Urban Desert Oasis

“Visit today and experience our all-natural park that is popular with cross-country and other runners alike.”

Despite the gracious invitation of the Holloway Park website, running of any sort is not what attracted me to this 362 acre green area. I admire runners greatly. I just choose not to participate. (Okay, I choose not to due to immediate complaints from my feet, knees, hips, back and lungs.)

Surrounded on all sides by constant high-volume traffic and urban development, Holloway Park on Lakeland’s south side offers a pleasant respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Before 1950, the spot was mined for phosphate. In the ensuing years it was left alone for nature to begin it’s reclamation process. The property owners, Mr. and Mrs. Holloway, generously provided the tract in 2010 for the creation of a natural recreational park. It’s primary attraction has been a venue for running events on most weekends. Given my aforementioned allergy to running, we visit on weekdays.

The park is not huge so it’s easy to walk the nicely maintained paths. There is a small pond, a stream, wetland area and section of mixed hardwood forest to explore. Open fields also attract several species of birds and insects during different times of the year.

This has always been a good spot to find dragonflies and birds and we looked forward to a nice morning. We were not disappointed. Birds were in short supply, but I managed my first decent images of the large darner dragonfly family. As our summer thunderstorm schedule is producing rain and lightning earlier in the day lately, we cut our visit a bit short as dark clouds began to blot out the light and large drops threatened to knock the cap off my head.


A beautiful female Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) soaks up the early sun to help dry her wings.

Holloway Park


One of our most abundant dragonfly species, a male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) , looks a little worse for wear as wings show the effects of flying through the brush, mating and/or territorial combat.

Holloway Park


Very soon, many of our song birds, like this Northern Parula, will be departing for their southern migration destinations.

Holloway Park


Finally! I had hoped to find a darner today, and did! This gorgeous Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) was hanging around waiting for the morning sun to cause potential prey to become active. These dragons can reach 2.75 inches (70 mm) in length and normally fly continuously during daylight. I caught this one before its daily schedule started. (Thank you, Richard Pegler, Pegler Birding, for handing me a metric ruler to correct an error! – Visit his beautiful website when you have a chance!)

Holloway Park


Spider webs throughout the park were loaded with dew and resembled nets, ready to snag any errant bug which stumbled into the trap.

Holloway Park


Smaller than any other North American dragonfly, the female Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) has black spots on her wings whereas the males have clear wings.

Holloway Park


A long and slender abdomen help identify the Pin-tailed Pondhawk (Erythemis plebeja).

Holloway Park


To paraphrase the great Ogden Nash, moulting is pretty revolting. That may explain the grumpy look from a Northern Cardinal.

Holloway Park


This male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) simply refused to look my direction, but even from this angle, his bright blue and yellow is stunning.

Holloway Park


Perched over water, a male Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) guards his territory and remains alert for a potential meal.

Holloway Park


Holloway Park is not vast, not famous and on weekends may be filled with people running for no apparent reason. However, it can truly be an oasis of relief for anyone wishing to escape the daily grind. If you are fortunate enough to have such a place where you live, go – breathe easy – observe nature, and, if you must, go for a run. I’ll sit here and cheer for you.

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


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Holloway Park

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Urban Desert Oasis

  1. The little park is a gem. In my neighborhood (western Miramar, Florida) there is not a single publicly accessible natural area. The City Commissioners just approved development of the absolutely last open space, for another housing subdivision. So discouraging.

    • Sorry to hear that, Ken. Very short-sighted to not consider overall quality of our communities.
      You’re welcome here any time!

  2. Stewart M

    Great set of pictures – really like all the insects.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    PS: it may just be me and my computer, but there is not a link to your blog on the profile – which make it rather hard to find your blog! SM

  3. Already knew that Lakeland is a great City for Parks and now we have another to add to our list. I think a visit to that area is overdue next season! …. Your dragonfly pictures are incredible. Never mind them refusing to face you, they won’t even hold still for me! Beautiful post. ( P.S. What is this running whereof you speak? )

  4. I must look up that quote from Ogden Nash. It sounds so apt for this time of year when birds in the hand can look pretty grotty when posted on the Internet and suggest that bird ringers pull feathers out, cut off their tips and generally deface the delicate structures.

    You’re on form with the insect pictures (and naming ability ) today my friend. I’m still stuck on birds but I’m pretty hot on naming wines. Have a great week you both.

    PS. Send us some sun. Our August is awful. We’ve already had all the expected rain and more besides and the month is barely half way.

    • I’ll do my best to improve the public perception of ringers as often as possible. But once people have an image in their head …

      In addition to humidity, Florida is blessed with bugs. It is definitely a learning experience!

      If we had any sun to spare, I would send it forthwith. We are experiencing one of the wettest summers in many years. Must be those ringer-hating people warming up the planet somehow.

      All the best.

  5. I have yet to see a runner who looks like they are enjoying themselves…
    And loved wandering with you.
    Awesome captures of the dragons, the swallowtails, and I do love a bejewelled web.
    Many thanks.

  6. Lovely set but the last image is my favourite.

  7. Right now I could do with a wonderful place like this on my doorstep, Wally. It’s obviously full of interest (apart from the runners!). The Spicebush Swallowtail is an amazingly beautiful butterfly. The dragons are so very different to any that we get on this side of the pond. Incidentally, I think you shrunk the metric version of the Blue-faced Darner by 100-fold! Thank you for another delightful post. My very best wishes to you both – – – Richard

    • Thank you, Richard! Wish we could deliver it to you to enjoy in person. Thanks for the math check – now you know why Americans aren’t allowed to play with the metric system.
      Wishing you continued improvement.

  8. edro123

    Great photos and write up, Wally. Yet another place I didn’t know about and haven’t been to.

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