Tuesday, November 22: Flint Pen Strand
For a day that began with fog and totally overcast skies, it turned out to be a really nice morning. Expectations for wildlife were low because of the poor visibility and were equally low for decent photographs because of the poor lighting.
So it seemed like a good time for some off-trail exploring in the preserve, and what would normally be about a two to three mile hike turned into a six mile jaunt.
There were bonuses. Nice sightings were American Bitterns, Wilson's Snipe, Greater Yellowlegs, a pair of Purple Martins, Sandhill Cranes, Wood Storks, Killdeer, and small birds including House Wrens, Carolina Wrens, Pine Warblers, a pair of Pied-billed Grebes, and a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers.
There were also lots of Belted Kingfishers. Ten kingfishers were seen during the morning.
In all, 42 species of birds were identified. There may have been a few more than that, but smaller birds that were high in trees or flying over were just silhouettes. And that total was with no Gray Catbirds, Northern Cardinals, Pileated Woodpeckers, White-eyed Vireos, or any of the ducks.
A surprising element was the number of wading birds, especially around the lakes and edges of the marsh.
Those numbers included 63 Little Blue Herons many of the white juveniles, 60 Great Egrets, 42 Tricolored Herons, 24 Snowy Egrets, 37 White Ibis, and 13 Glossy Ibis. The bulk of the herons and egrets were seen flying into the marsh just before sunrise.
The only other species with counts in double figures in addition to the Belted Kingfishers were 96 Common Grackles, again along the southern edge of the preserve where houses had multiple bird feeders hanging in the back yards, 21 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 18 Palm Warblers, 18 Boat-tailed Grackles, and 20 Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
Back at the lakes, Double-crested Cormorants outnumbered Anhingas. The cormorant in the photo caught a good sized catfish and worked for quite a while trying to orient it to swallow. It would dip under water for a second or two and quickly resurface, presumably to moisten the catfish so it would be easier to swallow. It did eventually swallow the whole fish before flying up to a snag where three other cormorants were perched.
Insects and herps were few due to the weather conditions. Only four species of butterflies and four species of dragonflies were seen, and only White Peacocks numbered more than a dozen individuals. The only herps were one Alligator and one Brown Anole, and the only mammals were a White-tailed Deer doe.
Friday, November 25: Pepper Ranch Preserve
It was another foggy start to the day and then scattered clouds for the rest of the morning. But wildlife didn't seem to be bothered at all -- 45 species of birds were observed, and there were a couple additional unidentified "mystery" birds.
Two early sightings were the pair of Crested Caracaras at the left. The two were just a couple of trees apart although there were clouds behind one and not the other. They were in the trees at a bend in the road where they are almost always found early in the morning.
The first sighting of the morning was one of the Bald Eagles perched in its snag near the ranger station. But it was so foggy that it wasn't worth trying for a decent photograph. Usually there are Wild Turkeys in that general area, but none were present today.
The only other raptors were an Osprey and several Red-shouldered Hawks.
In addition to Pepper Road and Sunflower Trace Road, I took a short hike on the Tuscawilla trail. There was a good deal of rain in Immokalee on Thursday evening, so the trail was wet and muddy almost everywhere. Usually it was only five to six inches deep, but in one spot a channel crossing the trail was a little over 12 inches deep.
The only birds along those areas were lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers, some Palm Warblers and White-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatehers, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. The trail passed along the edge of a small marsh and Wood Storks and White Ibis were perched in the trees along the far side of the marsh. The little Banded Water Snake at the right was sunning on some of the emergent grasses in the trail. It was about three and a half feet long and was the only snake seen.
I went as far as a gator hole at the western edge of the marsh before the water became too close to the tops of my boots, so I turned and went back from there. No gators were spotted, but a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons were in the vegetation surrounding the gator hole.
In a different marsh, Roseate Spoonbills, Mottled Ducks, White Ibis, Cattle Egrets, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Green Herons, and one Great Blue Heron foraged. The Osprey circled overhead but continued on elsewhere.
Most numerous of all of the birds were Tree Swallows. One huge flock of them were landing and rising on a single clump of vegetation in the middle of a wet prairie toward the southern end of Sunflower Trace Road. A photo is at the bottom of the page of part of the group. There was no way to couHere's a link to a short video of the landing and taking off. This was repeated several times.
After the swallows, the most often seen birds were 88 Cattle Egrets, 56 Yellow-rumped Warblers, 22 White Ibis, 21 Gray Catbirds, 20 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, 16 Boat-tailed Grackles, 14 Palm Warblers, 14 Blue Jays, 14 Turkey Vultures, and 13 Great Egrets.
The only herps other than the Banded Water Snake were Brown Anoles and one Green Iguana that was on the Lake Trafford observation platform.
Insects were few with only five species of butterflies and seven species of dragonflies/damselflies identified.
Mammals were just Gray Squirrels and White-tailed Deer.