Nature On Display

Header Image: Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis)

“There is no blue like that of the Bluebird.” Gini The Profound. She is right, of course. At various angles and different light, the Eastern Bluebird’s plumage can be bright, subtle, both at the same time, but always amazing to see! We watched as the blue bundle dropped from the fence post to the grass and returned with a grasshopper which immediately disappeared. I once again was guilty of overindulgence as I clicked the shutter release of the camera one too many times. Our Bluebird of Happiness flew toward the tree line and remained out of sight.

We were happily investigating the roadways, paths, fields, forests, lakes and swampy areas of one of our local patches, Colt Creek State Park. The cloudless morning in late spring presented us with quite a different experience than just a few weeks ago. Then, the air was filled with bird songs and groups of hungry warblers marauded weeds and tree limbs for protein-rich insects. Now, the woods are relatively quiet except for the clear song of Northern Cardinals and the ascending trill of the Northern Parula. A Blue Jay in the distance reminds us Florida’s year-round residents should not be ignored.

In addition to several bird species (most of which were camera-shy), there were flowers offering a colorful show, a plethora of insects (especially dragonflies) and even a few mammals and reptiles skulking about. We drank it all in. Happily.

The scent of pine trees enveloped us as we sat in the shade, talking about family, munching freshly peeled tangerines. A Red-bellied Woodpecker above us “churred” loudly. The aroma of our citrus attracted a pair of bright Gulf Fritillaries. At treetop level, a black and white Swallow-tailed Kite displayed her aerobatic proficiency. Each step through the grass startled American Grasshoppers. Large and slim, as they flew a short distance ahead it was easy to see why they are also called Bird Grasshoppers.

The twenty-minute ride home was completed mostly in silence. Although I detected a few heavy sighs, I couldn’t tell which one of us produced them. As usual, both, I suspect.

It was such a relaxing time, I almost forgot to take any photographs today.

Almost …

Gini spotted a pair of Eastern Bluebirds on a fence and one of them hung around a bit for a few photographs. I missed the capture of a juicy grasshopper, but the bird swallowed faster than I could click!

The Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) can vary from dull brown to bright reddish-orange. It is one of our more common dragonflies.

Smaller than the saddlebags, but at least as common, is the Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Leavenworth’s Tickseed (Coreopsis leavenworthii) has small blooms but they are usually found in masses that give the appearance of a vast golden carpet covering the forest understory. This species is endemic to Florida and 12 other Coreopsis species are nearly endemic to the Sunshine State. Florida loves these plants so much the “state flower” has been designated as the entire Coreopsis genus!

Having the appearance of a small, rich tapestry the Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon) is a member of the diverse Brushfoot family of butterflies. If you have a chance to see the underside of their wings, it might remind you of stained glass art.

Gini’s acute hearing counted almost a dozen Northern Paula’s during our morning foray. My not-so-acute eyesight spotted exactly one. And he wasn’t interested in posing. At all.

For me, the Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus) is one of the most attractive butterflies in Nature.

Subtle coloration with an intricate wing pattern, the Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) may not be as vibrant as her cousin the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), but she is equally beautiful.

A fairly large skimmer, the Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis) is typically found in taller weeds near ponds and lakes. In the right light, one discovers how they received their name.

One of our local three dark-bodied skimmers, the Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) can be distinguished by its bright blue eyes and white face. (The other two are Slaty and Bar-winged Skimmer.)

Someday, I shall be apprehended for skulking around outdoor bathrooms with a camera. Until then, I hope to keep finding cool stuff like this. Research and friendly entomologists indicate it is a Red-headed Inchworm Moth (Macaria bisignata). Alternative opinions appreciated!

Extremely similar to the Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) above, a Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta) has a different face color, a characteristic open space in the hindwing “saddle” and slightly different black markings near the end of the abdomen.

If he weren’t so attractive, the Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) could almost be called flamboyant!

A new trail has been created around a small pond. The sign on the bank says “Visitor’s Spa”, but it was written in Native Alligator so I skipped the invitation.

American Alligator

The Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) is the most widely distributed hairstreak in North America. That said, I only encounter them infrequently. And have a chance to photograph them even less frequently.

American Grasshoppers (Schistocerca americana) are one of our most common grasshoppers. Their ability to fly short distances has provided them with the alternate name of American Bird Grasshopper.

A lake is nothing but a really big bird bath. This Common Ground Dove appreciates the water no matter the source.

Our morning adventure was refreshing, relaxing and exciting. We strongly recommend you try it for yourself. Nature has plenty of resources and she is happy to share!

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

20 Comments on “Nature On Display

  1. I enjoy your narrative and photos. The insect macros are great. Love that bluebird. The song of the Northern Parula reminds me of toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube.

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  2. There’s so much to enjoy here. Several things caught my attention, including the fact that your Coreopsis species as a group are your state flower. It’s the same here with bluebonnets; all six species (or seven, depending on your taxonomist) are the state flower. I laughed at your alligator photo. I just mentioned to someone this morning that when the very small ones sink down to only eyes and nosetip above water, they can look remarkably like bullfrogs.

    The Blue Dasher on the thistle is my favorite photo from the group. There’s a certain symmetry in both lines and colors that’s very attractive. On the other hand, that Halloween Pennant is a fabulous photo; they do like a nice, open perch. I see the Parula is a migrant/breeder in my area, and yet I rarely see it mentioned. Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd!

    I didn’t take the heat seriously enough at work a couple of weeks ago, and suffered for it. I’ve rounded back into shape now, and am ready to do something besides huddle in the AC on the weekend. Maybe I need a transfusion of Florida blood!

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    • I think Florida copied Texas’ idea several years ago with the state flower genus naming thing. No matter. When the whole family is beautiful, might as well show ’em off!

      The ‘gator in that image was on the bank as I approached the pond and is about eight feet long. As I circumnavigated the pond, he pivoted to keep an eye on me. What I didn’t see at first, were the other six of his friends skulking nearby.

      Although seeing the Northern Parula is great, you might hear them more often than you think. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Parula/sounds

      The heat and humidity can hammer us when we think we’re doing just fine. Take it easy out there!

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  3. You are showing us so much jaw-droppingly wonderful wildlife here, Wally, that I have just come to a somewhat sad realisation, and that is that I could never survive a visit to Florida as there would be so much excitement that it would probably be the end of me. I just wouldn’t know which way to turn – and even if I did survive, it would take me a year or two to process the millions of photos that I’d find it necessary to take. I’ll just sit at home and enjoy your fabulous offerings instead!

    All is relatively good here. Take good care. Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

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    • Thank you, Richard, for making our day better!

      Of course, you know you would do just fine in our little tropical patch. You would soon learn to prioritize and only take photographs of a perfectly perched parula or an ostentatious odonate on a twig and simply ignore the lesser subjects.

      You know, just like we do.

      🙂

      We’ll try to keep you supplied with images so you won’t have to suffer our heat and humidity. Our pleasure.

      Gini and I hope you and Lindsay have a peaceful weekend.

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  4. I am a little concerned by your images today Gini and Wally. I find myself attracted to those creepies with weird sounding names like Zebra Swallowtail and Carolina Saddlebags, or even Halloween Pennant. They are almost worth a search on Ebay for a used lens. Your Bluebird is so like our British Robin in profile that with a simple paintbrush I could change one to the other and make a name for myself with local twitchers.

    Take care with that skulking around. Our erstwhile PM was once arrested for such a misdemeanour. Luckily he was able to switch names around to avoid detection and not be called a B### Liar.

    Birds that do not cooperate when the camera appears? I have that all the time. Worry not Wally, it’s old age.

    I agree, the most Swallows I have seen is some 20,000/30,000 at evening roost with telephone wires hanging so low the birds were at eye level. Sadly those days are gone as Swallows become another victim of progress. Take care my Florida friends, and look after each other.

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    • When the birds retreat and the bugs proliferate, they are hard to ignore.

      You have encouraged my skulking. Perhaps one day I, too, can lead a nation!

      I’m not sure why the old age of birds would make them uncooperative, but it is possible.

      Progress will the the end of us all. (Hopefully, long after we are gone. Sorry, kids.)

      It is almost a weekend and things around here are superb! Thank you for your visit!

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  5. I’m glad Wally, that you were only joking about forgetting to take photographs on this trip. Although your words are wonderfully descriptive and informative, I enjoy your photos too – especially the lovely image of our state flower.

    Ed

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    • Gini would say something like me forgetting to take a picture of birds, bugs or blooms would be like forgetting to breathe. 🙂

      Thank you, Ed, for such nice comments and for paying us a visit. I’m trying to get back on some sort of schedule in blogging and visiting blogs, but I am not optimistic I’ll be successful.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As you point out, Wally, when the birds are quiet and unwilling to reveal themselves while caring for their young, there is a great deal to entertain and delight the curious naturalist. This superb series of pictures prove the point so well. Odenates are abundant here too, with always the chance of an unusual species in the offing – if only they will land for a minute or two. If I had to pick a favourite from an outstanding gallery of images, I think I would go for the Halloween Pennant. I can imagine that on the cover of a book. The hot, steamy Florida summer would just about do me in, but I have no doubt you are looking forward to more of it! Best wishes from Ontario. David

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    • That’s the nice thing about us “true” naturalists, David. We can be happy just standing in the great outdoors taking in whatever Mother Nature has to offer!

      Now, getting a dragon or damsel to hold still for a minute or two – that is way beyond my pay grade. I have to rely on my tried and true approach: “Better lucky than good.”

      As a native Floridian, that humidity is in my blood. Bring on the summer!

      Have a wonderful, and even chilly, weekend!

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  7. Fantastic to see the array of dragonflies and butterflies all seem so much brighter than we have but that is because they are new to my eyes. The Swallowtail is a stunner but my favourite is the Hairstreak, always a photo challenge, 4 of our hairstreaks live in trees and rarely come to ground.

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    • Thank you, Brian.

      In our area, the Rattlesnakes pay the Hairstreaks to lure the photographer into the scrub where we can be bitten and produce out-of-focus butterfly images.

      It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your post is such a cornucopia of magnificent creatures! Thank you for sharing the beautiful images of all these wondrous insects, flowers, and birds – it was certainly exciting to follow along!

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  9. Thank you and Gini so much. I could feel my shoulders drop as I wandered (and marvelled) with you. Nature is a superb artist and her galleries are beyond compare.

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    • You are most welcome, EC. We are happy to hear you felt a bit relaxed as you accompanied us.

      Each time we go out, we encounter something even more superb than the previous adventure.

      Our summer rains are beginning on schedule. More heat, more humidity – oooh, and more bugs and stuff!

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