‘A Day of Sunshine’ *
Header Image: White-tailed Deer At Dawn
The early morning mist was light and the woods were just waking. Rude Blue Jays did their best to ensure no one slept in. Nature did not provide them with a “snooze alarm”. Over the path, drops of water rained down from an overhanging oak tree limb as a squirrel scampered to another branch as though late for her breakfast meeting. In a clearing of scattered pine trees and thick palmettos, a distant Northern Bobwhite sounded his name – “Bob WHITE”! A Red-shouldered Hawk joined the Blue Jays in letting the natural world know that a couple of two-legged interlopers were tromping around in their world and were likely up to no good.
Gazing around the tableau of damp woods, small flowers and the endless green of spreading palmetto fronds, there was a sense of being watched. He materialized just beyond a line of pine trees, barely visible above the green undergrowth. The softness of velvet covering his antlers presented a somewhat ethereal image in the filtered morning light. Was he real? The White-tailed Deer and I stared at each other for what seemed like several minutes but which was actually less than 30 seconds. I very slowly raised the camera. He allowed a few clicks before bolting away. The pulse of the day had been set and adrenaline flowed for quite some time.
Gini and I have developed a fairly set pattern of exploring Colt Creek State Park. The park is a patch of central Florida diversity. Lakes, creeks, swamp, open grassy areas, pine woods, hardwood forest – all fairly accessible, much of it by vehicle. Our pattern may change a bit depending on time of year or time of day, but we have a few favorite spots which usually seem to provide something interesting. Today was filled with interesting stuff!
Summer birding can be a bit light due to many species caring for babies or some well into their annual molting cycle, at which time they have limited ability to fly and therefore try to remain inconspicuous. We were happy to spot a few birds and were even happier to find plenty of other subjects which attracted our attention.
All of that habitat diversity I mentioned above attracts a diverse amount of life forms. Even in the middle of summer, flowers of some sort are in bloom which provide food and shelter for a myriad of insect species. Butterflies, moths, wasps, bees, flies, spiders, beetles and unknown small things abound. In addition to the birds, throw in the occasional deer, raccoon, otter, alligator, turtle or snake – and one can understand why we return to this place so often.
Another not-so-small delight is sharing a quiet breakfast with my best friend under a pine-scented canopy while listening to a Northern Parula warbler serenade. This morning, Gini brought fresh Florida tangerines, cherries and boiled eggs.
Recent rains made some of our regular paths too wet to explore. I had the idea to head down one anyway. After all, wet feet will eventually dry out. A few yards down the path, a Water Moccasin slithered into the standing water and I decided Gini needed some company back in the car. (Mine, not the snake’s.)
Humidity and heat once again combined to make the late morning uncomfortable. No complaints. It had been a spectacular day!
A few images to illustrate the diverse nature of – Nature.
A Little Blue Heron heads across Mac Lake.
The early morning light gives a bluish tint to the clear wings of this Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta).
Gini spied a Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe) butterfly deep in the grass. We followed it until it finally perched for a brief moment and we could record its beauty.
One of the Monarch butterfly imitators, a Queen (Danaus gilippus) has her own beauty for which she can be proud.
A new insect for us! A Brown-legged Grass-carrier (Isodontia auripes) wasp uses long blades of grass to create compartments within its nest.
In addition to its long tail, the body and wing bases of the Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) is a blue-green color which helps in identification.
A marshy area provides a great potential food source for wading birds such as this Great Egret.
It is not that easy to make brown look good, but Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius) pulls it off admirably.
Scrub Palmetto (Sabal etonia). Ubiquitous in Florida. As kids, Gini and I would cut a branch, trim it of its leaves and sharpen it to a point. Perfect for a hot dog or marshmallow roasted over a campfire. Great – now I’m hungry.
Strong fliers which seem to seldom land anywhere, the Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus) is simply breathtaking.
Primarily a tropical species, the White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) is found throughout Florida and in some southern states.
Small but colorful with blue eyes and yellow and brown racing-striped thorax, a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) brightens up the landscape.
The Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) is a member of the Brushfoot family of butterflies and is one of the most common in North America. Common, maybe. Beautiful, definitely!
One of the park’s security guards kept a watchful eye on us during our visit. Red-shouldered Hawk.
We really enjoyed the peaceful location, astounding variety of life and, most of all, each other’s company. Hopefully, you can all find those same things near you.
*The title of today’s blog is from a poem of the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
O gift of God! O perfect day:
Whereon shall no man work, but play;
Whereon it is enough for me,
Not to be doing, but to be!
Through every fibre of my brain,
Through every nerve, through every vein,
I feel the electric thrill, the touch
Of life, that seems almost too much.
(See the entire poem here: https://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_poem.php?pid=56)
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!