Author Archives: Amy

Birding Gemini Springs, November 2013

In November I birded at Gemini Springs 9 times, finding 62 different species of bird. Last year I saw 57 species in 6 outings and in 2011 I had 48 species in 6 outings. This year I didn’t add anything to my all-time bird list, but I did add a new butterfly and a new mammal. The complete bird list is at the end of this post.

November seemed kind of dreary, and according to WeatherSpark, indeed it was: “the cloudiest month of the last 12 months was November, with 77% of days being more cloudy than clear. The longest spell of cloudy weather was from November 12 to November 23, constituting 12 consecutive days that were cloudier than they were clear.” So I wasn’t imagining it! We also seemed to have more rainfall than usual for this time of year.

Despite my doldrums (did I mention that I was also sick for over a week early in the month?), migration continued and birds and other wildlife were to be found living their lives at my dear local patch. Here are some photographic highlights from last month’s birding at Gemini Springs.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule | 04-NOV-13

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe | 06-NOV-13

Painted Bunting
lousy photo, nice bird: Painted Bunting | 06-NOV-13

path
Gemini Springs path | 06-NOV-13

Zebra Longwings
Zebra Longwings | 06-NOV-13

In addition to a plethora of Zebra Longwings, on November 6th I saw more dragonflies than I have ever seen at the park. If you make the following video full-screen you can better see the abundance:


dragonflies | 06-NOV-13

Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant | 12-NOV-13

Little Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron | 12-NOV-13

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler in its namesake habitat | 12-NOV-13

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk | 12-NOV-13

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird on a rare “blue” day | 18-NOV-13

Ceraunus Blue
Ceraunus Blue, new to my life list | 18-NOV-13

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove against some more blue | 18-NOV-13

Pearl Crescent
Pearl Crescent | 18-NOV-13

unknown raided eggs
raided nest | 22-NOV-13

unknown fluff
sneeze machine | 24-NOV-13

unknown fungus
fungus, ID unknown | 24-NOV-13

On November 24th I heard a sound I did not recognize coming from the vegetation between a mowed path and the bayou. I looked for the source but could not find it; I guessed it was a frog. Later along the same path I heard the same call again. It sounded very close so I peered into the vegetation and saw a snake with a frog in its mouth. The cry I heard was coming from the distressed (!!) frog. I tried to take some photos but it was hard to get a clear line of sight to the un/fortunate action. In the below photo you can see the frog, its back legs in the snake’s extremely widely opened mouth. The frog’s eye is in the bottom quarter of the frame, about center. The head of the snake is in the top quarter of the frame, also near the center of the photo. Its mouth is open VERY wide. I think it’s a Peninsula Ribbon Snake. The doomed frog is a Southern Leopard Frog, which you can kind of tell from the photo but I was able to confirm by its distress call, a recording of which I found on YouTube. I heard the same cry in two different spots — it seems November 24th was a bad day for Southern Leopard Frogs at Gemini Springs. Click on the photo to see it bigger on Flickr. There I have also pointed out the frog and snake if you have trouble seeing them here.

snake with frog
Peninsula Ribbon Snake (?) with Southern Leopard Frog | 24-NOV-13

Gemini Springs
a spring (1 of 2, natch) | 27-NOV-13

American Alligator
American Alligator | 30-NOV-13

Grey Catbird
Grey Catbird | 30-NOV-13

On November 30th I saw a new mammal at Gemini Springs — a North American River Otter! A couple of Carolina Wrens were going crazy close to the spot where I found the frog-eating snake just days earlier. I paused to see what had their panties in a bunch and was surprised to see a large brown mass of something lurking on the ground in the dense foliage. By the time I realized it was an otter, it started to move off. But as I stood still, the otter’s curiosity seemed to get the better of it, because it turned around and looked at me for a full minute. The below photo is the best I could manage between all the twigs. Can you see the otter looking at me? If you need help, click on the picture to see it larger and tagged on Flickr.

North American River Otter
North American River Otter | 30-NOV-13

That’s it! Here’s hoping for sunnier skies in December. ๐Ÿ™‚

Gemini Springs bird list, November 2013

Hooded Merganser – Lophodytes cucullatus
Pied-billed Grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
Double-crested Cormorant – Phalacrocorax auritus
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
White Ibis – Eudocimus albus
Glossy Ibis – Plegadis falcinellus
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Sora – Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Ring-billed Gull – Larus delawarensis
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tree Swallow – Tachycineta bicolor
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Ovenbird – Seiurus aurocapilla
Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-rumped Warbler – Setophaga coronata
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Prairie Warbler – Setophaga discolor
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerina
Savannah Sparrow – Passerculus sandwichensis
Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Painted Bunting – Passerina ciris
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis

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My visitors came from *where* in October 2013?!?!

This blog had lots of visitors in October (yay!), but not too many notable searches came up in my Statcounter (boo!). Here’s what’s what:

Someone was looking for snakes in volusia county. My blog is by no means definitive but I am certainly on the lookout for snakes all. the. time. I just love them. ๐Ÿ™‚ See my herp life list including snakes here. To the person looking for information on gemini springs snakes, you should really like the following page: Fans of Gemini Springs Park. You will love the album “Snakes of Gemini Springs”!

Someone wondered, will cardinal feed cowbird babies? The answer is yes, Northern Cardinals care for Brown-headed Cowbird “offspring”. Cowbirds are apparently found in central Florida throughout the year, but I have only seen them during the winter months since we moved here (and I’m still waiting to see my FOF BHCO). Someone else wondered what to feed a baby cowbird. To which I say NO.

Someone was looking for what an e-bird kyosk cost. If they had known how to spell kiosk I think they would have found better intel: eBird Trail Tracker.

Finally, someone searched for beatiful barred owl. They are all beautiful, truly, but an individual bird very dear to me, sweet sweet Meepy, recently left this earth. My first owl love will always have a very special place in my heart. Fly free, Meeps.

Meepy and me

Meepy the Barred Owl

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Birding Gemini Springs, October 2013

Last month I visited Gemini Springs nine times, finding 57 different species of bird. Last year we spent most of the month out of state so I have no checklists from Gemini Springs for October 2012. The complete 2013 list is at the end of this post.

One species, Eastern Kingbird, was new for my year list. Returning winter visitors arrived, including Eastern Phoebes, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Swamp Sparrows, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. I also saw an adult Red-headed Woodpecker, my first at the park since March. I’m still looking for my First of Fall Yellow-rumped Warblers (already seen by others at Gemini Springs), Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinches and American Robins.

Here are some photographic highlights from October 2013.

Southern Leopard Frog
Southern Leopard Frog | 01-OCT-13

Tricolored Heron
Tricolored Heron | 01-OCT-13

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat | 04-OCT-13

Green Anole
Green Anole | 04-OCT-13

Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike | 04-OCT-13

pollinator
pollinator | 04-OCT-13

On October 9th I took a trail I don’t often take. It’s a mowed path but it had not been cut for some time, and there were deep grooves of mud throughout. As I walked on, the path got more and more overgrown and I wished I hadn’t gone the way I had. It looked like rain and I was afraid I would have to do some serious bushwhacking — in sandals and shorts — to get back to pavement. I was rewarded with a nice aerial dance by our breeding pair of Bald Eagles soaring above me, the female being chased by her mate.

ritual
Bald Eagle pair | 09-OCT-13

And then I found a lifer insect smiling up at me. Worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bold Jumping Spider
Bold Jumping Spider | 09-OCT-13

Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe | 11-OCT-13

Southern Black Racer
Sunning Southern Black Racer | 11-OCT-13

kayaking
We finally got our kayaks in the water | 14-OCT-13

Black-and-white Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler | 16-OCT-13

Peninsula Cooter
Peninsula Cooter | 21-OCT-13

If you are a fan of Gemini Springs, please consider becoming a Fan of Gemini Springs on Facebook!

Gemini Springs logo

October 2013 bird list, Gemini Springs

Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Osprey – Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Common Ground-Dove – Columbina passerina
Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Archilochus colubris
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-headed Woodpecker – Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
Eastern Phoebe – Sayornis phoebe
Eastern Kingbird – Tyrannus tyrannus
Loggerhead Shrike – Lanius ludovicianus
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon
Marsh Wren – Cistothorus palustris
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Ovenbird – Seiurus aurocapilla
Black-and-white Warbler – Mniotilta varia
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Prairie Warbler – Setophaga discolor
Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Indigo Bunting – Passerina cyanea
Painted Bunting – Passerina ciris
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major

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Limpkin show

It took me a long time to find my FOY (First Of Year) Limpkin this year. Just a couple of days later I spent some time watching an individual at Gemini Springs foraging for snails by the dam. All of the photos in this post were taken at Gemini Springs on April 29, 2013.

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

Limpkin

It was interesting to see how much it work it was to get the snail out of the shell. You can see the Limpkin banging on the snail and finally gulping down its prize in the video below.

Though I haven’t seen many Limpkins this year, I know this species is often a target for out-of-state birders visiting Florida. I do feel lucky that nearly every time I go out birding locally, there is a chance I could see a Limpkin.

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Birding Gemini Springs, September 2013

I birded Gemini Springs 10 times in September, tallying 56 species. Last September I only saw 43 species in 9 trips. New for the year were Eastern Wood-Pewee, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush, Ovenbird, and Baltimore Oriole. The complete list is at the end of this post.

Here are some photographic highlights from a month of birding at Gemini Springs.

Common Gallinule
Common Gallinule chick | 02 September 2013

Florida Box Turtle
Florida Box Turtle | 06 September 2013

golden orb weaver sp
Golden Orb Weaver sp | 06 September 2013

With the cooler fall weather, Arthur and I biked the Spring-to-spring Trail a few evenings over the last month. On September 8th, we came across a runner who had stopped to photograph something off the path – a BOBCAT! Our first in the park (which is adjacent to the trail) and a new BIGBY species. Woo hoo!

Bobcat
Bobcat | 08 September 2013

Naturally, we saw (but did not photograph) another one just two days later. ๐Ÿ˜‰

morning at Gemini Springs
crisp morning | 10 September 2013

During another evening ride a few days later, we saw a family of feral pigs in the same area we saw the first bobcat. I’ve only seen pigs a couple of times before, always in a much more remote area of the park. The piglets are cute but the species is invasive and does a lot of habitat damage. Not good.

feral
feral pigs | 11 September 2013

gator
little gator | 13 September 2013

Black Racer
Southern Black Racer | 16 September 2013

Brown Thrasher
Brown Thrasher | 16 September 2013

During yet another evening bike ride, I was extremely thrilled to come across a Scarlet Kingsnake on the bike path right at the entrance to the park.

Scarlet Kingsnake
Lifer Scarlet Kingsnake — so beautiful!! | 18 September 2013

Viceroy
Viceroy | 20 September 2013

Eastern Glass Lizard
Eastern Glass Lizard | 22 September 2013

Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moth
Scarlet-bodied Wasp Moth | 22 September 2013

noctuidae sp
noctuidae sp | 29 September 2013

the end
Golden Orb Weaver sp with swallowtailed-prey | 29 September 2013

morning at Gemini Springs
even crisper morning | 30 September 2013

buns
Marsh Rabbits | 30 September 2013

Common Yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat | 30 September 2013

Prairie Warbler juv
Prairie Warbler | 30 September 2013

If you are a fan of Gemini Springs, please consider becoming a Fan of Gemini Springs on Facebook!

Gemini Springs logo

September 2013 bird list, Gemini Springs

Muscovy Duck – Cairina moschata
Anhinga – Anhinga anhinga
Great Blue Heron – Ardea herodias
Great Egret – Ardea alba
Little Blue Heron – Egretta caerulea
Tricolored Heron – Egretta tricolor
Green Heron – Butorides virescens
Black Vulture – Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura
Cooper’s Hawk – Accipiter cooperii
Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus
Common Gallinule – Gallinula galeata
American Coot – Fulica americana
Sandhill Crane – Grus canadensis
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Barred Owl – Strix varia
Chimney Swift – Chaetura pelagica
Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Archilochus colubris
Belted Kingfisher – Megaceryle alcyon
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Downy Woodpecker – Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker – Colaptes auratus
Pileated Woodpecker – Dryocopus pileatus
Eastern Wood-Pewee – Contopus virens
Great Crested Flycatcher – Myiarchus crinitus
Loggerhead Shrike – Lanius ludovicianus
White-eyed Vireo – Vireo griseus
Red-eyed Vireo – Vireo olivaceus
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow – Corvus brachyrhynchos
Fish Crow – Corvus ossifragus
Carolina Chickadee – Poecile carolinensis
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
House Wren – Troglodytes aedon
Carolina Wren – Thryothorus ludovicianus
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – Polioptila caerulea
Veery – Catharus fuscescens
Swainson’s Thrush – Catharus ustulatus
Gray Catbird – Dumetella carolinensis
Brown Thrasher – Toxostoma rufum
Northern Mockingbird – Mimus polyglottos
Ovenbird – Seiurus aurocapilla
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
American Redstart – Setophaga ruticilla
Northern Parula – Setophaga americana
Palm Warbler – Setophaga palmarum
Yellow-throated Warbler – Setophaga dominica
Prairie Warbler – Setophaga discolor
Eastern Towhee – Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Indigo Bunting – Passerina cyanea
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
Baltimore Oriole – Icterus galbula

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My visitors came from *where* in September 2013?!?!

Not too many highs or lows from last month’s stat logs. Here we go…

Someone was searching for birding cataract surgery. I don’t think they found what they were looking for here. Hopefully they found good news. Did you know that approximately 90% of (human) patients can achieve a corrected vision of 20/40 or better after cataract surgery?

Someone wondered: saw a buzzard in barrington il. normal or not? Yes and no. By buzzard, the searcher probably meant vulture. Turkey Vultures range into Chicagoland and much further north during the summer. But vultures are not buzzards. Vultures are vultures. Buzzards are Old World buteo hawks. Please stop calling North American birds “buzzards”. Thank you.

Puzzling search of the month: what state are looney birds from? Huh? Do you mean loons?

Goofy spelling searches of the month: eagel watching in autica (eagle-watching in Utica, right?) and lake cook audbahn (Audubon is not that hard, come ON!). Someone was also searching for birding pneumonics. I assumed this was a misspell of mnemonics, but the searcher could well have been interested in avian lungs. *shrug*

Happy October!!

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New Life for the Everglades Wonder Gardens

The Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs is an old Florida roadside attraction. The Gardens opened in the 1930’s and operated as a botanical garden, zoo with both exotic and native wildlife, and animal rehabilitation center until April 2013.

Everglades Wonder Gardens
Charming hand-painted signs are found outside and inside the park

The park closed briefly this spring, but a new lease was arranged by a local wildlife photographer, John Brady, who aims to save and modernize the attraction.

entrance
Everglades Wonder Gardens entrance

While in transition, the park re-opened on June 15th. Arthur and I paid a visit on June 24th. Many of the park’s larger resident animals had already been moved to bigger accommodations at other Florida parks. During our visit we noticed that animal enclosures were being opened up or transformed into new exhibits. Some permanently injured birds and both native and exotic turtles and tortoises remain from the old days, along with a flock of flamingos. New animals were also moving in; a small flock of fancy domestic chickens had arrived the day prior to our visit. The park grounds hold onto a lot of old charms while the updates improve life for the resident animals and transform the park into a more modern attraction..

pythons to orchids
An enclosure formerly used for Burmese Pythons will house orchids

fancy chickens
Fancies getting used to new digs

looking
Arthur exploring

resident birds
Non-releasable native birds have a permanent home at the Gardens

caging
Empty enclosures

flamingo
Flamingos have been a fixture at the park since it first opened

12-year-old Double Yellow-headed Amazon Murphy
Murphy, a 12-year-old Double Yellow-headed Amazon

small gators
Small gators in the gator pool

gator closeup
Gator detail; photo by Arthur de Wolf

butterfly garden in progress
Butterfly garden in progress

The small gift shop and museum were in transition, too. A portion of the exhibit space displays Brady’s beautiful Florida nature photos, while old kitschy specimens and other educational displays remain.

gallery
Photo gallery

gallery
Gallery and shop

gator crash
Gator crash!

museum
Museum space

exhibit
Reptilian skulls

specimens
Specimen jars

exit
Taxidermy above the main entrance

An old map of the grounds revealed the large number of animals on display in the past. Older exhibits and resident animals included wild boar, black jaguar, rattlesnakes, a Bald Eagle, an otter pool, Black and King Vultures, a deer yard, and more.

Everglades Wonder Gardens
Old hand-drawn map of the park (above is several digital images roughly stitched together; click to see bigger @ Flickr)

A grand opening is planned for this fall. Read more about the Everglades Wonder Gardens at Visual Ephemera. Watch for news and learn more on the Everglades Wonder Gardens website and Facebook page.

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My last two life birds

My last two life birds, and owl and a sparrow, came in two different states.

Back in June, Arthur and I took a little sightseeing trip to southwestern Florida. We were based in Bonita Springs and spent a couple of days visiting nature centers and local beaches. A visit to the Pelican Boulevard ball fields in Cape Coral was on the agenda. We hoped to see the Burrowing Owls that live on the park grounds. Their burrows were roped off to protect the area.

Burrowing Owls

Burrowing Owls

There were babies as well as adults in the bunch. It was pouring rain when we pulled into the parking lot, but the owls didn’t seem to mind.

Burrowing Owl

Well, maybe they minded a little.

Burrowing Owl

In July I had high hopes to finally pick up a long-overdue lifer. Dickcissels aren’t all that uncommon around where we used to live in Illinois, but somehow I had never managed to see one. That was rectified on July 20 at Fort Sheridan FP. When we first found the male bird, he was singing with his mouth full.

Dickcissel

Dickcissel

It seemed no one answered him, so he ate his lunch alone and looked around the prairie before flying off.

Dickcissel

Maybe, just maybe, my next life bird will be found in the Bahamas! Stay tuned…

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