Posts Tagged With: spicebush swallowtail

Preserving Beauty

I am an awful person. It’s true. Perhaps, since I recognize the fact, there is hope for my eternal soul. When I visit my local birding “patch” or a wildlife preserve or city/state/national park, I thoroughly enjoy the experience for the benefits such places provide – for “ME“. I seldom give a thought to the monumental efforts it took to plan these venues, acquire the space and administer the parks, all just so I can have a good day.

Today, I thank a couple of folks I never met. Mary Ann and Ed. Holloway. These generous residents of Lakeland, Florida, USA, set up a foundation in 2010 to preserve in perpetuity (I love that word) 330 acres of land which was once used to extract phosphate from the ground. Over the years since mining operations ceased, this land now called Holloway Park has transformed into an oasis of natural beauty on the edge of a bustling city with over 100,000 inhabitants. As you exit your vehicle and gaze to the north, you think of two words: “urban sprawl”. From the south side of the park one can see commuters bustling along the toll road on their way to work. Entering from the east you travel through the heart of the city’s industrial base. Standing on a “hill” (left over from the days of mining) there is a magnificent vista to the west of two warehouse-type shopping centers with endless rows of parked cars.

However, once you wander a few yards from the parking area just at dawn, you become wrapped in a cocoon of tall trees, wildflowers, fluttering insects, singing birds, adrenaline-pumping bobcat tracks on the trail, the scream of a Bald Eagle from its nest in that tall pine — how did it get to be noon so soon?

On a recent morning at the park, we observed 33 species of birds. Not too bad for an urban location during one of the state’s hottest weeks on record. We found a few juvenile birds, lots of colorful butterflies, dragonflies, a honey bee nest, watched a Red-shouldered Hawk feed its offspring, marveled at the insect catching prowess of an adult Loggerhead Shrike, chuckled at the learning pains of an immature Shrike (more on that in a minute) and sat back to just plain enjoy a show put on by Eastern Meadowlarks all dressed in their bright yellow-and-black vests.

Here are a few images from our day to give you an idea what beautiful residents we found.

 

A Tricolored Heron is a patient hunter. Just after I took his portrait, he stabbed at the water and flew away with a small fish. It all happened too fast for me to react with the camera!

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

 

The Downy is North America’s smallest woodpecker. This male was unperturbed by my presence as he probed around and around several small trees. He found what he was looking for and proceeded to gorge on his buggy breakfast.

Downy Woodpecker - Male

Downy Woodpecker – Male

 

Blue Jays harassed this young Red-bellied Woodpecker and he was continually looking up to try and thwart their attacks. Mom and Dad showed up and drove the blue bullies away.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Juvenile)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Juvenile)

 

Immature Northern Mockingbirds don’t yet have the “neat” appearance of the adults and sport lots of speckles on their breast. They do, however, have that ‘mocker attitude and don’t seem to be afraid of anything.

Northern Mockingbird (Immature)

Northern Mockingbird (Immature)

 

Mushrooms. Fungi. Nothing further to tell. I like ’em.

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

 

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper is an imposing insect. Adults reach lengths up to three inches (8 cm). Their bright coloration is a warning to predators that their bodies contain a toxin which can cause sickness or death. Good thing, too (for the Lubber), since this big ‘hopper can’t fly.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

 

This very small critter is the nymph of the American Grasshopper (also called American Bird Grasshopper). At this stage, it can be bright green, brown or yellow. Coloration may be dependent upon what it’s eating, population density of its species and/or pollution levels.

American Grasshopper Nymph (Schistocerca americana)

American Grasshopper Nymph (Schistocerca Americana)

 

One of my favorite moths is the Bella. I like it because it’s one of the few moths out and about in daylight. And it’s kinda pretty.

Bella Moth  (Utetheisa ornatrix))

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix))

 

The Spicebush Swallowtail is one of Florida’s five “black” Swallowtail species. I love that touch of “powder blue” on this big butterfly.

Spicebush Swallowtail  (Papilio troilus)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio Troilus)

 

Bright orange fluttering along the path brings attention to the Gulf Fritillary. His close relative, the Variegated Fritillary isn’t as bright but that complex design is certainly just as attractive.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanilla)

 

Variegated Fritillary  (Euptoieta claudia)

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta Claudia)

 

Florida’s state butterfly, the Zebra (Heliconian), is always a show-stopper.

Zebra (Heliconian) - (Heliconius charitonius)

Zebra (Heliconian) – (Heliconius charitonius)

 

Not as big as the above specimens, the diminutive Sleepy Orange is still beautiful as it flits among the low-growing vegetation.

Sleepy Orange  (Abaeis nicippe)

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

 

Horace’s Duskywing may not be as colorful as many butterflies, but the subtle markings have a beauty all their own. Many of these skipper butterflies are named for Roman poets, as is this one.

Horace's Duskywing  (Erynnis horatius)

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)

 

Tiger racing stripes, powder blue paint, aggressive speedster. No, not a racing car. A dragon. The Blue Dasher.

Blue Dasher  (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

 

Needham’s Skimmer can vary from a dull brown seen in immature and female dragons to the male’s bright orange. This species is very similar to the Golden-winged Skimmer.

Needham's Skimmer   (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami)

 

It’s hard to miss the neon lavender of the adult Roseate Skimmer. Females and immature males are much more subdued in coloration.

Roseate Skimmer - Immature  (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer – Immature (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer - Male(Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer – Male(Orthemis ferruginea)

 

One of the largest skimmers in the country, the Great Blue Skimmer likes to hang around forest ponds and streams to ambush unsuspecting prey. This is a female. The male is overall blue.

Great Blue Skimmer - Female  (Libellula vibrans)

Great Blue Skimmer – Female (Libellula vibrans)

 

We watched this young Loggerhead Shrike attempt to impale a caterpillar onto a fence barb just like he saw Dad do it. He tried just laying the caterpillar on the barb, then tried to drag it across the point and almost got it right when he dragged it over the barb and then pulled upward to impale his dinner. Unfortunately, by then the caterpillar was a little too “tenderized”, broke in half and fell to the ground. Sigh. Dad makes it look so easy.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

 

We had a wonderful morning at Holloway Park. One of the neat things (here I go being selfish again) is that this place hasn’t yet been “discovered” and each time we’ve visited have only seen one other human visitor. The next time you’re in your favorite park, stop and give a bit of thanks that someone had enough vision to set aside such a place of beauty – just for YOU!

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

 

 

Additional Information

Holloway Park

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Anatomy of a Birding Road

When we plan a trip for going birding, we typically have a specific destination in mind.  It’s usually a place known to have lots of birds.  Duh!  So we often find ourselves within a nicely maintained park or wildlife refuge or national forest or at a seashore.  There are large volumes of birds and varied species in these areas for a reason.  They like something about the place, usually an abundance of food, water and shelter.

We’ve always liked to get off the beaten path and explore new areas.  I recall driving down a well-maintained road in a beautiful forest in central Germany many years ago only to have the road turn into a very muddy, ill-defined track with no opportunity to turn around.  Four hours (!) later, we emerged from the forest, skidded down a slippery hillside and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in a small village gasthaus.  Being a typical American male, I simply told the family:  “I knew this is where that road would lead.”  Being the typical American family, they didn’t buy it.

So every once in awhile, we just take off with no particular idea where we’re going and look for those “interesting” side roads we usually zip by headed elsewhere, telling each other:  “That road looked interesting.”  Sometimes we find nothing very interesting at all.  More often, we revel in the beauty nature placed on every side of us for our very own personal pleasure.

What makes one road better than another for a birder?  As the folks who sell real estate keep telling us:  “location, location, location”!  We’ve actually started to plan some of these “spur of the moment” trips by looking over maps of an area first.  With today’s technology, it’s easy to see where nearby roads are and where they may lead.  Also, a simple mouse click can show a satellite image of the area and you can note what might be around to attract birds (e.g., forest, swamp, creek, lake, agricultural fields, etc.).  We especially like “unimproved” roads, as those are less traveled than a nice wide paved highway.  As you drive along a back road, watch and listen for birds.  If you see or hear one, stop and look around for a bit.  If you see or hear other birds, you may be on to something.  Many birds seem to congregate in similar areas and you may just find a treasure trove flitting back and forth across the road, singing in nearby trees or feeding in the weeds along a fence row.

Our trip yesterday along such a road was simply wonderful.  Not only did we see a nice variety of birds, we found wildflowers, butterflies, curious cattle, handsome horses, a Fox Squirrel, a pair of Bobcats and the persistent aroma of freshly opened orange blossoms.

So, when you have a chance to visit a wildlife refuge, local park or the coast, by all means, take advantage of it!  But don’t forget to note those little side roads along the way which look “interesting” and make a point of exploring them.  You may find it worth your while.

Here are a few pictures of our most recent side road exploration.

Utility wires are simply not attractive but many species of birds find them quite convenient for perching to sing from or to watch for prey.  Here’s an Eastern Kingbird on the lookout for a nice juicy insect.

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird

The Loggerhead Shrike also likes the view from high up on a utility line.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

A small retention pond outside the security gate of a large research facility produced both a Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs probing the shoreline for breakfast.  We were a bit concerned about pointing the camera lens out of the truck window so close to the guard building, but I guess he determined we were fairly harmless as no shots were fired.  (I must apologize for poor quality images due to distance and cropping was required.)

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Wildflowers are beginning to bloom and the butterflies are taking full advantage.  We found a patch of blue Skullcap which was filled with Spicebush Swallowtails and Cloudless Sulphurs.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Cloudless Sulphur

Cloudless Sulphur

Near a one-lane bridge crossing a small creek, we found the pretty fruit of the Rosary Pea.  Lovely to admire, however, they are very toxic – a single seed from this plant can be FATAL to humans!  Best to leave them alone.  Also, these plants are not native to Florida and are very difficult to eradicate.

Rosary Pea

Rosary Pea

This Tufted Titmouse called from an orange tree.  “Peter, Peter, Peter.”  A small flock flew across the road and disappeared into the citrus grove.

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

We enjoyed our sandwiches under the shade of an oak tree with a stand of nearby Longleaf Pines offering their special scent carried on a warm breeze.  Above us, a Northern Parula bubbled continuously, cocking its head to see what we were having for lunch.

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Just before turning back onto the main highway which would return us to reality, we looked up to see an American Kestrel holding its position in the wind, searching for prey.  It was a nice ending to our day of discovery on a seldom traveled road with no destination in mind.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

By the way, I know the bird in the photograph above was an American Kestrel because on Page 128 of “The Crossley ID Guide:  Raptors”, are many exquisite photographs of American Kestrels accompanied by a detailed description of them.  This recently published book arrived on my doorstep (literally) about an hour ago, courtesy of the publisher, Princeton University Press, by way of Phil Slade, blogger and ringer extraordinaire, who conducted a contest on his superb blog, Another Bird Blog.

THANK YOU, PHIL!  GOT THE BOOK AND IT’S TERRIFIC!

Be sure to check Phil’s blog for his expert reports on ringing (banding) and bird observations.

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

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildflowers, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

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