Archive | May 2014

Baby Squirrels!

The end of May and beginning of June is a great time for seeing babies of various wildlife species. A few days after I observed the Eastern Gray Squirrel carrying its offspring up a tree at the Beaver Trail I saw a few more baby squirrels – in my own backyard. I am used to having squirrels and chipmunks come to visit me, as I often give them peanuts to keep them out of my feeders (not that that stops them!); however, it was quite something to see Momma Squirrel visit with four babies in tow!

Young Eastern Gray Squirrel

Young Eastern Gray Squirrel

The babies were about three-quarters of the size of mom, with long, sleek bodies and and thinner tails. Although Momma Squirrel wasn’t phased when I opened the door to throw out some peanuts, all of the babies scampered back toward the fence. One of the babies climbed to the top of the fence, so I grabbed my camera and took some photos.

Young Eastern Gray Squirrel

Young Eastern Gray Squirrel

Young Eastern Gray Squirrel

Young Eastern Gray Squirrel

When at last the squirrels realized I wasn’t going to step outside, they hesitantly joined mom on the patio to grab some peanuts. Mom is the largest squirrel at the bottom left.

Family of Eastern Gray Squirrels

Family of Eastern Gray Squirrels – May 30, 2014

When they visited me again the following day, Mom only had three babies with her. Hopefully the fourth was exploring somewhere close by, or had found a cozy spot in a tree to while away the afternoon. I am not sure how long young squirrels stay with their mother once they are weaned, which occurs at around 8-12 weeks; they are fully independent after 12 weeks. I saw one attempting to suckle, though the mother wasn’t interested, so I am guessing they are about 8 or 10 weeks old.

They were fun to watch, though they didn’t stay long. I hope they learn to avoid cars and outdoor cats as successfully as their mother has!

Small Frogs

Wood Frog

Wood Frog

During the warmer months Ontario’s wetlands come alive with the music of nature. Birds are not the only creatures that sing or call in order to attract a mate; frogs do, too! In the spring and early summer large numbers of frogs migrate to bodies of water to find a mate. Some frogs, such as the Wood Frog and Spring Peeper, prefer temporary woodland pools, while others, such as the Green Frog, use any permanent water body from lakes to ponds to streams. Western Chorus Frogs breed in fishless pools of water that are at least 10 centimetres deep, such as rain-flooded meadows and ditches, while Bullfrogs prefer large, permanent bodies of water.

There are three general types of frogs and toads in Ontario: true toads, treefrogs and true frogs. Most people are familiar with true frogs such as Bullfrogs, Green Frogs and Leopard Frogs. These are the ones that can be seen sunning themselves on logs and lily pads or lurking among the emergent vegetation along the shore with just their eyes visible above the water’s surface. These frogs are large and conspicuous and impossible not to notice if you spend any time near the water during the summer.

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First Damselflies!

Mustard White

Mustard White

After we returned from Florida I was itching to get out and catch up with what remained of migration in Ottawa. I didn’t get out until late in the afternoon on Monday (the last day of my vacation) and spent an hour at the Beaver Trail around the corner from where I live. This was a great decision as I not only picked up two new birds for my year list, but also a few butterflies and my first dragonflies and damselflies of the season!

I arrived shortly before 3:00 pm, and to my surprise a lot of birds were still singing. I heard one Eastern Wood-pewee and a pair of Scarlet Tanagers singing near the Wild Bird Care Center; the Scarlet Tanager was a year bird for me. My second year bird was Alder Flycatcher, which I heard at the first opening onto the marsh traveling counterclockwise. The Alder Flycatcher was a new species for me at this trail, as were the half-dozen Bank Swallows that flew overhead, giving their characteristic harsh chatter as they flew.

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Florida Trip List

White Peacock

White Peacock

A list of everything identified (at least to genus). What I liked about this trip was that we picked a few places to go (Eco Pond, the Anhinga Trail, Naples) and just went to see what was there, stopping along the way if something of interest caught our eye. I didn’t sign up for eBird reports and wasn’t chasing rare bird reports, which made for a more relaxing trip overall. If Doran were a serious birder I probably would have at least checked eBird to see what was around. However, it was much more enjoyable finding my own birds and not worrying about what birds were being reported nearby.

Mammals

Bottlenosed dolphin
West Indian manatee
Marsh rabbit

(I found it strange that I didn’t see a single squirrel on this trip. I was hoping to see opossum and armadillo as well.)

Sharks

Blacktip Shark

Reptiles

American alligator
Cuban Brown Anole
Cooter sp.

(I really wanted to see some snakes. And seriously, no amphibians?)

Birds

  1. Muscovy Duck – Florida City
  2. Wood Stork – Everglades NP (Paurotis Pond)
  3. Double-crested Cormorant – Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail)
  4. Anhinga – Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail)
  5. Brown Pelican – Everglades NP, Naples Beach
  6. Great Blue Heron – Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail)
  7. Great Egret – Common
  8. Snowy Egret – Tamiami Trail, Naples Beach
  9. Tricolored Heron – Everglades NP (Eco Pond)
  10. Cattle Egret – Homestead (Ingraham Hwy)
  11. Green Heron – Common
  12. White Ibis – Common
  13. Roseate Spoonbill – Everglades NP, Tamiami Trail
  14. Black Vulture – Common
  15. Turkey Vulture – Common
  16. Osprey – Everglades NP (Flamingo)
  17. Swallow-tailed Kite – Homestead (Ingraham Hwy)
  18. Red-shouldered Hawk – Everglades NP
  19. Black-necked Stilt – Everglades NP (Eco Pond)
  20. American Avocet – Everglades NP (Eco Pond)
  21. Killdeer – Florida City
  22. Laughing Gull – Florida City, Naples Beach
  23. Royal Tern – Naples Beach
  24. Sandwich Tern – Naples Beach
  25. Rock Pigeon – Florida City
  26. Eurasian Collared-Dove – Common
  27. Mourning Dove – Florida City
  28. Common Nighthawk – Florida City, Port of the Islands
  29. Chimney Swift – Near Port of the Islands
  30. Red-bellied Woodpecker – Common
  31. Northern Flicker – Near Port of the Islands
  32. Great Crested Flycatcher – Everglades NP
  33. Gray Kingbird – Common
  34. Eastern Kingbird – Everglades NP
  35. White-eyed Vireo – Everglades NP (Anhinga Trail)
  36. Blue Jay – Port of the Islands
  37. American Crow – Common
  38. Fish Crow – Homestead
  39. Purple Martin – Port of the Islands
  40. Northern Mockingbird – Common
  41. Common Myna – Homestead
  42. European Starling – Homestead
  43. Common Yellowthroat – Tamiami Trail
  44. Prairie Warbler – Everglades NP
  45. Northern Cardinal – Common
  46. Red-winged Blackbird – Florida City
  47. Eastern Meadowlark – Everglades NP
  48. Common Grackle – Common
  49. Boat-tailed Grackle – Common
  50. Brown-headed Cowbird – Everglades NP (Flamingo)
  51. House Sparrow – Florida City

Insects

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Barred Yellow Butterfly
Red-banded Hairstreak
Gulf Fritillary
Zebra Heliconian
White Peacock

Seaside Dragonlet
Blue Dasher
Eastern Pondhawk
Four-spotted Pennant
Halloween Pennant
Needham’s Skimmer

(No damselflies identified on this trip. I only saw one, flying over the grass near the marina at Port of the Islands but we were in a hurry to catch our boat trip and didn’t stop.)

Last Hours in Florida

Seaside Dragonlet

Seaside Dragonlet

After returning from Naples we cooled off in the pool, and then I spent some time photographing the birds and dragonflies around the property. The Common Grackles and Northern Mockingbirds were around, as usual, and when I walked over the marina I saw a few Purple Martins flying over the water. There are a couple of Purple Martin houses on the opposite shore of the marina where they nest; we saw them bringing food to their young.

I was quite taken with the pretty blue dragonflies perching on the vegetation. The Seaside Dragonlet is the only dragonfly in North America that breeds in salt water, spending the larval stage of its life in the tropical mangrove swamps, saltwater marshes, and some brackish areas further inland.

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Beach Birds

Beach Birds

Beach Birds

After leaving Corey Billie’s we drove west to Naples, where we easily found the beach. It was crowded with people, which wasn’t surprising given how hot it was. Even so, there were quite a few birds around, including a pair of Snowy Egrets foraging along the water’s edge and several immature Laughing Gulls looking for food scraps amongst the sunbathers. As the gulls were the closest to us, I spent the first couple of minutes watching them. All of them appeared to be immature gulls, as none had the black hood of breeding adults; as best as I can tell, they are second-winter gulls with a gray back, smudgy grayish wash along the sides of the breast, and a long, black, rectangular spot behind the eye.

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The Everglades by Boat

American Alligator

American Alligator

The next morning Doran and I decided to look into taking a couple of boat rides. There was a boat tour right in the marina that guaranteed manatees; while not the same as the two-hour boat tour that had so enticed us at Flamingo, it seemed an interesting way to spend an hour and a half. Doran also wanted to go on an air boat ride, so we asked the lady at the front desk of our hotel for recommendations. She recommended Corey Billie’s Airboat Rides a couple of minutes down the highway. In the end we decided to do both, and walked down to the marina to see if we could book seats on a manatee tour that same morning. Fortunately there was a boat leaving in 20 minutes, so we made reservations.

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Port of the Islands

Dolphins in the marina

Dolphins

We left Everglades National Park and the Homestead area to travel to our next destination, the Port of the Islands Everglades Adventure Resort located on the Tamiami Trail about 15 minutes east of Naples. Upon entering the Tamiami Trail we noticed a canal running parallel to the north side of the road bordered by a large dyke; because of the number of egrets, Anhingas and other waterbirds flying in and out of the area, we assumed there was a large wetland just out of view. Indeed, there is a large water conservation area to the north of the highway, which historically provided the Everglades with a steady supply of fresh water.

When the Tamiami Trail was built in the 1920s, it created an enormous dam across the shallow, 70-mile-wide River of Grass and blocked the main corridor of fresh-flowing water into Everglades National Park. Although 19 culverts built beneath the Tamiami Trail permit some flow of water, the amount of water entering the Everglades is much diminished. Unnaturally low water levels for over 90 years have significantly damaged sawgrass marshes, tree islands, fish reproduction, wading-bird nesting sites, and the habitats of many endangered species unique to the Everglades. The southerly-flowing fresh water no longer counterbalances the seepage of salt water inland, upsetting the delicate balance of nature. In order to increase the water’s flow, one bridge has already been built to replace a mile of the old road, but it will take years for the remaining 5.5 miles’ worth of bridges to be built and assist in the restoration of the Everglades.

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Eco Pond and Flamingo

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked Stilt

After leaving Paurotis Pond, our next stop was Nine Mile Pond, and the difference between the two couldn’t have been greater. As soon as we arrived we found about 20 Black Vultures sitting on the ground. I didn’t see a single heron or egret on the water – in fact, I don’t recall any other birds present. Then, when I got out of the car I was swarmed immediately by mosquitoes and some sort of mutant deer flies. Needless to say, I didn’t stay there very long. I got back in the car and we kept driving to our destination, the Flamingo Visitor Center and Eco Pond.

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The Everglades: En Route to Paurotis Pond

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

The following morning we headed back to Everglades National Park after getting a good night’s sleep. When we went out to the car we saw the Muscovy Duck hanging around the parking lot. It liked to drink from the puddles formed by the sprinklers, and snooze in the shade of the cars parked outside of the motel. However, it appeared that the main attraction was the food – some sort of cereal or cracked corn – that someone had left out in a parking space right outside one of the motel rooms. It was certainly neat to see the duck hanging around like an unofficial motel guest, and, as we weren’t returning to Florida City after our return trip to Everglades National Park, we said goodbye to the Muscovy Duck one last time before we left.

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