Preserving Beauty

I am an awful person. It’s true. Perhaps, since I recognize the fact, there is hope for my eternal soul. When I visit my local birding “patch” or a wildlife preserve or city/state/national park, I thoroughly enjoy the experience for the benefits such places provide – for “ME“. I seldom give a thought to the monumental efforts it took to plan these venues, acquire the space and administer the parks, all just so I can have a good day.

Today, I thank a couple of folks I never met. Mary Ann and Ed. Holloway. These generous residents of Lakeland, Florida, USA, set up a foundation in 2010 to preserve in perpetuity (I love that word) 330 acres of land which was once used to extract phosphate from the ground. Over the years since mining operations ceased, this land now called Holloway Park has transformed into an oasis of natural beauty on the edge of a bustling city with over 100,000 inhabitants. As you exit your vehicle and gaze to the north, you think of two words: “urban sprawl”. From the south side of the park one can see commuters bustling along the toll road on their way to work. Entering from the east you travel through the heart of the city’s industrial base. Standing on a “hill” (left over from the days of mining) there is a magnificent vista to the west of two warehouse-type shopping centers with endless rows of parked cars.

However, once you wander a few yards from the parking area just at dawn, you become wrapped in a cocoon of tall trees, wildflowers, fluttering insects, singing birds, adrenaline-pumping bobcat tracks on the trail, the scream of a Bald Eagle from its nest in that tall pine — how did it get to be noon so soon?

On a recent morning at the park, we observed 33 species of birds. Not too bad for an urban location during one of the state’s hottest weeks on record. We found a few juvenile birds, lots of colorful butterflies, dragonflies, a honey bee nest, watched a Red-shouldered Hawk feed its offspring, marveled at the insect catching prowess of an adult Loggerhead Shrike, chuckled at the learning pains of an immature Shrike (more on that in a minute) and sat back to just plain enjoy a show put on by Eastern Meadowlarks all dressed in their bright yellow-and-black vests.

Here are a few images from our day to give you an idea what beautiful residents we found.


A Tricolored Heron is a patient hunter. Just after I took his portrait, he stabbed at the water and flew away with a small fish. It all happened too fast for me to react with the camera!

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron


The Downy is North America’s smallest woodpecker. This male was unperturbed by my presence as he probed around and around several small trees. He found what he was looking for and proceeded to gorge on his buggy breakfast.

Downy Woodpecker - Male

Downy Woodpecker – Male


Blue Jays harassed this young Red-bellied Woodpecker and he was continually looking up to try and thwart their attacks. Mom and Dad showed up and drove the blue bullies away.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Juvenile)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Juvenile)


Immature Northern Mockingbirds don’t yet have the “neat” appearance of the adults and sport lots of speckles on their breast. They do, however, have that ‘mocker attitude and don’t seem to be afraid of anything.

Northern Mockingbird (Immature)

Northern Mockingbird (Immature)


Mushrooms. Fungi. Nothing further to tell. I like ’em.






The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper is an imposing insect. Adults reach lengths up to three inches (8 cm). Their bright coloration is a warning to predators that their bodies contain a toxin which can cause sickness or death. Good thing, too (for the Lubber), since this big ‘hopper can’t fly.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)


This very small critter is the nymph of the American Grasshopper (also called American Bird Grasshopper). At this stage, it can be bright green, brown or yellow. Coloration may be dependent upon what it’s eating, population density of its species and/or pollution levels.

American Grasshopper Nymph (Schistocerca americana)

American Grasshopper Nymph (Schistocerca Americana)


One of my favorite moths is the Bella. I like it because it’s one of the few moths out and about in daylight. And it’s kinda pretty.

Bella Moth  (Utetheisa ornatrix))

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix))


The Spicebush Swallowtail is one of Florida’s five “black” Swallowtail species. I love that touch of “powder blue” on this big butterfly.

Spicebush Swallowtail  (Papilio troilus)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio Troilus)


Bright orange fluttering along the path brings attention to the Gulf Fritillary. His close relative, the Variegated Fritillary isn’t as bright but that complex design is certainly just as attractive.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanilla)


Variegated Fritillary  (Euptoieta claudia)

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta Claudia)


Florida’s state butterfly, the Zebra (Heliconian), is always a show-stopper.

Zebra (Heliconian) - (Heliconius charitonius)

Zebra (Heliconian) – (Heliconius charitonius)


Not as big as the above specimens, the diminutive Sleepy Orange is still beautiful as it flits among the low-growing vegetation.

Sleepy Orange  (Abaeis nicippe)

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)


Horace’s Duskywing may not be as colorful as many butterflies, but the subtle markings have a beauty all their own. Many of these skipper butterflies are named for Roman poets, as is this one.

Horace's Duskywing  (Erynnis horatius)

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)


Tiger racing stripes, powder blue paint, aggressive speedster. No, not a racing car. A dragon. The Blue Dasher.

Blue Dasher  (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)


Needham’s Skimmer can vary from a dull brown seen in immature and female dragons to the male’s bright orange. This species is very similar to the Golden-winged Skimmer.

Needham's Skimmer   (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami)


It’s hard to miss the neon lavender of the adult Roseate Skimmer. Females and immature males are much more subdued in coloration.

Roseate Skimmer - Immature  (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer – Immature (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer - Male(Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer – Male(Orthemis ferruginea)


One of the largest skimmers in the country, the Great Blue Skimmer likes to hang around forest ponds and streams to ambush unsuspecting prey. This is a female. The male is overall blue.

Great Blue Skimmer - Female  (Libellula vibrans)

Great Blue Skimmer – Female (Libellula vibrans)


We watched this young Loggerhead Shrike attempt to impale a caterpillar onto a fence barb just like he saw Dad do it. He tried just laying the caterpillar on the barb, then tried to drag it across the point and almost got it right when he dragged it over the barb and then pulled upward to impale his dinner. Unfortunately, by then the caterpillar was a little too “tenderized”, broke in half and fell to the ground. Sigh. Dad makes it look so easy.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike


Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike



We had a wonderful morning at Holloway Park. One of the neat things (here I go being selfish again) is that this place hasn’t yet been “discovered” and each time we’ve visited have only seen one other human visitor. The next time you’re in your favorite park, stop and give a bit of thanks that someone had enough vision to set aside such a place of beauty – just for YOU!

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



Additional Information

Holloway Park


See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

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50 thoughts on “Preserving Beauty

  1. You are right, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who made it possible to have the parks and refuges. I never knew there were so many different dragonflies. We’ve seen so many the last couple of summers. I love the colors on the Spicebush Swallowtail, I think it might be my favorite of all the beautiful butterflies. And fungus is just photogenic. 🙂

  2. We loved our visit to Lakeland last season and we didn’t even know about this park. (I already had the area on my ‘must visit’ list for this coming season and now for sure we will add Holloway Park (two more people spoiling the quiet). Thanks for the link. And the pictures (I know it will be different birds by the time we get there, but what a great place to bird and explore). And yes, thanks for the reminder to be grateful for people who donate these areas to the public — to us!

  3. Hoorah for more preserved lands! And those images are just brilliant… Such gorgeous detail and colors!

  4. Amazing photos…Really love the portrait of a heron. It had to felt pretty good to come home with those pictures.

    • Hi, Charlie! I’m always grateful to make it back with ANY images! 🙂
      Thank you so much for taking the time for such nice remarks. I appreciate it.

  5. The pictures and words are great – but that sequence with the shrike and the caterpillar (?) is really special. I’ve watched shrikes do this, but no pictures.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • Hey, Stewart! Shrikes are among my most favorite creatures and it was great fun observing this youngster learning what he needs to know in order to survive. Hope your winter is not too severe. I can’t believe it’s September already! We’re already seeing numbers of migrants winging their way south.

      Take care!

  6. I wish you could have been sitting here next to me as I read this post and looked at the photos and found myself saying “wow … Wow … WOW.” These images are truly exquisite. Some of those wow’s too though were about what these people have done in setting aside this land from future development. Your post is a wonderful and well deserved tribute to Holloway’s for all they have made possible in protecting the land and its creatures. It is also a great reminder to us all to do our part as well. Thank you.

    • It’s always a terrific surprise to discover such generous and thoughtful people in our world. I think they outnumber the other kind of folks but are just quieter in how they go about things. Thank you for taking the time to say such nice things!

  7. Hi Wally….I’m a bit behind in visiting with you since you last left a comment on my blog …
    Your images in the reserve are absolutely stunning!!! [I have never seen a shrike actually do anything but perch on a treetop!—that series was fascinating]. And I really, really liked the fact that you gave thanks to those who donated land for our enjoyment!!!

    • Thank you for stopping by, Anni! We owe so much to so many folks we’ve never met! I really enjoyed your pink and white and rare bird post!

  8. What a great place that must be in the midst of an urban jungle, Wally. Though I’ll never see it I thank the Holloways too. I really enjoy the variety of species in your posts and this one is no exception. Regarding the Lubber Grasshopper and shrikes that eat them – I’ve read that when shrikes impale them they deliberately wait for a few days to consume them because in that time the toxins breaks down and are no longer harmful. Since shrikes in certain areas eat so many grasshoppers I’ve wondered if that was how the impaling behavior developed in the first place….

    • Ron, interesting fact about the Shrikes and Lubbers! I used the Lubbers as fish bait when I was a kid but never had any luck. Maybe the fish knew something about toxins? Or maybe their local Butcher Bird told them.

  9. Hi Wally. Just catching up after a hectic few days. I’m stuck for words on this latest post of yours! There are not enough superlatives to cover the narative and pictures.

    However, there’s so much to comment on with the actual creatures themselves. I’ll try and keep it down to a ‘dull roar’!

    That Heron is such a beautiful creature, and I’ll always have a soft spot for woodpeckers, but then I saw the grasshoppers. The Eastern Lubber is such a spectacular creature in appearance, and its toxic character adds to the interest, whilst the little American nymph has simple beauty.

    Then we come to your wonderful images of butterflies and moths, a couple of which I am familiar with from butterfly farms in UK. The Spicebush Swallowtail is something I’ve not seen illustrated before and is absolutely stunning!

    I’m rapidly developing an interest in dragons and was delighted to see so many of yours. I have difficulty comprehending, however, that the colorations of the Blue Dasher and Roseate Skimmer are real!! Fabulous !!!

    Looks like our weather is turning for the better at long last – now sunny but windy!

    Best wishes – – – Richard

    • Richard, you can create a “dull roar” here any time you like! Thank you so much, my friend, for the really wonderful remarks. Take another look at the Roseate Skimmer and try to imagine dozens of them darting along just in front of you as you walk along a canal bank. I almost fell in the water more than once trying to gawk at them!

  10. Your photos are brilliant, as always. Love that pink skimmer. He’s very sure of his masculinity to wear that color! Your description of your dawn visit so made me want to visit!

  11. Ha! I found you! I’m, sad to admit, not Google+ savvy and for the life of me I could not find a link to your blog off your profile page. And your blogger image (from when you comment on a blog) goes to your Google+ page). Thankfully I AM Google search savvy and found you through the Merritt Island post. yay!

    I’ve added you to my blog roll and look forward to seeing the wonderful wildlife down by you. My mom, coincidentally, lives in Crystal River, Fla. and I think she’ll also enjoy your blog. Do you IG, too, from your phone?

    Your Blue Dasher image is stunning and I’ve always wanted to see (in person) one of those Zebra moths. I’ll just have to live vicariously through your blog! 🙂

    • Sorry you had difficulty, Tami, but we’re glad you persevered! Crystal River is a terrific area and we love birding all around there. I’m afraid I don’t know what “IG” from my phone is, so I reckon I don’t do it. I was told I didn’t qualify for a “smart” phone. 🙂

      I’ve been enjoying your wonderful posts from the north country! Hope we’ll see you here again.

      • 🙂 IG is Instagram. I love it for the original reason it was created – pix from people’s phones, but now there are a lot of people uploading photos from their cameras, so that’s a bit of a detraction for me. I just find it amazing what people can capture with their actual phone…

      • Tami, thanks for the information! A phone that takes pictures! What will they think of next? (I was told I’m still underqualified for a “smart” phone, so I guess I’ll just keep using this old camera.)


    • Hi Tammy. I hope Wally doesn’t mind me responding to your comment. I too used to have problems finding blogs from Google+. The trick is, from Wally’s home page, go to the ‘about’ tab, rather than the ‘posts’ tab. Then go to the right hand ‘links’ panel, and there you’ll see ‘contributes to’ and a link to ‘Our Florida Journal’ – and hey-presto! you have it.

  12. What a wonderful birding experience. Love the mushrooms and insects too.

  13. wow,you should be published somewhere,love your story & the photos are just plain awesome! Phyllis

  14. Fabulous photos! I love all the butterflies and the dragonflies.

  15. That does it! I’m going. So many beautiful shots at one place.

    • Dina, check the calendar on their website as they sometimes have cross-country races on weekends. Otherwise, it’s quite peaceful.

  16. Wow! Your photos are incredible. 🙂

    • Welcome to our blog! We really appreciate your stopping by and making such a kind comment! We’re jealous of your lifestyle after a look at your blog! Hope to see you again.

  17. tingsgrove

    What a bounty of beauty in your wonderful image shares. Really really beautiful. Enjoyed every one of them Wally~

    • Mary, thank you for visiting! Wish I had gotten shots of the Red-shouldered Hawks for you. I guess I’ll just have to go back and try again!

  18. What else can I say than WOW!!!
    Indeed it is important to keep in mind what some people have done to recreate an natural spot since humans tend to destroy nature a lot more than protect it.
    This seems a very interesting site to prospect and your sightings were well worth the drive.
    That tricolored heron is a beauty and seems in excellent shape!
    Your dragons and butterflies are……….. well WOW again!!
    And the peckie made me smile, he is so cute all stuffed up! LOL!

  19. We all owe the Holloways a great debt! Thank goodness for people like them! Your photos are incredible! I love the Loggerhead Shrike, and the different varieties of dragonflies and butterflies are wonderful. Every photo is a treasure!

  20. Your skills with the camera are fantastic. Great bird photos and also great photos of those smaller creatures that never sit still for me! I like your ideas about the benefits of preserving wild places. There are still so many wide open – and wild! – spaces here in my country that it is more a matter of getting even locals to appreciate them and preserve them. Wild places shouldn’t just be looked at in terms of the revenue they can raise!

    • Thanks so much, Mick! I know that the acquisition of land for parks and ensuing governing policies may always be controversial, but it seems we owe it to those who follow to do our best to leave a legacy of the wild places.

  21. Such a productive morning of sightings and you captured them all so beautifully! Love the two woodpecker shots a lot!

  22. wonderful set of insects and enjoyed the young birds, too. would love to see a tri-color!

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