An Abundance of Life

Thank goodness for genes!  When we learned of the impending birth of our first child, we wondered all the things prospective parents wonder about.  Will it be a boy or girl?  What color hair?  Eyes?  What will he or she be when they grow up?  Can we be good parents?  (Okay, I’m the only one who wondered that one.  My wife never had a doubt…still doesn’t!)

We were eventually blessed with two healthy children who have grown up to be all we could have ever prayed and hoped they would.  They now have children of their own and it has been amazing to observe how each has developed.  Mixing of genes has produced some mighty beautiful grandchildren who are intelligent and loving.  (No, I’m not bragging, it’s true!)  One of the traits I feel they inherited from my wife is a power of observation.  She is one of those rare individuals that has an innate ability to see your soul.  Our grandkids can give you “that look” which says “I know what you’re thinking and I know how to get exactly what I want from you”.  Hopefully, they will be able to hone that talent to keep others, as well as themselves, honest as they travel through life.

I was thinking about genes the other day while standing in waist-high wet grass trying to focus the camera lens on a fast-moving dragonfly.  Yes, of course I was birding.  Sometimes though, one just becomes overwhelmed with the plethora of life all around.  Standing in one spot, I could see dozens of spider webs spun during the night, each containing a multitude of small insects trapped for hungry spider families to enjoy.  Dragonflies, moths, butterflies, katydids and unknown life forms seemed to be everywhere.  This doesn’t even include the “ordinary” flies, mosquitoes, ants and microscopic forms of life all within arm’s-length.  Within each of these species there is an incredible diversity.  How did genes play a part in creating such similar, yet different individuals?

I love birding precisely because it takes me into a world of vast possibilities.  Hopefully, I’ll never stop being curious about that world.

On this day, we were exploring Hardee Lakes Park, hoping to find a few migratory birds.  We found a few, but most birds remained beyond the reach of my camera.  So our photographs include a preponderance of C.O.T.B. (Critters Other Than Birds).

We ended the morning with 55 species, including Forster’s Terns, Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, four species of woodpecker,  White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, House Wrens, Blue-gray Gnatchatchers,  Ovenbirds, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated Warblers, Pine Warblers, Black and White Warblers, Northern Parulas, a female American Redstart and a female Indigo Bunting.  A very satisfying outing!

Here is a safety tip:  When trying to get a better angle from which to take a photograph, do not use a fire ant mound to stand on for greater elevation.  The mound is not solid and will sink under your weight.  Oh, and it makes the local residents within the mound quite peeved.  Although, as a result, I may have invented several new dance moves.

We hope you enjoy a few images of our morning.

(Identifying insects is very challenging for me so if anyone can provide corrections I would really appreciate it!)




Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat


Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus) - (?)

Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus) – (?)


Eastern Pondhawk (Female) - (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk (Female) – (Erythemis simplicicollis)


White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)


Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)


Wingless Meadow Katydid (Female) - (Odontoxiphidium apterum) - (?)

Wingless Meadow Katydid (Female) – (Odontoxiphidium apterum) – (?)

Wingless Meadow Katydid - (Male) - (Odontoxiphidium apterum) - (?)

Wingless Meadow Katydid – (Male) – (Odontoxiphidium apterum) – (?)


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo


Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)


American Hover Fly (Metasyrphus americanus)

American Hover Fly (Metasyrphus americanus)


Eastern Pondhawk - (Male) - (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – (Male) – (Erythemis simplicicollis)


Four-spotted Pennant - (Male) - (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – (Male) – (Brachymesia gravida)


Rambur's Forktail - (Male) - (Ischnura ramburii)

Rambur’s Forktail – (Male) – (Ischnura ramburii)


Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus)

Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus)


Fall Webworm Larva (Hyphantria cunea)

Fall Webworm Larva (Hyphantria cunea)


Tawny Pennant (Brachymesia herbida)

Tawny Pennant (Brachymesia herbida)


Four-spotted Pennant - (Immature or Female) - (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – (Immature or Female) – (Brachymesia gravida)


Florida Redbelly Turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni)

Florida Redbelly Turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni)


Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant



The next time you find yourself outside, try standing still for a few minutes and observe the amount of life all around.  Prepare to be amazed!


Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “An Abundance of Life

  1. Loved the morning walk and great hint about “catching” flying insects earl — that makes perfect sense and I will try it. The fire ant stomp has me laughing (and sort of itchy, just thinking about it). Your pictures are wonderful and make me even gladder that we’re getting closer to our winter home! Thanks.

    • Hi, Sallie! Happy to hear y’all are migrating successfully! We look forward to you reaching your roost and reporting on conditions in SW Florida!

  2. Speaking of genes . . . it’s pretty clear we’re related. Had to give my socks and jogging shoes to the ants a couple of days ago when I was out in the woods showing a granddaughter what an experienced outdoors-woman I am (. . . . not). Every time I see a dragon fly I wonder how you capture those fast-flying fellows. Beautiful shots. I really appreciate the chance to study them up close.

    • Thank you, Sister! Yep, if you go outside often enough, something will take a bite out of you! I think I found a hint on photographing bugs – go early while the dew is still on them and they don’t move quite as quickly.

      Love ya!

  3. You are right Wally, there is no chance of being bored by nature. I’m always in awe of it. I love these images. Brings back such fond memories of Florida.

  4. I used to think all dragonflies were created equal–I should have known better. I might need a photo of a red ant hill to know what to look out for.

    • Yep, I am definitely being challenged trying to i.d. the flying dragons! This particular ant hill looked like a clump of mud in standing water.

  5. What MARVELOUS shots of the minutiae! They’re just gorgeous. And I empathize… I too have used those horrible mounds as support, more than once. Picture a frantic unlacing of heavy hiking boots… 🙂

  6. All great photos but especially that first one of the sunrise. I guess all hot and wet climates have lots of bug and bities! Right now our climate is hot and dry – no rain for a couple of months – so I think I shall stay out on the water and watch the shorebirds.

  7. What an amazing and diverse collection of critters, Wally. I’m like you and often think of genetics (and evolution) when I’m watching wild subjects through the lens. I’m especially drawn to questions like “what selection pressure could have possibly produced some particular structure or behavior?”. Pretty fun to think about…

  8. I had to laugh at your tip and the image of you dancing on the fire ant mound. I love the White-eyed Vireo…Awesome shots.. have a happy weekend!

  9. What? No photos of the fire ants? These are beautiful. The horsefly looks like Darth Vader.

  10. Wally you are definitely a man after my own heart what with your love of birding, kids and grandkids – not necessarily in that order, but the order isn’t immovable. We have the same problem with grandkids. Basically they can twist us around the proverbial finger.

    55 species is mighty impressive but as you say they don’t always play ball with the camera and it would be easier if the damn things couldn’t fly.

    Anyway I enjoyed your COTBs but don’t let it become a habit. The vireo is a stunner by the way, a family we don’t have but wish we did. Enjoy your weekend – both of you.

    • Phil, the way I see it, it’s the duty of grandparents to do everything in our power to spoil grandkids. Otherwise, their parents would have no challenges in raising them! 🙂

      I don’t mind not getting bird photos. Just seeing or hearing them and being outside for awhile is reward enough.

  11. You see so much out in nature! Lovely set, as always. Amazing that you’re able to get such a great shot of the gnatcatcher–these are tiny, fast-moving little birds.

    • We appreciate the visit and kind remarks, Gail! I’m always like a kid in a candy store when I’m outdoors. Don’t know where to look first!

  12. Don’t tell me you really standed on fireant mound? LOL!!!
    I bet you will remeber the experience!
    Your photos are a delight, my favourite are the dragonflies!
    I love to discover the species outside Europe!
    You are lucky to have your grandchidren around, ours in in Australia…. and we cal only see them on skype!
    Cheers, Wally, take care!

    • Thank you so much, Noushka. I hope to someday take images as perfect as yours. For anyone who would like to see nature photography at its best, visit Noushka’s fabulous blog at: .
      Look at her dragonflies – exquisite!

  13. I absolutely loved reading this! What a great piece to read at the end of the day! And the pictures! My goodness!!!!

    Thank you for the reminder to be still and know that He is all around and His nature is speaking of His glory!

    And I think you and Sid Jr. could compRe dance moves. He always finds himself on a fire and mound and ends up with at least 50 bites;-( boo!!

    Love you and mom!

    • Thank you so very much for your wonderful words!
      See, there might be something to that “gene” thing! Jr. and I can compare bites next time we see each other. 🙂

      We love you all!!

  14. really great shots, once again. i enjoyed all of your insects as well as the birds. your tip made me laugh. and i do believe you have a pretty good ‘power of observation’ yourself. 🙂

  15. This was a great read! Grandkids to Red ants – superb! Great sunrise, well….great photos overall – period.

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