Posts Tagged With: two-striped forceptail

A Drive In The Country

“Clouds of insects danced and buzzed in the golden autumn light, and the air was full of the piping of the song-birds. Long, glinting dragonflies shot across the path, or hung tremulous with gauzy wings and gleaming bodies.”

Arthur Conan Doyle

 

“That alligator came up almost completely out of the water chasing that fish!” Gini was filling me in on what I had missed when I took a short walk under the oak trees, searching in vain for small, colorful migrating warblers. After about an hour’s drive from home and another hour poking along looking at flowers, birds and bugs we were taking care of granola bars and tangerines. A late, but satisfying, breakfast.

The scene before us was a tranquil lake bordered by tall cypress trees mixed with bay and willow. A small island was decorated with the white, black and brown of dozens of egrets, herons, anhinga and cormorants. In a couple of months the population will swell as raucous courtship, mating and nesting occurs. This annual cycle of renewal is not unknown to other creatures as well. Such as birders, like us. Oh, and we counted well over two dozen alligators chasing fish, watching us, watching the birds, disappearing into the depths of the lake.

Some days it’s nice to just drive with no specific destination in mind. Explore side roads. Decide to unexpectedly turn left instead of right. Today was such a day.

We were in the southwest corner of Polk County, Florida. The Peace River flows a few miles to the east and the area is dotted with deep lakes, former phosphate mining pits which have been reclaimed and the surrounding land restored to something resembling its former state. There is a robust agriculture industry here as well as several large cattle ranches. The mix of farming, pasture land and lakes provides an excellent environment for diverse flora and fauna.

We didn’t find any migrating warblers today and most of the birds we did see were very camera shy. One migrant, an Eastern Wood-Pewee, took pity on us and posed for a moment. Distant woodpeckers, high-flying hawks, the aforementioned water birds – all good to see but none came near enough for photos. The day was beautiful, so was my partner, and we just kept driving.

Off the main road, we followed a path along a fence line. On one side, a pasture with curious cattle. On the other side, a pair of lakes with tall hardwood trees and dense undergrowth. A very nice combination!

The strands of barbed wire were quite popular for all sorts of insects, mostly dragonflies. Perching, eating, obelisking. And what a nice collection of different species! The water and trees attracted a whole separate set of specimens. It was well past lunch time and getting hot when we reluctantly headed home.

Our trip to nowhere in particular had been spectacular.

 

I almost walked into this awesome creature! Both me and the spider, a Spiny Orb-weaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis), were happy no web was harmed in the making of this picture.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

A new dragonfly for us! The Twilight Darner (Gynacantha nervosa)  is quite plain and blends in with twigs as it hangs around waiting for – twilight. Then it will fly along the bank of the lake dining on some of the pesky mosquitoes we’ve been swatting all day.

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

Mosaic FMA-Haul Road Pit

 

It’s a bird! Eastern Wood-Pewees are not residents here and we see a few of these small flycatchers each fall as they head for South America.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

 

A female Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) has smudges on her wings whereas the male displays large black spots.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

 

The facial pattern of a Two-striped Forceptail (Aphylla williamsoni) is quite menacing. Reminds me of a hockey player.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

One characteristic of the darner family is they like to hang vertically. They are strong flyers and can fly for long periods without landing. I got lucky and found a Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) taking a break.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

 

On about every other fence post, a lizard was waiting in ambush on the shady side. Most were Brown Anoles (Anolis sagrei).

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Native to Asia, the Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia) was introduced to southern Florida in 1975. It has spread throughout the southern part of the peninsula since. The male is distinctive as it is all bright red. The female is golden.

Mosaic FMA-Pine Lakes East

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Dragonflies aren’t the only fence-sitters in these parts. A Whirlabout (Polites vibex), one of the small grass-skipper butterflies, thinks the view is just fine from up here.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Another one of those hanging jewels, the Common Green Darner (Anax junius) can really blend with the leaves of certain trees – like this one!

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Small but aggressive. A Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is “obelisking”, holding its abdomen vertically, which is thought to help with heat dispersion.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

The male Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) is hard to miss all dressed in purple. The female may not be as brightly colored, but she is still quite the looker. This one is finishing up a meal.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

A large grasshopper along the trail got our attention. It’s a new one for us, called an Obscure Birdwing Grasshopper (Schistocerca obscura).

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Yet another large dragonfly, the Regal Darner (Coryphaeschna ingens). This female is ovipositing on lily pads near the lake shore.

Mosaic FMA-SP12 South

 

Having a goal is always a good thing. Once in awhile, though, wandering aimlessly about the countryside can be very rewarding. Try it!

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

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