Spring In Our Step

(Header Image: American Alligator) 

(NOTE: We apologize for being away the past few weeks. Computers apparently have a limited life span. Ours exceeded that limit. It took longer than expected to get up and running again. We are back. Rejoice.)  

I married well. Not only is my wife talented, intelligent, compassionate, possessed with an uncommon amount of common sense and the most beautiful woman I have ever seen – she is not squeamish. (Remind me to tell you about when she was young and purposely squirted fish blood on her brother’s new girlfriend.) She is a lady, she exudes “class”, she is a role model for girls and women of all ages. She is not, however, a “girly girl”.  

Therefore, it was not surprising following a rest stop at the state park, to hear her calmly announce: “There’s a really cool spider on the door handle.” A lesser person may have shrieked and frightened a potential photographic subject. The next several minutes were spent trying to focus on a tiny jumping spider who was more interested in challenging me than in posing. 

Spring in Florida is an all-too-brief affair. One day everything is brown as our “winter” fades and without warning trees become green overnight and flowers are scattered across the landscape. Migratory birds check their smart phone calendar and realize they should be in Canada or Pennsylvania building nests and our woods become less busy. Soon, our “wet” season will begin with rolling afternoon thunderstorms.  

This day, we celebrate Spring! 

There are good reasons we enjoy visiting Colt Creek State Park. It is on the edge of the Green Swamp, boasts a fairly diverse array of habitats, is not too busy during the week and offers our three favorite diversions: birds, blooms and bugs. Did I mention it is only 20 minutes from the house? 

“It’s so quiet.” Gini’s understatement while we enjoyed a late breakfast under the pine trees highlighted yet another good reason to be here. 

Our morning was filled with whiplash moments as all the birds seemed to be in a hurry. We patiently stalked dragons, damsels and butterflies in the grass and played the “what’s that flower?” game. Noon arrived rudely.  

Although we left the park and its wonders behind, the Spring in our step, and our soul, has remained. Memories are wonderful gifts which can be re-opened time and time again. 

Oh. I almost forgot. We took some pictures for you. 

The Great Crested Flycatcher has returned from wintering in South America and will breed and spend the summer with us. This was likely a male as he was singing almost constantly. 

A quick snapshot produced a poor image of a Swallow-tailed Kite, but decided to include it here since he’s carrying a lizard breakfast back to his mate sitting on a nest in some tall tree nearby. 

For a butterfly without much color, the Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) is quite attractive. 

I suppose it was mean to photograph this Eastern Meadowlark before she had a chance to fix her hair and have coffee, but that’s just the kind of person I am. 

A white face, “racing stripes” on the thorax and black and yellow stripes along the abdomen help identify this small member of the skimmer family of dragonflies as a female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). 

This is probably the first or second instar nymph of the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera). The nymphs are almost all black and in the early stages range from 0.4-0.6 inches (10-15 mm). Adults are bright yellow and orange and are 2-3 inches (6-8 cm) in length. 

Despite its common name, the Mexican Pricklypoppy (Argemone mexicana L.) is native to Florida and can be found in most states in the eastern United States. It looks like a thistle and its spiny leaves will leave a mark if you try to pick one of its gorgeous blossoms. “A picture is worth a box of band-aids.”  

The Southern Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata) is, unfortunately, often mistaken for the venomous Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus), which can appear similar when immature.  

Gini The Brave found this little one on the handle to the restroom. It may be a Gray Wall Jumping Spider (Menemerus bivittatus). Less than half an inch (10 mm) long, it moved to face me no matter at what angle I approached. Any help with identification would be welcome! 

Here are two different stages in development of a male Little Blue Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax minuscula), one of North America’s smallest dragonflies at around one inch in length (26 mm). When mature, the male will have a blue thorax and abdomen. 

Along most paths around water was a profusion of Narrowleaf Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium). The blooms are really small but in places it formed a carpet of blue that was incredibly beautiful! 

A bright spot in any day is spotting a Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina). 

While chasing a damselfly, this Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon) landed in front of me. Another example of nature providing unbelievable beauty in a small package. Its wingspan is only about an inch wide (3 cm). 

One of the few moths in our area which is active in the daytime is the Ornate Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix). We are happy it chooses to be up and around when we are!

That damselfly I was chasing above? It was a male Rambur’s Forktail (Ischnura ramburii).  

A long reed, a bit of shade, peace and quiet. The formula for a nice nap. We hope to see these little Green Treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) on our next visit. 

Spring in Florida may be brief but we certainly enjoy all it has to offer! More springtime birds, blooms and bugs on the way. Find some where you live! 

(Please be patient while we attempt to catch up on visiting blogs and responding to queries. The new computer is fast – I, alas, am not.) 

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit! 

20 Comments on “Spring In Our Step

  1. I nearly missed this one Wally, as Lindsay and I have spent the second half of the month on a visit to the Scottish Outer Hebrides – I’m delighted that I found it! A wonderful array of subjects including your fabulous dragons and damsels – some of which look familiarly similar to our own and others that look as if the originated on another planet!

    I hope that you’ll understand that this is a brief note as I have got one heck of a lot of catching up to do, including well-over 5000 photos to work through!

    Best wishes to you both – – – Richard

    Like

    • Thank you, Richard, for taking the time to catch up with us! It is very good news to hear you two broke away for a Hebrides trip!

      We are looking forward to one or two images out of the 5,000 (!) as evidence you were actually there. 🙂

      Both of us are well and hope you and Lindsay are able to rest sufficiently after your adventure.

      Like

  2. I am not quite sure why, Wally, but I have ceased getting emails about new posts. I have not changed any settings (not wittingly anyway), but I will re-subscribe just to be sure. I chuckled at your comment about you and the Exalted One never discussing for a moment paying a visit to Disney, the casino or the local roller derby! Where could you ever find a better show than the one you are bringing us right here? More of the same, please.

    Like

    • Sorry to hear you’re having issues with notifications. We were without a computer for almost six weeks. Perhaps something in our re-booting has caused a problem? Let me know if it isn’t resolved at the next blog publication and we’ll try to troubleshoot.

      Yes, we are indeed blessed with “the greatest show on earth”, brought to us by Mother Nature!

      More of the same on the way.

      Like

  3. Great story and pictures – being timid around spiders is not a great life still where I am from, however, being aware of them is!!!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

    Like

    • Cheers, Stewart!

      Yes, my Dad used to say “You don’t need to be afraid of Rattlesnakes, but you DO need to respect them!” That applies to many things in Nature.

      Hope all is well with you.

      Like

  4. I fell in love with jumping spiders thanks to those peacock spiders from Australia that Elephant’s Child mentioned. I wrote about them, and included a couple of Jürgen Otto’s videos. The videos aren’t quite what you might expect. How about peacock spiders dancing to the BeeGees’ “Stayin’ Alive”?

    I’ve been holding a photo of what I now suspect might be a Utetheisa ornatrix in my files, dallying about sending it over the BugGuide for an ID. I may not have to. Mine certainly looks like yours, and it was out in the daytime.

    I recognized the Halloween Pennant and the Blue-Eyed Grass, but I was especially taken with the poppy. Apart from the color, it looks just like our white prickly poppy; I’d love to see one. I was surprised to learn it’s present in your part of the country. I’d assumed it was strictly a southwestern flower. Lucky you!

    It sure is nice to have you back. Your blog is edification and entertainment, all at once.

    Like

    • That peacock spider link was fun!
      The Ornate Bella Moth is a pretty one. I keep trying for a shot of it showing its pretty pink hindwings. One day ….

      Florida also has a fair distribution of the White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora). Interestingly, it is also listed by various state and university botany resources as the Bluestem Prickly Poppy and the Texas Prickly Poppy. So – you can pick your prickly poppy name but be careful picking your actual prickly poppy!

      “Edification and entertainment” – I may have to put that on a business card! (“Just call me Ed.”

      Like

  5. Once again a nice variety of wild things. We too have sort of slipped sideways from dry to wet and not much in between. Our Wounded Woodlands have been much less productive of migrants this spring as well a s winter. Not a single sparrow species for second winter in a row and very few warblers. Shockingly, no Red-eyed Vireos. They were always numerous and sometimes accompanied by Black-whiskered. Nada! I blame it on habitat degradation but also being up in Illinois for the latter part of April which is usually peak migration time down here but too early in NE Illinois. The Lubbers are doing well. I saw a palm tree trunk covered with maybe a hundred.

    Like

    • Thank you very much, Ken.

      It’s difficult to know whether it’s happenstance or something sinister (e.g., habitat loss) but our observations definitely ebb and flow. This year, we seemed to have observed more sparrows than normal. Go figure.

      Yep, the Lubber population appears to be robust around here, too.

      Have a great new week!

      Like

  6. Hello,
    It is good to see you back, I loved the photos. The Jumping Spider is cool, I love the Meadowlark, pretty flowers and the dragons and damsels. Great outing. Have a happy day and a great weekend!

    Like

    • Hi Eileen! Thank you so much for visiting today.

      That’s a pretty area and always has something beautiful to offer. We hope your weekend will be wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You’re back! Here’s me thinking the tax man caught up with you when you spent those dollars on a a new PC. I really must meet Gini- she sounds like my kind of girl. And I’m an irresistible Brit but have no money. You will enjoy my next post all about creepies, over one million of them. Uurgh !

    Who is this De Santo guy? Is he a pal of yours?

    Like

    • Good Morning, Phil!
      Thank you again for checking up on us.

      The tax man is after those with money. We are safe. We are also blessed with a smart son-in-law who builds computers.

      As impressive as your credentials most certainly are, Gini says she is bound by some sort of contract to remain with me for better or worse. She keeps muttering something about “When does the better begin?”.

      Our Florida governor appears to be an endangered species: somewhat old-fashioned American conservative. Current world deep-thinkers (e.g., a Swedish teenager) won’t let him remain in power for long.

      Hot, windy and dry doesn’t sound like Florida and we hope it changes soon!

      All the best.

      Like

  8. I too had missed seeing your posts Wally and am glad to see you back. “Computer problem” is almost redundant.

    A great series of photos. Sorry – I’m not much help with spider IDs.

    Like

  9. Welcome back. And thank you (so much) for the photographs.
    I would LOVE to see and photograph our jumping spider – the peacock spider. They are tiny critters and I have yet to see one in the wild. If you ask Captain Google he will show you just how beautiful they are.

    Like

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