Agassiz Association. Wilson Ornithological Chapter.

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pairs. Just why the chicks should leave the nest in pairs




NEST AND EGGS OP SPOTTED SANDPIPER



I am not at present able to say, except that a suggestion is
found in the study of the next nest.

The nest on the Sandspit in Miller's Bay was found on
June 27, and contained four eggs. It was visited daily and
on the evening of July 12 the four eggs were intact. At
1 :30 P. M. on the 13th there were two chicks and two eggs.
At 3 :20 P.M. the third egg was pipped, with the chick's bill
protruding. At this time the two chicks were running about
in the grass. It was interesting to observe that at this early



Notes on the Spotted Sandpiper



85



age, only a few hours out of the shell, the young exhibited
the peculiar habit of teetering the tail, which is characteristic
of the adult, and which gains for them the common names,
"Tip-up," and "Teeter-tail."

At 5 :00 P. M. there was no change in the third egg, but the
fourth was cracked at the large end. At 8 :30 P. M. the third
egg had not changed, but the fourth egg presented a small



W9r^








'%



i 'J






NEST AND EGGS OF SPOTTED SANDPIPEK

hole about three-eighths of an inch from the large end. At
9 :30 P. M. there was no further change in either egg.

At 5 :00 'clock on the morning of the 14th the last two
eggs had hatched, and there were three chicks in the nest,
together with the two shells. These shells were complete
except for a cap about five-eighths of an inch in diameter at
the large end. The cap, which lay in the nest, was very
cleanly cut from the rest of the shell.



86 The Wilson Bulletin— No. 87

At 9 :00 A. M. the nest was empty.

At some time about the middle of July some members of the
Laboratory brouglit in two of the chicks from Gull Point.
They should have been returned to that place, but, instead,
were liberated on the Sandspit. However, on July 24, five
of the six young sandpipers which were now on the Sandspit
were banded by Dr. Stephens and Dr. Lynds Jones. As a
matter of interest and record the numbers of the bands may
be here given as follows : 11522, 11523, 11524, 11525, 11526.
The young birds were observed on the spit as late as July 29.
It is hoped to continue the study of these birds during the
summer of 1914.

The facts obtained in this study may be summarized as
follows :

SUMMARY.

The incubation period would seem to be over seventeen days.

The old birds dispose of the egg shells partly by devouring.

Hatching seems to occur during the night.

The chicks leave the nest within five or six hours, but
probably not much sooner unless disturbed.

It seems that the young birds are not fed by the parents
at any time, but forage for themselves from the beginning.



THE EESIDENT BIRD LIFE OF THE BIG CYPRESS
SWAMP REGION.

By F. M. Phelps.

In the spring of 1913 I had the good fortune to be in
Florida during the months of March and April and the early
part of May. Of this time the latter half of March and
nearly all of April were spent in the Big Cypress Swamp
region of Lee County in the southwestern part of the State,
and it is relative to its resident bird life that this paper has
to deal, giving particular attention to the larger and more
important species.



Bird Life Big Cypress Swamp Region 87

For a week before entering upon this trip I visited at
Clearwater with my good friend, Oscar E. Baynard, going
over details and arrangements. I must thank him largely for
such measure of good fortune as came to me later, for he
gave me the benefit of the knowledge he had gained of the
country during the two previous winters, and also secured
for me the services of guides whom he had employed.

I arrived at Fort Myers March 13th, where I met Mr.
Rhett Green, now employed as warden by the National Asso-
ciation of Audubon Societies, who was to conduct me to the
rookery under his charge. We started out just before noon
of the 14th in a light, single buggy and drove the rest of the
day through the open, sun-lit pine woods without particular
incident, and camped that night in a temperature that made
even the lightest covering a burden and stirred the mos-
quitoes to the highest pitches of fervor.

By sun-up we were on the way again. The country was
now growing wilder. The dog started a Wild Turkey from
a clump of saw palmetto beside the trail, a Sandhill Crane
swung trumpeting across a near-by pond. Twice we stopped
while I slipped on my climbing irons and ran up to nests of
the Florida Red-shouldered Hawk, each time to find two eggs
apparently advanced in incubation. The ground was becom-
ing low and wet and cypress "heads" more and more fre-
quent. Toward noon we came out upon the edge of a big
open marsh stretching away four or five miles to the south,
far across which we could see a solid background of great
cypress trees. This was my first view of the Big Cypress
Swamp, which beginning here runs almost unbroken for sixty
or seventy miles to the south and to the eastward until it
finally merges with the Everglades.

As we progressed slowly across the marsh, often hub deep
in water, singly and by flocks water birds began rising on
every hand; Ward Herons, Egrets, White and Wood Ibis,
Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Little Blue and Louisiana
Herons, and several species of Ducks, including three of the
rare Florida Duck (Anas fulvigula fulvigula). On an open
pond we also identified the Limpkin and Pui*ple Gallinule.



88



The Wilson Bulletin — No. 87



Early in the afternoon we arrived at Mr. Green's camp
beside one of the finest rookeries to be found in Florida, an
imposing one even in these days of diminishing bird life.
Here is no doubt the largest nesting colony of Wood Ibis in
the State, probably not less than 5,000 pairs of birds. Per-
haps 300 American Egrets were nesting here, and a little
handful, not more than a dozen pairs, of the beautiful




WHITE IBIS AT NEST
Photo by O. B. Baynard



Roseate Spoonbill, which I saw here for the first time in
life, a memory that still recurs to me. That evening as we
stood watching the birds filing in from the feeding grounds
and circling over the rookery, I caught a gleam of pink as
one of the more distant birds turned in the rays of the
setting sun, and leveling my glass I watched my first "Pink
Curlew" circle slowly two or three times above the tree tops
and then drop down to its nest.



Bird Life Big Cypress Swamp Region



89



Next morning as the first light of dawn tinged the eastern
sky a pair of Sandhill Cranes began whooping on a little
pond scarcely a quarter of a mile away, an old Turkey
Gobbler struck up his mating call down the open glade that
lay between us and the cypress swamp, the thousands of
young Wood Ibis and other nestlings set up their insistent
clamor for food, which did not hush nor diminish until the
sun was high in the heavens, and then I realized that here




nest and eggs of white ibis

Photo by O. E. Baynard

was nature at first hand and that opportunities awaited me
that do not come to every ornithologist.

I passed several very pleasant and profitable days with
Green, and perhaps a few words in description of this splen-
did rookery, known as the Corkscrew among the plume
hunters of South Florida, will not be amiss. In form it is a
great ellipse of cypress swamp enclosing an open treeless
area some three miles long and a mile or more in width,
covered with saw grass and other swamp grasses. The
encircling band of cypress varies in width from about one-



90 The Wilson Bulletin— No. 87

third of a mile at the narrow point on the east to two and
three miles on the north and west, and to the south it stretches
away solidly. Around this great circle birds may be found
nesting at many points. Mr. Baynard, who visited this
rookery in February, 1912, before the cypress trees had leaved
out, gave it as his opinion that there were not less than
seven or eight thousand nests of the "Wood Ibis here. Tree
after tree bore from twelve to twenty or more nests of this
species, and in one I counted thirty-two. Years ago before
the Egrets and Spoonbills had become so sadly decimated,
for they once bred here in large numbers, it must have been
a spectacle so imposing as to defy an adequate description.
The Egrets, Wood Ibis, and Spoonbills all nest high up in
the cypress trees, very few under fifty feet and many seventy-
five and eighty feet up. At this season, the middle of March,
nearly all the nests contained young. A few of the Wood
Ibis and Egrets were still incubating eggs, but these were
more than likely birds that had been broken up elsewhere.

Bird studying in a cypress swamp is not all roses, though.
It means wading from start to finish, anywhere from knee
to waist deep, with a good chance of hitting unexpected
depths at any moment. The cypress trees, heavily draped
with the Florida long moss, or as it is more commonly known,
"Spanish moss," stand close together, vines cross and recross
in the openings, impenetrable tangles of button-wood force
you to turn aside. Occasionally one comes upon deep, open
pools and lagoons covered with lettuce and lily pads, with
here and there a half-grown alligator perking up his head.
There were big ones in the swamp, too, although I never
chanced to see one, but the bellows that emanated forth on a
couple of hot nights never came from anything less than
eleven or twelve foot 'gators.

Another interesting feature, and one that is not likely to
slip your mind for any great length of time, is the dangerous
cotton-mouthed moccasin, for he puts in his appearance just
about often enough and at just about familiar enough range
to keep one on the qui vive. Wading waist deep you come
to a nice log and start to climb up onto it. You look again.



Bird Life Big Cypress Swamp Region 91

a moccasin is within reach of your hand. If he is a small
one, he will probably slip off the other side, but if he happens
to be four and a half or five feet long and eight or ten inches
in girth, he just coils up, opens his white mouth, gently
quivers his tail and waits. You will have to kill him or go
the other way.

I visited this rookery a second time the middle of April,
making the trip across country from Immokalee. Large
numbers of the young birds had now left the nests and many
were accompanying the old ones to the feeding grounds. In
the morning the young Wood Ibis congregated by the hun-
dreds in the cypress saplings at the edge of the swamp just
opposite the camp to enjoy the warmth of the early svm.
We found one group of Egrets, about fifty pairs, with fresh
nests and just beginning the duties of incubation. These
were undoubtedly new aTrivals, remnants of a shot-out
rookery not far aw^ay.

To illustrate some of the uncertainties of a cypress swamp.
We were three hours reaching this colony of Egrets, located
less than a mile within the swamp, although we had visited
the same place a month before and presiunably knew exactly
where it was. The trouble arose from starting in at a slightly
different point and encountering a deep lettuce covered lake,
in detouring around which we got off our course. By climb-
ing a tree we got a line on the flight of the birds and event-
ually the croaking of the nestlings drew us to the right spot.
In going out we picked up our old trail and were at the edge
of the swamp in half an hour.

This rookery has been under the protection of the Audubon
Society since 1912. In that year, through the energetic
efforts of Mr. Baynard, B. Rhett Green of Fort Myers was
hired as warden and assumed the duties of guarding it about
the middle of the breeding season. Its future now seems
assured, and it is perhaps not too much to anticipate that it
wdll eventually regain something of the prosperity of its
former days.

I shall not go into the details or attempt to recount all
the various happenings of my trip, for this might finally



92 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 87

become burdensome. During the latter part of March I made
an excursion southward from the Corkscrew rookery, follow-
ing down along the edge of the Big Cypress Swamp to a
point some sixty miles below Fort Myers. The first two weeks
of April, in company with a guide from Immokalee, I crossed
the Ocaloacoochee Slough and penetrated southeasterly to the
Seminole Indian reservation at the edge of the Everglades.
Then returning to Immokalee, I made a second trip to the
Corkscrew rookery from that point.

A few words in regard to the general character of the
country. The interior of Lee County is pretty much a wilder-
ness. The Big Cypress Swamp, beginning some thirty miles
south of Fort Myers, covers most of the central part of the
county. To the north and east of the swamp it is principally
open pine woods, interspersed here and there with hammocks
of oak and palmetto and small cypress swamps, or "cypress
heads," as they are usually called. There are several con-
siderable prairie tracts, particularly in the vicinity of Immo-
kalee. In the eastern part of the county there is another
large swamp area known as the Ocaloacoochee Slough. In
general the country is low and wet wifh many small lakes
and i^onds, and after heavy rains water stands everywhere.

Game is fairly abundant. I saw five deer at one time
enjoying a noonday siesta in a small grove of pine trees, and
in all I probably saw thirty during my trip. Wild Turkey
are plentiful and in the wilder country about the cypress
swamps wild-cat, bear and panther are to be found.

Immokalee, with a population of fourteen families, located
about thirty-two miles southeast of Fort Myers, is the prin-
cipal settlement, although there are a couple of other smaller
ones. Excepting these the only inhabitants are the Seminole
Indians and a few cattlemen, who take advantage of the
excellent pasture afforded in some places to graze their lean,
half-wild cattle. Maps show several forts such as Shackleford
and Simon Drum, but these are relics of the old Indian
wars, long since fallen into ruin, and their sites can only be
determined with difficulty.

The Seminoles, who number about four hundred, live on a



Bird Life Big Cypress Swamp Region 93

reservation down at the edge of the Everglades about eighty-
miles southeast of Fort Myers. They are under the control
of a government agent, but do little or no work, depending
largely on otter and alligator hunting to pick up a few
dollars. For several years back the alligator market has been
very flat, and they find plume hunting the more lucrative.
We camped with an Indian one evening a few miles south
of the Ocaloacoochee Slough, who informed me he had shot
eight plumes that season, which he had sold at Miami for
$8.00 apiece, bringing him in rather a tidy sum. Incidentally
I had the pleasure of dining on palmetto cabbage as pre-
pared a la Seminole, and an excellent dish I found it.

The subject would not be complete without a word or two
about insect pests. The mosquitoes are without number. As
soon as darkness falls they simply arise in swarms. Sleeping
without a bar, and a cheesecloth one at that, is out of the
question. Even the Seminoles use them. The steady hum
of mosquitoes hovering just outside your bar becomes merely
a part of life. The horse flies of this region are the last
word. In April it is necessary to wrap a horse in burlap
when used, and even then they get to them pretty hard.
Around camp a horse will stand right up in a smudge all
day, and trust to feeding at night. The cattle are forced to
bunch together and retire into the cypress swamps during
the middle of the day. Even man is not entirely exempt.
A couple of times when dining somewhat en dishabille after
a wade in the swamp we w^ere forced to hustle out our shoes,
etc., for protection.

In the following list of resident species I have aimed to
name only those that I actually found breeding or observed
under circumstances which made it seem fairly certain they
were doing so. The winter of 1912 and 1913 was unusually
warm and the spring early, which had its effect on the nesting
of many of the species, causing them to begin in some cases
several weeks earlier than in ordinary seasons.

1. Aiihinga anhinga. Water Turkey. Some four or five hundred
were breeding at the Corkscrew rookery. On my first trip into the
swamp, March 16th, most of the nests contained eggs, but some of the



94 The Wilson Bulletin — No. 87

young had hatched at that date. Many of the nests were 50 and 60
feet up in the cypress trees, but others were found in low bushes beside
lagoons.

2. Anas ftdvigula fulvigula. Florida Duck. Observed feeding on the
marshes, but no direct evidence of nesting obtained.

3. Aix sponsa. Wood Duck. A common resident in and about the
cypress swamps. One nest found April 18th in a Pileated Woodpecker 's
hole about 30 feet up in a large pine. It contained nine eggs neatly
covered with down. Birds not observed about nest.

4. Ajaja ajaja. Eoseate Spoonbill. This species is right on the
danger mark. I doubt if there are more than 50 or 60 birds in the
several rookeries in the interior of Lee County. There were not over
ten or twelve pairs at Corkscrew, about a similar number at the principal
rookery of the Ocaloacooche Slough, and a few are to be found at the
other important rookeries. Nesting usually begins in February.

5. Guara alba. White Ibis. Observed feeding in considerable num-
bers on the Corkscrew marsh during March. They nest during April
and May, and at Corkscrew they use the elders and button-wood that
fringe the inner circle of the swamp.

6. Mycteria americana. Wood Ibis. This species forms the bulk of
the population at each of the principal rookeries of the Big Cypress,
region, and its abundance can be readily inferred from my remarks as to
the number nesting at the Corkscrew rookery. Nesting usually begins
in January and by March 1st the young are as a rule all hatched. The
number of eggs is usually three, occasionally four. This bird is a
splendid flier and it is a fine sight to watch them filing in from the
feeding grounds, floating high in the air on motionless pinions like
great kites, for in their power of flight they are comparable to the
raptores rather than to the heron tribe.

7. Ardea herodias wardi. Ward's Heron. Fifty or sixty pairs were
nesting in the Corkscrew rookery, as a rule in company vrith the Egrets.
Their huge nests are fully twice as large as those of the latter. They
are early breeders, usually beginning family duties in January. Also
observed nesting in company with Little Blue and Louisiana Herons in
willow bushes in ponds.

8. Herodias egretta. Egret. The Long White has succeeded in
maintaining itself in the face of constant and relentless persecution, for
here it has the Seminole Indian as well as the white plume hunter as an
enemy. Annually in February the birds gather at the old accustomed
rookeries, build their nests and perhaps lay their eggs, and then the
plume hunter appears. Each is so anxious to beat the other to it that
they scarcely give the birds a chance to get a few sticks piled together,
as my guide put it. A few birds are killed, not many, as the birds are
wary until the eggs are advanced in incubation or the young hatched.
Then they desert the rookery and try it somewhere else, with more than
likely the same result. A cattleman told me of coming onto a small



Bird Life Big Cypress Swamp Region 95

colony nesting in a little cypress swamp late in June, 1912, every plume
shed, but incubating eggs. There is still a sufficient nucleus of these
birds left in the Big Cypress region, so that the species will build up
rapidly if given proper protection.

9. Egretta candidissima candidissima. Snowy Egret. Now but a
memory in this region. I have asked hunters and the settlers at Immo-
kalee about this bird and the answer is always the same : ' ' About eight
or ten years ago I saw one at such and such a place. ' ' This Egret is
still to be found, however, in the coast rookeries of Lee County and on
the Caloosahatchie Kiver near the Everglades.

10. Hydrana^sa tricolor mficollis. Louisiana Heron. Abundant. Ob-
served nesting in company with Little Blue Herons In clumps of willows
in ponds during early April.

11. Florida caerulea. Little Blue Heron. Always associated with
the Louisiana Heron and remarks about one are equally applicable to
the other. Large numbers of immature birds in the white plumage
were observed on the feeding grounds.

12. Butorides virescens virescens. Green Heron. Not very common.
Observed only now and then and not found nesting.

13. Nycticorax nyeticorax naevius. Black-crowned Night Heron.
Observed several times, and it is no doubt a breeding species, although
I did not find it nesting.

14. Nyctanassa violacea. Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Quite a
number nested at the Corkscrew rookery and we used often to come
upon them feeding beside quiet pools and lagoons.

15. Grus mexicana. Sandhill Crane. Still to be rated as a common
bird in Lee County. I hardly believe there was a day of my trip that
I failed to see or hear it. They were usually in pairs, though a number
of times I saw four or five together. The nesting of this bird is very
uncertain. It may begin in late February or it may be deferred to
April or May. Mr. Green told me of finding a nest early in June, 1912,
with fresh eggs. I am inclined to think the amount of water in the
nesting ponds is an important factor. The bird seems to require that
its nesting site be surrounded by water. Twice after heavy rains I
found them scratching up nests in grassy ponds which they abandoned
without using when the ponds began to dry up. Three occupied nests
were found, on April 4th and 8th, with eggs far advanced in incubation,
and on April 12th with fresh eggs. In this latter case the birds had
scratched up no less than four nests in a small flag pond I could throw
a stone across. Why the extra nests, two of which were only about half
complete, is a question.

16. Aramus vociferus. Limpkin. Observed twice in the cypress
swamp at Corkscrew, and also feeding on a small lake on the marsh.
Presumably there was a small nesting colony in the vicinity.

17. lonornis martinicus. Purple Gallinule. Observed several times
on small lakes feeding among the bonnets.



96 The Wilson Bulletin— No. 87

18. Gallinula galeata. Florida Gallinule. Identified twice on a small
lake on the Corkscrew marsh.

19. Colinus virginianus floridanus. Florida Bob-white. Abundant
about Immokalee and through the higher and more open pine woods.
Nesting in late March and early April. I was told of a nest with 13
eggs being found at Immokalee the last week of March.

20. Meleagris gallopavo osceola. Florida Turkey. A common resi-
dent throughout the interior of Lee County and should remain so for
years to come. I saw many, thanks largely to the dogs that were nearly
always along. Late on the afternoon of April 18th as we were working
along an open glade bordering a cypress swamp the dog began to nose
excitedly in the grass. Suddenly up popped half a dozen little brown
cannon-balls, quail I thought, but when they alighted in some cypress
saplings I saw at once they were young Turkeys. The old hen, hard
pressed, soon rose from the grass and sailed away across the tops of the
cypress trees. More youngsters kept popping up until there were eleven
sitting about in the saplings some twelve or fifteen feet up. Soon one
gave a peculiar little * ' quit, ' ' and then to my utter astonishment flew
straight away over the tops of the cypress trees after the old hen, and
one by one the rest followed. My guide pronounced them to be about
two weeks old and that seemed to me about correct. A few days later
the dog ran onto another old hen w ith young but a few hours old, and we
had some trouble in keeping them from coming to harm. The early
sjiring of 1913 caused some of the Turkeys to begin nesting the forepart
of March. In ordinary years deposition of eggs does not begin much
before April 1st.

21. Zenaidura macroura carolinensis. Mourning Dove. Observed
occasionally in the pine woods. Not common.

22. ChaemepeJia passerina terrestris. Ground Dove. Common about
Immokalee, and seen occasionally in the pine woods. One nest found
April 4th with two fresh eggs.

23. Cathartes aura septentrionalis. Turkey Vulture. Present in con-
siderable numbers during the breeding season, but no evidence of nesting
found, and it may be that it does not so far south in Florida.

24. Catharisia uruhu. Black Vulture. Abundant. I found no nests,
but saw them mating several times. They are a nuisance hanging around
a camp, as it is necessary to keep things pretty well covered to be safe.


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