Daring Duo Dragon Hunters In The Swamp of Doom !
Now that I have your attention, hope you are all well today. We are.
About two weeks ago, we escaped went out for a bit of fresh air and found ourselves on the edge of the Green Swamp.
In a recent post, Brian at Butterflies To Dragsters described the sensation of our local swamp perfectly: “The rich, dank smell of bog, ditch, mud and water plants is nicer than the finest perfume.”
Never mind our two “bogs” are over a thousand miles apart, the sensation is identical. (Visit Brian’s blog to see beautiful dragons, butterflies and more.)
Florida’s Green Swamp covers a lot of area, over 560,000 acres (+226,000 Ha) in central Florida. Four major rivers begin life here from underground springs: Hillsborough, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee. Much of central Florida’s water supply comes from these rivers.
The relatively small area we explored is about 30 miles north of the house and is accessed from logging roads which can vary in condition from not-so-bad to impassable. As the landscape transforms from upland pine forest to cypress swamp, a small wetland offers ideal habitat for many insect species. Our recent visit was during the last week of April and stepping out of the vehicle was exhilarating! Not only did we experience Brian’s olfactory description but we were also overwhelmed with an extravaganza of color as myriad flowers of all sizes bloomed around us. All of this dampness and blooming attracted a host of potential pollinators.
A lazy drive took us deeper into the swamp where we enjoyed the rhythmic hammering of a Pileated Woodpecker, singing Northern Parula Warblers from every direction, Eastern Bluebirds carrying nesting material, expanses of lush green ferns and a river crossing. The Little Withlacoochee River barely flows along under an old wooden bridge and herons, egrets and hawks perch above the dark tannin-stained water.
Another perfect day.
The brightest dragonfly in our area is not a native. The Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia) was introduced near Miami in the mid-1970’s and has now become fairly common in central/south Florida.
Replete with racing stripes and blue eyes, the male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is ready to race away in pursuit of a bug breakfast.
Shimmering gold wings with a distinct pattern help identify the Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina).
Not a fire-breathing dragon, but we couldn’t ignore the beautiful and plentiful White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) butterfly.
I couldn’t manage a decent photograph but this Gray-green Clubtail (Arigomphus pallidus) is a new species for us. We’ll return soon to see if we can find a more cooperative model.
One of our more common dragons, often seen patrolling the edges of roads in great numbers, a Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) posed briefly.
Golden-edged wings and light dorsal stripe help identify a female Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami). Hard to believe the male is more colorful. Perhaps we’ll find one on the next visit.
Ladies’ day continued with a cooperative female Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea). Again, maybe next time we’ll spot the purple-hued male.
A reminder for would-be dragon hunters: remember to look up once in awhile. Something may be hunting YOU! A young Bald Eagle, thankfully, prefers a fish dinner.
The humble Bumble Bee (Bombus spp.) seeking nectar and spreading pollen.
Thistles in bloom mean bugs galore! The blooms of these prickly plants certainly attract an amazing array of insects. Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.) were the main actors in the group of thistles we found today.
A shiny metallic blue Mason Bee (Osmia Chalybea) found plenty to like among the purple threads.
Purple Thistle (Cirsium horridulum).
We enjoyed our hunt for dragons on the edge of the swamp. As all of us proceed through uncertain times, step outside if you’re able and marvel at what nature offers. Better days are just around the bend.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!