Posts Tagged With: slaty 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

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

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