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Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Quartet of Warblers and Raptors in Southwest Florida

[Corkscrew Swamp, Bunche Beach, and Harns Marsh. FL. Aug/Sep 2013]

4 species of raptors and 4 of warblers highlighted a quick trip to Southwest Florida.

First, the warblers: 1 resident and 3 visiting warbler species livened up the swamp at Corkscrew in late Summer:

  • Northern Parula [resident]
  • Black and White Warbler
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Louisiana Waterthrush
The Black and White will stick around through winter and will be joined by Palm, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated , Ovenbird, Pine, Prairie, and Myrtle.

Northern Parula

Corkscrew Swamp is the best place to see Northern Parula in Southwest Florida. This species is especially visible at this venue in Spring but can be seen year round.

Northern Parula is a small, colorful Eastern warbler that has disappeared from many areas of its former breeding range in the Midwest and the Northeast; nevertheless, its general population trend is positive and it is classified as Least Concern.

A Louisiana Waterthrush was passing through the swamp -- water levels were quite high, but the few exposed areas of mud and vegetation still offered plenty of foraging opportunities to this atypical warbler.

Louisiana Waterthrush

This compulsive tail-bobber is not found in the US in Winter, preferring instead the warmer climes of the neotropics.

Attesting to the wide array of behaviors in the Warbler family, the Black-and-White forages more like a nuthatch than a typical warbler; climbing vertically on tree trunks and creeping along branches and twigs looking for insects.

It is commonly found here in winter; frequently in mixed flocks.

Our final warbler is the Prothonotary; aptly known as the "Golden Swamp Warbler", this is one of the rare warblers that nests in tree cavities; like woodpeckers.

Other species included:

White-eyed Vireo

Pileated Woodpecker

... and Carolina Wren.

The Arachnid of the day -- a scaringly impressive Okefenokee Fishing Spider (yes, these giant spiders do eat fish):

... and lastly, something much more innocuous, the Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly:

A trip to Corkscrew offers a glimpse of what Florida must have been like generations ago -- lush, majestically wooded and full of enchanting creatures perfectly adapted to their environment. We are indeed fortunate that this small island of unlogged Cypress still stands.

Next, the 4 species of raptors:
  • Bald Eagle
  • Snail Kite
  • Crested Caracara
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
 First, the Bald Eagle:

This flypast was seen at Bunche Beach with White Ibis in the background. Florida has a healthy population of Bald Eagles; second only to Alaska.

Next, thanks to a last minute invite from master photographer and avid blogger Bob Pelkey, an exciting opportunity arose to observe an early morning take-off of Crested Caracara.

These large falcons presented some challenges with distance, movement and contre-jour lighting, but this is a specialty bird of the region and any observation is always a delight.

While the Caracara is seen in Texas and Arizona as well, our next raptor, the Snail Kite, is found exclusively in Southern Florida.

This highly specialized hawk is Federally endangered in the US; but globally, it has a large population and is classified as "Least Concern". This female was observed along the canals south of Harns Marsh.

The next hawk, is an abundant raptor of the region. The Red-shouldered Hawk, was seen at Corkscrew Swamp where it is a resident nester.

The reptile of the day was this color Red Rat Snake (identification courtesy of Bob):

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

Your late August trips to Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary were extremely well rewarded with highly enjoyable images from such a difficult lighting environment for photography presented. Such beauty to capture is indeed no easy task, Hemant.

As a follow-up to our Crested Caracara observation, I made a visit to Harns Marsh Preserve this morning, 15 SEP 13, to find the birds one less in number as they caught my attention in flight from south to north along the western edge of the marsh. The two birds landed west of my observation point.

I will have to revisit the backyard Florida snakes website to identify the snake that I almost walked over, believe it or not, at the near exact point as the Red Rat Snake.