Posts Tagged With: blue-faced darner

A Drive In The Country

“Clouds of insects danced and buzzed in the golden autumn light, and the air was full of the piping of the song-birds. Long, glinting dragonflies shot across the path, or hung tremulous with gauzy wings and gleaming bodies.”

Arthur Conan Doyle

 

“That alligator came up almost completely out of the water chasing that fish!” Gini was filling me in on what I had missed when I took a short walk under the oak trees, searching in vain for small, colorful migrating warblers. After about an hour’s drive from home and another hour poking along looking at flowers, birds and bugs we were taking care of granola bars and tangerines. A late, but satisfying, breakfast.

The scene before us was a tranquil lake bordered by tall cypress trees mixed with bay and willow. A small island was decorated with the white, black and brown of dozens of egrets, herons, anhinga and cormorants. In a couple of months the population will swell as raucous courtship, mating and nesting occurs. This annual cycle of renewal is not unknown to other creatures as well. Such as birders, like us. Oh, and we counted well over two dozen alligators chasing fish, watching us, watching the birds, disappearing into the depths of the lake.

Some days it’s nice to just drive with no specific destination in mind. Explore side roads. Decide to unexpectedly turn left instead of right. Today was such a day.

We were in the southwest corner of Polk County, Florida. The Peace River flows a few miles to the east and the area is dotted with deep lakes, former phosphate mining pits which have been reclaimed and the surrounding land restored to something resembling its former state. There is a robust agriculture industry here as well as several large cattle ranches. The mix of farming, pasture land and lakes provides an excellent environment for diverse flora and fauna.

We didn’t find any migrating warblers today and most of the birds we did see were very camera shy. One migrant, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, took pity on us and posed for a moment. Distant woodpeckers, high-flying hawks, the aforementioned water birds – all good to see but none came near enough for photos. The day was beautiful, so was my partner, and we just kept driving.

Off the main road, we followed a path along a fence line. On one side, a pasture with curious cattle. On the other side, a pair of lakes with tall hardwood trees and dense undergrowth. A very nice combination!

The strands of barbed wire were quite popular for all sorts of insects, mostly dragonflies. Perching, eating, obelisking. And what a nice collection of different species! The water and trees attracted a whole separate set of specimens. It was well past lunch time and getting hot when we reluctantly headed home.

Our trip to nowhere in particular had been spectacular.

 

I almost walked into this awesome creature! Both me and the spider, a Spiny Orb-weaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis), were happy no web was harmed in the making of this picture.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

A new dragonfly for us! The Twilight Darner (Gynacantha nervosa)  is quite plain and blends in with twigs as it hangs around waiting for – twilight. Then it will fly along the bank of the lake dining on some of the pesky mosquitoes we’ve been swatting all day.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

It’s a bird! Eastern Wood-Pewees are not residents here and we see a few of these small flycatchers each fall as they head for South America.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

 

A female Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) has smudges on her wings whereas the male displays large black spots.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

 

The facial pattern of a Two-striped Forceptail (Aphylla williamsoni) is quite menacing. Reminds me of a hockey player.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

One characteristic of the darner family is they like to hang vertically. They are strong flyers and can fly for long periods without landing. I got lucky and found a Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) taking a break.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

 

On about every other fence post, a lizard was waiting in ambush on the shady side. Most were Brown Anoles (Anolis sagrei).

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Native to Asia, the Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia) was introduced to southern Florida in 1975. It has spread throughout the southern part of the peninsula since. The male is distinctive as it is all bright red. The female is golden.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Dragonflies aren’t the only fence-sitters in these parts. A Whirlabout (Polites vibex), one of the small grass-skipper butterflies, thinks the view is just fine from up here.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Another one of those hanging jewels, the Common Green Darner (Anax junius) can really blend with the leaves of certain trees – like this one!

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Small but aggressive. A Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is “obelisking”, holding its abdomen vertically, which is thought to help with heat dispersion.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

The male Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) is hard to miss all dressed in purple. The female may not be as brightly colored, but she is still quite the looker. This one is finishing up a meal.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

A large grasshopper along the trail got our attention. It’s a new one for us, called an Obscure Birdwing Grasshopper (Schistocerca obscura).

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Yet another large dragonfly, the Regal Darner (Coryphaeschna ingens). This female is ovipositing on lily pads near the lake shore.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Having a goal is always a good thing. Once in awhile, though, wandering aimlessly about the countryside can be very rewarding. Try it!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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

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