Posts Tagged With: florida tickseed

Myakka Mystique

From the misty murkiness which is my memory, visions of rain and sand appeared. Twelve years old? That’s a guess, but probably close. I don’t think my parents would have let me go camping without adult supervision if I had been much younger. Fragments of that long-ago trip include learning that if you push on a rain-soaked canvas tent ceiling it will soon be raining inside your tent. Sand mixed with scrambled eggs is not recommended. When choosing a log to climb aboard in mid-river, make sure it does not have eyes – and teeth.

Coincidentally, Gini’s childhood included trips to the Myakka River as well. Naturally, in accordance with her personality, her memories are much more detailed and filled with fishing, cold watermelon and fun. Sigh. She’s like that.

This day’s visit represented our first in a few years and arriving early on a summer’s day helped ensure we were not engulfed in crowds of visitors. Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks. Over 58 square miles (+37,000 acres/15,000 Ha) of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pinelands provide a lot of territory to explore.

Before 1850, English maps noted this was the Asternal River. Supposedly, a helpful Seminole Indian told a surveyor it was called “Myakka” and maps have reflected that name for this dark water river ever since. No translation of Myakka has ever been produced.

Our unofficial checklist of “Things To Do” included: check out the canopy boardwalk; try to locate Butterfly Orchids; and find the “Old Weir” area where bird reports over the past few days included dozens of avocets, stilts and limpkins.

The canopy walk was completed in 2000 and was the first in North America. It’s 25 feet above the ground, proceeds through the treetops for 100 feet and at the end has a 74 foot tower which provides a panoramic view of the park and surrounding area. My next goal is to camp within the park so I can access that tower to attempt sunrise/sunset photographs.

Once I found out what the Florida Butterfly Orchid looks like and where to search for them (think “up“), it seemed like they were everywhere! The leaves of the plant can be somewhat yellow-green and some botanist thought the wind rustling them looked like butterflies on the tree branches. Gini-with-the-sharp-eyesight found some at a lower altitude and we discovered that at close range they have a wonderful aroma!

Locating the “Old Weir” area where a creek enters Upper Myakka Lake was easy. Alas, the area was cordoned off due to maintenance today.

Two out of three goals accomplished. We’ll take that.

This park, with its vast amount of space and diverse habitat, is a fantastic birding spot during spring and fall migration. We will definitely return for more exploring. Then there is “The Deep Hole”, an ancient sinkhole to the south of the main park which, in winter when water levels drop, can attract dozens (more than a hundred have been observed) of alligators along a single patch of shoreline. THAT would be exciting to photograph!

We had a wonderful day in a gorgeous setting!

 

Large blooms of Swamp Pink Hibiscus (Hibiscus grandiflorus) bordered a field full of wildflowers.

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

 

An Anole played hide-and-seek among palmetto fronds.

Myakka River State Park

 

The canopy walk allows one to walk in the tree tops and the observation tower provides spectacular views in all directions. (We were able to confirm that Florida is still flat.)

Myakka River State Park

Suspended Canopy Walk

Myakka River State Park

View to the northwest.

Myakka River State Park

View to the East.

The Florida Butterfly Orchid (Encyclia tampensis) is small and subtle in appearance. It added a nice touch of beauty to a lot of large oak trees.

Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park

 

Gini’s beautiful brown eyes don’t miss much. Through the trees she spied a huge wasp nest. This Southern Yellowjacket (Vespula squamosa) condominium was over three feet (0.9 meter) tall and at least that in circumference. Thousands of the insects, thankfully, remained busy at the nest while I took a few images and retreated quietly.

20190613 Myakka River State Park 00047

Myakka River State Park

 

The genus Coreopsis was designated Florida’s state wildflower in 1991. Here, a field of Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana) blankets a field near the main park road. This particular species is endemic to Florida.

Myakka River State Park

 

State Parks offer a wonderful way to view nature at its best. Plan to visit one near you soon!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Myakka River State Park

Categories: Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Springing Into Action !

Each season of the year offers something wonderful for us all to enjoy. Summer conjures up images of a trip to the beach or the cool mountains and backyard barbeques. Autumn means a riot of color in the woods and migrating birds to observe. As winter approaches, those blessed with mounds of snow to play in look forward to the cleansing effect the white stuff seems to have and marvel at all the tracks left by unseen creatures in a favorite tract. Springtime. Ahh, that most special time of the year we each await with utmost anticipation. Dew time. Specifically, Honeydew time. “Honey, dew the yard!” “Honey, dew the windows!” “Honey, dew the gutter cleaning!” “Honey, dew the taxes!”

Huh? Wait a minute. That’s not where I meant to go with this……..

Springtime. Ahh, there are birds out there flying north and others are building nests and some are already having babies for goodness’ sake! We must act now! Lists must be made! Pictures must be taken! Data must be compiled! Reports must be sent! More importantly, we need more time together.

(Pretty hard to argue with that last one, right?)

As our Spring has sprung in earnest around here, we’ve really been getting out a lot. The last blog was a compilation of several spots visited and this one will be the same. The time period covered is about ten days. Places visited are all in central west Florida and include: Lake Bonny Park (Lakeland), Paynes Creek Historic State Park (Bowling Green), Peace River Hammock (Fort Meade), Sumter County (several back roads, no specific place), West Lake Wales Road (near Lake Wales airport) and Hardee Lakes Park (Bowling Green). Some of the above were new to us and others were return visits to old friends.

Come on! Put a Spring in your step! Let’s go!

 

A pair of Turkey Vultures found a bench they like. Sort of reminds me of a couple of birders I know……

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

 

Loggerhead Shrikes may already have a nest nearby, but they weren’t telling.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

It’s easy to overlook the beauty of a Boat-tailed Grackle as they are usually numerous, loud and behave like bullies.

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle

 

Our Florida state bird, the Northern Mockingbird, is very adaptable and will make a home near human habitation or in the remotest part of the state. And sing happily about it non-stop!

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

 

Gini insisted we take what looked like a maintenance road around a cypress hammock and (as usual) she was absolutely right. A Barred Owl looked up at our approach, decided we weren’t a threat and continued his deep sleep with a big sigh.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

 

Not far from the above owl was a Great Horned Owl on a nest. We didn’t want to get too close and disturb the egg sitting duties so we snapped a few distant photos and quietly retreated.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

 

Yellow Jessamine blooms were in profusion. Taking pictures is preferred but if you decide to pick a flower or grab a branch be certain to wash your hands well as the sap is poisonous.

Yellow Jessamine

Yellow Jessamine

 

All decked out in breeding plumage, a Tricolored Heron expressed his displeasure at my presence on his stretch of shoreline.

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

 

This Little Blue Heron didn’t care who was nearby as he was too busy concentrating on a potential meal to be disturbed.

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

 

Florida Tickseed is a variety of Coreopsis, which includes the Florida state wildflower.

Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana)

Florida Tickseed (Coreopsis floridana)

 

The Common Mullein is an introduced species and can grow over six feet tall. Parts of the plant have been used as herbal remedies (but don’t take my word for it – research first!). I thought the colors and patterns of the small flowers were special.

Common Mullein (Verbascum rhapsus)

Common Mullein (Verbascum rhapsus)

 

Northern Shovelers will soon be “shoveling” off for their breeding homes further north. The male is striking in coloration and the oversized bill is unique.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

 

Although many Northern Parulas migrate through our area, we also have a resident population which remains year-around and breeds. This one thought he was hidden in the shade.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

 

Another winter visitor is the Vesper Sparrow. He will often fly up to an exposed perch, unlike most of his little brown brethren who dive into the grass and run away.

Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

 

Pretty soon, our area will be devoid of tail-wagging Palm Warblers, which is hard to believe, since they just about form a carpet around here during the winter. They will exchange their relatively drab plumage for much brighter yellow underparts and vibrant chestnut streaks and caps.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

 

This Downy Woodpecker probed around and around this small pine tree so fast I got dizzy just watching it.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

 

Such a flimsy-looking nest for the large White-winged Dove! I couldn’t believe she intended to actually lay eggs in it!

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove

 

Even in the dense fog, there is no mistaking the profile and colors of a Wood Duck.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

 

A tremendous splashing near the shore of a lake followed by several alarm calls of herons and egrets led me to investigate. I was surprised to encounter a Coyote! They usually skulk about at night and keep their distance from us two-legged critters. Fortunately, he took one look at me and almost turned himself inside out running away. (I have that effect on a lot of people, too.)

Coyote

Coyote

 

Ospreys are large birds and require large nests in which to raise their families. This fellow seems intent on having the biggest and strongest place in the neighborhood!

Osprey

Osprey

 

Any dental hygienist would praise the fine condition of these teeth. This proud Mama ‘gator was surrounded by her family (I counted a total of 14 “children”). For a little perspective, the “baby” alligators in the second image ranged from about 12 inches to about 3 feet long. I estimate Mama at over ten feet (>3 meters). (Did I mention being grateful for telephoto lenses?)

Since alligator eggs typically hatch in late summer and fall, the smallest of this group is probably about 5-6 months old and the largest (about a 3-footer in the right of the photo) is likely around three years old.

American Alligator

American Alligator

American Alligator

American Alligator

 

Green Herons are expert hunters and exhibit incredible patience. It seems their beak moves towards its target so slowly at first and then the strike happens so fast we can’t see it.

Green Heron

Green Heron

 

These Florida Peninsula Cooters have found a nice dry log on which to catch a little sunshine. Their maximum length is about 15 inches and I think these were close to that.

Florida Peninsula Cooter

Florida Peninsula Cooter

 

From my resting place along the grassy bank, it was easy to see how the Peace River got its name.

Peace River

Peace River

 

I’m afraid Gini almost went through the windshield when I “vigorously” applied the brakes after spotting this year’s first Burrowing Owl. The image is poor due to the distance involved and because it was my first attempt at taking a photograph through my new spotting scope. We didn’t see a mate and couldn’t quite tell if it was adjacent to a burrow. We’ll keep checking on it as the season progresses.

Burrowing Owl (Digiscoped)

Burrowing Owl (Digiscoped)

 

As I was scanning the pasture where we found the owl above, I found a new “life bird”! Two Whooping Cranes were feeding among the cattle. These are an endangered species and these two individuals are part of an experimental group breeding in central Florida. All of these birds have large yellow leg markers and each is equipped with a radio transmitter so biologists can track their movements.

West Lake Wales Road

Whooping Crane

 

 

There was no doubt this Paper Wasp was watching my every move as it attended a new larva. I respected its desire for privacy and backed away – quickly.

Paper Wasp

Paper Wasp

 

Red-winged Blackbirds are pairing up, males are singing, nest sites are being scouted and the marsh is a noisy place!

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Female)

Red-winged Blackbird (Male)

Red-winged Blackbird (Male)

 

Butcher Bird! That’s the alias of the Loggerhead Shrike (as well as other shrikes around the world). These birds will often impale their prey (insects/lizards) on a small branch, thorn or barb of a fence and eat it piecemeal. Sometimes, you’re just hungry and don’t feel like a formal dining experience. That was the case with this guy as he swallowed the Mole Cricket (Scapteriscus sp.) so fast I missed the picture!

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

It’s an exciting time outdoors! So, “dew” yourself a favor and “Spring” into action! Don’t forget to have fun!

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

 

 

Additional Resources

Lake Bonny Park

Paynes Creek Historic State Park

Peace River Hammock

Hardee Lakes Park

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 48 Comments

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