There Are No Ordinary Days
Summer is enveloping us. Walking out the front door is like entering a huge sauna. The humidity turns clothing into a heap of sopping wet rags. Camera and binocular lenses fog over and wiping incessantly doesn’t help. Five steps from the car and perspiration runs down your face and stings your eyes.
I. Love. It.
Tenoroc Fish Management Area has become our favorite local patch. With over 7,000 acres of land and diverse habitat consisting of 23 lakes, pine flatwoods, wetlands, hardwood forest and open grassland, the area is extremely attractive to a myriad of flora and fauna species. The number of sportsmen is managed closely in order to prevent over fishing, so it never seems crowded. Opening only Friday through Monday also gives the area a chance to recover from human visitors. Did I mention it takes ten minutes for us to get there?
The moisture has been wiped from our lenses for the umpteenth time and it seems that may have done the trick. Just in time. A pair of noisy Red-shouldered Hawks are yelling at us from atop an oak tree. We normally see an adult hawk at this location and these two youngsters may be from breeding earlier this year. Most of our local raptors and many wading birds nest during the winter months. A new dragon! The Little Blue Dragonlet is tiny and it’s hard to believe we’ve never encountered one before.
Breakfast AND a show! While we munched a granola bar and a Florida tangerine, a young male Eastern Bluebird spent the entire time entertaining us by trying to figure out where all those bluebirds came from on a truck parked at the boat ramp. There was one in the side-view mirror, one in the window, one on the door, one on the windshield, one on the other side-view mirror – whew! Watching the poor thing flutter at all of the reflections made us tired. He must be exhausted!
Osprey nests with chicks were everywhere. The strange calls of Limpkins rang out across the wetlands. Dragonflies flew patrols along lake shorelines. Turtles and alligators stared from their watery comfort zones. Snake! Several species of snake call this area home. Spotting one of them usually causes me to jump from the car, lie flat in the road and snap a few quick images before following the critter into the grass in the hope of a closer image. Not this one. The unique design of a wedge-shaped head with eyes on the side, thick body and skinny tail identify a Water Moccasin. Venomous. Can be unpredictable. I am not afraid of snakes, but I do have a healthy respect for them. Despite Gini urging me to get out for a better photo, I was thankful for a l-a-r-g-e lens. She loves me so much.
As is usual, time flew by and it was almost lunch time. We had seen so many very special sights this morning!
Siblings? A pair of Red-shouldered Hawks kept screeching at us until we were well out of sight.
A new dragonfly species for us, the Little Blue Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax minuscula) is really small with a total length of about an inch (25-27 mm). We were extra lucky and found female and male at the same spot.
Our breakfast friend, an immature male Eastern Bluebird. He tried his best to make some new friends but, alas, it was not to be.
Butterflies obtain needed minerals from mud as well as other materials which they can’t get from plant nectar. That’s why it’s common to see a multitude of them gathering around a mud puddle. Here, a Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) tries to extract a bit of salt from the sand at a lake shore.
Dressed all in black with a dark face, the Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) is the only large all black skimmer in our area.
During the months of migration, American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) fly through Florida headed for South America. A few remain all winter. Florida also has a resident population listed as the Southeastern American Kestrel (Falco sparverius paulus) which breeds from mid-March through June. These non-migratory falcons are currently listed as a threatened species due primarily to loss of habitat. It was very encouraging to see this female in summer!
Water Moccasins (Agkistrodon piscivorus) average 2-4 feet (61 to 122 cm) long when mature, have “cat-eye” pupils and a wedge-shaped head with a somewhat thinner neck. Their overall appearance is “blocky” or “thick”, with head and extreme tail appearing small in proportion to the rest of the body. Their nickname is “Cottonmouth” due to the inside of their mouth being bright white. They open their mouths wide when in a defensive posture. Their venom is quite potent and consists of hemotoxins which prevent blood from clotting. FATALITIES ARE EXTREMELY RARE. If you think you’ve been bitten by any poisonous creature, seek medical help immediately. Unfortunately, each year many harmless snakes are killed needlessly because someone didn’t take the time to learn how to identify them. If you’re going outdoors where dangerous creatures live, learn what they look like! Killing a snake (or any other animal) is seldom necessary.
Our morning ended on a very bright note. A Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia) put in a brief appearance. We don’t care that he is not a native Floridian, having been introduced from the Caribbean several decades ago, probably through landscape plants. He’s simply beautiful!
It seems no matter where we explore nature, we always find something at which to marvel. From a small dragonfly to a magnificent hawk to – yes – even a poisonous reptile. A day spent in nature’s realm is never ordinary! You should go. Soon.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
Your super header image is all the more remarkable when you take into account the tiny size of that dragon, Wally. What a little beauty it is! Your dragons will always be of interest to me, but there’s a whole lot more in this post to excite too.
The sequence with the Eastern Bluebird is a delight to behold, and must have been even more amusing to see ‘in the flesh’.
Great to see the Water Moccasin. I’d love to have the opportunity to see more snakes in UK, but they seem to be in serious decline here – particularly Adders. Like others, I’m a person who has a healthy respect for venomous snakes, but happy to get closer to the safer ones. How fast is that Water Moccasin? – that’s a significant factor in influencing my level of respect!
Stay safe, and please don’t drown in a puddle of your own perspiration – or anyone else’s for that matter!
We continue to be amazed at how diverse odonata can be. The fact they are so attractive is a nice bonus!
Most references indicate the moccasin is “lethargic”. Like most wild creatures, it will flee if given a chance. Personal experience has proven them to be unpredictable in that “fleeing” thing and I have been surprised at how quick they can move. Maybe it’s just me.
Gini and I will be in more than out over the weekend due to weather. We hope you and Lindsay have a smashing weekend!
Teneroc sounds familiar, maybe hubby and I went there when we lived in Lakeland for 5 months. Love the Hawk images, the Bluebird is so silly but still beautiful. Love the dragonflies and the cool looking snake. I am glad you were not too close! Wonderful post and photos. Enjoy your day, have a happy weekend!
Thank you, Eileen. Most folks visit Tenoroc for the fishing, but is has a lot to offer us nature lover types, too.
The weekend is off to an early thunder-bumper start. Must be summer in Florida!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Definitely an extraordinary day! That Water Moccasin is awesome – I’ve never seen one in the wild.
Come on over, Ed. We have a few to spare. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person
That is one wonderful place, so close to your home. Beautiful photos and informative narrative.
Thank you, Ken. We’re pretty lucky to have several “go to” spots nearby. This one has definitely become a favorite.
I know that water droplets forming on lenses too. Here we call it rain or to be more precise, f#@?q&ing rain. And the last time I perspired was when I read my latest bank statement.
Those hawks, they are still carrying half of the nest material around their legs. Poor housekeeping marks for Mrs Hawk. Is that too PC?
You give good advice about snakes and indeed many other creatures. The number of times I have have see Joe Public kill snakes, butterflies and other insects is most disturbing- Not that we have many snakes other than politicians but I do remember a guy from our camping days show off two adders that he had stamped up to despatch. In Hawkshead , English Lakes some years ago. He helped turn me into an amateur naturalist.
Enjoy your weekend my perspiring friends. If you get too hot, crack open a beer or two and drink to absent friends.
And Gini responded: “Poor discipline marks for MISTER Hawk!”
She can PC with the best of ’em.
Lately, we start early and come home when the water tumblers are empty. Which works out to be about the time the thunderstorms start.
Here’s to friends who are not absent, but merely farther away than we would like.
I would have very much enjoyed seeing the Water Mocassin, Wally. A healthy respect for potentially dangerous creatures enables both humans and snakes to get along, and it is important to point our, as you did, that fatalities are rare. That kind of heat though would be the killer for me. I have friends who used to live in Boca Raton before they moved to North Carolina, and they basically stayed indoors during the summer months. We have had unusually hot and humid weather here, and my backyard has been my refuge. I have no desire to go much farther afield in these conditions. I can hardly wait for fall!
I totally understand that many need to be careful about exertion in extreme heat and humidity (myself included!). As a native Floridian, there may be some DNA peculiarity which helps me withstand it a bit more.
The snakes are part of the natural community, but a big Cottonmouth can get the adrenaline pumping!
Have a great weekend, David!
I can’t imagine a dragonfly smaller than the damselflies, brilliant. Liked the snake, we only have three sorts over here and only one is venomous but rarely encounter them.
Enjoy the heat our summer has left us for a few days.
The summer heat will continue whether we like it or not, so we choose to love it!
Hope to find more of those little dragonlets!
LikeLiked by 1 person
It is illegal to kill snakes here. Something I applaud. Many of our snakes are venomous (and some deadly). Just the same they are much more likely to attack if they are being threatened.
I loved travelling with you, particularly since I could avoid both the heat and the humidity. Many, many thanks.
Thank you, EC, for coming along with us today!