Posts Tagged With: common buckeye

Confusion In The South

It can be tough living in central Florida. For one thing, we are prone to being in physically poor condition as we have no snow to shovel during the winter and it’s too hot and humid in summer to engage in strenuous outdoor activities. Nature provides us with only two seasons here: “green” and “brown”. We are forced to contend with water all around us containing salt. The spaces between our toes gather excessive amounts of sand as we linger along our coasts attempting to acquire a fish or group of crustaceans for a meager dinner – broiled over driftwood coals – sprinkled with lemon juice – accompanied by boiled red potatoes and freshly husked corn. Yes, it’s tough being a Floridian.

Even our wild creatures aren’t sure how to behave. It’s late summer and some birds are still singing in hopes of attracting a mate. Insects continue to be prolific and seem to be buzzing about in greater numbers than ever. Other birds are forming pre-migration assemblies in preparation for their southward journey to spend the winter in South America. Winter! (That would be “brown” in Florida-speak.)

Just before we took a hastily planned trip to Texas a couple of weeks ago, we had a chance to visit one of our favorite venues: Hardee Lakes Park. Two reasons for our affection of this locale: diversity of habitat (and therefore birdlife) and the fact that not many folks visit the place (shhh! don’t tell them!).

The park is a little over an hour to our south and opens at 7:00 so we got an early start. Gini and I love being out at this time of day. The darkness gently gives way to an almost imperceptible increase in light. One almost doesn’t notice the change. By the time we entered the park the sun was elbowing its way above the trees at the far eastern side of the first of the park’s four lakes. We hear the loud, clear call of a male Northern Bobwhite, incessantly repeating the whistle of his namesake, “Bob WHITE”. We located him perched on a fence post, his head thrown back, eyes closed, beak wide open, letting the world know he is awake and ready for what this day shall offer. So were we.

We proceeded with our exploration and reveled in Mother Nature’s delights. A Red-bellied Woodpecker landed at the entrance to her nest cavity with a huge caterpillar for her babies’ breakfast. I found an intact bird’s nest which had fallen to the ground and marveled at the intricate construction which had served so well to raise a new family this past spring. Noisy Common Gallinules fed along the shore and Anhingas swam in the shallows spearing small fish, then perched on low tree limbs with wings extended to dry before the next foray. As the morning air evaporated the previous night’s dew, insects began to hover above the ground and soon filled the sky with color and motion. A group of three dozen Northern-rough Winged Swallows hawked the ever more active bugs as they need to store a lot of fuel in preparation for their upcoming migration. A Great Egret squawked his displeasure at my presence on “his” lake shore. The deep bellow of a male alligator nearby reminded me to watch my step.

After a bit of fruit and cool water, we bid the park farewell until the next time and headed a bit further south. I recalled a spot from last fall where we had seen several Swallow-tailed Kites soaring together. These marvelous raptors gather in late summer and gorge on insects before migrating to South America in large groups. Luck was with us and we found a recently harvested melon field with kites busily grabbing dragonflies near the ground. We counted at least 28 kites working the field but that may be a low estimate as the action was so fast we were concerned about double-counting. Just to the north of where we live, birders have encountered similar groups of kites numbering near 300.

A quail singing his “spring” song, raptors and swallows grouping up for “winter” migration, insects just not seeming to care – any season is a good one to be able to enjoy such things!

 

A male Northern Bobwhite sings his heart out in the early morning. Not the best photo as it was taken at quite a distance and cropped.

Northern Bobwhite

Northern Bobwhite

 

The Blue Dasher shows off his yellow and black racing stripe body and amazing eye structure.

Blue Dasher - Male - (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher – Male – (Pachydiplax longipennis)

 

It wouldn’t be Florida without an Osprey!

Osprey

Osprey

 

Subdued orange of the Needham’s Skimmer can change to a brilliant red in some males.

Needham's Skimmer  (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami)

 

North America’s smallest dragonfly is the Eastern Amberwing. They are near the size of a large wasp and have adopted the wasp’s flying style to help avoid being eaten by predators.

Eastern Amberwing - Female (Perithemis tenera)

Eastern Amberwing – Female (Perithemis tenera)

 

A very dark dragonfly, the male Four-spotted Pennant is quite aggressive and will attack anything trespassing within his space.

Four-spotted Pennant - Male -  (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – Male – (Brachymesia gravida)

 

Northern Rough-winged Swallows spend much of their time in groups to help provide safety from potential enemies. A couple of them were curious whether I might be a bad guy.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

 

As I neared the shore of one of the lakes, this Great Egret took flight and spent the next five minutes yelling at me. About the same time, a deep bellowing from a male alligator in the reeds nearby indicated I might be too close to his personal space. I took both warnings as a sign it was time to move along.

Great Egret

Great Egret

 

I chased this Common Buckeye for hours and hours (okay, about six minutes – but it seemed longer) to get a picture. He would land, I would lay prone in the grass, focus the camera, he would take off. This act was repeated until I almost gave up due to physical exhaustion – mine, not his.

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

 

A bright green Katydid stands out on a light-colored background. Once in the grass or bush with green leaves, however, and it’s a challenge to find her!

Katydid

Katydid

 

Here are a few images of the Swallow-tailed Kites we discovered. Their aerobatic prowess was a joy to watch! They would swoop low over the field, grasp a dragonfly in a talon and then munch it on the fly. Great entertainment!

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

Swallow-tailed Kite

 

 

If you observe confusing critter behavior in your local area, don’t worry too much about it. Just make a note of what you see and check the calendar. It may be later than you think!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Hardee Lakes Park (NOTE: Park is currently only open Friday-Monday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

An Abundance of Life

Thank goodness for genes!  When we learned of the impending birth of our first child, we wondered all the things prospective parents wonder about.  Will it be a boy or girl?  What color hair?  Eyes?  What will he or she be when they grow up?  Can we be good parents?  (Okay, I’m the only one who wondered that one.  My wife never had a doubt…still doesn’t!)

We were eventually blessed with two healthy children who have grown up to be all we could have ever prayed and hoped they would.  They now have children of their own and it has been amazing to observe how each has developed.  Mixing of genes has produced some mighty beautiful grandchildren who are intelligent and loving.  (No, I’m not bragging, it’s true!)  One of the traits I feel they inherited from my wife is a power of observation.  She is one of those rare individuals that has an innate ability to see your soul.  Our grandkids can give you “that look” which says “I know what you’re thinking and I know how to get exactly what I want from you”.  Hopefully, they will be able to hone that talent to keep others, as well as themselves, honest as they travel through life.

I was thinking about genes the other day while standing in waist-high wet grass trying to focus the camera lens on a fast-moving dragonfly.  Yes, of course I was birding.  Sometimes though, one just becomes overwhelmed with the plethora of life all around.  Standing in one spot, I could see dozens of spider webs spun during the night, each containing a multitude of small insects trapped for hungry spider families to enjoy.  Dragonflies, moths, butterflies, katydids and unknown life forms seemed to be everywhere.  This doesn’t even include the “ordinary” flies, mosquitoes, ants and microscopic forms of life all within arm’s-length.  Within each of these species there is an incredible diversity.  How did genes play a part in creating such similar, yet different individuals?

I love birding precisely because it takes me into a world of vast possibilities.  Hopefully, I’ll never stop being curious about that world.

On this day, we were exploring Hardee Lakes Park, hoping to find a few migratory birds.  We found a few, but most birds remained beyond the reach of my camera.  So our photographs include a preponderance of C.O.T.B. (Critters Other Than Birds).

We ended the morning with 55 species, including Forster’s Terns, Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, four species of woodpecker,  White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Rough-winged Swallows, House Wrens, Blue-gray Gnatchatchers,  Ovenbirds, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated Warblers, Pine Warblers, Black and White Warblers, Northern Parulas, a female American Redstart and a female Indigo Bunting.  A very satisfying outing!

Here is a safety tip:  When trying to get a better angle from which to take a photograph, do not use a fire ant mound to stand on for greater elevation.  The mound is not solid and will sink under your weight.  Oh, and it makes the local residents within the mound quite peeved.  Although, as a result, I may have invented several new dance moves.

We hope you enjoy a few images of our morning.

(Identifying insects is very challenging for me so if anyone can provide corrections I would really appreciate it!)

Sunrise

Sunrise

 

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

 

Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus) - (?)

Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus) – (?)

 

Eastern Pondhawk (Female) - (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk (Female) – (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

 

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

 

Wingless Meadow Katydid (Female) - (Odontoxiphidium apterum) - (?)

Wingless Meadow Katydid (Female) – (Odontoxiphidium apterum) – (?)

Wingless Meadow Katydid - (Male) - (Odontoxiphidium apterum) - (?)

Wingless Meadow Katydid – (Male) – (Odontoxiphidium apterum) – (?)

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

 

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

 

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)

 

American Hover Fly (Metasyrphus americanus)

American Hover Fly (Metasyrphus americanus)

 

Eastern Pondhawk - (Male) - (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – (Male) – (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

Four-spotted Pennant - (Male) - (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – (Male) – (Brachymesia gravida)

 

Rambur's Forktail - (Male) - (Ischnura ramburii)

Rambur’s Forktail – (Male) – (Ischnura ramburii)

 

Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus)

Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus)

 

Fall Webworm Larva (Hyphantria cunea)

Fall Webworm Larva (Hyphantria cunea)

 

Tawny Pennant (Brachymesia herbida)

Tawny Pennant (Brachymesia herbida)

 

Four-spotted Pennant - (Immature or Female) - (Brachymesia gravida)

Four-spotted Pennant – (Immature or Female) – (Brachymesia gravida)

 

Florida Redbelly Turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni)

Florida Redbelly Turtle (Pseudemys nelsoni)

 

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

 

 

The next time you find yourself outside, try standing still for a few minutes and observe the amount of life all around.  Prepare to be amazed!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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