Posts Tagged With: bumble bee

Sabbatical – Part The Second

Conchs – Zippers – Mayhaw.  “Remind me to stop here on the way back.” This was now our third visit to Georgia, the second along this route. The first trip was mostly using high-speed interstate highways. No more of that. Taking the road less traveled is a good news/bad news situation. The good news is – well – it’s less traveled. The bad news is there simply isn’t enough time to do it properly. “Oh! That looks like an interesting road!” becomes a phrase so common that after a hundred miles Gini doesn’t even utter it anymore. Just gives me “the look”. We both sigh, vowing to explore further but knowing the chances are very remote we ever will.

If you are from the American Southeast (or have ever spent time here), you are probably very familiar with the seasonal signs which pop up at markets, produce stands, highway intersections and private yards advertising “conchs, zippers and mayhaw jelly”. Freshly picked peas (conchs and zippers) and the juice extracted from the fruit of the swamp- loving Mayhaw tree are considered delicacies by this household. Conchs, zippers, creamers, purple hull – all local varieties of the generic “southern field pea”. All delicious when Gini works her magic on them. Mayhaw trees (Crataegus sp.) are indigenous to the southeastern United States and each spring produce red berries similar in size to small crabapples. The berries are very tart and are typically made into jellies and preserves or used in desserts. The clear, pale crimson substance placed inside a piping hot buttermilk biscuit – breakfast is transformed into something special.

We pulled onto Gini’s brother’s property in mid-afternoon and what a change had taken place! It had only been two weeks since our last visit, but spring has arrived in full force! Adjacent to the young grove of longleaf pine trees was a vast swath of red clover. Stunning! The previously bare pecan trees all had lush new growth, flowers were blooming just about everywhere, insects were buzzing and birds went about the business of nest building, mating and feeding young. Unpack. Rocking chairs have been added to the newly constructed back porch. Relax. Catch up on family news. Supper. Dark. From the comfort of a rocking chair on the open porch, listen. Crickets, cicadas. No man-made sound at all. Sleep.

A walk around the property at dawn almost feels familiar now. I anticipate where the quail will be chattering, where to look for deer and coyote tracks in the soft red clay and when I will be challenged as I pass near the towhee’s territory. The scent of fresh pine fills my nostrils and I breathe it in deeply. I still haven’t learned to pay attention to the path ahead as I scan all around for birds and walk through a spider web spun during the night by a Golden Silk Spider, of the orb weaver family. Occupational hazard. Male birds are singing everywhere as the mating season begins in earnest. A House Wren burbles from a fence post as I near the house and from a stump near the barn his larger cousin, the Carolina Wren, shows off his rambunctious repertoire.

The aroma of brewing coffee beckons and I am soon hugging my girlfriend (despite her protestations:  “Eww, you’re soaking wet!”). A hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits and yes, hot biscuits which I eagerly stuff with Mayhaw jelly – and a new day begins.

A few images may help to visualize why we return to this slice of heaven. Alas, poor quality photographs are no substitute for the real thing but try to imagine – no car noise, no television, no sirens – just, Nature.

 

A healthy patch of red clover provides forage for deer, rabbits, dove, quail and a whole universe of insects. Not to mention, it’s rather nice to look at.

Early County

Early County

 

Eastern Bluebirds have already mated, built nests and are busy flying non-stop bug deliveries to the nursery.

Early County

 

Longleaf Pines once blanketed the southeastern United States. Lumbering took its toll over the years. Property owners are encouraged to plant these wonderful conifers and Gini’s brother has about 35 acres he planted eight years ago. In the spring, new shoots from the tops create a sea of light yellow which shimmers in the early morning sun.

 

In addition to beautiful sights, Nature produces wonderful aromas. Huge tangles of Honeysuckle vines send forth delicate blossoms which create a perfume that’s almost overwhelmingly sweet.

Early County

 

Sights, smells, sounds – we can even find delicious treats in the wild. The understory provides brambles to shelter small animals and birds and in another few weeks these Blackberry bushes will yield delicious fruit – if you can get to them before those animals and birds!

Early County

 

Eastern Towhee males are showing off their vocal range hoping to attract the right mate. The first image has pale yellow eyes, not uncommon in this area, and the second is the more widespread red-eyed species.

Early County

Early County

 

The Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) is commonly seen in brown or green and may even change coloration a bit to better blend with its surroundings. This species is being supplanted in some areas (especially Florida) by the invasive Cuban Brown Anole.

Early County

 

Something made a path through the clover last night. Perhaps an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit?

Early County

 

Even a spiny Thistle has a special beauty in the spring.

Early County

 

Bumble Bees (Bomba sp.) love clover and gladly keep the plants pollinated.

Early County

 

So many colors in nature! A bright purple Verbena stands out among all the red clover blossoms.

Early County

 

One of the Skipper species of butterfly flits from bloom to bloom. It’s like it can’t decide which flower to sip from first because they all look so good.

Early County

 

Just two weeks ago, these Pecan trees were bare and looked like tree skeletons. In a few more weeks, within the lush green foliage, fruit will begin to form and produce the sweetest pecans in the world!

Early County

 

These male Brown-headed Cowbirds are having a serious discussion about personal space and females – typical guys.

Early County

 

A Common Buckeye soaks up a little morning sun to dry her wings.

Early County

 

Another Georgia specialty. When ripe, pluck one of these from the tree, take a bite — the juice runs over your lips, onto your hand, down your arm, drips off your elbow — but you don’t care. The sensation of that fresh peach reaching your taste buds is unforgettable. Now you know why they place an image of this fruit on their car license plate!

Early County

 

Similar to the Bumble Bee (genus Bombus) in appearance, the Carpenter Bee (genus Xylocopa) can be a very destructive pest. They bore into wood, make tunnels and lay eggs. Untreated wood can be extensively damaged as the larvae chew their way out.

Early County

Early County

 

A pair of Common Ground Dove serenaded us with their monotonic song as we loaded the car to head home.

Early County

 

Another wonderful trip to paradise as part of our segmented Springtime Sabbatical. If you’re fortunate enough to find a spot devoid of human-made noise, savor it. I know we do.

Yes, we did remember to stop on the way back and loaded up on fresh conchs, zippers and mayhaw jelly! The little market also had fresh cane syrup, smoked country sausage and just-picked garden tomatoes.

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

Categories: Birds, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Making A List, Checking It Twice

At this time of year, many of us have a full plate of activities on the tables of our lives.  For us, everything revolves around family.  Although our children now have children of their own, we worry about how they’re doing and experience more than our fair share of angst over not being with them all at this wonderful time of year.  (Okay, we have angst about that all year long!)  There is baking, shopping, wrapping, mailing, decorating and a myriad of other chores which must be done.  Accordingly, when I received a call to visit a newly opened conservation area to check out the birding potential, I responded maturely and appropriately.  “What time?”

The new area is just southeast of Orlando near the town of Kissimmee.  It’s called Twin Oaks Conservation Area and is located on Macy Island Road on the northeast side of Lake Tohopekaliga.  It’s a very pretty area with picnic pavilions, fishing pier, separate observation pier, hiking trail, equestrian trail and modern restrooms.  Its position on the lake is a spot known as Goblet’s Cove which provides a fairly large protected area inviting to waterfowl.  The park consists of just under 400 acres and offers a large grassland area, lake and lakefront, wetlands and a stand of hardwood trees.

We spent a couple of hours here and without too much effort tallied 50 species of birds.  On the lake were Blue-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Pied-billed Grebe and an estimated 3500 American Coot.  Sandhill Cranes were trumpeting almost non-stop from before sunrise until we left almost three hours later.  Savannah Sparrows were abundant in the tall grass where we also found Swamp Sparrows, House Wrens, Sedge Wrens and Eastern Meadowlarks.  With all the open water and grassland, raptors were prevalent and included two endangered Snail Kites, four Bald Eagles, two migratory Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Cooper’s Hawk.  Limpkins were active along the shoreline trying to get to the large Apple Snails before the Snail Kites found them.  In the oak trees we found warblers and vireos.  It was a pleasant place and we’ll be returning soon.

On the way home, we stopped briefly at several small parks and found interesting birds and wildlife at each place.  I’ve added a link to some of the spots we visited below under “Additional Information“.

The following images will give you a small idea of our exploration.

 

Sunrises are always special and this one was no exception.  A light fog hugged the ground as Sandhill Cranes began moving from their nightly roosts to the grasslands to feed, trumpeting loudly along the way.

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

Goblet’s Cove and the fishing pier, complete with fishermen!  All of that grass was full of sparrows.

Goblet's Cove

Goblet’s Cove

 

I’ve been working on getting decent images of sparrows but have not yet been successful.  In the meantime, this Swamp Sparrow shows his distinctive dark back streaks before disappearing into the thick grass.

Swamp Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

 

A trio of Sandhill Cranes head to where the bugs are, “talking” to each other during the commute.

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

 

These Savannah Sparrows posed briefly before doing that disappearing trick thing.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

 

I apologize for such a poor image, but this Blue-headed Vireo was a life bird for me.  Yes, it’s also on my list of “get a good picture” birds.

Blue-headed Vireo

Blue-headed Vireo

 

Indian Blanket, Firewheel, Gaillardia.  Call them anything you like.  They’re simply beautiful.

Indian Blanket or Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

Indian Blanket or Firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella)

 

Bumble Bees sounded like small airplanes as they buzzed among the flowers of the grassland.

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.)

Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.)

 

Although common in our area, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is a handsome bird and very efficient at gathering insects.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

 

Two spiders of the orb weaver family which specialize in entangling unsuspecting hikers in sticky webs.  They love to string their artful creations across paths and are very successful at trapping a large number of insects during the night.  The Golden Silk spider is the larger member of this family but the Arrowshaped Orbweaver, although much smaller, is no slouch when it comes to coloration.

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes)

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes)

Arrowshaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata)

Arrowshaped Orbweaver (Micrathena sagittata)

 

The invasive Eurasian Collared-Dove is as beautiful as it is prolific.  This species was introduced in the Bahamas in the 1970’s when a few birds escaped a pet shop during a burglary.  A few other birds were released on the island of Guadeloupe due to an impending volcanic eruption.  Some of the above birds made it to Florida in the 1980’s and the species has now colonized in most of North America.

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

 

Stink bugs thrive in most parts of the world.  I think this one is a Rough Stink Bug but would appreciate a correct identification.

Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena sp.) - ?

Rough Stink Bug (Brochymena sp.) – ?

 

A Black-and-White Warbler enjoys a bug of his own.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

 

This lime-green larva is that of a Pine Sawfly (not certain of the exact species).  Although it resembles a caterpillar, it’s actually a member of the same order to which ants, bees and wasps belong (Hymenoptera).  The adult resembles a wasp but doesn’t have the narrow abdomen.  These insects can do a lot of damage to pine trees.

Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion) - (?)

Pine Sawfly (Neodiprion) – (?)

 

Yes, yet another photograph of an alligator.  (YOU try saying no to one!)

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

This five-foot beauty is a Florida Banded Water Snake.  They are not venomous but can give you pause when you step over a log and one scoots between your boots.

Florida Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)

Florida Banded Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris)

 

Orchids are among the most showy of flowers on the planet.  Most orchids, that is.  This subtly colored species is a Florida native and is found on the floor of pine forests.  They produce an odor at night which is very attractive to moths, thus increasing the odds of successful pollination.

Toothpetal False Rein Orchid (Habenaria floribunda)

Toothpetal False Rein Orchid (Habenaria floribunda)

 

A Poem –

It can be nice to wander and roam,

It’s nicer still, to be back home.

I have my list of chores and I’m checking it twice;

If all was done it sure would be nice.

When the holiday pressure starts to get you down,

Grab your bird book and get out of town!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Twin Oaks Conservation Area

Lakefront and Brinson Parks (This link is for fishing enthusiasts but provides good information and a map.  Birding can be very good all along this area and is sometimes a good place from which to observe endangered Snail Kites feeding.)

Osceola County Schools Environmental Study Center

Reedy Creek Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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