Sparrows And Spiders
(Header Image: Swamp Sparrow)
Is our “patch” TOO convenient? I mean, within ten minutes we can be in the middle of some pretty decent birding territory. So it is no wonder we tend to visit it more often than other, more distant locations. As Gini said on this morning, we always see SOMETHING special out here!
Today was no different.
Central Florida has only four species of sparrow which breed within the state: Bachman’s Sparrow (Peucaea aestivalis); a Florida sub-species of Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus); House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) – an introduced old world species; and, a bird many forget is actually a sparrow, the Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus). There are three sub-species of Eastern Towhee in Florida, each having a different color iris.
As late fall arrives, so do additional species of sparrows. Our local patch, Tenoroc Fish Management Area, is blessed with abundant habitat attractive to hungry visitors from the north. We found three migratory species this morning: Swamp Sparrow, with its distinctive rusty wing patch; Savannah Sparrow, crisp streaks and yellow lores; and Vesper Sparrow, white eye ring and longish tail bordered in white (obvious in flight).
Florida’s weather is not just attractive for tourists wanting to escape frigid temperatures and snow shovels. Insects are able to thrive here most of the year. Which is why we are blessed with such a variety of avian migrants, many of which overwinter if the air doesn’t get too cold.
Gini spotted “something” in the field. It appeared the tops of a couple of dried woody-stemmed weeds had been encased in silk and drawn together. Closer examination revealed a brown-colored “pouch” in the center of the mass. Even closer examination revealed a green guardian close to the “pouch”.
The Green Lynx spider was ready to repel any would-be attackers as she protected her egg sac. That sac could contain as many as 600 eggs, with about 200 being average. When the time is right, she will rip the top from the sac and hundreds of new spiderlings will emerge. They will remain in the enclosed “webbing” for two to four weeks and then they’re on their own.
Green Lynx spiders (Peucetia viridans) are common throughout the southern United States from coast to coast, Mexico, Central America and the West Indies. During this particular morning, we spotted at least a dozen of these enclosed egg sacs, each with Mama Spider ready to eat us. (Well, that’s a bit dramatic.)
Our trip today was somewhat shorter than normal and we found not only sparrows and spiders, but also a falcon, a preening ground dove, the bluebird of happiness, a marsh marauder, a hanging dragon and a more sinister scaly beast at the creek!
A beautiful day, a gorgeous companion and the infinite diversity of Nature displayed in all its glory!
Life. Is. Good.
A pair of American Kestrels circled over an open grassy field for a moment and the female came close enough for a picture. These are North America’s smallest falcons.
True to its name, the Common Ground Dove spends a lot of time, well – on the ground. Once in awhile, though, a tree branch is a great place to rest and clean one’s feathers. Preening offers us a good chance to view the rich reddish-brown underside of this little dove’s wings.
Brown crown, gray neck and breast, whitish throat, yellow behind the bill and rusty wings help identify a Swamp Sparrow. Habitat helps, too. They are typically found low in the brush near water.
At the south end of a large open field, we can usually find a few Eastern Bluebirds. Today was no exception and one even perched close enough even I could get its picture. Now, if I can just train them to perch on tree limbs instead of wires.
One of our regular winter migrants used to be called a Marsh Hawk, due to its preferred hunting area. Bird-naming-bureaucrats with omnipotent powers decided one day that this beautiful raptor should henceforth be called a Northern Harrier. Splendid to watch, no matter what she’s called.
Once Gini found the first Green Lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) nursery, they seemed to be everywhere. Below are images of egg sacs protected by that fiercest of sentinels – MOTHER!
The handsome Savannah Sparrow prefers drier habitat than his Swamp cousin. Brown above, light below, crisp streaks and usually a yellow patch in front of the eye.
At first glance, the Vesper Sparrow appears similar to the Savannah. A white eye ring helps identify it along with white outer tail feathers which are visible in flight. Also, the Vesper lacks the yellow around the eye which the Savannah sports.
Odonata activity has slowed down as a series of cold fronts recently moved through the state. We were a bit surprised to encounter a Blue-faced Darner (Coryphaeschna adnexa) just hanging around.
“That creek looks so inviting”, Gini sighed. “Wouldn’t it be great to kick off our shoes and wade in that clear water?” I seldom disagree with my bride – for health reasons. This time, however, I suggested she glance to the left just a bit. “Oh. Never mind.”
We had a fantastic morning ferreting out sparrows and marveling at the Green Lynx spider’s life cycle playing out right before our eyes. Breakfast was but a memory and now it was time for a treat to take home. Cuban sandwiches and Spanish bean soup. Yum!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!