Posts Tagged With: bella moth

Fall In The Outfall

Once more I swiped the lenses of my binoculars in a futile attempt to dry the moisture of our early morning humidity. They immediately fogged up again. I was scanning the marsh before dawn hoping to spot a light-colored shape coasting just above the reeds. Two years ago a Barn Owl had materialized from a fog bank and just as quickly disappeared. To say they are uncommon in this area is a gross understatement.

Our last visit to Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands was in mid-September (Doldrums) and it was hot and humid. There was an abundance of mosquitoes. Now it’s late fall, winter is almost here. It’s hot and humid. There is an abundance of mosquitoes.

Although the weather was very similar, the birding was quite different. In September our total species tally was 40 and this time it increased to 56. Much of the difference was due to fall migration. Ducks, raptors and warblers really like the marsh habitat. I didn’t see the Barn Owl this morning, but was amply rewarded with six duck species, stilts, avocets, harriers, eagles, warblers, sparrows and a speedy falcon.

Enjoy the marsh.

 

Even the Black-necked Stilts had a hard time opening their little red eyes this morning. That blanket of warm fog was really comfortable.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt

 

Nothing like having unexpected guests for breakfast. This poor stilt had Long-billed Dowitchers drop in – literally – to his dining room.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt, Long-billed Dowitcher

 

The dour dowitchers paddled around noisily and stabbed at the water a bit and flapped off into the marsh. They didn’t even offer to wash the dishes.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Long-billed Dowitchers

 

A dainty American Avocet is either wading up to her waist or floating or swimming in water deeper than that to which she is accustomed.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

American Avocet

 

I didn’t do very well at photographing a Peregrine Falcon cruising the shore for bagels and ducks. Any hints on how to slow these bullets down a bit for a portrait?

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Peregrine Falcon

 

This is not the only bare tree in the whole marsh, but it sure has something attractive to Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants. I had the impression this might be Mother Nature’s version of a Christmas Tree.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Anhinga, Double-crested Cormorant

 

Open water areas of the wetlands were filled with ducks today. Well represented were Northern Shovelers. This female trio kept a nervous eye on the skies. A good idea, what with falcons and eagles darting about.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Northern Shoveler

 

American White Pelicans gather on and around Lake Hancock during the winter and some years can number in the thousands. I counted about 80 this morning as they flew in small groups from their roost within the wetlands to the lake for a day of fishing.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

American White Pelican

 

It seems everywhere we go this year, we see high numbers of Eastern Phoebes. It’s warmer than normal so far this fall so many may be lingering here instead of continuing on to South America. Hope they don’t get caught in a sudden freeze.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Eastern Phoebe

 

Large size and bright red bill are diagnostic for the Caspian Tern, largest tern in North America.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Caspian Tern

 

A bit of shade is provided to a Black-necked Stilt by a Great Egret. He isn’t called “Great” for no reason!

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Black-necked Stilt, Great Egret

 

One of the only moths in Florida to be active throughout daylight hours is the brightly colored Bella. It’s a challenge to find one perched in the open.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

 

Another fall visitor is the Northern Harrier. Their characteristic low flight over the marsh and lazy wing flap, along with an owl-like face, make them easy to identify. This female headed straight for me as I lay in the grass.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Northern Harrier – Female

 

Mottled Ducks have interbred so widely with Mallards that it’s difficult to identify a truly wild one. Most will show some mallard trait. This one flew by too fast for close examination so we’ll just call it a probably, possibly, maybe actual Mottled Duck. And that’s final!

20151206 Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands 00232.jpg

 

A pair of Blue-winged Teal abruptly lift off the surface as a Bald Eagle passed overhead. Hundreds of ducks in the adjacent pond followed suit.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Blue-winged Teal

 

The hunters. An immature and an adult Bald Eagle. It takes an eagle about four years to achieve totally white feathers on its head and tail.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bald Eagle – Immature

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Bald Eagle

 

Palm Warblers do not breed in central Florida but they certainly do like to spend the winter here! Every yard, field and tree is covered with the little bug eaters. This one has claimed a rock for his throne.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Palm Warbler

 

The Hooded Merganser is a really good looking tourist which loves our quiet ponds. The male with his large white crest usually gets the attention, but the female exudes her own special beauty.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Hooded Merganser – Female

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Hooded Merganser – Male

 

A pair of Great Blue Herons have selected a nesting site among the colorful (but invasive) Brazilian Pepper bushes along the lake shore.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Great Blue Heron

 

It’s good to see sparrows return for the fall. This Savannah Sparrow blends in quite well with the brown reeds of the wetlands.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Savannah sparrow

 

The Double-crested Cormorant doesn’t usually get mentioned in a discussion of beautiful birds. Until you get to those eyes. Wow.

Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands

Double-crested Cormorant

 

 

No Barn Owl. Humidity at 100%. Temperature 92 F (33.3 C) at noon. Mosquitoes. It’s fall in the Outfall! It just doesn’t get any better than this. (Until winter.)

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

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Preserving Beauty

I am an awful person. It’s true. Perhaps, since I recognize the fact, there is hope for my eternal soul. When I visit my local birding “patch” or a wildlife preserve or city/state/national park, I thoroughly enjoy the experience for the benefits such places provide – for “ME“. I seldom give a thought to the monumental efforts it took to plan these venues, acquire the space and administer the parks, all just so I can have a good day.

Today, I thank a couple of folks I never met. Mary Ann and Ed. Holloway. These generous residents of Lakeland, Florida, USA, set up a foundation in 2010 to preserve in perpetuity (I love that word) 330 acres of land which was once used to extract phosphate from the ground. Over the years since mining operations ceased, this land now called Holloway Park has transformed into an oasis of natural beauty on the edge of a bustling city with over 100,000 inhabitants. As you exit your vehicle and gaze to the north, you think of two words: “urban sprawl”. From the south side of the park one can see commuters bustling along the toll road on their way to work. Entering from the east you travel through the heart of the city’s industrial base. Standing on a “hill” (left over from the days of mining) there is a magnificent vista to the west of two warehouse-type shopping centers with endless rows of parked cars.

However, once you wander a few yards from the parking area just at dawn, you become wrapped in a cocoon of tall trees, wildflowers, fluttering insects, singing birds, adrenaline-pumping bobcat tracks on the trail, the scream of a Bald Eagle from its nest in that tall pine — how did it get to be noon so soon?

On a recent morning at the park, we observed 33 species of birds. Not too bad for an urban location during one of the state’s hottest weeks on record. We found a few juvenile birds, lots of colorful butterflies, dragonflies, a honey bee nest, watched a Red-shouldered Hawk feed its offspring, marveled at the insect catching prowess of an adult Loggerhead Shrike, chuckled at the learning pains of an immature Shrike (more on that in a minute) and sat back to just plain enjoy a show put on by Eastern Meadowlarks all dressed in their bright yellow-and-black vests.

Here are a few images from our day to give you an idea what beautiful residents we found.

 

A Tricolored Heron is a patient hunter. Just after I took his portrait, he stabbed at the water and flew away with a small fish. It all happened too fast for me to react with the camera!

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

 

The Downy is North America’s smallest woodpecker. This male was unperturbed by my presence as he probed around and around several small trees. He found what he was looking for and proceeded to gorge on his buggy breakfast.

Downy Woodpecker - Male

Downy Woodpecker – Male

 

Blue Jays harassed this young Red-bellied Woodpecker and he was continually looking up to try and thwart their attacks. Mom and Dad showed up and drove the blue bullies away.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Juvenile)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Juvenile)

 

Immature Northern Mockingbirds don’t yet have the “neat” appearance of the adults and sport lots of speckles on their breast. They do, however, have that ‘mocker attitude and don’t seem to be afraid of anything.

Northern Mockingbird (Immature)

Northern Mockingbird (Immature)

 

Mushrooms. Fungi. Nothing further to tell. I like ’em.

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

 

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper is an imposing insect. Adults reach lengths up to three inches (8 cm). Their bright coloration is a warning to predators that their bodies contain a toxin which can cause sickness or death. Good thing, too (for the Lubber), since this big ‘hopper can’t fly.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

 

This very small critter is the nymph of the American Grasshopper (also called American Bird Grasshopper). At this stage, it can be bright green, brown or yellow. Coloration may be dependent upon what it’s eating, population density of its species and/or pollution levels.

American Grasshopper Nymph (Schistocerca americana)

American Grasshopper Nymph (Schistocerca Americana)

 

One of my favorite moths is the Bella. I like it because it’s one of the few moths out and about in daylight. And it’s kinda pretty.

Bella Moth  (Utetheisa ornatrix))

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix))

 

The Spicebush Swallowtail is one of Florida’s five “black” Swallowtail species. I love that touch of “powder blue” on this big butterfly.

Spicebush Swallowtail  (Papilio troilus)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio Troilus)

 

Bright orange fluttering along the path brings attention to the Gulf Fritillary. His close relative, the Variegated Fritillary isn’t as bright but that complex design is certainly just as attractive.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanilla)

 

Variegated Fritillary  (Euptoieta claudia)

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta Claudia)

 

Florida’s state butterfly, the Zebra (Heliconian), is always a show-stopper.

Zebra (Heliconian) - (Heliconius charitonius)

Zebra (Heliconian) – (Heliconius charitonius)

 

Not as big as the above specimens, the diminutive Sleepy Orange is still beautiful as it flits among the low-growing vegetation.

Sleepy Orange  (Abaeis nicippe)

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

 

Horace’s Duskywing may not be as colorful as many butterflies, but the subtle markings have a beauty all their own. Many of these skipper butterflies are named for Roman poets, as is this one.

Horace's Duskywing  (Erynnis horatius)

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)

 

Tiger racing stripes, powder blue paint, aggressive speedster. No, not a racing car. A dragon. The Blue Dasher.

Blue Dasher  (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

 

Needham’s Skimmer can vary from a dull brown seen in immature and female dragons to the male’s bright orange. This species is very similar to the Golden-winged Skimmer.

Needham's Skimmer   (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami)

 

It’s hard to miss the neon lavender of the adult Roseate Skimmer. Females and immature males are much more subdued in coloration.

Roseate Skimmer - Immature  (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer – Immature (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer - Male(Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer – Male(Orthemis ferruginea)

 

One of the largest skimmers in the country, the Great Blue Skimmer likes to hang around forest ponds and streams to ambush unsuspecting prey. This is a female. The male is overall blue.

Great Blue Skimmer - Female  (Libellula vibrans)

Great Blue Skimmer – Female (Libellula vibrans)

 

We watched this young Loggerhead Shrike attempt to impale a caterpillar onto a fence barb just like he saw Dad do it. He tried just laying the caterpillar on the barb, then tried to drag it across the point and almost got it right when he dragged it over the barb and then pulled upward to impale his dinner. Unfortunately, by then the caterpillar was a little too “tenderized”, broke in half and fell to the ground. Sigh. Dad makes it look so easy.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

 

We had a wonderful morning at Holloway Park. One of the neat things (here I go being selfish again) is that this place hasn’t yet been “discovered” and each time we’ve visited have only seen one other human visitor. The next time you’re in your favorite park, stop and give a bit of thanks that someone had enough vision to set aside such a place of beauty – just for YOU!

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

 

 

Additional Information

Holloway Park

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

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