Counting Birds at the Alligator Farm

Tri-colored heron fledgling at the Alligator Farm

I count birds at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine weekly during the nesting season. Next week is our final count. Many of the baby birds have grown up and left and a few are stilling hanging around the swamp. I love doing this because the birds are fascinating and I love my fellow bird counters. It is very difficult to count the birds because they will not stay still, it is hard to see the chicks in the nest if they are hunkered down, etc., etc. Once we move to a different angle, we have trouble figuring out whether we already counted a particular nest. We try hard to be accurate and do the best we can, but it is a tough job. Watching the birds nest and the chicks grow up in the rookery is a rewarding experience. Today, Gen the curator, gave us Alligator Farm tote bags and T-shirts with wading birds on them. I counted birds this morning and I am already wearing my cool T-shirt.

Tri-colored heron parent feeding its chicks. It visually appears as though the chick has been speared through the head with the parent’s beak, but that is not the case.

As I was arriving at the Alligator Farm this morning, I saw a squirrel get hit by a car in front of me. The squirrel ran out at the wrong time, so the driver would not have been able to do much. The squirrel made it to the side of the road, so I pulled over to check it out. As I was walking back to the squirrel, I saw that it was trying to climb the fence to the Alligator Farm but its back legs were hanging making me suspect it was now paralyzed from the waist down. A woman was in front of me walking on the sidewalk and touched the squirrel when she walked by. When I got to the squirrel, I was not sure how I was going to get it since my bird emergency bin was sitting in my garage. Since the lady touched the squirrel without incident, I grasped the squirrel and took it to my car. It did not react. That could have been a bad move on my part. I drove a few hundred feet to the parking lot of the Alligator Farm and let my fellow bird counters know that I was headed to the vet and would join them shortly. When I got to the vet, the squirrel was dead. It was probably a good thing. When I got back to the Alligator Farm and arrived inside, the woman who had touched the squirrel was there. She works at the Alligator Farm and recognized me and asked about the squirrel. I was sorry to let her know it did not make it. I brought the dead squirrel home and left it for the local wildlife and a raccoon retrieved it in the evening. I feel this is a good way to recycle it in the environment.

A green heron chick near the zip line at the Alligator Farm.
As I continue my bioblitz, I saw this Queen (Danaus gilippus) butterfly in my yard today.
I also saw these palm flatid planthoppers (Ormenaria rufifascia).

The best thing about bioblitzes is that I spend more time looking at all the life around me, not just the big stuff. Today, I found that an invasive species I thought I had eradicated is growing back. I submitted the picture to iNaturalist and it suggested a Chinese tallow. We had cut one down near this area and did everything we were supposed to do to make sure it did not come back. Apparently, we were not successful.

Likely, invasive Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera).

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