Volunteer George Luther mowed the trail to marker #2 (mile 1.3) and noted that the ground is soft but not muddy. Volunteer naturalist Dick Brewer hiked a portion of the loop and has shared his wildlife count from the day.
Volunteer naturalist and CREW Trust citizen scientist Dick Brewer shared his most recent critter count and photos from Bird Rookery Swamp. We hope you find time to hit the trails and maybe catch a few glimpses of these birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians and mammals!
Black-bellied Whistling Duck – 6
Anhinga – 1
Great Egret – 3
Little Blue Heron – 6
Tri-colored Heron – 3
Black-crowned Night Heron – 2 Black Vulture – 8
Turkey Vulture – 9
Swallow-tailed Kite – 3
Red-shouldered Hawk – 8
Limpkin – 8
Mourning Dove – 5
Common Ground Dove – 5
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 23
Pileated Woodpecker – 8
Blue Jay – 1
American Crow – 1
Tufted Titmouse – 2
Carolina Wren – 13 Northern Mockingbird – 5
White-eyed Vireo – 10
Northern Cardinal – 20
Common Grackle – 4
Bird Rookery Swamp is closed for boardwalk construction, so today’s critter count from Dick Brewer comes to us from Caracara Prairie Preserve. Brewer noted it is very wet in some areas and that he was knee deep in one small marsh.
One of the most common questions I hear, either on the phone or on the trails, is “What will we see?” or “Which trail is best to see wildlife?”
The answers: Sadly, we can’t predict what you will see and, all three trails are different.
Bird Rookery Swamp is our most visited trail system, and for good reason. You can walk less than a mile and see alligators, wading birds and the occasional otter or bobcat. Sightings of alligators are almost guaranteed.
This means that, when choosing a trail system to visit, people often overlook Cypress Dome Trails or CREW Marsh Trails.
There are alligators at the Cypress Dome Trails, but you’ve got a pretty long hike if you want to see them. At the CREW Marsh Trails, people seem to think that bears, boars, bobcats and panthers will be out there all day, just strolling by. And, if they don’t see large animals, there is disappointment, a feeling that is sometimes vocalized as “We didn’t see anything.”
For me, the marsh trails are my favorite. It’s the first trail system I visited, and the first trail system I worked as a volunteer. It’s the first trail system Brenda took myself and my three kids to during their Spring Break a few years ago. It’s the trail system that my youngest daughter loves to hike and my oldest loves to go trail running.
What do we see there?
Butterflies, dragonflies, red shouldered hawks, palm warblers, eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, a giant beehive, lubber grasshoppers, wildflowers and, right now, swallow-tailed kites. And that is only a small fraction of the flora and fauna that is there.
Two of our volunteers, Jane and Laurel, recently spent a day cataloging all of the plants, birds, dragonflies and butterflies they saw at CREW Marsh Trails. It’s a great example of how much is there on the trails, so much more than bears or boars or panthers or alligators.
Feb. 2 CREW Marsh Trails Observations from Jane Wallace and Laurel Rhodes
White Peacock, 30+ Cardinal
Pearl Crescent, 30+ White eyed Vireo
Phaon Crescent, 30+ Cat bird
Black Swallowtail, 3 Common Yellow Throat
Ceraunus Blue, 1 Red Shouldered Hawk
Monarch, 1 Great Egret
Barred Yellow, 2 Dragonflies
Great Southern White, 3 Pond hawk, female
Gulf Fritillary, 3
Flowering plant lists:
Caesar weed, Urena lobata
Chocolateweed, Melochia corchorifolia
Red Tasselflower, Emilia fosbergii
White headed broom, Spermacoce verticillata
American bluehearts, Buchnera americana
Blackroot, Pterocaulon pycnostachyum
Blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum
Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium sp.
Carolina wild petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis
Carolina willow, Salix caroliniana
Chapman’s goldenrod, Solidago odora var. chapmanii
Each week volunteers Dick Brewer and Rick Mears walk the trail at Bird Rookery Swamp and complete a critter count. Below is this week’s list. This is a great example of citizen science and we hope you’ll hit the trails and see if you can match any of their findings!
Bird Rookery Swamp observations Saturday, November 14 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.
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.
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
Q: What do butterflies and other insects do when it rains, and where do they go?
Where insects go when it rains depends on how much rain falls and on the species of insect.
If the rain is light enough, many insects stay out and are unaffected.
If the rain is moderate, most insects adapt and seek shelter. Butterflies and many other insects find spots under flowers, leaves, branches, or other vegetation, cling to the spot, and use it like an umbrella. If they are small enough, they may take shelter in a bark crevice.
If the rain is heavy, insects that are more accustomed to dry land will cling to whatever shelter they can find. The heavier the rain, the more substantial shelter they seek so they are not knocked into the water. Even if they are dislodged, it is uncommon for insects to
drown because of heavy rain. Most are just displaced and then find themselves in new surroundings.
Small burrowing insects such as ants find air pockets in underground burrows, even during flooding and flowing water. They require very little oxygen and can survive for weeks using air pockets that are always available even in densely flooded areas.
Insects that frequent water more often, like water beetles and mosquitoes, can negotiate rising, flooding and flowing water with more ease and they simply go with the flow.
Below are first hand observations from our volunteer Dick Brewer. Who does weekly visits to Bird Rookery Swamp and very week sends us incredible stories of the magical 12 mile loop. If you would like to see more of his observations visit: http://www.dickbrewer.org/CREW.html
“Below are observations from BRS on June 6. Great day for butterflies with 19 species identified, plus three more skippers that I don’t know and haven’t identified. The attached photo shows two Silver-spotted Skippers, one Dun Skipper, and one Ruddy Daggerwing all feeding on the same Buttonbush plant.
The juvenile Barred Owl was on a limb over the pond at marker 6. It flew down into the grass one time where it caught and ate something very small; then, it flew back up to its limb and began hissing for an adult to bring it more food.
The otter family was in a water hold blanketed with Duckweed but each otter was quite successful at catching fish. The second photo shows one of the otters really chewing a fish it caught, first on one side of its mouth, then the other, and finally chomping with both sides.
The tail of the fish is still hanging out of the right side of its mouth in the fourth panel.
CREW volunteer naturalist George Luther took a photo safari at Bird Rookery Swamp (BRS) on the 4th of July and reported an extraordinary number of Ruddy Daggerwing butterflies and many species of dragonflies. He also spotted deer, kites, and lots of other wildlife active on the trails. (See his photo gallery above)
The water levels are rising rapidly with the recent rains, which sheet flow into Bird Rookery from the CREW headwaters – the Corkscrew Marsh in the northeast – and through Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
If you haven’t yet ventured to a CREW trail this summer, come visit. It is a remarkable time to be out in the woods, marshes, and swamps.