Posts Tagged With: needham’s skimmer

Between Raindrops

Summer’s soggy saga stays steady. Hot. Humid. Wet. Thunder. Lightning. No letup in sight.

IT’S TIME TO GO BIRDING!

As difficult as it may be to fathom, annual fall bird migration has already begun. Swallow-tailed Kites are forming into groups, foraging over agricultural fields snapping up flying insects and devouring them in mid-air. Prothonotary and Yellow Warblers are starting to appear on checklists and we spotted an American Redstart a couple of days ago flashing her tail broadly to frighten bugs from hiding places.

Our local patch, Lake Parker Park, is a nice spot each year for small numbers of migrating passerines and waterfowl. The radar showed a band of more thunderstorms moving our way from the Gulf of Mexico. If I hurry, perhaps I can make fantastic observations in record time!

The sun actually made an appearance! Of course, it was directly behind the young Green Heron I tried to photograph, resulting in a faded out silhouette. At least you could make out his “immature” hair-do. The usual cast of characters were present going about the business of survival. They don’t care if a storm is coming, a bird’s gotta eat!

A Snail Kite flapped lazily over distant reeds searching for breakfast. Two Osprey splashed down onto the lake’s surface almost simultaneously about 50 yards apart. Both came up carrying fresh fish. Noisy Common Gallinules were abundant, most with small, black fluffy chicks in tow. Purple Gallinules ran up and begged for a handout – one of the negatives of birding in an urban park. The eerie cries of Limpkins rang out up and down the shoreline. A Red-bellied Woodpecker circled a dead oak tree limb, probing for some morsel. Two Marsh Rabbits slipped into the tall grass and became invisible. An alligator watched the aforementioned Gallinule chicks as well as a small dog whose owner allowed his pet too close to the shore.

As I made my way around the park, not many birds presented an opportunity for photography. Dragons, however, were very industrious. Lots of ovipositing, patrolling, fighting, hunting. Action galore! Of course, I only brought the big lens and trying to heft the monster back and forth to track a small dragonfly was almost beyond my ability. I came away with a couple of images that aren’t completely awful. (We won’t discuss the other hundred or so).

There was a change in light and a coolish breeze sprang up. That felt good! It also meant I should head for the car. Drops began falling just as I reached for the door handle.

The Amazing Gini was waiting in the kitchen with bagels, boiled eggs and strong coffee. But first, hugs and kisses. Unlike the birds and beasties, we rank food second on the list of our priorities.

Only a few photographs of today’s outing. (“Thank goodness.”) Hey – I heard that!

 

A young Green Heron stalks a frog near the lake shore. He eventually got it, too! Naturally, I missed the shot.

Lake Parker Park

 

Dark all over with a very tapered abdomen, Pin-tailed Pondhawks (Erythemis plebeja) were very active along a canal which feeds the lake.

Lake Parker Park

 

One of the most common dragonflies in our area (and maybe in the entire eastern U.S.) is the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). Adult females are a striking green and the males dusty blue (“pruinose”) all over. Immature males begin life looking like Mom and gradually transition to Dad’s blue suit.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

 

A bright spot in the world of dragons, adult male Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) are hard to miss!

Lake Parker Park

 

In her element, a Limpkin appears somewhat prehistoric as she rests on a log just before the rains begin.

Lake Parker Park

 

Don’t let a little rain in the forecast stop you from seeing what your own patch has to offer just before the drops start to fall.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Would You Prefer Your Woods Hydric Or Mesic? – Part Two

Hydric:  Of an environment or habitat containing plenty of moisture; very wet.

Mesic:  Of an environment or habitat containing a moderate amount of moisture.

So, as we explored the vast Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area, which in the brochure describes the ecology as a mix of hydric and mesic pine flatwoods, it was challenging to find any area to hike too far without being at least ankle deep in water. To be fair, the area has received a lot of rain recently. The strict definitions above became blurred, to say the least.

A lunch of cold chicken beside a lake surrounded by pine trees, dragonflies hovering above the shoreline, Osprey and Bald Eagles crash-diving into the water for lunch of their own, flowers blooming  in every direction – all that and the immeasurable bonus of sharing it with someone I love more than the air I breathe. Life is good.

It was tempting to head home after lunch in order to get ahead of the traffic we would invariably face as folks left work. Tough decision.

We were seeing some flowers we couldn’t identify and I was trying to figure out a way to get images of dragonflies without having to wade into waist-deep water inhabited by Florida’s representatives of the Chamber of Commerce. The ‘gators here are very healthy looking. Ahead of us, a Northern Bobwhite family rushed across the road. Typically, these skittish quail would keep going until they felt safe in the underbrush. However, as we pulled even with the spot they crossed, they were all still there! We spent the next half-hour being thoroughly entertained by this large (14!) family of birds as they clucked and cooed, chased bugs, jostled each other for a shady log, took dust baths and generally behaved like wild birds.

With all the slash pines here, the habitat is perfect for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. They used to number in the tens of thousands in the southeastern United States. Then, lumbering. A staggering and rapid loss of habitat nearly decimated their population. Finally, more intelligent management practices of timberland combined with some innovative wildlife biologists helped the species recover somewhat. We were quite fortunate to see a half-dozen adults flying to nest cavities with food for hungry youngsters. It bodes well for the future.

Late afternoon. Staggering heat and humidity. Insects galore – the type which want you to donate blood. All of it is part of the experience which is made worthwhile by glimpsing a rare woodpecker or nodding flower we’ve never seen before or the glistening golden wings of the smallest dragonfly on the continent.

The drive home was relaxing, since we had remained so long that by now all the people with jobs were already home having dinner. Oh, and that 85% chance of thunderstorms mentioned in the last post? Never materialized.

If you would care to review them, we included a few images of our afternoon adventure.

 

The Northern Bobwhite family was amazing! The first image is a male which dug a depression in the sand, nestled down and used his feet to throw up sand all over his feathers. The second shot shows a few youngsters trying to find the shadiest spot and the last pic is a young male who claimed that log as his.

Babcock/Webb WMA

Babcock/Webb WMA

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Tall with bright purple flowers, Florida Ironweed (Vernonia blodgettii) is related to sunflowers.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

White-winged Dove are common throughout the area and are larger than their cousins, the Mourning Dove.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Winged Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum) is abundant in central Florida and the combination of purple and yellow blooms attracts all sorts of pollinators.

Winged Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum)

 

Two small “hairs” on the hindwing give the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) part of its name. This small butterfly is the most common of the hairstreaks in North America.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

The smallest dove in our area is the Common Ground-Dove. They have a very monotonous call, a single “coo-coo-coo” which prompts some of us to wish they had an on/off switch.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

One of our more colorful dragons is Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami). An immature male will initially look similar to a female, mostly brown/light orange. This young male is turning bright orange and will eventually be almost all red.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Baldwin’s Milkwort (Polygala balduinii) is one of only a few white milkworts found in Florida and was a new species for us. It’s scientific name comes from the Greek polys, meaning “many”, and gala, meaning “milk”. It was once thought the presence of milkworts in pastures would increase milk production in cows.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

One of our most plentiful dragonflies is the Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida). They are fast fliers and like to perch on taller weed tips or bare twigs.

Babcock/Webb WMA

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Over 160 oils within the species likely contribute to the aroma of the Rosy Camphorweed (Pluchea baccharis).  Anecdotally, a tea made from the plant has some health benefits. (Do NOT try this at home!)

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

The Halloween Pennant  (Celithemis eponina) is always a joy to spot in the field! It’s orange color and black wing marks make it readily identifiable. This mating pair didn’t really care that I was documenting their union.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Endemic to Florida, the Pine-Hyacinth (Clematis baldwinii) bloom begins as pale pink/white, turns deeper lavender and ends, as the one we found, white at the end of the season.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

The smallest dragonfly in North America, the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) is often mistaken for a wasp. That’s not a mistake, it’s by natural design to help ward off potential predators. Golden wings shining in the late afternoon sun got my attention and this male posed for about a millisecond before flitting across the lake.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

Although I couldn’t manage a good photograph, I so seldom capture a damselfly I thought I’d share it anyway. The Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis) is one of the most widespread damsels in the country and can be quite, well, “variable” in appearance depending on location.

Babcock/Webb WMA

 

We had a long day. We’re tired. We’re happy. It just doesn’t matter if your woods are hydric, mesic or something altogether different. Visit them. Often.

 

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

 

Additional Information

Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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