Panther Island Adventures!

Panther Island is 2,800 acres of restored wetland and upland habitats situated in the northwest corner of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's 13,000 acres. It is home to numerous plants and animals including the Florida panther and the iconic wood stork.
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bird of the Week: Christmas Hiatus!

Hello all! I am currently celebrating the holiday season with friends and will not be able to do the bird of the week posts. Back on track after the holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bird of the Week December 14: Tree Swallow

Tree swallows are winter residents of Florida. They migrate down from the northern United States and all over Canada. When in flight, they are often in large flocks, and adults can be identified by their dark upperparts, white underparts, triangular wings with greenish underwing linings, and notched tail. These aerial songbirds have short little legs (which I find extremely amusing and cute!). They feed on flying insects. Why just the other day I saw a flock of maybe 150 cruising over Panther Island marshes performing astonishing aerial acrobatics while going after insects. In the winter, they will also eat berries. I also saw a flock of about 200 swirling around above wax myrtle trees along the roadside to work. They would swarm down onto the trees and consume all the berries in a hectic frenzy! It is an awesome thing to see. 

They are commonly seen in open fields, marshes, and along woodland edges; these guys are often seen in towns as well. They form loose social colonies; tree swallows are not monogamous and males often have 2 mates at once and these vary from year to year. The nests are a small open cup made of pine needles or grass found inside of a tree cavity or nest box. They use feathers of other birds to line the nest. Normally clutch size is between 2-8 eggs that hatch after the female incubates them for 13-16 days. And the little guys hang around for 16-24 days to be fed by mom and dad before they leave the nest.
Check out some tree swallow hatchlings!
More Tree Swallow antics!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bird fo the Week December 14: Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird is the state bird of Florida. This songbird is common through most of the United States. They are extremely versatile and can be found nesting in suburban areas as well as a wide range of other open to partly open habitats in natural areas. They forage on a variety of things including: spiders, insects, crayfish, snails, and even lizards and small snakes on occasion. They also eat berries and fruits and will often protect a source of these from other birds like American Robins. These monogamous birds build nests low down in dense brush or trees using twigs. The nests are pretty bulky and lined with finer materials. Both sexes build the nest. The female typically lays 3-4 eggs per clutch.Once incubation is done (12-13 days) the young will be fed for 10-12 days before they leave the nest. Northern Mockingbirds are very territorial and spend alot of time singing. The songs they sing can be original or mimics of other birds as well as other animals, insects, machinery, etc. The series of songs and imitative sounds are usually repeated 3-5 (or more) times.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bird of the Week December 7: Sandhill Crane

There are two subspecies of the sandhill crane found in Florida. At Panther Island, I see Florida sandhill cranes year-round and during the winter they are often joined by migratory greater sandhill cranes. The Florida subspecies nests in late winter into spring in Florida (and on Panther Island... a goal is to photograph and document this this year!). The nests are basically flat mats of vegetaion (dead sticks, reeds, grasses, and moss) around 2 feet in diameter. Nests are found in shallow water. These birds are monogamous and it is believed they mate for life. They don't reach sexual maturity until 2 years and can live to be 20 years old. Usually the female lays 2 eggs and then both adults incubate the eggs over a period of about a month. The young are a pretty rusty or cinnamon color that fades as they age. The little ones are able to follow their parents around within a day of hatching! Sandhill cranes forage on a wide variety of things including berries, seeds, insects, snakes, frogs, crayfish and even small mammals and birds.
For additional information go to the International Crane Foundation