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!