Friday, July 23: CREW Flint Pen Strand

Water levels had dropped significantly in the last two weeks. What was then knee to thigh high water was today just ankle deep. But that did provide some isolated spots of water where small fish were trapped and were ideal foraging grounds for wading birds.

Most of the birds got along with each other, except for Snowy Egrets. They were constantly bickering and threatening each other while White and Glossy Ibis, Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons, and Great Egrets all tolerated each other. A few Great Blue Herons chose not to be part of the crowds and were off by themselves.

The most often seen were 36 White Ibis followed by 18 Great Egrets, 16 Tricolored Herons, 15 Snowy Egrets, and 13 Little Blue Herons. Outliers were six Great Blue Herons, four Green Herons, and one Glossy Ibis.

It was a little disappointing not to spot any Black-necked Stilts this time, and really surprising not to see or hear any ducks considering all of the water in the marsh. Other water's edge birds included Killdeer and Common Gallinules.

Wild Turkeys always seem to be around the marsh.

Today two large groups were present. The regular family of two hens and five poults was by the western edge of the marsh, and another family of four turkeys was on the island in the east lake.

The poults are still only about half the three quarters the size of the adults, but they are starting to look like adults. The young turkey at the right was in the regular family and tried to display, but it didn't have quite enough tail yet to be very impressive.

The only other youngsters were Northern Mockingbirds. Two different families had fledglings with them. The young were consistently chasing the adults to beg for food, but the adults generally kept trying to fly away from their offspring, so there was a lot of chasing going on.

Another youngster was really rambunctious.

A young male White-tailed Deer was foraging with its mother and would suddenly take off and go bounding through the tall grasses, circling and returning to the doe. It would forage a little, and then suddenly go bouncing off again.

By 10 o'clock, the heat index was already hovering around 105º, so as the sun rose and the morning wore on, more and more insects became active. The Southern Carpenter Bee and Honey Bee in the upper right photo shared a Passionvine bloom near the edge of the marsh.

Only seven species of butterflies were seen. The most common, as usual, were White Peacocks, Barred Yellows, and Gulf Fritillaries. A few nice ones were the Cassius Blue in the photo and a Bella Moth.

Dragonflies were much more active and common. Unusual sightings were a couple of Eastern Amberwings and Little Blue Dragonlets. Both are really tiny and if they hadn't been moving, they would never have been noticed.

Among the herps, gators and Oak Toads were the most frequently seen. Very few frogs/treefrogs were calling and the only vocalists were Pig Frogs, Green Treefrogs, and Florida Cricket Frogs. The calls were very sporadic.

There were several areas where little channels funneled water from the marsh into the lakes. Those were very popular with the wading birds because they were shallow and prey was easy to nab. For whatever reason, large Gar also seemed to like those areas. It often wasn't deep enough for them to be completely below the surface, so when they swam, they created small waves and trails in the water. The Gar in the photo below didn't seem to be in as much of a hurry and just cruised into deeper water. It was in the vicinity of 18-22 inches long.