Posts Tagged With: colt creek state park

Naturally Motivated

It’s hot outside. The “dog days” of summer are in full swing here in sub-tropical central Florida. Leave the air-conditioned coolness of home or auto and one is immediately enveloped in a steamy cloud of vapor which soaks through clothing and produces an instant soggy mess of a person. Did I mention it’s hot? Weather experts are issuing dire warnings that children and the elderly should remain indoors.

Gini fairly regularly refers to me as “child like”. According to my joints, hair, skin and driver’s license – there is a better than 50% chance that I am “elderly”. We should remain indoors.

The alarm screeched rudely and my beautiful (yes, even in the dark) bride gently rubbed my arm. “Time to get up.” A half-hour later, I put my feet on the floor and went through the ritual of “getting ready”. State parks in Florida, in a rare moment of sanity, decided the proper time to open to the public is 8:00 A.M. This meant we had time to gather our equipment, breakfast components, water tumblers packed with ice and leisurely drive about 20 minutes north to reach Colt Creek State Park precisely at — uhh — well, not too long after they opened the gate.

While Gini settled in to enjoy a good book in the car, I stomped along the edge of tall grass and small trees trying to find an opening into a swampy area. Yes, on purpose. The huge cypress trees thrust up from the green surface of the water and their thick branches allowed only a smattering of morning sun to filter through. It’s quiet in the swamp. After taking a few pictures we ambled along the park roads and found birds, bugs and blooms in profusion.

Breakfast by the lake. A walk through a thistle thicket proved to be a bug bonanza! Trees bordering open fields made great ambush perches for a variety of birds. White-tailed deer loafed along a road edge. A gopher tortoise can move surprisingly fast when it wants to! Shallow water was just deep enough for young alligators to submerge as I approached. A black racer (one of our most common snakes), true to its name, was across the path and gone before I could lift the camera.

Clearly, the inhabitants of the park had not seen the dire warnings of the weather experts.

Clearly, we were happy to have ignored the experts. Our motivation to enjoy what nature offers easily overcame our discomfort from heat and humidity.

Okay, it WAS nice to head home for lunch in a cool, air-conditioned car. Suspicions confirmed:  we’re human.

 

Chaos in the swamp. The cypress trees provide order and stability but everything else seems to grow in all directions with no plan whatsoever. The green covering over the water is an aquatic weed and offers shelter to myriad creatures.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Between the water of the swamp and the edge of the woods is a space where oak, pine and other tree species thrive. Among the detritus on the forest floor, a bright red mushroom asserts its presence.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The vertical, tear-drop pattern on the breast identifies this Red-shouldered Hawk as an immature bird. By this time next year, it will sport the horizontal rusty stripes of an adult.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A quick glance might result in thinking the bright red in the tree top is a Northern Cardinal instead of a Summer Tanager. This tanager’s mate, a subdued yellow-green color, flew overhead and he dutifully followed her into the forest.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In the middle of the road, a Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) was probably trying to extract a bit of water from – whatever that glop might be. (Don’t want to know.)

Colt Creek State Park

 

More gloppy stuff in the road. This time, a gaggle of Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) were having a party.

Colt Creek State Park

 

This industrious insect is working hard to clear the road of obstacles. Probably coyote scat. Aren’t you glad you asked? There are over 7,000 species of Dung Beetle (Fam. Geotrupidae) in the world (more if you count bureaucrats) and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. It’s believed if they did not exist, we would soon be buried in excrement.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Off the beaten path, I wandered among a field of thistles. I was not alone.

One of my favorite butterflies, a Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus), refused to come near so I resorted to a distant somewhat fuzzy image. Even blurry, it’s a beautiful bug!

Colt Creek State Park

 

The Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes), one of the skippers, is frequently seen with a “short” tail as it’s a convenient place for predators to grab.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A loud hum and large profile is always a bit startling and at first it would be easy to think you’ve spotted a Hummingbird. But it’s actually the impressive Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Several Giant Swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) flitted past my head ignoring me as they sipped nectar from one blossom after another. These beauties have wingspans that can reach up to 7.5 inches (19 cm)!

Colt Creek State Park

 

The underside of this Cloudless Sulphur  (Phoebis sennae) appears green and may be immature, but if you can catch it with its wings spread you can readily see the yellow from which it gets its name.

Colt Creek State Park

 

An American Bird Grasshopper (Schistocerca americana), as you might suspect, is quick to sprout wings and fly away if you approach too closely.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Found in the southeastern United States and Bahamas, the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper  (Romalea microptera), is considered a pest in many parts of the country as they consume a very diverse assortment of plants. Their bright color warns predators they won’t like the taste and their body contains a toxin which will cause the consumer to throw up. But they ARE handsome!

Colt Creek State Park

 

Heat, humidity and enjoyment. Florida nature at its finest. Even if you don’t have our high temperatures and steamy air, we just know that nature has some wonderful things to show you when you have a little time.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Patch Work

There is an old line familiar to anyone who has served in the military about how you are taught to be a “Jack-of-all-trades” but master of none. My local birding locations are like that. Most who take up birding seriously have a “patch”, a place with which they are (or become) familiar and visit on a regular basis. Thus, they learn the species which are likely to be found in that area in any given season, become accustomed to the terrain and environment and are quick to notice any changes in the local avian population.

We are blessed with an overabundance of patches. I pretend to know a lot about each nearby place that I visit frequently, but in reality I seem to encounter something new on every visit. So, in keeping with my military training, I have become an average birder who claims several patches but am an expert in none of them.

Last week, I made a short visit to one of those patches in the hope of finding some nesting activity. Mister birding expert located exactly zero nesting birds. Adding insult to injury, I came away with no photographs of a bird I would display in public.

It was, however, a very pleasant morning! Okay, it was extremely humid, but that goes with the territory at this time of year. I have a new lens I wanted to try so somewhere below is an “artsy” swamp image. Flowers are blooming, bugs are buzzing.

I came home birdless, but happy.

 

Patch: Colt Creek State Park

The morning sun was largely obscured within a dense hammock. The large cypress and bay trees allowed a reflection in a small pool. These swampy spots are peaceful, still places which I really enjoy exploring.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Last month, some fields were almost solid violet, white and green as the Purple Passionvine (Passiflora incarnata) responded to just the right amount of rain at just the right time. On this trip, there were still a few blooms around, to the delight of a large amount of pollinators.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) uses a thistle bloom as an ambush platform.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Large eye-spots and its flight low to the ground help identify this butterfly as one of Florida’s most abundant, a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Similar in overall coloration to the Buckeye but a bit more orange, a Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) is a more energetic flier and it’s hard to get one to hold still for a portrait.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In our area of central Florida, there are only three commonly seen white butterflies (family Pieridae). This Checkered White  (Pontia protodice) stopped its nervous flight for a moment and I managed one image.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A trip to any outdoor area can be pleasant. If you know the area well and find some of the local inhabitants that’s even better. When you know your patch so well you can complete your birding checklist from your favorite armchair – well, that’s a whole other level of expertise!

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

 

Additional Information

Colt Creek State Park

Categories: Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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