Once upon a time (stop me if you’ve heard this one), our primary consideration in planning an excursion into the Great Outdoors was limited to researching what birds might be found at a particular location. Was fall or spring migration in progress? Could we hope for wintering birds? Perhaps new bird families would offer an opportunity to observe chicks pestering parents for food or practicing flight lessons.
As time progressed, so did we. It turns out there are more things in nature than just birds! (Do NOT tell birders this. They will not accept your premise.) My Very Best Friend, who is incredibly intelligent, has always been blessed with an open mind and has avoided the curse of tunnel vision with which I am often afflicted. I might be focused on a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and how best to frame it within the camera’s viewfinder and my VBF will pipe up: “Oooh, what a pretty dragonfly she has caught!”
Evolution. Bird watchers are typically naturalists at heart. Those feathered creations live amongst majestic trees, gorgeous flowers and vast fields all of which also provide homes for hordes of other life forms. It is just not possible to ignore all that nature offers. So, we just try to embrace it.
This poor excuse for a “blog” has been changing somewhat to reflect our interests beyond birds. It is difficult to predict if that trend will continue or if there will be a step back into what has been a “comfort zone”. We’ll see.
Our local state park is 22 minutes from here and provides a pretty good example of how diverse nature can be. Colt Creek State Park contains over 5,000 acres (2,000 Ha) and consists of native long-leaf pine flatwoods, lakes, streams, open vistas, cypress domes and an incredible variety of life which calls it home.
Herewith, a small sampling of what a morning of observation recently produced.
Small clouds of gold hovered above the path along the lake. Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens) patrol the area to defend their territory.
A pair of Northern Parula tirelessly hunted for insects and delivered their bounty to hungry new mouths unseen in the nearby oak trees.
Although their nests are common around human habitation, we don’t often notice the Black and Yellow Mud Dauber (Sceliphron caementarium) in the wild. Capable of delivering a sting, they are seldom aggressive. They pack the cells of their nests with spiders, so that may be a mark in their favor for some.
Guardian of the facilities! This Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella) was perched on a door hinge to the restroom. Small but colorful.
The “calico” plumage of a Little Blue Heron lets us know she’s likely less than two years old. I interrupted her preening and you can see a feather remnant in her beak.
I sometimes think film-makers use nature to inspire their on-screen alien creations. A Leaf-footed Bug (Acanthocephala femorata) would make a good movie star!
A New Species! It’s always exciting to come across something new. Gini saw a large butterfly that turned out to be just that. At first, we thought it was one of our dark-colored swallowtail varieties. But wait – no “tails”! Turns out it is a Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) and this area is probably pretty much the southern limit of its range.
One of the few flycatcher species to breed within Florida, the Great Crested Flycatcher, has beautiful lemon-yellow, rich brown and gray plumage. Their loud, clear whistling call rings out through the forest at this time of year.
Sports model. The Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) with his racing stripe thorax and dusty blue abdomen looks ready to dash off on a moment’s notice.
Blackberries are ripening and Wild Turkeys are quick to take advantage of the harvest!
Here are a few examples of the parks floral selection, which explains why so many pollinators love it here. Us, too!
Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis).
Pale Meadowbeauty (Rhexia mariana).
Leavenworth’s Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii). (Don’t know the insect.)
Spurred Butterfly Pea (Centrosema virginianum).
Purple Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata).
We love birds and birding. We love the fact that birding opened our eyes to so much more to discover. Hopefully, you, too, have a love for Nature’s diversity and places to go to see it all.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!