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!