Summer Rewind

Florida. The Sunshine State. Our climate is sub-tropical with an average annual rainfall of around 55 inches (140 cm). Mild winters range from the low 50’s F (10 C) in north Florida to the mid 60’s F (18 C) in the south. Throughout the state, average summer temperatures in the hottest month of July are in the low to mid 80’s F (29 C). High humidity levels are due to the fact that no point in Florida is more than 60 miles (96.5 km) from salt water.

The first day of autumn is scheduled for September 22. Hope it isn’t late.

“Fall Migration”. Once again, we have obtained evidence that many birds cannot read. The trip described in this post actually took place on August 18, clearly not yet “Fall”. Yet, we observed two American Redstarts, a migratory species. Also, a group of six Swallow-tailed Kites were preparing for or were actually engaged in migration as this species is typically only seen as individuals or pairs.

We are catching up a bit (“rewinding”) on previously unreported trips. This particular day (August 18) found us lounging around the house uncharacteristically late. Our objective was to scout nearby Colt Creek State Park for early fall migrants but the wise managers of the state’s natural resources have decreed no wildlife within The Sunshine State’s park system shall be officially observed by humans until the bureaucratically decent hour of 08:00.

Fine. A leisurely breakfast at the house, a relaxed ride out of town and arrival just as the state-sanctioned automatic gate at the park’s entrance swung open to welcome us to the official wild Florida. No pesky gorgeous sunrise to distract us from the state’s officially approved bits of nature.

I am not ungrateful. Just the opposite. Florida does a magnificent job managing its vast natural resources and we are very thankful to have so many opportunities to enjoy our great outdoors.

It’s just that I have so little to complain about that I need to practice on small things in case big things happen which require real complaining.

We had a wonderful day! Beautiful weather prevailed and we found lovely flowers in bloom, a plethora of pollinators attracted to said flowers, birds galore but mostly camera shy and even the aforementioned “fall migrants”. In summer.

As a bonus, we encountered two nearly simultaneous life-and-death dramas!

All before lunch time.

Swallow-tailed Kites breed in Florida and begin arriving from their South American wintering grounds about the second week of February each year. Groups begin forming for the return migration south in August and most of the birds are gone by the third week of the month. We found a half-dozen at the park’s entrance just waking, stretching, preening and waiting for the coffee to brew.

A female Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) may not have the flashy hot pink coloration of the male, but her striped thorax and golden abdomen are distinctly beautiful.

Most species of Thread-waisted Wasp (Ammophila procera) won’t sting unless severely provoked. Their relatively large size and brightly colored abdomen are usually sufficient to ward off curiosity seekers, such as yours truly.

A small member of the grass skipper family, the Whirlabout (Polites vibex) has a flight pattern which leaves little doubt how it was named.

Fast flyers, Tropical Checkered-Skippers (Pyrgus oileus) can be a blue-gray blur zipping above the grass. Although small, the black-and-white pattern of these little butterflies is beautiful.

A Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) hovered next to the flower of a Spanish Needle, extracting nectar. It flew to another blossom. ZAP! Blending in with the plant’s green foliage, a stealthy Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) captured his prize.

Scarcely six feet from the scene of the previous ambush, the strong web of a Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) spider proved too strong for a dragonfly.

Two spiders, two different hunting techniques, both successful.

One day, I’ll catch the Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe) with its wings open so we can admire the bright orange and black on its upper wings. For now, the unique pattern of the under wing is just fine.

We watched a family of two adult and two immature Northern Cardinals as they fed along a creek. The young male will soon be all red and his beak will turn orange. It appears the adult male is just completing his annual molt.

A member of the brushfoot family (Nymphalidae), the Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) may not be as brightly colored as some its relatives, but the intricate wing pattern is simply fascinating!

Small size and a habit of flying very close to the ground make it surprisingly easy to overlook another member of the brushfoot family, the Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon). Once you see one, however, you will want to see one again!

This is a bug. It might be a Coreid Bug. It might be a Helmeted Squash Bug. It is most likely a Leaf-footed Bug. Or, it could be all of the above as I think they all refer to the same thing:  Euthochtha galeator. If anyone knows, please advise. Whatever you call it, it’s pretty impressive.

Yet another member of that brushfoot family is Florida’s official state butterfly. The Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonia) is hard to miss with its long wings and stripes.

We have three species of large, dark dragonflies in our area. The females of one of them, the Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), can be a challenge to identify as her normally reddish-brown eyes turn blue and she becomes quite dull-colored overall during late maturity.

One more brushfoot. The Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) won’t be ignored. Bright orange above and large silvery-white below they look like flying stained glass windows.

Yes, it’s summer in Florida. Yes, it’s hot and humid. Yes, it rains a lot. However, we wouldn’t trade it for anything! And despite my occasional ranting, our state parks are among the best we have experienced anywhere. Thank goodness we have these magnificent oases where we can escape to enjoy Nature.

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

27 Comments on “Summer Rewind

  1. Now that I’ve made my way over here, I’m completely astonished: by the beauty of your images, by your skill with a camera, and with the wonderful presentation of these beauties. I was struck on my first quick skim of the photos by how many of these we share: the Green Lynx spider, the Gulf Fritillary, the Argiope — and of course the Cardinal. The Tropical Checkered Skipper’s one of my favorites, and quite common here.

    Now, the kites? That’s a different story. I’ve never seen one. I looked them up, and found that I live in their old Texas breeding territory: an area they pass through every year during migration. I’m going to have to educate myself, and begin looking for them. Some local experts say the Liberty/Dayton corridor is the place to spot them, and I drive right through those two towns, crossing the Trinity River in the process, every time I head to the Piney Woods.

    Like you, I’m ready for autumn. We’ve had such a beastly hot month that it’s almost been all work and no pleasure to get out and about. I have a feeling the pleasure will increase once the beneficial rains of TS Beta have done their work.

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    • First, thank you for taking the time to visit our corner of blog land. Your extremely nice comments are really appreciated!

      Our reward for putting up with a little heat and humidity is nature’s incredible and diverse offerings for us to enjoy. Sharing those offerings multiplies those rewards, as you know from your own very skilled labors.

      Hopefully, this coming spring will bring some Swallow-tailed Kites into view for you.

      I’m toasting with raised coffee mug in anticipation of “Autumn”! Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Dina. Yes, it’s tough to observe the “circle of life” through our human eyes. Nature endures, however, even if it can be humbling at times.

      Like

  2. Hello Wally. You catch me as we are packing. Face nappies as well. Seems like the world has caught the Sheep Bug and very few have immunity.

    Those kites need no description but just to look in awe. What a fabulous raptor – a little more exciting than a mundane, brown coloured hawk.

    You may be winning me over to insects, even the gruesome, ugly ones that only a mother could love.

    The Zebra Heliconian takes the prize today. Wish me luck. Manchester Airport Friday masked up and ready to go. Kalimera filos. Yassou Gini.

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    • The kites are definitely crowd-pleasers! We look forward to their return in February.

      Gini and I hope you and Sue have a fantastic time in Greece. Don’t forget to come back.

      Kaló taxídi!

      Like

  3. Hello Wally. You catch me as we are packing. Face nappies as well. Seems like the world has caught the Sheep Bug and very few have immunity.

    Those kites need no description but just to look in awe. What a fabulous raptor – a little more exciting than a mundane, brown coloured hawk.

    You may be winning me over to insects, even the gruesome, ugly ones that only a mother could love.

    The Zebra Heliconian takes the prize today. Wish me luck. Manchester Airport Friday masked up and ready to go. Kalimera filos.

    Like

  4. Another wonderful blog entry, Wally – full of information and great photos!

    I’ve been caught out (literally) by the Florida State Park hours too. But I agree that we overall we have an outstanding state park system. One way we’ve gotten around the 8am opening is to stay inside the parks. We’ve found several with nice cabins. Maybe we’ll try that again when this whole pandemic thing calms down.

    Ed

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  5. Hello Wally, what a wonderful variety of photos. The Swallow-tailed Kite images are just awesome.
    Beautiful captures of the butterflies, moths and the dragonflies. Wonderful post. Take care, enjoy your day!

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  6. This post is as near a perfect mix for me as you could possible get, Wally! Dragonflies, butterflies, a (late) moth, and those Swallow-tailed Kites, The bug is somewhat intriguing too!

    I reckon I could cope with your climate for such rewards, but there’s no chance that Lindsay could manage – she doesn’t do heat!

    Take great care – – – Richard

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    • How very kind of you, Richard. We certainly appreciate you putting up with our inconsistent blogging efforts!

      No problem on the heat. We do it so you don’t have to.

      Gini and I send our very best wishes to you and the very cool Lindsay.

      Like

  7. You see so much on your outings and capture all so beautifully. I have never seen the Swallow-tailed Kite perched, and usually they’re solitary. It’s nice to see other angles of this stunning bird. One of my favorite of the Kites! Super excited to see the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. I hope to have a chance one day, but may have to travel for that. I’m with you on Fall–please be on time, we’re melting here! LOL

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  8. A plethora of pretty pictures punctuating this post, Wally. (Why couldn’t you be Peter?). I am especially drawn to the Swallow-tailed Kites, which I last saw in Panama in April of pre-pandemic 2019, migrating in the opposite direction to your birds. They were streaming north, literally by the hundreds, and a more magnificent sight you could scarcely imagine. We have a few indifferent pictures to remind us of the spectacle, but the images tattooed on my brain will endure in vivid detail until I take my last breath.

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    • Thank you for your kind, and alliterative, remarks, David!

      We located a melon field two years ago and observed over 50 kites snagging dragonflies and eating them while they soared low above the field. Magic!
      Alas, the field has been fallow ever since.
      The search for a new location continues …

      Like

  9. Very interesting and engaging post. Those spider captures motivate me to more closely examine those innocent-looking Bidens flowers! Over the years, I have only seen one Swallow-tailed Kite flying over our local wetlands in SW Broward County, although they have been known to nest not that far away.

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    • Just slip over a continent, Stewart. They are all in Argentina now.
      We hope all is well and that Spring will bring you plenty of birding opportunities!

      Like

      • So many neat butters and dragons I wouldn’t know where to start!
        The home is coming along but we have had a lot of unforeseen expense as various things have ‘expired’!

        Like

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