Posts Tagged With: zebra swallowtail

Naturally Motivated

It’s hot outside. The “dog days” of summer are in full swing here in sub-tropical central Florida. Leave the air-conditioned coolness of home or auto and one is immediately enveloped in a steamy cloud of vapor which soaks through clothing and produces an instant soggy mess of a person. Did I mention it’s hot? Weather experts are issuing dire warnings that children and the elderly should remain indoors.

Gini fairly regularly refers to me as “child like”. According to my joints, hair, skin and driver’s license – there is a better than 50% chance that I am “elderly”. We should remain indoors.

The alarm screeched rudely and my beautiful (yes, even in the dark) bride gently rubbed my arm. “Time to get up.” A half-hour later, I put my feet on the floor and went through the ritual of “getting ready”. State parks in Florida, in a rare moment of sanity, decided the proper time to open to the public is 8:00 A.M. This meant we had time to gather our equipment, breakfast components, water tumblers packed with ice and leisurely drive about 20 minutes north to reach Colt Creek State Park precisely at — uhh — well, not too long after they opened the gate.

While Gini settled in to enjoy a good book in the car, I stomped along the edge of tall grass and small trees trying to find an opening into a swampy area. Yes, on purpose. The huge cypress trees thrust up from the green surface of the water and their thick branches allowed only a smattering of morning sun to filter through. It’s quiet in the swamp. After taking a few pictures we ambled along the park roads and found birds, bugs and blooms in profusion.

Breakfast by the lake. A walk through a thistle thicket proved to be a bug bonanza! Trees bordering open fields made great ambush perches for a variety of birds. White-tailed deer loafed along a road edge. A gopher tortoise can move surprisingly fast when it wants to! Shallow water was just deep enough for young alligators to submerge as I approached. A black racer (one of our most common snakes), true to its name, was across the path and gone before I could lift the camera.

Clearly, the inhabitants of the park had not seen the dire warnings of the weather experts.

Clearly, we were happy to have ignored the experts. Our motivation to enjoy what nature offers easily overcame our discomfort from heat and humidity.

Okay, it WAS nice to head home for lunch in a cool, air-conditioned car. Suspicions confirmed:  we’re human.

 

Chaos in the swamp. The cypress trees provide order and stability but everything else seems to grow in all directions with no plan whatsoever. The green covering over the water is an aquatic weed and offers shelter to myriad creatures.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Between the water of the swamp and the edge of the woods is a space where oak, pine and other tree species thrive. Among the detritus on the forest floor, a bright red mushroom asserts its presence.

Colt Creek State Park

 

The vertical, tear-drop pattern on the breast identifies this Red-shouldered Hawk as an immature bird. By this time next year, it will sport the horizontal rusty stripes of an adult.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A quick glance might result in thinking the bright red in the tree top is a Northern Cardinal instead of a Summer Tanager. This tanager’s mate, a subdued yellow-green color, flew overhead and he dutifully followed her into the forest.

Colt Creek State Park

 

In the middle of the road, a Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) was probably trying to extract a bit of water from – whatever that glop might be. (Don’t want to know.)

Colt Creek State Park

 

More gloppy stuff in the road. This time, a gaggle of Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) were having a party.

Colt Creek State Park

 

This industrious insect is working hard to clear the road of obstacles. Probably coyote scat. Aren’t you glad you asked? There are over 7,000 species of Dung Beetle (Fam. Geotrupidae) in the world (more if you count bureaucrats) and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. It’s believed if they did not exist, we would soon be buried in excrement.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Off the beaten path, I wandered among a field of thistles. I was not alone.

One of my favorite butterflies, a Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus), refused to come near so I resorted to a distant somewhat fuzzy image. Even blurry, it’s a beautiful bug!

Colt Creek State Park

 

The Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes), one of the skippers, is frequently seen with a “short” tail as it’s a convenient place for predators to grab.

Colt Creek State Park

 

A loud hum and large profile is always a bit startling and at first it would be easy to think you’ve spotted a Hummingbird. But it’s actually the impressive Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe).

Colt Creek State Park

 

Several Giant Swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes) flitted past my head ignoring me as they sipped nectar from one blossom after another. These beauties have wingspans that can reach up to 7.5 inches (19 cm)!

Colt Creek State Park

 

The underside of this Cloudless Sulphur  (Phoebis sennae) appears green and may be immature, but if you can catch it with its wings spread you can readily see the yellow from which it gets its name.

Colt Creek State Park

 

An American Bird Grasshopper (Schistocerca americana), as you might suspect, is quick to sprout wings and fly away if you approach too closely.

Colt Creek State Park

 

Found in the southeastern United States and Bahamas, the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper  (Romalea microptera), is considered a pest in many parts of the country as they consume a very diverse assortment of plants. Their bright color warns predators they won’t like the taste and their body contains a toxin which will cause the consumer to throw up. But they ARE handsome!

Colt Creek State Park

 

Heat, humidity and enjoyment. Florida nature at its finest. Even if you don’t have our high temperatures and steamy air, we just know that nature has some wonderful things to show you when you have a little time.

 

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

From The Back Yard To The Back Of Beyond

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries. —A.A. Milne

 

Since my recent discovery of digital photography, I have been a bit reckless in the number of images produced during a typical outing. Then came the revelation that my camera has a magic setting, which, when selected, allows me to simply depress a shiny little button to take hundreds of images in less than a second! Well, maybe it’s only nine or ten images, but let’s not get too technical. The result of all this magnificent science is a “virtual” cardboard box full of photographs which no one is ever likely to see, government agencies and the 12-year old hacker down the street notwithstanding.

I planned to be diligent in deleting images of less than perfect quality, but that strategy would leave me with no images at all. Clearly, there needs to be a middle ground. Accordingly, “spring cleaning” of photograph folders buried deep within my computer’s closet resulted in tens of thousands of images being sent to their final resting place in image heaven. (There seems to be a trend developing in this post whereby data is apparently exaggerated. Suffice it to say, I got rid of a bunch of dark, out of focus, uninteresting and just plain lousy pictures! It felt good to “lighten the load”!)

However, there were still photos I didn’t want to let go. I liked them. For whatever reason, they were never used in a blog post. Until now. The pictures below were all taken within the past three months or so and range from back yard butterflies to a deep swamp Barred Owl. A few bugs may have crawled in amongst the photos in the box as well.

Herewith are the results of my first ever “photographic spring cleaning of images left in the computer after the others were either already used or tossed out” extravaganza. In no particular sense of order whatsoever.

 

In my humble opinion, the Zebra Swallowtail is one of the most attractive butterflies I’ve ever seen.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

 

When we first spotted this male Wild Turkey (“gobbler”), he was holding court with three hens. The hens ducked under the fence as soon as they spotted me but the “Tom” remained behind to ensure I was no threat to his harem.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

 

The only Anole lizard native to the United States is the Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis).  They average 5-8 inches (12.7-20.3 cm) in length and can change coloration to greenish-brown or dark brown (they are no relation to the Chameleon, however). In the past several years, Florida has seen several non-native Anoles, especially the Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei), spread throughout the state and there is some evidence they may be displacing the native Green Anole. Hope not.

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)

 

These are most likely eggs of a Softshell Turtle. The female turtle excavates a burrow and lays up to as many as two dozen eggs then covers the burrow to incubate the eggs. From this point, the eggs (and eventually baby turtles) are on their own. They face a dizzying array of threats. This nest was likely discovered by a Raccoon and we found no viable eggs remaining. (In the same area, we observed six female Softshell Turtles in the process of laying eggs, so Nature provides for the species.)

Turtle Eggs

Turtle Eggs

 

An Eastern Towhee prefers the very top of a bush or tree to keep a look out for threats or potential mates. Most Florida species have a light-colored eye whereas those further north have reddish eyes.

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee

 

The small and very fast Viola’s Wood-Satyr is not all that common and there is apparently a question if it and the similar Little Wood-Satyr are the same species. In spite of this buggy brouhaha, I think it’s pretty.

Viola's Wood-Satyr (Megisto viola)

Viola’s Wood-Satyr (Megisto viola)

 

Our area usually enjoys an influx of wintering Pied-billed Grebes, but only a few remain during summer and breed here. I was happy to find one recently sporting breeding plumage instead of the drab winter colors normally encountered. Now, if I can just locate those babies…..

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

 

I don’t know what kind of prey this Eastern Bluebird has, but I counted 15 times that the bird slammed it onto the top of that fence post. Suitably tenderized, he swallowed the morsel in one gulp.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

 

After attempting to follow the fast, zig-zag flight of this bright butterfly through the camera, I had to sit down due to dizziness. I wanted to find the genius who named it “Sleepy Orange” and throttle him/her! Then I discovered it was so named due to the upper wing pattern resembling a closed eye. I couldn’t see that, either.

Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe)

Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe)

 

While I was preparing morning coffee recently, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers appeared outside the kitchen window. Although both were about the same size, it was apparent one was a juvenile male and I watched as the adult male drilled into our oak tree and found many worms/grubs for Junior to enjoy.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

 

After examining a Leaf-footed Bug, I decided that science fiction animators/film makers must employ entomologists to give them ideas on how alien life might appear.

Leaf-footed Bug (Acanthocephala sp.)

Leaf-footed Bug (Acanthocephala sp.)

 

Gini and I found a very young Red-shouldered Hawk last week who wouldn’t stop screeching. Not too far away, we heard one of his parents calling back, probably trying to encourage the youngster to fly home. He would climb up and down the tree limb but didn’t attempt to become airborne while we were watching. His extended crop indicates he just ate well.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Juvenile)

Red-shouldered Hawk (Juvenile)

 

This attractive small butterfly is a Cassius Blue. The blue/violet is visible on the upper wings, which, of course, is seldom displayed. I’ll keep trying!

Cassius Blue (Leptotes cassius)

Cassius Blue (Leptotes cassius)

 

Walking down a sandy path in a deep woods adjacent to a wetland, I was startled by a White-tailed Deer springing across the path. It happened too fast to get a picture. I bent down to examine the foot prints she left. As I stood up, I looked into the deep, dark eyes of a Barred Owl. I’m sure she was amused by how I jumped when the deer bolted in front of me.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

 

 

So, spring cleaning of the computer’s closet yielded a few images I thought I’d share. Please, whatever you do, don’t tell Gini I engaged in spring cleaning!! Going into the garage is a frightening thought …..

 

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

 

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

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

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