Dragons At 12 O’Clock!

(“Mad dogs and Birders go out in the mid-day sun.” — Sincerest apologies to Sir Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling and whomever else may have coined the original saying.)

 

We have pretty much ceased to live by the calendar and clock. A life without a schedule has serious drawbacks. For example, I used to arrive home from the office by 5:45 and the family sat down to supper no later than 6:15. Now, however, Gini and I may have supper at 6:30. Or 6:42. See what I mean? Schedules keep us from falling into a state of pure chaos. Another extreme example. In order to conform to business society’s rules for a successful career, I visited my barber every seven days without fail. Last week, I realized in horror that it had been a full eight days since a razor had touched by increasingly sparse and graying strands. With no pre-planned guidelines to follow, we have become like ships adrift in life’s tidal flow with no compass and no anchor. Rudderless and adrift, it is a sheer miracle we are able to accomplish anything at all.

Lounging about the other day, with nothing whatsoever planned, Gini innocently asked: “What shall we do for lunch?”. Panic. My eyes began to dart from side to side. Sweat broke out on my forehead. She wants ME to make a decision! About lunch! This is big. I’m not normally entrusted with the IMPORTANT things. What to do? There’s no SCHEDULE!

“Uhh, how about a picnic?”, I heard my feeble voice say. “That’s a WONDERFUL IDEA!”, Gini said. “I have leftover boiled eggs in the fridge and can whip up some egg salad for sandwiches and we can take some fruit.”

Whew. That was close. Panic subsided but then began to well up again as I realized she would expect me to figure out where to go for this impromptu (UNSCHEDULED stuff again) adventure. Fortunately, I had been wanting to visit a local state park to check out some improvements they had recently made. Most of our picnics are “bird-centric”, and the park should provide some birding opportunities.

Central Florida in the summer at noon. Think “high temperatures with matching humidity”. Even the natives (and that’s us) usually have enough sense to remain indoors. In artificially cooled air. With large glasses of ice containing who-cares-what liquid in them. But we have already established that we are not “normal”.

Colt Creek State Park is only about ten miles from the house. It has a deep (for Florida) lake, pine and hardwood forests, open fields, cypress tree studded wetlands, very nice amenities (fishing pier, canoe rental, picnic areas, modern restrooms) and several miles of trails to explore. The sandwiches were superb, the fresh air (yes, it was hot) was exhilarating and the company was the absolute best.

What I said earlier about native Floridians having better sense than to be out at noon in the summer applies to the bird life, too. We saw one Eastern Bluebird smashing a caterpillar on a tree branch, one Common Gallinule floating listlessly in the cattails, one Anhinga perched on the pier and one sky-borne hunter described below. So I did what any other birder does in this situation. I admired the bugs.

Dragonflies are apparently impervious to heat. There were hundreds of the gossamer-winged creatures flitting about. They’re a bit of a challenge (for me, anyhow) to capture digitally, but it’s fun learning the different species and about their natural history. As I moved amongst the weeds trying to stalk these quick and elusive targets, there was a fellow dragonfly lover looking over my shoulder. The Swallow-tailed Kite just happens to love Odonata hors d’oeuvres.

Join us for our unscheduled lunch, from the comfort of your much cooler environment.

 

Even in the middle of the day, we sometimes find nice surprises when we venture forth. Such as a moon high overhead in a deep blue sky.

Moon

Moon

 

Flowers bloom even when no one is there to see them. Fortunately, we caught a few showing off their true colors. Such as this Leavenworth’s Tickseed, a beautiful member of the Coreopsis genus.

Leavenworth's Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii)

Leavenworth’s Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii)

 

My boyhood home here in central Florida was adjacent to a pasture where we found an abundance of the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). These ancient reptiles have not changed much in over 60 million years. They dig a burrow which averages 30 feet deep and can eventually become home or provide shelter to myriad other life forms, including Burrowing Owls and Rattlesnakes. Unfortunately, they are now listed as an endangered species in Florida primarily due to loss of habitat.

Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

 

Enter the dragons. This male Blue Dasher is quite colorful with his yellow racing stripe thorax and cool blue abdomen. Perched with abdomens pointed up is called “obelisking” and is thought to reduce the amount of body surface the sun’s rays strike allowing the dragonfly to remain cooler.

Blue Dasher - Male (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher – Male (Pachydiplax longipennis)

 

The Carolina Saddlebags is found near water, usually small lakes or ponds with an abundance of submerged vegetation.

Carolina Saddlebags  -Female - (Tramea carolina)

Carolina Saddlebags -Female – (Tramea carolina)

 

One of the most striking dragonflies found in North America is the Halloween Pennant. There is some speculation that the coloration along with their “fluttery” flight might mimic the Monarch Butterfly, which is distasteful to predators.

Halloween Pennant - Male(Celithemis eponina)

Halloween Pennant – Male(Celithemis eponina)

 

A large dragonfly, the Great Blue Skimmer, is one of the few species with a white face. The first image is a typical female while the second picture shows an older female which has taken on the bluish body color of the male.

Great Blue Skimmer - Female  (Libellula vibrans )

Great Blue Skimmer – Female (Libellula vibrans )

Great Blue Skimmer - Mature Female  (Libellula vibrans)

Great Blue Skimmer – Mature Female (Libellula vibrans)

 

The reddish-orange body and golden-tinted wings of Needham’s Skimmer really stand out along the lake shore. This medium sized dragon is very similar to the Golden-winged Skimmer. One difference is the rear legs of Needham’s are brownish as opposed to the black of the Golden-winged.

Needham's Skimmer (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami)

 

Another colorful flower in our area is Tropical Sage. This native plant can grow to three or four feet tall and is very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea)

Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea)

 

A Gulf Fritillary gathers nectar from a thistle. Beautifully patterned from below, when seen from above it’s a striking orange that draws immediate attention as it glides from plant to plant.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

 

Nature attempts to maintain a balance in all things. Accordingly, she has given us such predators as this Robber Fly which preys upon butterflies, dragonflies, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, other flies and some spiders.

Robber Fly (Asilidae, poss. Efferia aestuans ?)

Robber Fly (Asilidae, poss. Efferia aestuans ?)

 

A Swallow-tailed Kite seemed quite interested in my presence. She was quite busy hawking dragonflies, one of her favorite food items. The kites will be gathering soon in pre-migration groups for their annual trip to South America for the winter. The actual migration can begin as soon as the beginning of August.

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

 

I realize you don’t have it marked on your calendar or in your day-planner, but consider an unplanned picnic in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point. You just never know what surprises await your discovery when you show up in Nature’s front yard unannounced!

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Information

Colt Creek State Park

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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24 thoughts on “Dragons At 12 O’Clock!

  1. What gorgeous creatures, and such captures of them — wow! They really are stunning. Little flying gems!

    • It’s a challenge to catch up with them and then try to get a picture and then to figure out which species…… But fun! Good to hear from you!

  2. Wally, I always enjoy your colorful storytelling skills. I read so many blogs that I have to skim sometimes, but I was thoroughly entertained here. 🙂 I certainly can relate to the “no schedule” thing. Monday is my house cleaning (well, sometimes), laundry, and grocery shop day. Beyond that, I have no purpose!

    I think your dragon shots are awesome. Love the halloween pennant – had one chance at it long ago and have never seen it again. The swallowtail kite is another one that has eluded me since the first time I saw it.

    • Gail, I really appreciate the nice comments! I figure as long as Gini and I are still in love and having fun, nothing else needs to be on our schedule!

  3. Hello Wally!
    This is one post I love most of all, naturally!
    Your humor is really reminiscent of our own unscheduled life and picnics are enjoyable but I often eat them with my camera in one hand! LOL!
    I enjoy seeing and/or discovering the north american species of dragons I would so much love to photograph myself one day!!
    The most flashy is of course the Halloween pennant but the quality of all your pics is fantastic!
    When we go to Spain (and elsewhere!) for birds and dragons, we photograph the latter at mid-day, after and before our hide sessions. It’s the best time to catch the dragons obelisking!!
    Congratulations, enjoy your summer!

    • Thank you very much, Noushka! I thought you might enjoy the Odonata. We’re still learning about them and obtaining good photos of such small and fast creatures is challenging. Take care!

  4. Beautiful photography! I had the pleasure of seeing a Swallow-tailed Kite in my neighborhood recently…in Orlando! A first for me 🙂

  5. I’m not sure I believe all that nonsense about you being disorganised Wally. Think I’ll ask Gini if it’s true.

    There’s a couple of amazing facts about Gopher Tortoise you quote and there must be many,many more. Enough surely that man should not let such a creature disappear?

    Males doing their thing like that; never heard it called obelisking until now Wally! But those dragon pictures are quite stunning. How do you get them not to fly off?

    I’d settle for just one of those Swallow-tailed Kites overhead, never mind a flock.

    Enjoy your picnics Wally, and don’t forget the napkins.

    • Oh, it’s true. Gini is the organized one around here! We hope conservation efforts for the Gopher Tortoises will be successful. Dragons are very interesting and quite challenging to photograph and identify (at least for me). Stay tuned for more Swallow-tailed Kites……

      As long as shirts have sleeves, why would one possibly need a napkin??

  6. So pleased to hear that you’re succesfully managing to abandon the Sheldonesque tendencies you might have had – even if only by a little bit!

    I’ve really enjoyed this post, Wally, with its array of some of your dragonflies (and other bugs). Some of these are similar to species found in UK – but some are so very very different! Lovely images too, as usual!

    I’m not sure if I’d rather have your weather or ours. We’re hot and sticky at the moment, although not to the extremes that you’re getting, but the rain is predictable in its intensity, and unpredictable in its timing, and the electrical accompaniment is deafening!

    Best wishes from UK – – Richard

    • Thanks for the very nice remarks, Richard! The nice thing about the weather is it will eventually change! Hope you’re able to continue to enjoy your Little Owls!

  7. I like your description of unscheduled and impromptu! Tide and weather provide my only scheduling and that is quite enough. The dragonflies are beautiful and the in-flight Kite is fantastic. Please tell Gini that her egg salad sandwiches sound so good she could provoke a rush of bloggers to join you!!!

    • Mick, tide and weather handling your scheduling instead of a secretary may be the definition of “paradise”! Thanks for the kind remarks. All are welcome for a picnic! We’ll gather more eggs…….

  8. fabulous post Wally. I enjoy not having to keep an eye on the time and not having to be so regimented about life in general. When we need to we fit in; we do it because we have to mostly :). Well I did enjoy joining you both for the egg-sandwiches and nature-gazing, chatting away too, about the change in climate to the rather chilly conditions some of Australia has been feeling this past couple of weeks. Interesting to see the variety of dragonflies, and learn that the Tropical Sage, is a native there. Quite similar to a perennial Salvia I have grown; how pretty to see it in the wild. I’m blown away with the Swallow-tailed Kite!!

    • Carole, thank you so much for dropping by! That sage is of the Salvia genus and looks good wherever it grows. We also love those Kites!

  9. lovely dragons! the robber fly is cool. i like conditioned air, myself. 🙂

    • Chasing these bugs is almost as addictive as birding! I try to like that Robber, but having experienced his bite, I keep my distance.

  10. Your photos are just stunning, and by the way, being normal is boring!

    • We sure appreciate your very kind comments! Since we’re the opposite of “normal”, it’s good to know we have no chance of being boring!

  11. Braving Florida’s heat and humidity certainly resulted in some beautiful photos. Those dragonflies are awesome.

    • Hi, Pat! We just take our weather as it’s served to us. We were both fortunate to have been born with heat, humidity and sand in our veins.

  12. Those dragonflies are beauties! Now I want to go on a picnic…I guess I should wait for the thunder storms to pass though…

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