“I have laid aside business, and gone a’fishing.” Izaak Walton
I enjoy fishing. The preparation of tackle, the anticipation of the day, the skill involved, a tug on the end of the line, the beauty of the creature in my hands, the total relaxation which comes with being outside, near the water, “in” the elements. Dad passed along this trait, whether by teaching or example or actual genetic composition. I am forever grateful to him for this precious gift. He would have enjoyed our destination on a recent trip. A fish hatchery dedicated to improving the Florida Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides). His favorite quarry.
The hatchery is located not far from home and is surrounded by pine woods and swamp. Rectangular ponds are laid out in neat rows over almost 200 acres of cleared land and a large covered building houses carefully controlled pools where fish eggs develop before being transferred to fishing locations throughout the state. Other fish raised and studied here include catfish, bream, crappie and grass carp. A new visitors center includes an interesting aquarium and an overlook of the indoor pool area.
Naturally, with all of the emphasis on fish here, we came to watch birds. It was our first visit and we weren’t sure what to expect. (Note to self: birds are sometimes not all that active in the middle of the hottest days of summer. Go earlier next time.) Almost noon, almost 100 degrees (F), almost no birds in sight. I had the camera. There were bugs. The rest is history.
With all of the ponds in the area I was mindful of Florida’s main tourist attractions: alligators and snakes. Walking around the edges of the impoundments stirred up all sorts of insect life. As the colorful bugs settled down on the end of grass stalks, I settled down for some portraiture. It occurred to me that laying down in weeds which concealed my presence also concealed the presence of potentially curious reptiles. What was that rustling sound behind me?
A few images may serve to illustrate how magnificent Nature can be, even on a day so hot no self-respecting birds made an appearance.
Okay, I had to include a few birds, but these were observed on the way to the hatchery.
This Limpkin appeared in a small wet area near the road where he found an Apple Snail.
Roseate Spoonbills follow cattle because they know the large beasts will stir up the muddy pasture to reveal all sorts of tasty treats. The Spoonie in the second image appears to have found a tadpole or small fishy thing.
Golden-winged and Needham’s Skimmers are quite similar in appearance. Here are females of both species. The Golden-winged typically has blackish legs whereas those of Needham’s are more brown. There is also a subtle difference to the thorax pattern (where the brown meets the lighter color).
This male Eastern Pondhawk captured a white moth and made quick work of devouring it. The time elapsed from when I first observed him with a nearly whole moth until it was completely gone is 40 seconds.
You may tire of my frequent posting of pictures of the Halloween Pennant but I never get enough of seeing this beautiful dragon.
Another Eastern Pondhawk , this time a female, has secured a meal, possibly a Needham’s Skimmer. It was interesting watching other dragons trying to steal the prize, unsuccessfully.
Scarlet Skimmers are so brightly colored they seem almost artificial.
Many butterflies, such as the Black Swallowtail, are sexually dimorphic. It would be easy to think these are two different species instead of a male and female.
I’m learning that locating specific butterfly species involves learning what plants they most favor. The Pearl Crescent is a member of the Brushfoot family (Nymphalidae) and prefers the small plant in these images, called Fogfruit (sometimes Frogfruit), Lippia nodiflora.
*Thank you to sharp-eyed Cole Fredricks who correctly identified this as a Pearl Crescent, not a Phaon Crescent as I originally reported.
The handsome Blue Dasher in the first photo is “obelisking”, pointing his abdomen skyward, believed to help cool its body. The pink in the background of the second image of a Blue Dasher is a blooming Morning Glory (Ippomea sp.).
If you haven’t tried fishing, please consider it as a wonderful way to relax. If you find yourself doing something fishy and you are not fishing – well, quit it! If the fish aren’t biting and there are no birds around to watch, I strongly suspect Nature will provide you an alternative!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!