.
Among the other birds new this week in addition to the Cedar Waxwings and Purple Gallinule were an American Kestrel, Common Ground Dove, and Sandhill Cranes. The cranes put on a nice and noisy show before finally flying off to the south.
There were several large mixed species flocks of wading birds in different areas of the marsh.
White Ibis and Glossy Ibis were the most numerous. Most were foraging calmly, except for the Snowy Egrets.
The Great Egret at the left was by itself in one of the groups and looks more like a frazzled parent watching over a group of noisy and rambunctious kids. It was having a really bad feather day.
Herps were twenty gators and one Black Racer. All of the large gators were in or around the lakes while the small juveniles stayed well to the north along the Kehl canal or the gator hole at the northern edge of the marsh.
Insects were non existent early in the morning when it was cool and windy, but once the sun came out and the temperatures warmed a bit, there was lots of activity.
Although we only saw one identifiable dragonfly, a Band-winged Dragonlet, we did encounter 10 species of butterflies.
As is usual for this time of year, Gulf Fritillaries were by far the most numerous with almost six dozen counted. Multiple fritillaries like the one in the photo above were getting nectar from a verbena on the east side of the lakes.
Other species were Queen, Little Yellow Sulphur, Ceraunus Blue, Barred Yellow, White Peacock, Phaon Crescent, Monk and Fiery Skippers, and the Red-waisted Florella Moth. They were all visiting blooms on other parts of the trail.
Although the fritillaries were very colorful and the young Purple Gallinule was vibrant even though it hadn't fully molted into its adult colors, the prize for the most striking went to one adult Roseate Spoonbill.
The majority of the spoonbills that we saw were juveniles with pastel colors. The adult in the photo below was transitioning into breeding plumage. The traces of orange along with the bright pinks really set it apart.