Posts Tagged With: variegated fritillary

Patch Work

There is an old line familiar to anyone who has served in the military about how you are taught to be a “Jack-of-all-trades” but master of none. My local birding locations are like that. Most who take up birding seriously have a “patch”, a place with which they are (or become) familiar and visit on a regular basis. Thus, they learn the species which are likely to be found in that area in any given season, become accustomed to the terrain and environment and are quick to notice any changes in the local avian population.

We are blessed with an overabundance of patches. I pretend to know a lot about each nearby place that I visit frequently, but in reality I seem to encounter something new on every visit. So, in keeping with my military training, I have become an average birder who claims several patches but am an expert in none of them.

Last week, I made a short visit to one of those patches in the hope of finding some nesting activity. Mister birding expert located exactly zero nesting birds. Adding insult to injury, I came away with no photographs of a bird I would display in public.

It was, however, a very pleasant morning! Okay, it was extremely humid, but that goes with the territory at this time of year. I have a new lens I wanted to try so somewhere below is an “artsy” swamp image. Flowers are blooming, bugs are buzzing.

I came home birdless, but happy.

 

Patch: Colt Creek State Park

The morning sun was largely obscured within a dense hammock. The large cypress and bay trees allowed a reflection in a small pool. These swampy spots are peaceful, still places which I really enjoy exploring.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Last month, some fields were almost solid violet, white and green as the Purple Passionvine (Passiflora incarnata) responded to just the right amount of rain at just the right time. On this trip, there were still a few blooms around, to the delight of a large amount of pollinators.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) uses a thistle bloom as an ambush platform.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Large eye-spots and its flight low to the ground help identify this butterfly as one of Florida’s most abundant, a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Similar in overall coloration to the Buckeye but a bit more orange, a Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) is a more energetic flier and it’s hard to get one to hold still for a portrait.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In our area of central Florida, there are only three commonly seen white butterflies (family Pieridae). This Checkered White  (Pontia protodice) stopped its nervous flight for a moment and I managed one image.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A trip to any outdoor area can be pleasant. If you know the area well and find some of the local inhabitants that’s even better. When you know your patch so well you can complete your birding checklist from your favorite armchair – well, that’s a whole other level of expertise!

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

 

Additional Information

Colt Creek State Park

Categories: Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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

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