Posts Tagged With: horace’s duskywing

Hot, Sweet Summer

The Sunshine State. It was meant to be a marketing slogan. A lure for those who too recently tried to wrestle a breath of air from the icy atmosphere as they heaved one more shovelful of dirty brown snow to the side of the driveway. It worked. Snowbirds flocked to the warm-all-year peninsula and many never took flight northward again.

When Gini The Eternally Beautiful agreed to be my bride oh so many years ago which seems like only yesterday, we travelled from our perpetually warm cocoon to “upstate” New York where I attended Syracuse University. We soon realized “upstate” was a euphemism for “anywhere other than New York City” with a secret secondary definition of “always cold and wet except for three days in August”. That poor girl. Her only footwear consisted of sneakers and flip-flops. After all, we arrived in town during late March and it was 90F when we left Florida. Snow. It was snowing as we were apartment hunting. I stopped at a Sears and Roebuck and found some outlandish fur-lined boots for her feet which were meant to run unadorned in the damp sand of the beach instead of sludging through half-melted ice.

We survived. The ensuing years took us to many different environments around the country and around the world. We continued to survive. We are better for the experience. But, as Dorothy observed, there’s no place like home.

It’s July. Near midnight, as I open the back door, a wall of hot, humid air engulfs my entire body. It almost takes extra physical effort to step outside, the atmosphere is so thick. Crickets. Music of the summer night accompanied by the monotone buzz of the cicada. Earlier, I had turned on the porch light in the hope of attracting moths to the yard. I was amply rewarded.

Recent birding efforts have concentrated on wrapping up a five year project attempting to catalogue species of breeding birds in Florida. This project will be compared with the previous breeding bird atlas conducted in 1986. Scientists will be able to access the data and hopefully provide ideas for future management of human development to better protect our bird population.

We have not been able to do much exploring for the past few months for several reasons and this blog has been on an unscheduled hiatus. My apologies for our absence. Following are a few images from our forays into the local area trying to find breeding bird evidence, backyard images of night creatures and some miscellaneous encounters along the way.

 

While surveying a very densely wooded section of swamp, we were somewhat surprised to find a Snail Kite. These endangered raptors are normally associated with more open areas, typically a lake or river shoreline, where they hover over vegetation as they hunt for apple snails. We observed a very large number of snail shells in the shallow water so this bird knew where to look.

20160701 BBA Polk County 00024

 

Cone Road

Snail Kite

 

Barred Owls are fairly common in our area and prefer the swamps and adjacent woods. Their prey consists of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. It’s not unusual to find them active during daylight hours and this one was preening on a branch well after sunrise.

Colt Creek State Park

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Colt Creek State Park

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

 

 

Not far from the above owl were a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks in a pine forest. The adults have a distinctive horizontal reddish/orange banding on their chest whereas immature birds display a vertical pattern of heart-shaped feathers.

Colt Creek State Park

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

 

A stagnant pond is a favorite hunting spot for the Green Heron.

Lake Parker Park

Green Heron

 

Travelling through a swampy area provides many opportunities for wildlife spotting. I think this is a Striped Mud Turtle. Total length was about six to eight inches. Any correction would be very much appreciated.

Cone Road

Striped Mud Turtle Kinosternon baurii)

 

Summer brings out the bugs. Such as this Slaty Skimmer, one of our larger dragonflies. It can be distinguished from the Great Blue Skimmer by its dark face. (The Great Blue has a white face.)

Moore Road

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incest)

 

A Gulf Fritillary is a common sight here. It’s bright orange above and has large silver spots underneath making quite a contrast of beauty.

Colt Creek State Park

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

 

One of the most common skippers in Florida is Horace’s Duskywing. This one is feeding on Loosestrife.

Carlton Road

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) on Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum)

 

During our hot summer nights, a light can attract an amazing variety of life forms. I think this is an Indo-Pacific Gecko (mostly based on the saw-tooth appearance of the edge of the tail). Again, if anyone has a correction, please let me know. I think the only gecko native to Florida is a Reef Gecko and it’s limited to the extreme southern part of the state, mostly in Key West. Non-natives have been arriving for several years, likely hidden in landscape plants from Asia.

Yard

Indo-Pacific Gecko (Hemidactylus garnotii)

 

Another non-native invader, the Cuban Tree Frog, has been displacing native Florida tree frogs for many years. They can be a challenge to identify at times, but generally, if you find a tree frog over 2.5 inches long, it will likely be a non-native. Also, they will normally be covered in bumps or “warts”.

Yard

Cuban Tree Frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis)

 

The Banded Sphinx Moth is pretty striking with its geometric design and impressive with its three to four inch wingspan.

Yard

Banded Sphinx (Eumorpha fasciata)

 

Even larger, with a wingspan over six inches, the Polyphemus Moth is named for the cyclops of Greek mythology.

Yard

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea Polyphemus)

Yard

Polyphemus Moth (Antheraea polyphemus)

 

Smaller than the two giants above, the Southern Emerald makes up for size with color and grace. Who knew moths were so colorful? 

Yard

Southern Emerald Moth (Synchlora frondaria)

 

Providing tonight’s summertime lullaby is the Olympic Cicada.  Enjoy.  (Song:  http://ifasgallery.ifas.ufl.edu/entnem/walker/buzz/797sl.wav)

Yard

Olympic Cicada (Diceroprocta olympusa)

 

Yep, it’s summer in Florida. Heat. Humidity. Daily thunderstorms. Ferocious lightning strikes. In a word:  GLORIOUS!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Ever Have That Dream Where You’re Falling?

Naive. I think that’s the best word to describe us. When we were young, of course. Now that Gini and I are all grown up, we are quite sophisticated, worldly and wise. Well, Gini is wise. I’m just along for the ride. After a whirlwind wedding squeezed in between military assignments, these two Florida native kids pointed a fully loaded station wagon north and our continuing trip has been glorious!

Growing up in central Florida, we enjoyed the changing of the seasons to the fullest. The green of Spring, the green of Summer, the green of Autumn and the mostly brown of Winter. Ahh, Nature’s infinite variety. Thus, in the Spring of our marriage traveling from Florida to Syracuse, New York, we were quite perplexed during a roadside picnic in western Pennsylvania. The setting was gorgeous. Forest on all sides and a fast-running stream of clear water by our table. Gini gazed upstream and asked about all that white foam along the shoreline? At that time, I still had nimble legs and an intrepid (read: “not necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed”) nature. I scrambled down a bank of wet, slippery leaves, scampered across boulders, investigated thoroughly and reported back to my new commander-in-chief (yes, she still makes me call her that). “It’s snow.” Our first encounter with the white stuff of northern legends. We looked at each other and blinked. “In March?” Of course, back home, waaaaay to the south, it was still 90+ degrees (F) and 100% humidity. Since then, we’ve experienced changing seasons in several parts of the planet and marveled at Nature’s beauty.

Fast forward a whole bunch of years. We really love all the places we have lived and each has its own beauty. I think the most pleasant surprise for us was discovering the kindness of the human race. It still fuels our hope for this world. Once settled back in our central Florida landscape, we again became accustomed to the local “changing” of the seasons. Usually, the calendar is the only way we know what time of year it is as Mother Nature doesn’t give us a lot of hints here in the Sunshine State.

One little hint she does provide – our bird watching changes. That’s happening now and it makes routine birding forays a bit more exciting. There is an expectant feeling that today you might see a flash of color belonging to a seldom seen warbler or a flock of brown shorebirds hunched over feeding in a sod field or a raft of ducks floating on a usually barren lake surface. Hooray! Fall is here!

Our local park at Lake Parker didn’t provide a plethora of passing migrants, but we found a few visitors enjoying the tree-top buffet. In our listing of 54 species were migratory Yellow Warblers, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and a Spotted Sandpiper. The coming weeks will be fun!

Here are a few images of regulars, visitors, non-avian fauna and one red flower to begin the day.

 

The bright Scarletcreeper is a native vine which certainly adds some nice color to the landscape.

Scarletcreeper  (Ipomoea hederifolia)

Scarletcreeper (Ipomoea hederifolia)

 

This Eastern Gray Squirrel had just visited the local home supply store for his living room remodeling project. He didn’t have time to stop and talk.

Gray Squirrel

Gray Squirrel

 

A fairly common butterfly locally, Horace’s Duskywing looks pretty drab at first glance but upon closer inspection has a lot of design detail to see.

Horace's Duskywing  (Erynnis horatius)

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)

 

Another “drab” butterfly which is more attractive than initial impression is Dorantes Longtail, one of the spread-wing skippers.

Dorantes Longtail  (Urbanus dorantes)

Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes)

 

One of Lake Parker’s residents, the Great Egret is quite regal looking on its perch by the shore.

Great Egret

Great Egret

 

We are at the southern limit of the Northern Paula’s breeding range so this may be a year-round resident or a visiting migrant. No matter. It’s a pretty bird.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

 

As with the Northern Parula, the Yellow-throated Warbler may breed in our area. Today I found four of them and at least one or two may be likely migrants.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

 

The bright Yellow Warbler is one of our earliest fall migrants and a half dozen were in the park this morning.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are year-round residents but are always striking with their contrasting plumage. These big tree ducks were virtually unknown in our area 25 years ago but now are quite numerous.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

 

Shorebirds often migrate in large flocks and remain together even once they reach their winter destinations. The Spotted Sandpiper may fly in small groups for safety but prefers his own company when feeding. Distinctive black spots on the undersides usually disappear during the winter. They feed with a distinctive nodding and teetering action.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

 

Although autumn is approaching, our semi-tropical weather permits late season breeding and this Mourning Dove is fortifying an existing nest. I found the nest and a second bird appeared to be brooding eggs.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

 

This young Red-bellied Woodpecker is fully fledged and even though he can feed himself he still shouts for Mom to bring him something to eat. Kids are the same everywhere.

Red-bellied Woodpecker  -  Immature

Red-bellied Woodpecker – Immature

 

A pair of young Limpkins were nothing more than small lumps of feathers a couple of months ago. Now they have no problem locating their own Apple Snails among the cattails and making quick work of extracting the meat.

Limpkin (Immature)

Limpkin (Immature)

 

Just as a reminder of how damp our summer has been, a small sampling of fungi encountered during the morning walk.

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

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Fungus

Fungus

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Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

Fungus

 

 

We may not have the extensive change of tree foliage or freshly fallen snow to soften our footfall in the woods, but our seasons here bring excitement just the same. If you’re having that dream – go ahead and “fall” into a great birding trip!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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