Posts Tagged With: spider web

Urban Desert Oasis

“Visit today and experience our all-natural park that is popular with cross-country and other runners alike.”

Despite the gracious invitation of the Holloway Park website, running of any sort is not what attracted me to this 362 acre green area. I admire runners greatly. I just choose not to participate. (Okay, I choose not to due to immediate complaints from my feet, knees, hips, back and lungs.)

Surrounded on all sides by constant high-volume traffic and urban development, Holloway Park on Lakeland’s south side offers a pleasant respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Before 1950, the spot was mined for phosphate. In the ensuing years it was left alone for nature to begin it’s reclamation process. The property owners, Mr. and Mrs. Holloway, generously provided the tract in 2010 for the creation of a natural recreational park. It’s primary attraction has been a venue for running events on most weekends. Given my aforementioned allergy to running, we visit on weekdays.

The park is not huge so it’s easy to walk the nicely maintained paths. There is a small pond, a stream, wetland area and section of mixed hardwood forest to explore. Open fields also attract several species of birds and insects during different times of the year.

This has always been a good spot to find dragonflies and birds and we looked forward to a nice morning. We were not disappointed. Birds were in short supply, but I managed my first decent images of the large darner dragonfly family. As our summer thunderstorm schedule is producing rain and lightning earlier in the day lately, we cut our visit a bit short as dark clouds began to blot out the light and large drops threatened to knock the cap off my head.

 

A beautiful female Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) soaks up the early sun to help dry her wings.

Holloway Park

 

One of our most abundant dragonfly species, a male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) , looks a little worse for wear as wings show the effects of flying through the brush, mating and/or territorial combat.

Holloway Park

 

Very soon, many of our song birds, like this Northern Parula, will be departing for their southern migration destinations.

Holloway Park

 

Finally! I had hoped to find a darner today, and did! This gorgeous Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) was hanging around waiting for the morning sun to cause potential prey to become active. These dragons can reach 2.75 inches (70 mm) in length and normally fly continuously during daylight. I caught this one before its daily schedule started. (Thank you, Richard Pegler, Pegler Birding, for handing me a metric ruler to correct an error! – Visit his beautiful website when you have a chance!)

Holloway Park

 

Spider webs throughout the park were loaded with dew and resembled nets, ready to snag any errant bug which stumbled into the trap.

Holloway Park

 

Smaller than any other North American dragonfly, the female Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) has black spots on her wings whereas the males have clear wings.

Holloway Park

 

A long and slender abdomen help identify the Pin-tailed Pondhawk (Erythemis plebeja).

Holloway Park

 

To paraphrase the great Ogden Nash, moulting is pretty revolting. That may explain the grumpy look from a Northern Cardinal.

Holloway Park

 

This male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) simply refused to look my direction, but even from this angle, his bright blue and yellow is stunning.

Holloway Park

 

Perched over water, a male Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) guards his territory and remains alert for a potential meal.

Holloway Park

 

Holloway Park is not vast, not famous and on weekends may be filled with people running for no apparent reason. However, it can truly be an oasis of relief for anyone wishing to escape the daily grind. If you are fortunate enough to have such a place where you live, go – breathe easy – observe nature, and, if you must, go for a run. I’ll sit here and cheer for you.

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

 

Additional Information

Holloway Park

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

In Search of Birds

This spring, I volunteered to participate in Florida’s second Breeding Bird Atlas.  The Atlas is a five year project aimed at defining the state’s breeding bird population.  Birders from around the state visit specifically designated geographic areas and observe what species are in that location.  Emphasis is placed on whether any breeding activity can be confirmed (e.g., nests, young birds, pairs, territorial disputes, adult birds carrying food, etc.).  This is very different from “normal” birding where the concentration is on total number of birds of each species seen without regard to specific location or breeding activity.  The data gathered will be analyzed and compared with the first Breeding Bird Atlas which was conducted 25 years ago.  Hopefully, scientists will be able to use this information to guide resource managers in planning for a better future for our birds.

The breeding season for most birds in North America is almost at an end and many birds will be migrating south to take advantage of greater food supplies.  Accordingly, we’ll soon be seeing bird species in central Florida that were not here during the summer.  Some birds begin their southward journey earlier than others (usually, those that were not successful at breeding) and we’ve made a few forays lately trying to catch some of these “early birds”.

One place is becoming a favorite spot for us to visit:  Hardee Lakes Park (see Additional Resources, below, for a link to more information).  It’s a pleasant drive from the house and the trip itself offers a lot of birding opportunities.  This county park consists of about 1200 acres (485.63 ha.) and includes four lakes, lots of picnic areas, restrooms, camping, hiking/horseback/biking trails and a boardwalk through a wet hardwood area.  Within the park, in addition to the lakes, one can find open fields, stands of hardwood, pine and swamp.  As the seasons progress into fall and winter, the four lakes will provide refuge to a large number of waterfowl.

During our visit, we tallied 47 species.  Not bad for the end of August during some pretty oppressive heat and humidity.  Some of the highlights included large numbers of Barn Swallows gliding over the open grassy areas just inches above the ground.  Separating themselves from the Barn Swallows, a small group of about a dozen Northern Rough-winged Swallows perched on nearby utility lines.  We saw a total of six Northern Flickers, which likely included some juvenile birds from this year’s breeding.  Two of the males were engaged in an extensive display of head bobbing/weaving, probably a territorial challenge.  It was a morning filled with woodpecker sightings, five different species in all.  A Yellow-billed Cuckoo silently stalked bugs in the top of a pine tree.  We only found one migratory warbler, a Black and White, but the trees were dotted with yellow here and there as resident Pine and Yellow-throated Warblers scooped up insects non-stop.  White-eyed Vireos entertained us with song from the damp understory of the swampy woods.  We were treated to expert fishing tutorials by a Bald Eagle, an Osprey and a Forster’s Tern.

Here are a few pictures from our excursion.

Morning dew sparkles like jewels, surrounding an Eastern Cottontail rabbit.

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail

Three Northern Flickers on one utility pole.  The two at the top spent a lot of time bobbing up and down and moving from side to side at each other, probably a territorial challenge.  The bird at the bottom is immature, based on its overall lighter plumage and the non-descript malar stripe (“moustache”).  Interestingly, adult males have this malar stripe, females do not, but immature birds of both sexes display it.  Northern Flickers in eastern North America have yellow under their wings and tails whereas western species have reddish-orange (“Yellow-Shafted” and “Red-Shafted” Flickers).  Western Northern Flicker males also have red malar stripes instead of black.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Typical habitat for Hardee Lakes Park.  The lakes will soon offer refuge for hundreds of migrating waterfowl.

Moonset

Moonset

A female Red-winged Blackbird foraging along the lake shore.  The females can sometimes be a challenge to identify as they don’t resemble the shiny black males.  This bird was among a flock of about four dozen noisy male and female Red-wings.

Red-winged Blackbird (female)

Red-winged Blackbird (female)

Most spiders spin their webs vertically in order to effectively catch flying insects during the night.  This one was built horizontally.  For hopping insects?  Bugs falling out of trees?  A spider trampoline?

Spider Web

Spider Web

A Northern Rough-winged Swallow rests between bug-catching sorties.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

This Common Buckeye exemplifies the expression “worn”.

Common Buckeye

Common Buckeye

One of the smarter individuals in his group, this Black Vulture enjoys the shade while his compatriots were soaring in the heat of the day.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

The Turkey Vulture gets it half right.  He rests on an appropriately dead snag but hasn’t figured out the trees with all those leaves across the way would be much cooler.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

A boardwalk provides a nice walk through a wet area of hardwood trees, low shrubs, a creek and connects with trails to take one further afield.  Lots of bird activity along this relatively short excursion.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

A species of Holly tree (I think it’s a Dahoon Holly, Ilex cassine) offers bright red berries which are very effective at attracting birds to the area.

Red Berries

Red Berries

Bright yellow and black offer a startling burst of color among the green pine needles.  The Yellow-throated Warbler, however, can almost disappear when all you see is his gray back.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Pine Warblers are fairly common here, chasing insects along the branches of their namesake trees and staring through the needles at the funny-looking guy stumbling through the ground cover.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

It was another great day afield made special by seeing and hearing a few birds while accompanied by my Best Friend Forever.  She really is, too.  I have a signed contract that says so.

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

Additional Resources:

Hardee Lakes Park

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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