Naturally Motivated

It’s hot outside. The “dog days” of summer are in full swing here in sub-tropical central Florida. Leave the air-conditioned coolness of home or auto and one is immediately enveloped in a steamy cloud of vapor which soaks through clothing and produces an instant soggy mess of a person. Did I mention it’s hot? Weather experts are issuing dire warnings that children and the elderly should remain indoors.

Gini fairly regularly refers to me as “child like”. According to my joints, hair, skin and driver’s license – there is a better than 50% chance that I am “elderly”. We should remain indoors.

The alarm screeched rudely and my beautiful (yes, even in the dark) bride gently rubbed my arm. “Time to get up.” A half-hour later, I put my feet on the floor and went through the ritual of “getting ready”. State parks in Florida, in a rare moment of sanity, decided the proper time to open to the public is 8:00 A.M. This meant we had time to gather our equipment, breakfast components, water tumblers packed with ice and leisurely drive about 20 minutes north to reach Colt Creek State Park precisely at — uhh — well, not too long after they opened the gate.

While Gini settled in to enjoy a good book in the car, I stomped along the edge of tall grass and small trees trying to find an opening into a swampy area. Yes, on purpose. The huge cypress trees thrust up from the green surface of the water and their thick branches allowed only a smattering of morning sun to filter through. It’s quiet in the swamp. After taking a few pictures we ambled along the park roads and found birds, bugs and blooms in profusion.

Breakfast by the lake. A walk through a thistle thicket proved to be a bug bonanza! Trees bordering open fields made great ambush perches for a variety of birds. White-tailed deer loafed along a road edge. A gopher tortoise can move surprisingly fast when it wants to! Shallow water was just deep enough for young alligators to submerge as I approached. A black racer (one of our most common snakes), true to its name, was across the path and gone before I could lift the camera.

Clearly, the inhabitants of the park had not seen the dire warnings of the weather experts.

Clearly, we were happy to have ignored the experts. Our motivation to enjoy what nature offers easily overcame our discomfort from heat and humidity.

Okay, it WAS nice to head home for lunch in a cool, air-conditioned car. Suspicions confirmed:  we’re human.

 

Chaos in the swamp. The cypress trees provide order and stability but everything else seems to grow in all directions with no plan whatsoever. The green covering over the water is an aquatic weed and offers shelter to myriad creatures.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Between the water of the swamp and the edge of the woods is a space where oak, pine and other tree species thrive. Among the detritus on the forest floor, a bright red mushroom asserts its presence.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The vertical, tear-drop pattern on the breast identifies this Red-shouldered Hawk as an immature bird. By this time next year, it will sport the horizontal rusty stripes of an adult.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A quick glance might result in thinking the bright red in the tree top is a Northern Cardinal instead of a Summer Tanager. This tanager’s mate, a subdued yellow-green color, flew overhead and he dutifully followed her into the forest.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In the middle of the road, a Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) was probably trying to extract a bit of water from – whatever that glop might be. (Don’t want to know.)

Colt Creek State Park

 

More gloppy stuff in the road. This time, a gaggle of Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) were having a party.

Colt Creek State Park

 

This industrious insect is working hard to clear the road of obstacles. Probably coyote scat. Aren’t you glad you asked? There are over 7,000 species of Dung Beetle (Fam. Geotrupidae) in the world (more if you count bureaucrats) and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. It’s believed if they did not exist, we would soon be buried in excrement.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Off the beaten path, I wandered among a field of thistles. I was not alone.

One of my favorite butterflies, a Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus), refused to come near so I resorted to a distant somewhat fuzzy image. Even blurry, it’s a beautiful bug!

Colt Creek State Park

 

The Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes), one of the skippers, is frequently seen with a “short” tail as it’s a convenient place for predators to grab.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A loud hum and large profile is always a bit startling and at first it would be easy to think you’ve spotted a Hummingbird. But it’s actually the impressive Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Several Giant Swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) flitted past my head ignoring me as they sipped nectar from one blossom after another. These beauties have wingspans that can reach up to 7.5 inches (19 cm)!

Colt Creek State Park

 

The underside of this Cloudless Sulphur  (Phoebis sennae) appears green and may be immature, but if you can catch it with its wings spread you can readily see the yellow from which it gets its name.

Colt Creek State Park

 

An American Bird Grasshopper (Schistocerca americana), as you might suspect, is quick to sprout wings and fly away if you approach too closely.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Found in the southeastern United States and Bahamas, the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper  (Romalea microptera), is considered a pest in many parts of the country as they consume a very diverse assortment of plants. Their bright color warns predators they won’t like the taste and their body contains a toxin which will cause the consumer to throw up. But they ARE handsome!

Colt Creek State Park

 

Heat, humidity and enjoyment. Florida nature at its finest. Even if you don’t have our high temperatures and steamy air, we just know that nature has some wonderful things to show you when you have a little time.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Naturally Motivated

  1. Phil Slade

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news Wally. When Gini refers to you as childlike I think she may be not be referring to your well-preserved boyish good looks, sweet innocence and charm. More likely you remind her of that annoying child that used to sit behind her in class pulling her pigtails and always putting her hand up first when the teacher asked a question.

    By the way, at 8am when your doors open I’m usually on my second breakfast because the fruit and yoghurt have worn off and I need something more substantial.

    Experts? Don’t get me started. I have given up watching TV because of all the experts telling us what to think and how to run our lives. And, given all the weather data the forecasters get from the latest technological gizmos, even I could write a weather forecast. Sometimes I just look out of the window, something they rarely do.

    Rant over. Enjoyed your spiel today and of course those bugs n things. But most of all, the hawk.

    Have a great week and “stay cool”.

    • Wow, Phil, it’s like you were right there with us in that classroom so long ago!

      That 8:00 a.m. opening time did not include the three hour drive to get to the venue! My first breakfast was beans. (Coarsely ground with hot water added …)

      Florida weather forecasting has to be the easiest job ever – “50% rain”, no matter the time of year.

      A new week is upon us and that weather expert has predicted — “50% chance of rain” — all week. I love experts.

  2. noushka31

    Hello Wally,
    Another super beautiful post!!!
    Your butterflies are feeding on minerals more than water and I believe this gloppy stuff is dung from wild animals or dogs; sorry but it is well known! 😉
    The zebra swallow tail is really gorgeous.
    And you stretched your lens to its extent to gt the Cardinal’s photos!!
    All the best to the 2 of you

    • Thank you for the nice comments and the interesting information.
      Some of the gloppy stuff was definitely dung and other was old clumps of weeds and mud. Nature is always fun!

      We hope your weekend is off to a happy start!

  3. Beautiful shots! Especially the hummer moth! Those are pretty rare around here. We should close the state of Florida in August. It’s just too hot. I get out on Saturdays early and get home by 11.

  4. Adele Jennings

    I thought the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth was really neat. I had not seen one before.
    Beautiful picture of Eastern Lubber Grasshopper.
    Thank you!

  5. As always, Wally, I’ve throughly enjoyed your delightful narrative. However, your images are nothing short of breathtaking! Your Red-shouldered Hawk image is classic. Those insects are marvellous, and have almost got me saying “bu–er the sweaty heat – I’m coming over there to witness this for myself!”. I’m so glad that you actually adopted this attitude and ended up with results to delight us all – Thank you!

    I’m already looking forward to your next post. My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

    • If we all waited for pleasant weather to do anything, not much would get done!
      As always, you are very gracious in your remarks, Richard, Thank you.
      I really enjoyed wandering among the insects and will try to return soon with a lens other than the heavy birding lens I was lugging that day.
      We’re having a splendid week and hope you and Lindsay are doing the same.

  6. I loathe and detest the sweaty season. It turns me into a sad, soggy and grumpy mess. Marvels like this might change my mind, and I am intensely grateful that you braved the heat.

    • You know I am a native Floridian when I actually LIKE this heat and humidity! Some weird thermostat gene in my DNA. Thank you so much, EC, for your very nice comments.
      Hope you’re having a non-sweaty day down-under!

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