About a week ago, I saw a small mammal hidden in the vegetation near the marsh. I had a hard time getting a good look. A few days later, I saw it again (and a few others) and was able to get a good enough photo to post it on iNaturalist and confirm that it was a Hispud cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus). That is a new animal for me. It took a lot of patience to stalk and wait to see them again so I could get a better picture. I think they are adorable and have interesting eyes. I am grateful for cameras since they allow us to stop the action in order to get a better look at something and begin the process of identification. Until I got a picture good enough to post on iNaturalist, I could only say what the animal was not based on my past experience (not a brown rat, mouse, or muskrat). Cotton rats are common. Now that I have seen my first one, I notice them more often.
I continue to count birds weekly at the Alligator Farm. We focus on wood storks and roseate spoonbills every week since they are endangered. Once a month, we count an additional 5 species (great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, little blue herons and tri-colored herons). We always keep an eye out for nesting green herons that nest at the Alligator Farm occasionally. Gen, the curator, tries to band a few young spoonbills and wood storks each nesting season. It is a tricky endeavor since the birds nest over the alligators. She has to find nests that are easy to reach and do it at the perfect time so the babies do not jump to their demise but are old enough to be banded. I got pictures of some newly banded chicks today. Gen was able to band two of these siblings. The third chick, seen here in the bottom of the nest, was so small that she decided not to band it. It is now called the “runt”.
Unfortunately, several weeks ago, we found a great egret hanging from a branch dead. It is wrapped in string. It got entangled and after landing in this tree, got stuck and could not escape. Because of the location above the alligators, it is too dangerous to extract the carcass. It is a sad reminder of how our trash has a negative impact on wildlife.
In the picture below, a tri-colored heron is feeding one of its chicks. If you have a good enough monitor, you may be able to see the fish in the adults beak.
On my walks on our street, I have regularly been seeing Topaz, the blue jay I released last year. Yesterday, I heard a bird fly into the tree nearest me while on my walk and I recognized the sound the bird was making. It was the sound Topaz made when he/she was young. I walked over to the tree and when Topaz saw me, the bird displayed its “begging wings”, and flew off. It was so cool to know Topaz continues to recognize me and likes to say “hi”.