‘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.

An excerpt:

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!

17 Comments on “‘A Day of Sunshine’ *

  1. Those Red-shouldered Hawks can really make a racket. I’m never sure what may trigger an outburst, although courtship interaction can also be noisy. Wonderful variety of images. I have been finding mostly (usually only) White Peacocks and Zebras. Good find this morning for me was a very early Alder Flycatcher. .

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  2. “Poor attempts” to show a bit of nature, my foot. These are exquisite photos. Best of all, they recalled some images lingering in my files — without ID, because I’m lazy. I do believe I have photos of the Blue Dasher, the Pearl Crescent, and the White Peacock. I’m going to have to dig into my files and see what I can find.

    I’ve been sluggish about getting out and about; after working in the heat for the entire week, a weekend jaunt into the heat isn’t so appealing. But we have rain chances for this weekend, and the highs are only going to be around 90, so I believe I’ll catch up on chores today and find a spot to explore tomorrow. That’s one of the best things about your blog. You not only show us some treasures, you stir the impulse to head out despite conditions. Besides: “not to be doing but to be” needs to happen now and then!

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    • You are too kind, Linda, but I sure appreciate the compliment.

      One of the many positive features of the world wide web is how something like an image of a bird or flower shared by someone we don’t know can provide us with an “aha!” moment as we recognize the subject. “So, THAT’S what that is!”

      And in a nanosecond, humans become closer.

      I know what you mean about the heat! Early is the byword lately. A couple hours slogging in the humidity and it’s time for the AC. Dog days will end soon.

      Looks like old depressed Fred had a total breakdown and will not pay us a visit. You, however, might want to keep a weather eye out in case he receives therapy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fred’s off my radar. Now, I’m hoping Grace will be gracious. The store shelves already are skimpy because of transport issues, so it’s time to pick up that extra jar of peanut butter and some bottled Starbuck’s cold brew.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A great series of pictures, Wally, just reward for putting up with the heat. Zebra Swallowtail is perhaps the most striking of all the swallowtails. Black-and-white is a common combination in all taxa it seems, in myriad forms and patterns, always dramatic. Red-shouldered Hawk, common in Florida, is quite rare here, so I especially enjoyed the final image. Such a majestic bird.

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    • Thank you so much, David!

      Chasing Zebras has been a frustrating experience over the years! I’m finally learning to slow down a bit and watch their flight patterns.

      Red-shouldered Hawks fall into the category here of “too common to waste time on a photograph”. So many “bird photographers” ignore them. Thank goodness I’m not one of THOSE! 🙂

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  4. That header is so full of atmosphere, Wally, that it’s postively breathtaking.!

    Your words also seemed to be even more poetically inspired than usual – and then I find you have been reading Longfellow.

    I found myself looking at that Brown-legged Grass-carrier and wondering how that thin connection from the thorax manages to support the abdomen.

    The Red-shouldered Hawk as a finale is truly magnificent.

    Thank you for ending my day on such a delightful note.

    My very best wishes to you both – – – Richard

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    • Thank you very much, Richard.

      It is always a thrill to have eye contact with an animal such as a deer not far off the trail. No breathing for a couple of minutes and the primal urge to flee kicks in. Great start to the day!

      Happy to oblige in providing a delightful evening for you.

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  5. Hi Wally and Gini. I do agree with the sentiments of “it’s not necessarily the result, it’s the taking part that matters”. Or at least that’s what the teacher always said when our footie team lost 0-10 for the umpteenth time. Nowadays everyone must have a brilliant time, hence everyone gets a prize, worthy or not.

    A Sleepy Orange and a Horace’s Duskywing – LOL, only in Florida.

    A super quote from Longfellow there that just about sums up my own and probably those of Gini’s and your own love of life.

    Take care my pals.

    Our Carl, still waiting for his now October trip to Florida via the Urban Spaceman. I have advised Carl he should ask for his money back before the dosh is spent on rocket fuel or other stuff that will take the pilot to the moon.

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    • We appreciate your perspective, Phil.

      “Scorekeeping” has never been one of our big ambitions. Go. See. Enjoy. Lather – Rinse – Repeat.

      We hope things work out positively for Carl. Just keep whispering: “But once you DO get there, think how great it will be!”

      Good birding this morning with colorful warblers and vireos in all the trees. Well, three. Three trees.

      Cheers.

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    • G’Day, EC! Gini and I hope the new day is kind to you.

      We appreciate you taking the time to comment on our poor attempts to show a bit of Nature.

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  6. First off that header image is magical, what a capture! Not just the deer but that beautiful early morning light.
    Such an array of beautiful butterflies and throw in a couple of dragons, great stuff, really enjoyed seeing them.
    Oh, and Jays are the same the world over, they can never keep their beaks shut when you try to enter their world stealthily!

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