Tuesday, March 21: Flint Pen Strand
The first full day of spring wasn't very spring-like. The starting temperature about 15 minutes before sunrise was just under 49º and there was a stiff breeze. Once the sun was up and where trees blocked some of the wind, it was actually very pleasant.
Today's early birds, other than Great Egrets flying in, were two Black-necked Stilts. They started in a small pool west of the lakes but quickly flew to the west lake where they began foraging. They flew around to different spots at the edges of the lakes but were mostly in that vicinity. One Greater Yellowlegs shared some of the foraging territory.
Five Common Gallinules focused their efforts on the water and reeds between the lakes.
The Belted Kingfisher in the photo alternated between the top of the pole between the lakes where it first greeted the rising sun and one of the water depth posts nearby in the east lake. Eventually it flew off.
Great Blue Herons, including the one below just before sunrise, and Double-crested Cormorants were the other two primary feeders at the lakes' edges. The Cattle Egret in the photo found a sheltered spot in the sun between the lakes to warm up before beginning its day.
The only raptors today were Osprey, Swallow-tailed Kites, Red-shouldered Hawks, and the American Kestrel in the photo. It was on its regular snag in the middle of the marsh. When it was first sighted, it was finishing something for breakfast but there wasn't enough left to tell what it was. Then it flew to a cypress deeper into the marsh where it continued to look for more prey.
One really strange encounter was with the Wild Turkey in the top photo. It was walking north on Poorman's Pass while I was walking south. I stopped, expecting it to scurry off, but instead, it just kept coming. Eventually it reached me and calmly walked past me. I could have reached out and touched it. That's not at all common turkey behavior.
Two other Wild Turkeys started with it but they rushed off very quickly.
The Cedar Waxwing at the right was at my house on Monday. I was walking out to the mail box in the late afternoon and looked up to find six of the waxwings in a fig tree near the house. There weren't very many fruit on the tree, and once the ripe ones had been devoured, all six left. It was a brief but very nice encounter and much different from the regular buntings, goldfinches, woodpeckers, doves, cardinals, and jays.
Swallow-tailed Kites were overhead. It was a very pleasant way to officially welcome spring, even if the temperatures were a bit on the low side.
Thursday, March 23: Cypress Dome
Here's one more photo from the yard to go with the Cedar Waxwings on Tuesday.
While walking Daisy in the backyard yesterday morning, we came across the first of the Amaryllis that have begun to bloom. Daisy was unimpressed.
Swallow-tailed Kite activity has increased in Cypress Dome -- more Swallow-tailed Kites and more nests. We counted just over two dozen kites on our hike in the morning. The largest concentration was at a night-time roost before all of the kites took to the air. Seven were perched and three more were already in the air.
One uncommon behavior we saw involved two of the kites. At first, they were perched with the others; then, they took off. But they returned to the roost, each with a treefrog in its beak. After landing, they ate breakfast.
From what I had read and heard, kites catch prey and eat while on the wing. Those kites apparently didn't get the message because they landed and ate the prey while perched, like other raptors. A photo of one of them with the treefrog in its beak is below.
Lauren had been out earlier in the week checking for nest activity in the south portion of Cypress Dome where we usually don't go. She found several new nests as well as a couple of renests. She and WynLyn have also been checking the CREW Marsh Trails and the CREW portion of Pepper Ranch.
Counting the nests we had already found in the north part of Cypress Dome, we were up to 11 active nests in Cypress Dome, four in CREW Pepper Ranch, and one in CREW Marsh Trails. Today we found another new nest in Cypress Dome, so the total number of kites on nests in the CREW area is now up to 17. And according to the ARCI satellite tracking of migrating kites, more are still arriving from South America. So it should be a good year, as long as there isn't the Barred Owl predation that occurred last year.
Below are some kite photos from the morning: a kite perched at the night-time roost, one on eggs in a nest, and the one with the treefrog.
We were aware of other wildlife during our walk. The two huge gators were still lounging in separate parts of the ditch along with some smaller gators located at a safe distance from the two big males. Water birds were fewer with just a Limpkin and Great Egret today along with Anhingas and a Belted Kingfisher. Sandhill Cranes called in the distance while Great-crested Flycatchers, the three regular woodpecker species, Cardinals, White-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Blue Jays, Catbirds, and warblers were nearby in the trees. The only warblers were Yellow-rumped, Pine, and Common Yellowthroat.
Insects weren't overly common. Butterflies were just Gulf Fritillaries, White Peacocks, and one Common Buckeye. Dragonflies were Eastern Pondhawks, Needham's Skimmers, Golden-winged Skimmers, Blue Dashers, and one Band-winged Dragonlet.