A View of Bird Rookery Swamp: Surprises on the tram

Water moccasin with mouth open

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, November 14Tri colored heron at BRS
6:25 am-1:05 pm
“There were all sorts of surprises on the tram. The first was a small flock of Robins that flew into the trees to the west of the gravel path; it was good to see them back. Later, a visitor said he saw another larger flock near marker 5.

Another surprise was the huge number of White Ibis that flew into the trees around the parking lot pond a little before sunrise. They just
kept coming, wave after wave. The total number of individual ibis for the day was 261, and all but nine of those were in that pre-dawn arrival.

Ida at BRS One more surprise was how few gators were present, even into the early afternoon. Ida was in her pond in the afternoon, resting in the water by the culvert (left photo).

Water levels have dropped along the tram — there are only two spots between markers 6 and 3 where walking through the water is still necessary.

Nineteen species of butterflies was also a bit unusual considering the wind. Nine of those species were the little grass skippers who stayed very close to the ground or on Alligator Flag leaves when the sun hit them. One new butterfly species for me was a Fulvous Hairstreak.

The biggest surprise was when I almost stepped on a 3-12 to 4 foot
Water Moccasin in the thigh-high grasses. Each of us was startled and
retreated a bit. A photo of the snake showing his displeasure at being
disturbed is attached.
Water moccasin with mouth open

Pied-billed Grebe – 3
Anhinga – 15
Great Blue Heron – 7
Great Egret – 10
Little Blue Heron – 22
Tri-colored Heron – 3
Green Heron – 4
Black-crowned Night Heron – 8
White Ibis – 261
Wood Stork – 3
Black Vulture – 14
Turkey Vulture – 39
Red-shouldered Hawk – 14
American Kestrel – 1
Limpkin – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 12
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 16
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 4
Eastern Phoebe – 10
Blue Jay – 2
American Crow – 5
Tufted Titmouse – 6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 32
American Robin – 8
Gray Catbird – 13
Loggerhead Shrike – 1
Black-and-white Warbler – 1
Yellow-throated Warbler – 1
Palm Warbler – 8
Common Yellowthroat – 2
Northern Cardinal – 3
Common Grackle – 65

Palamedes Swallowtail – 2
Tiger Swallowtail – 7
Spicebush Swallowtail – 1
Ruddy Daggerwing – 2
Gulf Fritillary – 1
White Peacock – 153
Red Admiral – 1
Viceroy – 2
Phaon Crescent – 4
Fulvous Hairstreak – 1
Barred Yellow – 74
Dorantes Longtail – 2
Brazilian Skipper – 23
Eufala Skipper – 3
Least Skipper – 1
Three-spotted Skipper – 3
Twin Spot Skipper – 5
Tropical Checker – 5
unknown skipper – 1

Eastern Pondhawk – 12
Needham’s Skimmer – 1
Blue Dasher – 2
Regal Darner – 1

Gray Squirrel – 1
Raccoon – 1

Alligator – 21
Brown Anole – 2
Green Anole – 1
Water Moccasin – 1
Green Treefrog – 1

By Dick Brewer


A View of Bird Rookery Swamp: Water is slowly receding….

Osprey that landed on a cypress
Osprey that landed on a cypress
Osprey that landed on a cypress
Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, October 31
7:25 am-1:00 pm

“The water is slowly receding, but there are still wet areas and muddy spots between markers 6 and 3. Heading out early in the morning, I could only find 11 gators, but on my way back in the late morning and early afternoon, 38 more had appeared. I think Ida moved from her pond to the ditch beside the gravel path, close to the kiosk. She was in
the water there right around sunrise and was basking on the far bank in the early afternoon. Baby gators were chirping close to her vicinity.

An interesting sighting around 1 o’clock in the afternoon was an immature Common Gallinule foraging in the southeast corner of the parking lot pond near Shady Hollow. It had the adult call and size, but its shield and bill hadn’t turned adult colors.”

juvenile Common Gallinule
juvenile Common Gallinule

Anhinga – 14
Great Blue Heron – 6
Great Egret – 7
Little Blue Heron – 17
Tri-colored Heron – 3
Green Heron – 12
Black-crowned Night Heron – 11
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 1
White Ibis – 54
Black Vulture – 24
Turkey Vulture – 10
Osprey – 1
Red-shouldered Hawk – 18
Common Gallinule – 1
Limpkin – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 8
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 20
Pileated Woodpecker – 1
Great-crested Flycatcher – 7
Eastern Phoebe – 13
Blue Jay – 1
American Crow – 4
Tufted Titmouse – 9
Carolina Wren – 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 19
Northern Mockingbird – 2
Loggerhead Shrike – 1
Gray Catbird – 39
White-eyed Vireo – 1
Palm Warbler – 8
Common Yellowthroat – 5
Northern Cardinal – 5
Common Grackle – 20

Palamedes Swallowtail – 9
Tiger Swallowtail – 9
Ruddy Daggerwing – 3
White Peacock – 106
Viceroy – 2
Phaon Crescent – 7
Pearl Crescent – 3
Cloudless Sulphur – 1
Barred Yellow – 13
Brazilian Skipper – 32
Dorantes Longtail – 2
Tropical Checker – 2

Eastern Pondhawk – 27
Needham’s Skimmer – 16
Blue Dasher – 5

Gray Squirrel – 2


Green Anoles.
Green Anoles.

Alligator – 49
Brown Anole – 14
Green Anole – 3
Yellow Rat Snake – 1
Red-bellied Turtle – 3
Green Treefrog – 11


By Dick Brewer


A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

black Black-bellied Whistling Ducks

Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, October 24 ~ 7:10 am-1:20 pm

“Nice day with 36 species of birds and 13 species of butterflies. Top birds were a flock of 9
black Black-bellied Whistling Ducks foraging in the Pickerelweed to the east of the gravel path leading to the boardwalk. A photo with one adult and three of the juveniles in the family is attached. Also had two Pied-billed Grebes in one of the large open water areas between markers 6 & 3.

Lots of night herons were back — 15 Black crowned combinations of adult and juvenile. I didn’t see any gators the first three and a half
hours, but it was cooler then. Once the sun warmed things up, they came out. A photo of a seven-eight footer is attached; it was acting as “greeter” between the end of the boardwalk and Ida’s pond (no Ida, though).” – Dick Brewer Gator on the BRS trail

Pied-billed Grebe – 2
Black-bellied Whistling Duck – 9
Anhinga – 18
Great Blue Heron – 8
Great Egret – 6
Snowy Egret – 2
Little Blue Heron – 7
Tri-colored Heron – 7
Green Heron – 16
Black-crowned Night Heron – 15
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 3
White Ibis – 91
Black Vulture – 39
Turkey Vulture – 29
Red-shouldered Hawk – 12
American Kestrel – 1
Limpkin – 1
Barred Owl – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 15
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 20
Downy Woodpecker – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 6
Great-crested Flycatcher – 6
Eastern Phoebe – 15
American Crow – 4
Tufted Titmouse – 4
Carolina Wren – 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 19
Northern Mockingbird – 3
Gray Catbird – 35
White-eyed Vireo – 2
Northern Parula – 1
Palm Warbler – 9
Common Yellowthroat – 4
Northern Cardinal – 9
Common Grackle – 46

Palamedes Swallowtail – 15
Spicebush Swallowtail – 1
Tiger Swallowtail – 4
Ruddy Daggerwing – 1
White Peacock – 46
Viceroy – 1
Phaon Crescent – 2
Fiery Skipper – 1
Least Skipper – 1
Brazilian Skipper – 12
Long-tailed Skipper – 1
Dorantes Longtail – 3
Tropical Checker – 7

Eastern Pondhawk – 28
Needham’s Skimmer – 1
Eastern Amberwing – 2
Blue Dasher – 3
Citrine Forktail – 1

Raccoon – 2

Alligator – 42
Brown Anole – 5
Red-bellied Turtle – 2
Green Treefrog – 3

By Dick Brewer


A View of Bird Rookery Swamp- Belted Kingfishers are Back

Belted Kingfisher
Bird Rookery Swamp observations
Saturday, August 22 ~ 7:15 am-12:35 pm
“It was a good day with 33 species of birds. Nice ones were a dozen Barn Swallows flying over the gravel path on my way out, and a pair of Prothonotary Warblers in the cypress/maples between markers 6 & 3 and a pair of Belted Kingfishers around the parking lot pond. Also had a Marsh Rabbit scurry across the tram.

Tutriculata in tree
By Dick Brewer

Attached are some photos from today: a Polystachya orchid in bloom with another on the same branch showing buds; one of two Tillandsia utriculatas with flower stalks that had fallen onto the trail and which I put up into trees, although much lower than they originally
were; and an Eastern Pondhawk eating a Halloween Pennant. I was just getting ready to photograph the pennant when the pondhawk swooped down, grabbed it, and flew to another perch.

Totally absent this week were Common Green Darners after there were 18 last week, and Limpkins when there were a half dozen last week and also the week before.

Dragon Flies
By Dick Brewer

Anhinga – 3
Great Blue Heron – 1
Great Egret – 1
Snowy Egret – 11
Little Blue Heron – 12
Tri-colored Heron – 11
Green Heron – 5
Black-crowned Night Heron – 2
Yellow-crowned Night Heron – 1
White Ibis – 3
Black Vulture – 37
Turkey Vulture – 9
Red-shouldered Hawk – 11
Mourning Dove – 2
Common Ground Dove – 2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 1
Belted Kingfisher – 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 15
Downy Woodpecker – 1
Pileated Woodpecker – 2
Great-crested Flycatcher – 3
Barn Swallow – 12
Blue Jay – 2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 3
Tufted Titmouse – 6
Carolina Wren – 9
Northern Mockingbird – 1
White-eyed Vireo – 10
Prothonotary Warbler – 2
Louisiana Waterthrush – 1
Northern Cardinal – 8
Red-winged Blackbird – 10
Common Grackle – 7

Palamedes Swallowtail – 9
Ruddy Daggerwing – 8
White Peacock – 11
Viceroy – 5
Common Buckeye – 1
Pearl Crescent – 2
Cloudless Sulphur – 1
Brazilian Skipper – 8
Tropical Checker – 8

Eastern Pondhawk – 43
Needham’s Skimmer – 2
Halloween Pennant – 1
Blue Dasher – 5

White-tailed Deer – 2

Belted Kingfisher
By Dick Brewer

Marsh Rabbit – 1
Gray Squirrel – 1

Alligator – 25
Green Anole – 1
Brown Anole – 23
Pig Frog – 45
Greenhouse Frog – 3
Green Treefrog – 1
Cuban Treefrog – 5  “

By Dick Brewer 
 Visit http://www.dickbrewer.org/CREW.html if you would like to read his weekly observations. 

Wildfile Q & A: Bird Call Vs. Bird Song

A Carolina Wren sings to define and defend its territory.

Q: What are the differences between a bird call and a bird song?

A young Red-bellied Woodpecker calls to its parent for food.
A young Red-bellied Woodpecker calls to its parent for food.

A: A bird call tends to serve a specific function and is primarily
innate rather than learned. A bird song is almost always learned and
is often customized by individual males.


Alarm calls alert every bird within hearing range that danger is
present, and all innately understand what the call means and act
accordingly. The alarm call of one species can be recognized by birds
of many other species.

Location calls let mates or birds in a flock know where the others
are. For example, when a Barred Owl calls during the day, a mate often
answers, sometimes from a good distance away. Each then knows where
the other is. Location calls can also identify good feeding and
nesting habitats.

A chick’s “feed me” call triggers a parental response to find and
bring food to its offspring. As the chicks get older, begging behavior
complements the call for food.

 A Carolina Wren sings to define and defend its territory.

A Carolina Wren sings to define and defend its territory.


Male birds tend to sing more than females, and unmated males sing more
than mated ones. Males use songs to attract mates and to identify and
defend territory. The song warns other males to stay out of its
territory, and it invites females to come in. Males can recognize the
songs of neighbors and usually don’t pay any attention to them, but
they sing furiously if they hear the song of a stranger who might
enter their territory.

In selecting a mate, females may use the size and complexity of the
song to determine a male’s potential fitness as a partner. More mature
males usually have more elaborate songs which may indicate to the
female that the male is a survivor with more breeding experience and
better health.

A majority of songbirds have at least two different songs. The extreme
singer is the male Brown Thrasher which is estimated to have over
3,000 song types.


By Dick Brewer


Wild File Q&A: Why don’t birds fall off their perches when they’re sleeping or napping?

by CREW Volunteer Naturalist, Dick Brewer

Q:      Why don’t birds fall of their perches when they’re sleeping or napping?

A:      From small wrens and warblers to large herons and egrets, birds have a seemingly uncanny ability to sleep in trees and other vegetation without ever falling off of their perches.  How do they do that?

It’s not magic. The bird’s toes lock around the branch automatically; no conscious action is needed by the bird whether awake or asleep. Tendons pass from the muscle at the back of the bird’s leg, down around the back of its ankle, and to the inside of its toes. When a bird settles its weight on a branch, the legs bend. That tightens the tendons so much that the toes are automatically pulled tight and clamped around the perch. All conscious or controllable actions are bypassed, so even when it’s asleep, the bird cannot possibly move from the perch.          When the bird straightens its legs, the tendons relax and the grip is released. That’s why a bird often seems to ‘spring’ off of its perch — it’s just unlocking its hold. Even if it’s resting on just one leg, the bird is locked onto its perch.

Barred Owl Perched by Dick Brewer
A Barred Owl naps, one leg tucked in and the other firmly locked around the branch. (Photo by Dick Brewer)

Wildlife Wednesday: A Time for Kites


Photo by Dan Rimar

In these hot, humid days of summer most of us humans try to stay indoors or in the shade to stay cool. But if you happen to step outside and gaze to the sky – especially at CREW – you may just witness one of the most spectacular sightings in all of southwest Florida. Swallow-tailed kites (Elanoides forficatus) migrate to Florida from Brazil each spring to build nests and raise their young throughout our summer rainy season.

As August arrives, these graceful kites can be seen more often in groups flying overhead, often feeding their young, and staging or gathering in large communal groups as they prepare for their 3000-mile journey back to Brazil. The adults and their young offspring (just 2 months old) will head south again in mid-August and we won’t see them again until late February to mid-March. We’ve been seeing them in groups of 20 – 25 regularly at Bird Rookery Swamp and in smaller groups of 12 – 15 around the CREW Marsh Trails and field office. Those groups will get larger as the month goes on, until one day soon when they all head south again.

So, if you want to get a last look at these magnificent birds, head on out to one of the CREW Trails early one morning soon. Listen for their piercing whistles and watch their pre-migration antics. It’s worth every minute of your time!

To learn more about swallow-tailed kites, go here.


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