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!

 

Additional Information

Holloway Park

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

Between Raindrops

Summer’s soggy saga stays steady. Hot. Humid. Wet. Thunder. Lightning. No letup in sight.

IT’S TIME TO GO BIRDING!

As difficult as it may be to fathom, annual fall bird migration has already begun. Swallow-tailed Kites are forming into groups, foraging over agricultural fields snapping up flying insects and devouring them in mid-air. Prothonotary and Yellow Warblers are starting to appear on checklists and we spotted an American Redstart a couple of days ago flashing her tail broadly to frighten bugs from hiding places.

Our local patch, Lake Parker Park, is a nice spot each year for small numbers of migrating passerines and waterfowl. The radar showed a band of more thunderstorms moving our way from the Gulf of Mexico. If I hurry, perhaps I can make fantastic observations in record time!

The sun actually made an appearance! Of course, it was directly behind the young Green Heron I tried to photograph, resulting in a faded out silhouette. At least you could make out his “immature” hair-do. The usual cast of characters were present going about the business of survival. They don’t care if a storm is coming, a bird’s gotta eat!

A Snail Kite flapped lazily over distant reeds searching for breakfast. Two Osprey splashed down onto the lake’s surface almost simultaneously about 50 yards apart. Both came up carrying fresh fish. Noisy Common Gallinules were abundant, most with small, black fluffy chicks in tow. Purple Gallinules ran up and begged for a handout – one of the negatives of birding in an urban park. The eerie cries of Limpkins rang out up and down the shoreline. A Red-bellied Woodpecker circled a dead oak tree limb, probing for some morsel. Two Marsh Rabbits slipped into the tall grass and became invisible. An alligator watched the aforementioned Gallinule chicks as well as a small dog whose owner allowed his pet too close to the shore.

As I made my way around the park, not many birds presented an opportunity for photography. Dragons, however, were very industrious. Lots of ovipositing, patrolling, fighting, hunting. Action galore! Of course, I only brought the big lens and trying to heft the monster back and forth to track a small dragonfly was almost beyond my ability. I came away with a couple of images that aren’t completely awful. (We won’t discuss the other hundred or so).

There was a change in light and a coolish breeze sprang up. That felt good! It also meant I should head for the car. Drops began falling just as I reached for the door handle.

The Amazing Gini was waiting in the kitchen with bagels, boiled eggs and strong coffee. But first, hugs and kisses. Unlike the birds and beasties, we rank food second on the list of our priorities.

Only a few photographs of today’s outing. (“Thank goodness.”) Hey – I heard that!

 

A young Green Heron stalks a frog near the lake shore. He eventually got it, too! Naturally, I missed the shot.

Lake Parker Park

 

Dark all over with a very tapered abdomen, Pin-tailed Pondhawks (Erythemis plebeja) were very active along a canal which feeds the lake.

Lake Parker Park

 

One of the most common dragonflies in our area (and maybe in the entire eastern U.S.) is the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). Adult females are a striking green and the males dusty blue (“pruinose”) all over. Immature males begin life looking like Mom and gradually transition to Dad’s blue suit.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

 

A bright spot in the world of dragons, adult male Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) are hard to miss!

Lake Parker Park

 

In her element, a Limpkin appears somewhat prehistoric as she rests on a log just before the rains begin.

Lake Parker Park

 

Don’t let a little rain in the forecast stop you from seeing what your own patch has to offer just before the drops start to fall.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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