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.

Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia) – Female
Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia) – Male

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.

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) – Female
Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) – Immature Male

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.

Fungus.

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!

24 Comments on “Escape To The Swamp

  1. Reading one of your posts always is an exercise in ‘compare and contrast.’ Often, we share a plant or a creature, like the Starrush Whitetop or the Delta Flower Scarab. In other cases, there are differences; I know St. John’s Wort, but it’s rather different from your Roundpod St. John’s Wort. What amazes me most are your photos of the dragonflies. Either you’re a whole lot stealthier than I am, or you’ve got a whomped-up lens that lets you linger a bit farther away. Those closeups are phenomenal.

    I “think” your fungus “might” be turkey tail — rather appropriate, given the presence of your turkeys. As for that thermal clothing: well. I’m thinking about last February, and remembering that I resolved to have an arctic-rated sleeping bag on hand before next winter arrives.

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    • Speaking of etymology, I discovered this afternoon that there are Cracker butterflies, and couldn’t stop laughing. I wondered if there might be a connection between those Crackers and the two-legged variety attributed to your state. It seems that, if you dig far enough back, there could be.

      The estimable Wiki tells me Cracker butterflies got their name because of the unusual way that males produce a “cracking” sound as part of their territorial displays. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, ‘Cracker’ as a derogatory term for Southerners is rooted in a verb meaning “to boast.” A cracker defined as a boaster or braggart can be found as early as 1500, rooted in the Latin crepare: “to rattle, crack, creak,” with a secondary sense of “boast of, prattle, make ado about.”

      Noisy butterflies, noisy humans. Crackers. (OK — so it’s a hot afternoon!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had to go looking for a Cracker butterfly. Cool! The Amazon is a fascinating place!

        Studying the etymology of the word “cracker” can lead one down several rabbit holes. One of which is the term has been attributed to Florida’s cowboys and is associated with the cracking sound of a whip used to herd cattle.

        Even at that, there is still “noise” involved!

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    • Thank you, Linda. Your wonderful words are really appreciated.

      I agree the fungus is Turkey Tail. We encounter so many types of fungus that I have almost given up trying to identify them. (Shame on me.)

      Yep. Whomped-up lens is the correct answer.

      I actually own some cold-weather clothing items. Last used: January 2018 for a trip to New Mexico.

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  2. Hello and good afternoon: When I pay my first visit to the Photographers Hall of Fame, I shall no doubt have little trouble finding the Wally Jones Gallery. It will be the one with the longest lineup to get in, slowed down by the protracted gawking of those who manage to enter the hallowed chamber. Every picture here leaves me grasping for superlatives, but the final shot is about as good as it gets in my book. Well done Maestro Jones.

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    • Well, you had me chuckling pretty good today, David! Thanks for the praise and by the time you visit my “Gallery”, I’ll leave word that you shall be escorted to the head of the line.

      We’ve decided the best course of action for attracting nature’s subjects is to leave the car parked in the forest and just wait for the visitors to arrive.

      Hope your weekend is as good as ours!

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  3. You are a wag Wally. As you rightly point out, birders head to a swamp while Joe Bloggs goes in the opposite direction, and long may that continue.

    In fact I just purchased from Ebay a new pair of Dunlop thermal wellies that I am bursting to try out in a suitably wet and muddy location. I don’t think there will be a problem since it has rained every day this week and our own swamps remain as mucky and murky as ever.

    That macro lens of yours had an exceptionally busy outing to good effect with nice close ups. But I don’t blame that Turkey for not hanging around. Already the Xmas goodies are appearing in our shops and I imagine that already the turkeys are feeling nervous.

    Let me know if you and Gini require any thermal clothing for the coming winter. I can get you a good deal at Ebay.

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    • Yes, so far at least, we have not had to worry too much about standing in a queue awaiting entry to our local swamps. Those wellies sound wonderful except for two details. One, “thermal” anything would be fairly useless in Florida but for two days in early January. (One exception would be a “thermal carafe” or such for coffee, the liquid of life.) Secondly, in order to actually use wellies, my understanding is I would have to transport them to the target location, retrieve them from the boot, remove a perfectly good pair of shoes, put the wellies on, reverse the process when finished walking and, most likely, have to clean the mud from them at some point.

      Even writing about it is disturbingly tiring.

      As a native Floridian, I learned that the best footwear for wading our swamplands is old tennis shoes, which, of course, have never met a tennis court, but who can argue with marketing geniuses? The old shoes don’t keep my feet dry but protect them from pokey things, don’t require changing and don’t require cleaning.

      The turkeys are somewhat safe as most potential diners in the modern world would not know what to do if handed an actual wild turkey to prepare for dinner. Although, I confess to feeling a pang for stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce while taking a photo of one.

      Thanks for the kind offer of thermal clothing for us, but see “thermal” comments above.

      Blue skies today! Off to seek out early migrants.

      Gini and I wish you a wonderful weekend!

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  4. Of course there are pictures! Thanks for sharing the non-bird fliers who fill our summers with color. The last shot of the grasshopper and reflection is neat.

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  5. Once again you have thoroughly spoiled me with those beautiful images, Wally – especially those dragons. So many different species – in name and appearance! I particularly like those fabulous blue eyes in that super macro shot of the Blue Dasher. I have a real favourite this time, however, and that is the last shot, of the grasshopper – it’s absolute perfection. How lucky was that!

    Best wishes to you both from UK, where a warm sunny day would be a much-appreciated treat.

    Stay safe – – – Richard

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    • Thank you, Richard! It was a good morning for the odes – and grasshopper!

      We would send you some warmth, but I’m afraid we have so much extra that we would overdo it and your would soon regret your wish. Instead, we’ll wish you a peaceful and happy weekend!

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  6. Great selection of critters and plants, and lovely photos. Your story’s ending with the grasshopper on your windshield made me grin – I love those surprises!

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    • Hi, Sam! Welcome and thanks for the generous comments.

      We were happy that ‘hopper found his reflection to keep him happy while I clicked away!

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    • Eileen! What very nice things to say! We certainly appreciate it.

      Gini and I were just reminiscing about the Eastern Shore, crab cakes and the fact that Maryland is where we “officially” started birding.

      Our weekend is now off to a wonderful start!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you both for sharing the beauties and wonder of ‘your’ swamp. We are in lockdown at the moment and confined home which makes it particularly welcome. And indeed essential.

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    • We really appreciate your visits so much, EC!

      Despite its potential for mischief, the internet can be such a wonderful instrument for maintaining a connection between us humans.

      Gini and I continue to pray for your well-being.

      Like

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