Header Image: Swamp Chaos
This is a follow-up to our last post about flowers. There was a tremendous outcry from a massive amount of our followers protesting the fact no bird images were included in the entry. Okay, so there was only one complaint about a post with no birds. Okay, so it wasn’t really a complaint, more of a “note”. Anyhow, our trip to Colt Creek State Park recently did provide us with more than just bouquets of blooms.
We were all “multitaskers” before that even became a thing. Even as infants, most of us could hold a parent’s little finger and smile at the same time. I distinctly remember, as a youngster, being able to walk, chew Dubble-Bubble AND blow big pink bubbles of the stuff simultaneously! One of the staples of 1950’s television was that guy on the Ed Sullivan Show (you youngsters can look that one up on the worldwide web) who would spin plates atop tall thin poles, increasing the number of plates/poles as a nation collectively held its breath knowing at some point there would be crashing and breaking. Now, THAT was multitasking!
Don’t get Gini started on the multitasking abilities of a mother and wife! It’s a prerequisite, no matter what it may be called.
You may have encountered “competition” birders who appear to be single-minded as they travel at break-neck speeds through field and forest checking off birds seen, heard and suspected. These athletes seem to be concentrating on nothing other than the next bird while ignoring all other flora and fauna on their path to glory.
While I used to think these high-speed birdwatchers had little appreciation for anything other than their lists (or in today’s technological world, their “app”), spending time with them has proved illuminating. To become an expert birder, they had to learn a bit about their target species. Education included where to find a bird, a bit about their biology, learning what they eat, how they mate, what their nest looks like, what is the best time of the year/day to look for them – they had to become amateur naturalists if they hoped to remain at the top of their game. In short, in their zeal to find large numbers of birds and new species, they had to learn to multitask in the natural world. Granted, most of these speedsters don’t stop to smell the roses, but they can quickly identify different habitats while at the same time scanning the area for the objects of their desire.
Gini and I are like that. Only in slow motion. With less on our agenda. Birding has been an integral part of our outdoor activities for a very long time. Not the only part, however. How could we explore an area such as Colt Creek State Park which was bursting with blooming flowers (re: our last post), rush past all those plants and only report that we saw some birds? Yes, we were excited to see a Cedar Waxwing, but we were equally excited to see the Purple Passionflower and the Blue Dasher and the Phaon Crescent and even the duckweed-camouflaged alligator.
Multitasking. In nature. Who knew we could do it?
Here are a few things other than just flowers we saw on the same day as reported in our “Spring Floral Collection”.
Just inside the park, atop a stop sign, an adult Red-shouldered Hawk gave us a look that said: “Move along. I’m hunting for breakfast here“. We did as requested.
Cattle Egrets are very common in our area and, true to their name, typically associate with herds of cattle. Originally native to Africa and Asia, they began showing up in North America in the 1950’s and are found throughout the south. Plain and white most of the year, spring breeding plumage transforms this male into quite a handsome fellow!
A Groundselbush Beetle (Trirhabda bacharidis) found on the host plant, Groundsel Tree, also called Eastern Baccharis or Sea Myrtle.
Gini practiced a little “Zen Birding” as she spotted a group of Wild Turkeys a few miles before we arrived at the park. She remarked that it had been a long time since we had seen turkeys within the park. This big Tom showed up a half mile into the park and said whatever the gobbler version is of “et voilà“!
We know spring is truly here when we start seeing some of the larger skimmer species such as this Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena).
Red-winged Blackbirds were very busy around all the water sources today involved in loud territorial spats, nest-building in the reeds and courtship behavior. This one rose above the crowd for a better view.
We are constantly amazed how nature can take plain colors such as brown and gray and produce an absolutely beautiful creature like the Dorantes longtail (Urbanus dorantes).
Gini exclaimed: “Bluebirds”! And followed immediately with: “And they have friends”! The oak tree revealed three Eastern Bluebirds and a half-dozen Cedar Waxwings. Gini’s eyes are not only beautiful, they’re darned efficient!
Bright emerald green in the pine forest understory grabs your attention. An immature male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) will retain the female coloring for two-three weeks before turning pruinose blue.
Palm Warblers are migratory in our area and are becoming scarce as they return to their northern breeding grounds. The yellow on the belly of this one indicates it is the eastern or “Yellow” sub-species. Palm Warblers west of Hudson Bay typically have light-colored bellies without yellow.
Rounding a bend in the trail, we caught a White-tailed Deer by surprise. She didn’t seem too alarmed and eased into the brush and disappeared.
Frogs were on the brunch menu as every time this Little Blue Heron stabbed at the water you could here a high-pitched “squeak” and a splash.
Just pretend you can’t see her. She knows you can but she worked so hard on that camouflage we don’t want to hurt her feelings.
By far, the most numerous butterfly species we encountered this morning was the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae). The Purple Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is one of their main host plants and was blooming profusely. This individual was visiting a Florida Hedgenettle (Stachys floridana).
Those green eyes, a white face and blue abdomen advertise the little male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is present and accounted for.
One of the few moths active in daytime is the Ornate Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix). We’re happy about that as it certainly looks good in full sun!
Although we’ll soon be seeing them everywhere, the first sightings each spring of the Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) is like finding a gold pendant you haven’t seen in a long time.
The grass beside the trail hides a large number of small creatures. It’s hard to believe we could miss such a bright thing as the Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon), but unless they move, which they do constantly (!), you would never know you almost stepped on one.
Very small and jewel-like, an Orchard Orbweaver (Leucauge argyrobapta) busily attended her weaving duties as we watched her toil against the backdrop of a massive cypress swamp.
Accomplishing several things at the same time. Multitasking. Call it what you will, once you enter Nature’s bailiwick, you just can’t help yourself.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!