Posts Tagged With: great blue skimmer

Small Doses

“Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops at all.” ― Emily Dickinson

 

“Second honeymoon.” How can such a thing exist when the first one never ends? It was a week’s respite from classes for me, and for Gini a break from budgeting, meal preparation, housework and the myriad chores of a wife which are usually taken for granted and for which precious little appreciation is expressed. Gini was a new wife, whisked a thousand miles from her home, given no instruction manual on how to run a household much less how to handle a husband who she was convinced knew everything about everything but, alas, who only knew how to present a brave facade and actually was scared spitless that he wouldn’t be able to make this union work. (Update:  Forty-eight years later, Gini still takes care of us and I still don’t know everything. The honeymoon continues …)

Our week-long break in upstate New York was in a one room cabin on a small lake near the Finger Lakes region. The proprietor, with the improbable name of “Mrs. Fish”, demonstrated how to open the clamp of the rubber hose over the kitchen sink for water. We discovered the source of our water was a small, clear spring on a hillside just outside the cabin. The big feather mattress of the brass bed folded around us to form a warm and intimate sandwich each night. The pond was full of fish, the surrounding fir forest full of birds and deer and the two of us full of love. “I wish we could stay here forever”, I loudly declared. Ever the wise one, Gini reminded me small doses of extra special things in life would ensure we appreciated them all the more.

So, as much as I like peach ice cream, fried mullet and freshly-picked strawberries, I’ve tried to understand that too much of a good thing may not provide the continued pleasure for which I hoped. But when something so wonderful is available, a little is all that’s needed for satisfaction.

Lately, we have not been able to explore as much as in the past. A temporary situation. So when we do get a chance to be out for a bit, a little goes a long way toward happiness.

The other day, there were errands to run. I had some time between appointments and decided to visit a city park on the south side of Lakeland. Holloway Park is not large and was designed with cross-country running in mind. During the week, it isn’t busy and the running trails make for easy walking. From different points in the park, one can see a nearby high-traffic expressway, two “big-box” type discount stores, my doctor’s office, a business center and the sounds of a mid-size metropolitan area intrude constantly. With all that, a visitor can still find solace in a small section of woods which muffle rude noises, enjoy a small stream and pond, find wildflowers in any season, watch birds going about the business of raising families and surviving and come across innumerable insects which are easy to miss unless you slow down. I like to think one of the purposes of places like this is to provide a sort of “speed bump” for our hectic lifestyles. I spent less than an hour here, mostly kneeling near the edge of a stream watching an incredible array of life spread out before me.

It was a small dose. A little birding, a bit of insect discovery, some casual photography. And it was enough. No planning, no extensive driving or hiking, no supplies, no worries. I returned to my errands totally refreshed.

As I watched a dragonfly steadfastly patrol a section of shoreline, vigorously driving away all intruders, I found out there was something going on within me. I know it happens each time I’m able to enjoy nature’s beauty, but it’s usually a subconscious thing. Today, it was more like a clarion call. All of the color, beauty, excitement and experience of Life literally screamed at me:  “There Is Hope!”

We tend to become quite glum about our world sometimes and wonder what’s the use of trying to change anything since all is lost. But here I was in the middle of the hustle and bustle of an ordinary weekday with thousands of humans all around me doing what humans all around the world do each day, which is the same thing all the animals around me were doing, just trying to survive another moment – all of that intense activity – and yet there was so much pure beauty. Right in front of me. How could I see a young Bluebird in his first summer or have a purple dragonfly hover within inches of my face and not realize we all have at least one common thread in our existence – hope. Just reach out and touch it.

 

An immature Eastern Bluebird has learned how to catch a grub.

Holloway Park

Eastern Bluebird – Immature

 

The male Roseate Skimmer is a stunner in his colorful outfit! As with many dragonflies, the immature male resembles the female.

Holloway Park

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) – Male

Holloway Park

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) Immature Male

 

One of our larger dragonfly species is the Slaty Skimmer. The male is dark all over and at a glance appears totally black.

Holloway Park

Slaty Skimmer – Male (Libellula incesta)

 

A mature male Needham’s Skimmer can be very bright reddish-orange. It’s difficult to differentiate them from the Golden-winged Skimmer. One distinction is the upper portion of the hind legs of the Needham’s is brown as opposed to black in the Golden-winged.

Holloway Park

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) – Male

Holloway Park

Needham’s Skimmer ((Libellula needhami) – Male

 

A male Great Blue Skimmer can appear similar to the Slaty Skimmer above except for a white face. I think this is an older female Great Blue. Younger females have reddish-brown eyes which may turn blue in some older specimens.

Holloway Park

Great Blue Skimmer – Female (Libellula vibrans)

 

This is a new species for me: a Two-striped Forceptail. The thin abdomen curves when in flight.

Holloway Park

Two-striped Forceptail (Aphylla williamsoni) – Male

 

One of the few butterflies which held still long enough for a photo op was this dainty Sleepy Orange. I got dizzy in the mid-day heat following this one through the telephoto lens hoping it would land.

Holloway Park

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

 

Another young bird. This Red-bellied Woodpecker played “peek-a-boo” from behind some Spanish moss.

Holloway Park

Red-bellie Woodpecker

 

A stately looking Tricolored heron asked for a portrait as I prepared to leave. How could I refuse?

Holloway Park

Tricolored Heron

 

The trip was short. There weren’t many photographs taken. Not many birds were about. It was a small dose and for today it satisfied. A reinforcement of the concept of hope provided my system with renewed energy. Life is good.

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Breakfast and Lunch

Since owls are primarily nocturnal hunters, I wonder if they consider that first mouse caught just after sundown “breakfast”? Once upon a time, I worked a regularly changing shift schedule. Four days were from 0700-1500, the next four from 1500-2300, then next 2300-0700 and then I enjoyed four days off. The four days off were quite nice, but 12 days of changing hours every four days with no break – not that great. Meals were a challenge for poor Gini as she tried to keep the kids on a schedule but I never knew whether to eat scrambled eggs at 2200 or a sandwich or roast chicken and salad. Apparently, I worked it out and did not starve.

Now that modern medicine has declared everything we ate in our youth is either poison or caused us to be ugly (Gini obviously avoided those things), it’s much easier to decide what to consume each day. Oatmeal, fruit, green stuff or some kind of bean. Since all the joy of preparing and sharing a meal has been sucked out of our lives, we try to make up for it by having some of our meals in the beautiful outdoors. Fortunately, we have found a few spots where the ambience is so breathtakingly wonderful it just doesn’t matter what we’re eating.

One of these is particularly suited to beginning a day peacefully as the sun breaks the horizon over the deep blue of water and gorgeous greens of reeds, lilies and huge trees. Breakfast here is usually accompanied by the chatter of gallinules and coots, the calls of limpkins, a shriek of a red-shouldered hawk or the muffled gobbles of a flock of turkeys under the oaks. Coleman’s Landing on the western shore of huge Lake Kissimmee has picnic tables, boat ramps, a floating dock, restrooms and has recently added modern campsites, including spaces for RV’s and new shower facilities. A visit here at any time of day is refreshing.

Less than 30 minutes from the house is one of Florida’s jewels, Colt Creek State Park. Since it’s so close, we can have an impromptu lunch by the shore of a sparkling lake while we watch bluebirds catch caterpillars, grebes dive for fish, swallows swarm in front of us, eagles soar overhead and chickadees scold from the trees. If we tire of looking at the water (which hasn’t happened yet), we could enjoy an open field of wildflowers full of butterflies and dragonflies or hike through mixed hardwood and conifer forest or check out the swampy wetlands for barred owls or wading birds. A weekday visit here usually finds us with the place to ourselves and it’s so soothing to close our eyes and not hear any human-made sounds. The wind rustling a tree top, a fish splashing in the lake, a bumble bee, a wren declaring himself available for love – who cares what’s for lunch?

Pictures. One thousand words each.

 

At Coleman’s Landing, the breeze ruffled the feathers of a Red-shouldered Hawk as he scanned the water’s edge for his own breakfast.

Coleman Landing

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

A pair of Belted Kingfishers clucked at us and each other – probably about disputed territory.

Coleman Landing

Belted Kingfisher

 

I couldn’t get this Prairie Warbler to face the camera but he’s beautiful from any angle.

Coleman Landing

Prairie Warbler

 

Mating Halloween Pennants blend in well with their environment.

Coleman Landing

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

 

A visit to Colt Creek State Park coincided with several species of wildflower blooming which, happily, attracted a few insects. The Gulf Fritillary is hard to miss even at a distance.

Colt Creek State Park

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

 

White Peacocks seemed to be everywhere.

Colt Creek State Park

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae)

 

This Sleepy Orange finally sat still for a couple of seconds after I got dizzy chasing him through a field.

Colt Creek State Park

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

 

Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers are pretty easy to see thanks not only to their size (up to 3 inches/8 cm) but also to just a little bit of gaudy color.

Colt Creek State Park

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

 

One of our larger dragonflies, the Great Blue Skimmer, can be identified by the powdery blue body, greenish eyes, dark wings and white face.

Colt Creek State Park

Great Blue Skimmer – Male (Libellula vibrans)

 

Carolina Saddlebags is one of our most abundant dragons.

Colt Creek State Park

Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)

 

Overhead, a trio of White Ibis flapped lazily in the bright blue sky.

Colt Creek State Park

White ibis

 

A small wetland attracts good numbers of waders, such as a Little Blue Heron.

Colt Creek State Park

Little Blue Heron

 

The proliferation of Apple Snails near most bodies of water in central and south Florida has seen an increase in the range of the Limpkin, who feeds almost exclusively on these freshwater mollusks.

Colt Creek State Park

Limpkin

 

We really enjoy having a meal while surrounded by the extraordinary beauty of nature. All of a sudden, the actual food often becomes secondary. No matter what you call your next meal, try having it outside, under a tree, by a lake, listening to the birds.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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