Saturday, May 04, 2013

Spring? Spring? Anyone?

We have not posted lately from the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, because the weather has kept things relatively quiet in the swamp over the last ten days.  The weather has also kept our camera indoors, so we have gone to the files for this entry's images.

Overcast skies and cool weather continue today and have kept reptile sightings at a bare minimum.   Based on our observations, there do not seem to be as many Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) around the boardwalk.  Normally, there would be plenty of male-vs-male battles for territory and mates.  However, the territories around the boardwalk are relatively quiet and behavior is civil.  Therefore, we suspect that all residing Prothonotary Warblers have ample space and mating opportunities and have no need to waste energy in confrontations.  Meanwhile, plenty of Black-throated Blue Warblers (Setophaga caerulescens) have been seen along the edge of the swamp and behind the nature center as they linger along their migration north.

Black-throated Blue Warbler - Mark Musselman
Several of the Prothonotary Warblers around the boardwalk are banded birds from previous years.  We have begun to create individual pages for those banded birds, so if visitors spot a banded bird or previous visitors have images of banded birds, they can see their bird's Beidler Forest history.  This week, A037 has been battling for territory in the area near Goodson Lake, A250 has been absent, A048 appears to have an unbanded mate in the area around #7, and A012 and his unbanded mate have a nest and four eggs in the nest box behind the sign at #18.
Prothonotary Warbler (A037) - Mark Musselman
Unfortunately, the nest in the cypress knee near the tower at Goodson Lake previously used by A026 appears to have been cleaned out by a raccoon.  Visitors had been reporting activity at the nest site, but yesterday nesting material could be seen hanging from the cavity entrance as well as floating in the shallow water below the cavity.  Both the unbanded male and female visited the nest site with the female repeatedly entering and exiting the cavity.  The fact that the male was bringing caterpillars to the nest site and feeding them to the female outside of the cavity leads us to believe that there were quite recently chicks to feed.  If a snake had visited the nest, it would have consumed the eggs or chicks without tossing the nesting material.  Raccoons are not as subtle as they reach into the cavity to remove what they seek to eat.
Cypress Knee Nest Cavity - Mark Musselman
On a brighter note, the Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus) are reusing the nest they had last year in the bald cypress near #154 on the boardwalk.  No chicks were observed and the adult remained on the nest.  Earlier this week, we searched for the Swallow-tailed Kite nest that we are sure exists as these kites are spotted above the eastern half of the boardwalk on a daily basis.  Using Google Earth, we captured the coordinates for trees that appeared to be above the rest of the canopy.  We visited those trees, but did not find anything that would be considered a nest.  The weather was overcast, cool and windy, so it was not a great day for soaring kites.  A kite flying to the nest would have made discovering the nest much easier.  We will keep plotting Swallow-tailed Kite sightings on the map in hopes that the nest location will become apparent.  You can help with Swallow-tailed Kite conservation by reporting your sightings to the Center For Birds of Prey website.

You can help ornithologists by monitoring nests you discover.  The procedures, to protect you and the birds, can be found at the Nestwatch site.  Currently, only two Prothonotary Warbler nests are being monitored and they are both at the Francis Beidler Forest.

The rainy weather did not bother every living thing.  Mac Stone and friends were out in the swamp on Sunday and captured some amazing images (see Mac's here), including a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawn resting near a cypress.
Fawn - Mac Stone Photography

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