Escape To The Swamp
Header Image: Carolina Redroot (Lachnanthes caroliana)
Wait. Don’t you mean “Escape FROM The Swamp”??
We review the news from around the corner and around the world. Local roads and businesses are packed with people. Drama inserts itself into our lives unexpectedly.
A dirt road leads into welcoming green pine forests where we soon encounter a small stream flowing under an old bridge. Cicadas buzz in a cacophonous wave which washes over our senses reminding us it is summer in the Natural World. In the distance, a Red-shouldered Hawk emits a cry which announces to her community that intruders are present.
No. We have escaped TO the swamp. And we are content.
The particular swamp is the Green Swamp in central Florida. It is less than a half-hour from our front door. Over 560,000 acres (226,000 hectares) consisting of pine sandhills/flatwoods, upland hardwoods, wetlands and cypress swamps. Four of Florida’s main rivers have their headwaters here: the Withlacoochee, Ocklawaha, Hillsborough and Peace. Annual rainfall within the swamp replenishes the Floridan Aquifer providing drinking water for many of the state’s inhabitants.
We began our morning getting our feet wet. Not by fording a mighty river or wading the shore of some alligator-infested lake. A small wetland is one of our favorite stops but a summer morning in Florida usually means grass heavy with dew. Wet feet. Totally worth it.
Several species of dragonflies were going about the business of survival. A pair of Least Bitterns took off from the reeds beside a pond and let us know they were NOT happy with our presence. They likely had a nest there but we couldn’t locate it. A nearby Green Heron fluttered and, I swear, smiled a bit.
A quiet clearing provided a perfect venue for Gini and I to share breakfast, thoughts and that most precious commodity – time. It truly does fly all too quickly.
The rest of our morning included more dragons, some new-to-us blooms, butterflies and birds. A highlight was spotting over two dozen wild turkeys, most of them this year’s new birds. We also observed a dozen White-tailed Deer throughout the morning. After a few hours, we somewhat reluctantly returned FROM the swamp.
Of course there are pictures.
Scarlet Skimmers (Crocothemis servilia) are not native to the United States and were likely introduced to Florida over 40 years ago. The bright all-red male is hard to miss.
A member of the grass-skipper family of butterflies, the small and very active Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) visits a Starrush Whitetop (Rhynchospora colorata).
The early light of the sun enhanced the gold highlights of a female Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami). An immature male will soon become more orange/reddish in appearance.
A Green Heron was unperturbed by our stomping around his pond’s shoreline.
One of our more common dragonflies is the Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida). The mature male will have well-defined wing spots and will be dark all over.
Roseate Skimmers (Orthemis ferruginea) are large dragons. I tried unsuccessfully to photograph a bright lavender-colored male but this female obliged nicely.
So small, I almost thought she was a wasp, but took a second glance and was happy to discover a Little Blue Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax minuscula) resting on the tip of a reed.
Not a great picture, but Wild Turkey moms herding new baby turkeys are not willing to pose for some crazy two-legged paparazzo!
We came across a male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) munching his brunch on a bridge railing.
The male Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) is one of our three all dark male skimmers. Females look completely different.
With a characteristic “zipper” in the middle of her web, the Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) is eye-catching, not only due to her beautiful colors but she’s a sizable predator!
The Green Swamp is pretty much in the middle of Florida, but someone forgot to tell the lovely Saltmarsh Morning Glory (Ipomoea sagittata). No worries. Any marsh will be just fine.
There are literally thousands of beetles in the outdoors! If only they could give us a hint as to their identification. Perhaps something like, oh, I don’t know, a letter on their back? Delta Flower Scarab Beetle (Trigonopeltastes delta).
The Carolina Redroot (Lachnanthes caroliana) likes wet places, especially if it’s in a pine forest habitat. The plants grow over three feet tall and have a hairy cluster of creamy white and yellow flowers. Many different pollinators visit the blooms. Like the Delta Flower Scarab above. And the butterflies in the header image. The common name “Redroot” is due to the color of lower stems and roots from which Native Americans and pioneers made a dye.
Trying its best to look like a Monarch, a Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) hopes the ruse is good enough to keep it from being eaten today.
Another of our all dark skimmers is the male Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena). The light colored inflorescence on the rear wings is diagnostic.
This yellow beauty is the Roundpod St. John’s-wort (Hypericum cistifolium). It grows in a single stem to three feet tall and the pretty yellow flowers bloom most of the summer.
Small and fast, this female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is looking quite tattered. The males have green eyes and a blue abdomen. Both genders have the “racing stripe yellow” thorax.
As is typical, you wander off in search of some new creature, see some nice things, but nothing different and when you return to your parked vehicle, there, perched on your window – something new and different! In this case, a handsome Obscure Grasshopper (Schistocerca obscura).
Our escape to the swamp worked wonders for our morale the rest of the day. Hopefully, you, too, have a “swamp” in your area which will offer the same sort of respite. If not, you are welcome to use ours any time!
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!