Hot, Sweet Summer

The Sunshine State. It was meant to be a marketing slogan. A lure for those who too recently tried to wrestle a breath of air from the icy atmosphere as they heaved one more shovelful of dirty brown snow to the side of the driveway. It worked. Snowbirds flocked to the warm-all-year peninsula and many never took flight northward again.

When Gini The Eternally Beautiful agreed to be my bride oh so many years ago which seems like only yesterday, we travelled from our perpetually warm cocoon to “upstate” New York where I attended Syracuse University. We soon realized “upstate” was a euphemism for “anywhere other than New York City” with a secret secondary definition of “always cold and wet except for three days in August”. That poor girl. Her only footwear consisted of sneakers and flip-flops. After all, we arrived in town during late March and it was 90F when we left Florida. Snow. It was snowing as we were apartment hunting. I stopped at a Sears and Roebuck and found some outlandish fur-lined boots for her feet which were meant to run unadorned in the damp sand of the beach instead of sludging through half-melted ice.

We survived. The ensuing years took us to many different environments around the country and around the world. We continued to survive. We are better for the experience. But, as Dorothy observed, there’s no place like home.

It’s July. Near midnight, as I open the back door, a wall of hot, humid air engulfs my entire body. It almost takes extra physical effort to step outside, the atmosphere is so thick. Crickets. Music of the summer night accompanied by the monotone buzz of the cicada. Earlier, I had turned on the porch light in the hope of attracting moths to the yard. I was amply rewarded.

Recent birding efforts have concentrated on wrapping up a five year project attempting to catalogue species of breeding birds in Florida. This project will be compared with the previous breeding bird atlas conducted in 1986. Scientists will be able to access the data and hopefully provide ideas for future management of human development to better protect our bird population.

We have not been able to do much exploring for the past few months for several reasons and this blog has been on an unscheduled hiatus. My apologies for our absence. Following are a few images from our forays into the local area trying to find breeding bird evidence, backyard images of night creatures and some miscellaneous encounters along the way.

 

While surveying a very densely wooded section of swamp, we were somewhat surprised to find a Snail Kite. These endangered raptors are normally associated with more open areas, typically a lake or river shoreline, where they hover over vegetation as they hunt for apple snails. We observed a very large number of snail shells in the shallow water so this bird knew where to look.

20160701 BBA Polk County 00024

 

Cone Road

Snail Kite

 

Barred Owls are fairly common in our area and prefer the swamps and adjacent woods. Their prey consists of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. It’s not unusual to find them active during daylight hours and this one was preening on a branch well after sunrise.

Colt Creek State Park

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Colt Creek State Park

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

 

 

Not far from the above owl were a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks in a pine forest. The adults have a distinctive horizontal reddish/orange banding on their chest whereas immature birds display a vertical pattern of heart-shaped feathers.

Colt Creek State Park

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

 

A stagnant pond is a favorite hunting spot for the Green Heron.

Lake Parker Park

Green Heron

 

Travelling through a swampy area provides many opportunities for wildlife spotting. I think this is a Striped Mud Turtle. Total length was about six to eight inches. Any correction would be very much appreciated.

Cone Road

Striped Mud Turtle Kinosternon baurii)

 

Summer brings out the bugs. Such as this Slaty Skimmer, one of our larger dragonflies. It can be distinguished from the Great Blue Skimmer by its dark face. (The Great Blue has a white face.)

Moore Road

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incest)

 

A Gulf Fritillary is a common sight here. It’s bright orange above and has large silver spots underneath making quite a contrast of beauty.

Colt Creek State Park

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

 

One of the most common skippers in Florida is Horace’s Duskywing. This one is feeding on Loosestrife.

Carlton Road

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) on Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum)

 

During our hot summer nights, a light can attract an amazing variety of life forms. I think this is an Indo-Pacific Gecko (mostly based on the saw-tooth appearance of the edge of the tail). Again, if anyone has a correction, please let me know. I think the only gecko native to Florida is a Reef Gecko and it’s limited to the extreme southern part of the state, mostly in Key West. Non-natives have been arriving for several years, likely hidden in landscape plants from Asia.

Yard

Indo-Pacific Gecko (Hemidactylus garnotii)

 

Another non-native invader, the Cuban Tree Frog, has been displacing native Florida tree frogs for many years. They can be a challenge to identify at times, but generally, if you find a tree frog over 2.5 inches long, it will likely be a non-native. Also, they will normally be covered in bumps or “warts”.

Yard

Cuban Tree Frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)

 

The Banded Sphinx Moth is pretty striking with its geometric design and impressive with its three to four inch wingspan.

Yard

Banded Sphinx (Eumorpha fasciata)

 

Even larger, with a wingspan over six inches, the Polyphemus Moth is named for the cyclops of Greek mythology.

Yard

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea Polyphemus)

Yard

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)

 

Smaller than the two giants above, the Southern Emerald makes up for size with color and grace. Who knew moths were so colorful? 

Yard

Southern Emerald Moth (Synchlora frondaria)

 

Providing tonight’s summertime lullaby is the Olympic Cicada.  Enjoy.  (Song:  http://ifasgallery.ifas.ufl.edu/entnem/walker/buzz/797sl.wav)

Yard

Olympic Cicada (Diceroprocta olympusa)

 

Yep, it’s summer in Florida. Heat. Humidity. Daily thunderstorms. Ferocious lightning strikes. In a word:  GLORIOUS!

 

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

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

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24 thoughts on “Hot, Sweet Summer

  1. Hi Wally. At last I have to times to savor this post. I have had my family from Malaiwi with my recently and was not commenting on ANY blog but saved yours as I normally do for when I have a lot of time to read and see everything you send in detail. I am now sitting in the hairdresser so have plenty of time to catch up. By the way, thanks for visiting and commenting on my posts recently.
    I am so glad you are back to blogging as I missed your humour, your wonderful photographs and hearing about you and Your beloved Gini. Hope you are both well and surviving the huge humidiity you are experiencing. As you say, so many countries have now got invasive species that they wish had never been allowed entry. Man is his own worse enemy. Your shot of the Red shouldered Hawk and Barred Owl are stunning. Wonderful to see the Marvellous detail in these portrait shots. Now I M not into Moths although I do follows several blog that trap them. These Moths in your photographs are so beautiful. I can appreciate that very much and a green one, must have Irish blood in it!! I do hope soon that you and Gini can get out and about to do more exploring and bring us all the delights you find. Please send Gini my love. Until next time, stay happy, healthy and safe.

    • You are so kind, Margaret! We really appreciate the time you take to make such nice comments. We read all of your posts but due to my terrible disease, “procrastination”, I don’t comment on all of them. I’m trying to do better! That green moth is called an “Emerald” so it makes sense it has roots in the Emerald Isle!

      It’s mid-week already! Take care.

  2. There is no way for me to pick a favorite among all these magnificent images! Although I hated to leave four seasons at our home at 7000 feet in the mountains of New Mexico, I must admit that winters in south Florida have been (mostly) very enjoyable. Right now in the dead of summer the heat and humidity are really getting to me. We now begin our morning walks well before sunrise, not very good for photography. I think the geckos we find and identify here (and hear singing) are Mediterranean Geckos.

  3. Wonderful shots – really like that Barred Owl.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    • Thank you, Stewart! It’s one of my favorites as well. Sorry to have been away from Wild Bird Wednesday. Hope to contribute regularly again soon.

      All the best – Wally

  4. Jorge Horácio Oliveira

    Glad you are back. Although I don´t comment very often here I have been missing your words and images.
    I hope the bumps and curves will be overtaken successfully.

  5. Leave that porch light on, Wally, the moth photos are wonderful. It was when Buck and I lived in the Western North Carolina mountains for seven years that I came to appreciate gorgeous lunas, pink and yellow fuzzy moths, and other wonders. I’ve never seen a Banded Sphinx or Southern Emerald — they’re stunning.

    The barred owl — wow. I’ve heard their calls echoing in our stream bed, but never had the good fortune of seeing one, although I’m sure they’ve seen me plenty of times.

    I always enjoy your word preludes to the photos. Gini, your much-loved running buddy, is really something. Your description of the heat and humidity this time of year, even at midnight, is great. It really does feel like something you wade into, rather than step, something that resists and then envelopes. Daunting, but magnificent. As I type this morning, the windows are too wet with condensate (not rain) to see out of!

    p.s. This is also the time of year here in the Florida panhandle when we get five-lined skinks in the house. With our pup, Lou, the hide and seek has gotten a little intense. Buck and I have become masters of putting her in a crate, then “herding” the skinks out the door. Buck can grab them (he’s fast), but that can result in them jettisoning their tail (usually survivable but not good for the skink). Who knew we would become skink herders in our retirement? 🙂

    Love you, big brother. It’s so good to see you in this space again.

    • I’m trying to envision “skink herder” on a resume…..

      The moth world is pretty amazing. It’s estimated there are over 12,000 species of moth in North America (compared to just over 800 butterflies)! Sigh. I’m gonna need a bigger porch light.
      Hopefully, we’ll be getting out and about more within a few weeks and I’ll be able to throw some words and pics onto this thing more often than lately!

      All is well here! We love you!

  6. Beautiful summer! I read somewhere about a snail kite count that was taking place in Florida recently; what an imposing bird it is!! The moths are wonderful. We would not mind the heat and humidity at all but it is nice to be where we can see our family here in Oregon (where people think it’s too hot when it reaches 85 — wimps!). Gini was a good sport to put up with that snow way back then – we’ve never lived where it is that cold, but I know I would have hated it. (It just rains and rains here in the winter)

    • Hi, Sallie! I’m aware of specific counts for migrating Swallow-tailed Kites as they gather in large numbers just before heading to South America within the next few weeks. Snail Kites are still endangered so there are several agencies keeping close tabs on them. That weather thing is all in what you become accustomed to, I think. At first, we didn’t like Germany because it seemed cloudy and wet all the time. Once we accepted that, we got good rain jackets and just went all over the place and learned to have a great time no matter the weather!
      I know you’re enjoying your family, but don’t forget to return to the Sunshine State this fall! There are birds to be seen!

  7. beautiful array of critters of all kinds. the beak on that snail kite is mighty impressive. love the barreds – most common owl here, too. already tired of hot/dry summer here in texas. 🙂

    • Thank you, Theresa! Hope y’all didn’t get too much of the flooding recently. Don’t you love the call of the Barred Owl? “Who, Who, Who Cooks For You All?”
      Stay cool!

  8. Welcome back to blogger-land! You and your amazing photos have been missed! I love the owl! What a fantastic experience to look over your shoulder and find that one watching you! It is a great photo of the tree frog but what a disaster it is when we let non-native species invade another country. Australia now tries very hard to keep such creatures out but we have some spectacular disasters from past mistakes still around and causing major damage..
    I really relate to your descriptions of movement between such different climate areas. My worst experience was between Canada and Sydney, Australia, in December! In a taxi from the airport my little boy wilted back in my arms and begged me to get the man to turn the car heater off! No car air conditioning in those days and he had the windows wide open.

    • Thanks, Mick! It’s good to be back and I’ll hopefully get back on some sort of schedule. Not that I was ever on one! – 🙂

      Yes, for these “invaders” a native species will often suffer a decline. That’s quite a difference in environments, Canadian winter to Australian summer! Poor little guy!

      Take care and I’ll drop by your site soon to get a dose of salt, mangroves and birds!

  9. Hello Wally,
    Don’t apologize for your absence so much, you make me feel all the more guilty to have been myself away from bloggerland these last weeks!!
    Your observations are fantastic and your photography stunning as usual!
    That Snail kite has impressive sharp beak and claws!! I wouldn’t like to be snail in its vicinity! LOL!
    Strange to see the Stripped moth in Florida, we have the same one here called Sphinx livournien, Hyles livornica.
    About the frog, I suppose we will have to accept these invasive creatures and few are the countries nowadays that are free from such invasions.
    The Barred owl and Red-shouldered Hawk pics are very sharp, your lens must excellent!
    Keep well and enjoy your WE

    • Merci, Noushka! It’s good to be able to be outside even for a short while and even with the heat. Nature is still out there! I appreciate your very nice comments. Yes, I’m afraid our “invasive” species are here to stay. It is quite sad, though, when one understands many times they replace a similar native species. Our Florida Green Tree Frogs and Green Anoles are but two examples of natives losing the battle with invaders.

      Our weekend is going very well and Gini and I hope yours is, too!

  10. Anonymous

    I’m delighted and relieved to see you back in Bloggerland, Wally – and with such style too!! I mean – grabbing me with that header image – how could you fail? I hope that the reasons for your absence weren’t too traumatic.

    What a wonderful selection of images of some delightful birds and other creatures (I don’t think I could ever use the word ‘critters’!). The owl is, of course, my favourite, but those moths are really beautiful.

    We’re having our own hot and humid spell at the moment. It’s rarely that we get these conditions and it will probably only last a few days – so we don’t usually have air conditioning installed in our homes (although I’ve been investigating the possibilities today!). Usually a nice long drive in the car with the temperature set at 20°C on the climate control is the solution – or even a trip to the local supermarket!

    I’ve been meaning to say this for a while now – do let me know if you’re ever contemplating a visit to UK.

    Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

    • Good afternoon, Richard! A terrific lightning and thunder show has just begun outside the office window, which has been a fairly regular occurrence this summer. I recall this type of weather pattern here 50 years ago. Hot, humid and able to set a watch by the afternoon storms. Pretty reliable cycle, methinks, but then again I have no financial/political agenda to push, so it could really all be due to my very offensive carbon footprints during my lifetime. Mea Culpa, World.

      It will still be awhile before we return to our “normal” birding and blogging life. In the meantime, we are getting out for a few short trips so will try to post as we gather sufficient material. I had just exited the truck to scan a likely looking bit of habitat for Bachman’s Sparrow when I “felt” that owl’s eyes. He was literally just above my head and remained several minutes posing for me. Quite unusual! Who knew there were so many unique-looking moths? Now I have to schedule night trips as well as during the day! When am I supposed to sleep? While driving, I suppose.

      We hope your Florida-like weather abates soon so you won’t be accosted for loitering in the dairy section of the grocery!

      If we’re ever fortunate enough to travel again, we will definitely be in touch!

      Best regards to you and Lindsay!

  11. Hi Wally. Good to see you back in action and on your usual form of words and pictures. Your creepy crawlies and reptiles gave the birds a good run for their money today and I was rather taken by the Cuban Tree Frog, warts and all.

    Special mention though for both the Barred Owl and Red-shouldered Hawk, the pictures reminding me of how much I envy the (almost?) perpetual sunlight you enjoy for photography.

    The sun is shining on Great Britain again now since we voted to ditch the EU. We have our country back !!

    • I would be delighted to send you as many Cuban Tree Frogs as you desire! Although I feel certain you would soon be calling for a “Frogexit”! They are exceedingly efficient at procreation. The owl was actually right beside the road and wasn’t bothered in the least by my clicking away at it. My timing was off with the hawk as a moment earlier its mate was on a branch immediately below and it would have made a nice portrait.

      We are trying to get back on the birding and blogging road but there are still a few bumps and curves ahead. Even if you don’t have the literal type of sunshine, we celebrate with you at having the everlasting variety!

  12. Oh my.
    Beauties I will not see with my own eyes. Thank you.
    Mind you, you can keep your heat and humidity, both of which turn me into a sad, soggy and grumpy mess.
    I am loving our winter, and dread its departure and the return of the sweaty season.

    • Thank you, EC! I’m afraid I love this heat and humidity. Although, it’s nice to visit cooler climes once in awhile!

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