Plan B

Anticipation. One dictionary definition describes it as “pleasurable expectation”.

As my memory cells fade into unreliability, a few still meld and conjure up examples of “pleasurable expectation”. Fishing trips. When I was very young, Dad would come home on a Friday afternoon and walk around the boat, check the level in the gas tank, put the tackle in the truck – “Want to go to Panasoffkee in the morning?”

Anticipation. Now I couldn’t sleep. Vivid thoughts of the boat sliding into the cypress tree tea-stained water, fog hugging the lake’s surface, dipping minnows from the bait bucket, the tug-tug-tug on the line, sandwiches up the creek by the spring. No sleep. Let’s go!

One would think now that I am an old man, such childish dreams of upcoming trips would fade. One would be mistaken.

An otherwise ordinary plan to visit a local fish management area to search for young birds, insects, flowers and to just enjoy a day in nature results in tossing and turning during the night. Visions of the island rookery with alligators cruising all around it, new dragonflies to discover, the aroma of pine trees in the air, purple passionflower in bloom. Let’s go!

The rising sun illuminated the small guard building where we would check in and get our permit to visit the lakes of the Mosaic Fish Management Area in south Polk County, Florida, just northeast of the community of Bowling Green. We’ve been here many times and always discover something unique.

Wait. The door is locked and no one around. A notice says “This office will be open Friday through Monday, 6:00 a.m. until Noon.” It was Friday. It was 6:20 a.m. A drive by the access roads to the lakes confirmed all the gates were locked.

So much for anticipation.

Time for:  PLAN B.

Without hesitation, Gini The One With Common Sense says: “Hardee Lakes Park is not far from here.” Let’s go!

This is our first visit to the county park this year. It’s one of our favorite spots to spend the day due to the diverse habitat surrounding four lakes. We pull past the entrance and immediately hear Sandhill Cranes trumpeting and the clear songs of Eastern Meadowlarks. Parking under tall pine trees near the shore of the lake, Gini spots a large bird flying low and landing near the lake. As I begin to wander in that direction, “It’s an owl!”. She got a terrific look at the Great Horned Owl perched in a pine tree as it was mobbed by Boat-tailed Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds. As I maneuvered to get a photograph, the big raptor took off. I managed to get the tip of her tail in focus.

It was an exciting beginning to what would be a glorious day of discovery! And I didn’t even lose any sleep thinking about it the night before.

 

One of our smallest dragonflies, the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) takes on a golden glow in the early morning sunlight. Females usually have dark wing markings while the males are more clear-winged.

Hardee Lakes Park

 Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) – Male

Hardee Lakes Park

 Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) – Female

 

With a wingspan of nearly 30 inches (76 cm), the Pileated Woodpecker is an impressive sight. The flash of black and white wings and flame red crest can be quite attention-grabbing!

Hardee Lakes Park

 

We probably saw over a hundred Four-spotted Pennants (Brachymesia gravida), one of the area’s most common dragonflies. As with many Odonata species, young males resemble females until they mature.

Hardee Lakes Park

Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) – Male

Hardee Lakes Park

Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) – Female

Hardee Lakes Park

Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida) – Immature Male

 

Complete with sporty racing stripes and cool blue abdomen, the male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is ready to “dash” after any likely-looking prey at a moment’s notice.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

A fairly large dragonfly, the immature male Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) resembles the female but is beginning to show a slight purple tint to its abdomen which will eventually turn almost neon in the near future.

Hardee Lakes Park

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) – Immature Male

Hardee Lakes Park

Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) – Female

 

Probing the bark of a pine tree for breakfast, this young male Red-bellied Woodpecker will soon display the brighter reddish-orange cap and nape of a fully mature adult.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

We will pretend to be scientific when we refer to this shiny green insect as a Halictid Bee. It just sounds so much better than Sweat Bee. (Halictidae spp.)

Hardee Lakes Park

 

A Cuban Brown Anole (Norops sagrei) surveys its kingdom.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

I stood in one spot for about 20 minutes observing and photographing near a lake shore. Turning to leave, I discovered a Purple Gallinule about 20 feet away had been observing ME!

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Orange body with golden-edged wings describe the male Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami).

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Unlike the invasive Cuban Brown Anole above, the Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) is a native resident. There was concern the invader would negatively impact the native population but recent studies suggest our Green Anole is doing okay.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Male and female very often look nothing alike in some species and dragonflies are no exception. The male Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) is dark overall while the female is lighter and displays a sporty wing pattern.

Hardee Lakes Park

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) – Male

Hardee Lakes Park

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) – Male

Hardee Lakes Park

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) – Female

 

 

A female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) looks like a beautiful green jewel shimmering along the edge of the marsh.

Hardee Lakes Park

 

Our day wouldn’t be complete, it seems lately, without finding one of our more efficient predators, a Robber Fly (Asilidae spp.). For those familiar with rock bands, you may recognize a member of “ZZ Top”.

Hardee Lakes Park

ZZ Top

 

 

Anticipation of a specific event need not turn to disappointment when that event cannot occur. Our “pleasurable expectation” was fully satisfied. “Plan B” was executed flawlessly, whether by intention or happy accident. We hope your plans, no matter what letter they may involve, include a heavy dose of anticipation and satisfaction.

 

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

 

Additional Information

Mosaic Fish Management Area

Hardee Lakes Park

24 Comments on “Plan B

  1. Your ID skill at dragonflies (and ZZTop) knows no bounds! … And the photos are amazing… they really are beautiful when your camera pauses them enough for my slow eyes to appreciate…thank you. … I’ll add both areas to my list in case we ever get to explore your county some day in the future. I wonder why the fishery area was closed? Covid?

    Sallie (FullTime-Life)

    Like

    • Thank you so much, Sallie! You are too kind.
      I think you’re right about Covid as the reason for the area to be closed. It’s a very limited operation so they may have personnel issues.
      No worries – we always have PLAN B!

      Like

  2. I know that anticipation thing. It’s just the same when there’s ringing the next morning – broken sleep and thoughts of what birds we might catch (or not catch). Will the forecast be accurate? Will it rain or blow? How many and of what species? And sometimes Plan B is abandon ship and wait for a better morning.

    Your birds may not have cooperated Wally but those dragons and damsels certainly made up for it with some super shots. I can get bird pictures (usually) but really struggle with creepy crawlies. Guess I need to practice?

    Great bloke as you are Wally you just went up in my estimation hinting that you might be a fan of ZZ Top. Otherwise how would you know that Billy Gibbons resembles a Robber Fly?

    Next you will be telling me you’re the original sharp dressed man. I think I’ll ask Gini that one.

    Like

    • Birds not cooperating is how I started shooting bugs. Bad news – they can be just as uncooperative, and they are much smaller.

      There is no danger of confusing me with a sharp dressed man. And Gini is the only girl I care about coming running!

      Raining again. Should be nice and wet to hike around in the morning!

      Like

  3. Plan B seemed to work out OK! I do see the resemblance to Mr. Top!

    Hope all is well – Stewart M – Melbourne

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  4. Anticipation is surely one of the driving forces in life. What would it be like to have nothing to look forward to? Having said that, I don’t lose sleep in advance of the next outing; if I did that would be an almost nightly event! Great sequence with the dragonflies, Wally. Continue to stay safe. The news from Florida seems ever more dire.

    Like

    • Thank you, David. Looking forward to life is the key to happiness.

      We’re as safe as we can be. As with most subjects reported, consume the “news” along with sizable grains of salt.

      Like

  5. Can I start at the beginning by commenting that your current header image is stunning, Wally!

    With so many fabulous dragons in this blog post, I found myself wondering if you’d purposely set out to turn me into a replica, colour-wise, of the Anole in your header.

    I’m wondering if there’s a lesson to be learned here, that one should always go for Plan B in preference to Plan A?!

    Please take great care and stay safe – we’re hearing that the Covid situation is getting worse in Florida.

    My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

    Like

    • No need to be jealous, Richard, as we have seen the wonders of your Natural world, much of which is available by simply stepping into your beautiful garden!

      Don’t worry about us with regard to the current plague. We take necessary precautions.

      Like

  6. Hello, it is good to have a Plan B, sounds like a great day.. Your dragonfly, woodpeckers and the lizards are all beautiful. Lovely series of photos. Enjoy your day, happy $th of July to you and yours!

    Like

    • Done, as you requested, EC!
      Gini says you’re welcome and wishes you could join us for a day to see our delights personally.

      Be well.

      Like

  7. Amazing selection of dragons (even the four legged, long tailed ones) so jealous!
    Not been getting out as we are suddenly moving home, panic stations! I also get restless, sleepless nights before a planned adventure and end up shattered by mid-afternoon with a long drive ahead, not good.

    Like

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