Posts Tagged With: giant swallowtail

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

Spring At The Fort – Part One

It’s that time of year in Florida.  Our severe winter weather has abated and the air and water temperatures are emitting  their siren song attracting great throngs to the coasts to enjoy white sand beaches, emerald green seas and shady woods for siestas.  It’s the time of crowds pushing each other out of the way to gorge themselves on whatever they can find to eat, drinking their fill and fueling that age-old “urge to merge” which is overtaking their hormonal instincts.

Yes, it’s bird migration in full swing.

Huh?  What did you think I was talking about?

This will be a two-part series on our recent visit (April 15) to Fort De Soto in St. Petersburg, Florida.  We have written about exploring this area before.  (See the previous posts:   Fort De Soto – July and Sunrise, Surf, Storms.)  There will, undoubtedly, be future articles on this location.  It’s one of those places which can be overwhelming  for birders, photographers, tourists or just casual visitors.  Located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, it boasts award-winning beaches, has one of the finest boat launching facilities in the area, woods to explore, outstanding fishing and sensational sunrises and sunsets.

This post will take you along our paths in the woods.  It’s quite a wonderful sensation to be surrounded by tall trees and dense undergrowth yet still be able to hear the pounding surf as the beach is only 50 yards away.  In the second part, we’ll stroll along the beach and see what we can find in the sand, water and sky.

Due to its location along a major migration route, unique position on the coast, mix of hardwood and pine woods and freshwater ponds, it is a major stopover spot for migratory birds in spring and fall.  We planned to spend the day searching for warblers in the woods.  I have no self-discipline.  If I get that close to saltwater, I will eventually wind up in the stuff.  I can’t help myself.  Warm, salty water is meant to wallow in and wade along pushing your toes in the soft sand and having crabs and rays scuttle out of your way and watching the mullet jump and……but I digress.  We wandered the beach and marsh areas as well as explored the woods.  We spent the whole day there – and loved every second!

A popular spot to locate our migrant friends is a wooded area adjacent to a beach.  There are a few mulberry trees and the park has placed a freshwater fountain here.  The trees were fruiting and the birds were eating.  It’s Florida, so the insect-loving crowd was also happy.  At times, this little area can contain hundreds of warblers and other birds in a single tree.  Today, we had to hunt a bit but were rewarded with some beautiful sights.  The adjacent picnic areas have scattered oak trees which are also quite productive.  It’s easy to get a case of “warbler neck” after bending your head back all day to scan the tops of trees.

Hope you enjoy our winged tourists returning from South and Central America.  They will soon be building nests further north, raising their young and returning to the woods and beaches of Florida this fall.

Male Hooded Warblers were fairly abundant today.  Most were busy looking for insects on the ground but I found this fellow up on a tree branch where a warbler belongs!

Hooded Warbler

Hooded Warbler

The Gray-headed Catbird was well represented.  I counted seven in one tree.  This one can’t hide the fact that he has been enjoying mulberries for breakfast.  Those purple stains in his feathers will be a challenge to get clean.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

Bright blue Indigo Buntings were in the trees and on the ground gorging on anything that resembled a seed.  They made for a very colorful and lively walk in the woods as they never seemed to hold still.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Speaking of bright, a Yellow-throated Warbler was quite curious about me standing under his tree.  That throat was like a beacon as he hopped up and down every branch sucking up insects as he went.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

The Northern Mockingbird may not be a migrant, but he sure knows where to find insects.  I was leaning  against a tree to rest in the shade when this one flew in to gather insects from a hedge of lantana.  He was about four feet away and was oblivious to my presence.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Prairie Warblers provided a yellow exclamation point to the trees and bushes.  Most of these birds are so intent on fueling up for their long flights that they almost don’t notice the human stalking them with a camera.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

As usual, I’m easily distracted.  Giant Swallowtail butterflies were quite busy feeding at the lantana.  These were as large as some of the birds we were chasing!

Giant Swallowtail

Giant Swallowtail

Sometimes, your wings just get tired of flapping and if you can find a nice paved sidewalk heading north, why not walk for awhile?  This Blue Grosbeak has the appearance of a bird who won’t put up with any nonsense.

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak

The small Common Ground Dove is another non-migratory bird enjoying a day at the beach.  This species has been in decline throughout the southeast.  They have a distinctive cooing much different than the longer call of the Mourning Dove.

Common Ground Dove

Common Ground Dove

A lizard on a tree.

Lizard

Lizard

After watching a Nuthatch running down a tree trunk, the Black and White Warbler tried it, liked it, and is now seen upside down more often than not.

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler

I think this is a Mangrove Skipper but would appreciate anyone knowing differently letting me know.

Mangrove Skipper

Mangrove Skipper

White-eyed Vireos were numerous and hearing them sing is wonderful any time.  This one checked me out with a serious stare and then returned to the mulberry tree for more juice.

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

I watched three female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks methodically work through a mulberry tree gorging on every ripe fruit they found.  This one continually chased away any other bird daring to come near.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

One of those birds who kept coming near to the above Grosbeak, was this female Orchard Oriole.  She eventually found good eating at the top of the tree.

Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole

An Eastern Wood-Pewee found an oak tree he liked and continually swooped down to grab a bug.  We checked later in the day and he was still there.  Others said he’s been in that same tree for at least a week.

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Well, technically, this is a warbler.  But he was not in the woods.  This Palm Warbler apparently saw the shorebirds feeding and thought he would check out the wrack line to see what was so good.  This offers a perfect segue into our next episode involving beachcombing.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

We hope you’ll return to enjoy the remainder of the day.  It will be more enjoyable if you’re bare-footed.

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

Additional Resources

Fort De Soto – Park Information

Linking to Stewart’s “Wild Bird Wednesday”.  See more birds from around the world at Paying ReadyAttention for

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

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