Inhaling The Rain

Header Image: Great Egret

Our current summer has caused childhood memories to flood my conscience lately. It is hot. I walk barefooted to the mailbox and as I cross the concrete driveway, my pace quickens as it seems I’m walking in a frying pan. As a kid, my feet were tough enough to walk on sandspurs without ill effect. A dish of ice cream last night (yes, I know, apparently verboten at my age) conjured up long-ago Sunday drives to the dairy, where petting calves, holding our noses and a free ice cream cone made the day special. Regular rains helped maintain lake levels, irrigated crops and filled drainage ditches. Gini vividly recalls wading in those freshly filled depressions, marveling at wiggletails (mosquito larvae), chasing frogs and catching tadpoles for “show-and-tell” at school.

The smell of impending rain has not changed over time.*

Summer moves forward. The temperature is declared to be the “hottest on record”. Television no longer has a “weatherman”. Nor do they have anything called a “meteorologist” anymore. Prognosticators of sky and clouds and fronts are now all “Climate Specialists”. In Florida, it is hurricane season. Local “Climate Specialists” breathlessly advise this will be the worst storm season ever, as hurricanes are becoming more numerous and stronger than anything we have previously experienced.

Perhaps.

The rain during the night cleansed the air. Early morning skies are bright, cloudless and without haze. Wet fields glisten with myriad gossamer webs displaying thousands of minute prisms bending the rays of the sun. Treading softly on wet pathways we hear the guttural murmuring of a flock of White Ibises as they move from their nighttime roost to fields where they will forage most of the day. Northern Cardinals and Mourning Dove always seem to be the first birds we hear in the woods. A White-eyed Vireo sings its name from the underbrush. Our movement has alerted a Red-shouldered Hawk and she loudly screeches a warning to the natural world.

Leaves and grass begin to dry under the glare of the sun. Insects go about their endless tasks of eating, mating and surviving. Larger insects attempt to interrupt the survival of their smaller kin. More potential predators appear in the form of spiders, lizards, snakes, birds.

Nature. A seemingly infinite amount of activity occurs every day whether we are there to observe or not. Today, we are privileged to be there.

Here is a small sampling of our experience on this day. Wish you had been with us.

Common Gallinules are, well, common in Florida wherever there is fresh water. That means there are a LOT of gallinules around here!

It seems almost rare lately to find a Dorantes Longtail (Urbanus dorantes) with both “tails” intact. They evidently make good grabbing points for predators.

Shiny red seeds of the Balsampear (Momordica charantia) are very pretty but, unfortunately, this plant is one of those very successful invasive weeds which choke out native species.

Although not related to a chameleon, Florida’s native Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis) does have the ability to change from green to brown to help it blend in. Hard for the male to hide that strawberry-colored dewlap, though.

Rain means healthy plant growth. Healthy plants mean flowers. Flowers mean butterflies! One of our prettiest, as well as most common, is the White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae).

The raised crest of a Green Heron is the result of a Red-shouldered Hawk flying by a little too close for comfort.

An open field adjacent to a wooded area with water nearby is a great potential location to scout for dragonflies. Add a fence for perching and before you know it, you’re looking at a Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida).

Regular rain produces wet places for all sorts of creatures. We didn’t expect to see this Water Moccasin in a spot which is normally dry and grassy. Thankfully, we saw him on the road, not under our feet!

A good example of sexual dimorphism in dragonflies. The female Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) is brownish/orange with a distinctive thorax pattern, while the male exhibits its namesake coloration. Even the male thorax shows the same pattern as the female if you look closely.

Snails! We rounded a bend and scattered around were “dead” looking twigs of brush, two to three feet tall, with light-colored snails on almost every branch! We have never seen anything quite like this. We found the same phenomenon here and there for the next half mile. There were easily over a hundred snails.

Whitewashed Rabdotus (Rabdotus dealbatus) ?
Whitewashed Rabdotus (Rabdotus dealbatus) ?
Praticolella spp. ?

Flitting among green weeds and sand, a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) stands out with its bright colors.

The very small Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) mimics a wasp’s flight characteristics in the hope of thwarting predators.

One of our larger butterflies, a Spicebush Swallowtail (Pterourus troilus) is missing a “tail”, likely due to an encounter with a predator.

This female Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) glows in the morning light.

At nearly three inches, the Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) is one of our largest and most common sulphurs. This one is nectaring at a Wild Bushbean (Macroptilium lathyroides).

Small. Handsome. Fast. With racing stripes. That’s the male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

A small falcon, this female American Kestrel made quick work of her breakfast. We could not figure out what the prey was. She said it was “delicious”.

Parts of the planet are in need of rain while other areas suffer with flooding. Humans attempt to “tame” nature. Life on earth endures.

*(For the scientifically curious: the smell of rain is known as “petrichor” and the causes of that smell are “geosmins”. Have fun with your research.)

An American poet of the late 19th century captured how I feel about summer rain and nature.

Summer In The South
The Oriole sings in the greening grove
As if he were half-way waiting,
The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
Timid, and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
And the nights smell warm and piney,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
And the woods run mad with riot.

(Paul Laurence Dunbar)

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

18 Comments on “Inhaling The Rain

  1. I think I’ll write the Summer in the South in my journal today. I love the summer months and always have. I’m a Southern girl and don’t mind the heat so much. We hiked this morning and saw so many dragonflies. I should try to ID them! Enjoy your week and thanks for sharing your knowledge with all of us. Do you have a tip on how to remember it? Diane

    Like

    • Thank you very much, Diane.

      Since my memory became unreliable – a whole bunch of years ago – I invested in a computer with a better one!

      The dragons are like identifying birds. Repetition helps. Once I began photographing them, it was easier to compare differences.

      Keep enjoying your fabulous natural neighborhood!

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  2. Shame on you! We are never too old for ice cream. 🙂

    Others around us have received ‘some’ rain but we see little. Part of that is our east-west mountain range that pushes the storms to the north or south but rarely these days directly over us. All the brooks i like to photograph are dry and just a river of rocks. Hurricanes are certainly nothing to desire but the rare one that visits here in Western Massachusetts might be welcome. Lots of runoff in a hard rain on dry ground but the reservoirs and lakes hold the deluge well.
    Nice to see that Dorantes Longtail which seems a spectacular butterfly as does the White Peacock. Those two Whitewashed Rabdotus snails in the second shot seem to be in an amorous clutch. I had an experience like that a few weeks ago with snails all over the place at our local golf course turned conservation property.

    With any luck I’ll get to smell some rain one of these days. Lovely post, Wally.

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    • Our central Florida mountain range doesn’t offer much barrier to weather fronts as they scuttle to and fro across the peninsula. At this time of year, one could almost set a clock by our daily thunderstorm activity.

      Will try to send a bit your way. A brook needs water!

      For a moment, I thought you were going to tell us about your recent experience in an amorous clutch. Whew!

      Until the rains arrive, try to console yourself along life’s Rocky Road by experiencing Strawberry fields forever or perhaps simply relax with a Neapolitan neighbor.

      A banana just arrived so I gotta split.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope some nice vanilla ice cream was involved with that split. I wish it was possible to transfer weather for many reasons and not just my own. I clutch and don’t tell. 🙂

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  3. What a wonderful walk observed! I was out in the rain yesterday, out at Bolivar Flats. You are so right, there is something renewing and invigorating about rain… and more so, when we’ve had so little of it. I’ll remember petrichor – great new word.

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  4. This morning, I was gifted with the scent of rain. I woke early, wondering why the automatic sprinklers were running a day early. It was nature’s sprinkler, of course: real rain, with puddles and a bit of thunder. We’ve only had a half-inch or so, but there’s more predicted. Even better, the low last night was 78F — below 80 for the first time since July 14! And you’re right that it’s possible to smell both rain and snow before they arrive, just as it’s possible after a time offshore to smell land before sighting it.

    Anyway: your land photos are marvelous. I’ve seen only one male Roseate Skimmer, but that’s a memorable color, and I still can visualize exactly where I saw it. Those conically-shelled snails are especially beautiful. The one time I’ve seen so many was in a Galveston cemetery; they were climbing up the stones. I am wondering about your Common Gallinule. I learned to call those Common Moorhens; the Gallinules were the more brilliantly colored relatives. Apparently the taxonomists have been at it again — I need to check my sources!

    Your mention of ice cream brought to mind an old post of mine that deserves to be brought out again. I thought about giving it a new title — something like “For Wally,”– but when it appears, you’ll know which one it is!

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    • Rain! What good news! Hopefully, you’ll be getting a bit more in the coming days.

      You are correct about those taxonomists. In the 19th century, Gallinula galeata was called the “Florida Gallinule”, In the 1920’s, it was changed to Common Gallinule. In 1982, the bird was declared to be a Common Moorhen, which is also the name of the old-world species, Gallinula chloropus. Slight differences between old and new world species were given as evidence they should be separated and in 2011, the awkward little rail was re-re-invented as today’s Common Gallinule. (Dizzy yet?)

      Your more colorful relative is the Purple Gallinule, Porphyrula martinica.

      And don’t get me started on Florida’s invasive Grey-headed Swamphen
      (Porphyrio poliocephalus)!!

      My head hurts. I need ice cream …

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing your natural beauty and abundance. In a way, I was there with you, which I greatly appreciate.
    I have never been a barefoot walker, so admire you for still trying. But I have always enjoyed ice cream and will continue to do so, regardless of age. “You don’t want to die wishing you had eaten another ice cream” is a variation on “you don’t want to die wishing you had eaten another cookie,” which someone once told me. That’s excuse enough for me to indulge. 😊
    Your Green Anole is gorgeous, and the fact that it has a dewlap, just like a moose, made me smile.
    Have a lovely weekend,
    Tanja

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  6. “Man-made climate change” is the new religion followed by our secular society and by many people who have not taken the trouble to undertake thinking about or investigation of their new found belief. We have the same problem here with weather news broadcasters and commentators who are just that, presenters of information rather than experienced, qualified meteorologists. It is sad that our once trusted media are in the pay of those out to destroy western life and values. Like so many things nowadays we just need to follow the money to discover where such nonsense originates.

    At the moment we in the UK are in the middle of a dry spell of weather that is presented as more doom and gloom when it is a simple variation in weather conditions, just as the Earth has experienced for millions of years. To paraphrase your own words my friend – “A seemingly infinite amount of weather activity has occurred every day whether we were there to observe or not”.

    Lucky you in seeing that Water Moccasin. I do envy your colourful and accommodating Florida reptiles like the snakes and that anole. If I was to tell you that I have not seen a British reptile for many, many years you would hardly believe me. In fact your hair would stand on end like that heron.

    Good stuff Wally. You made a snail look interesting. Meanwhile, enjoy your weekend and whatever you do, don’t switch on the telly.

    PS. The Kestrel is Ace.

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    • I am not sufficiently acquainted with money to be able to follow it. But I’m certain you are correct. More and more, we see The Golden Rule in effect. (“Him what has the gold, makes the rules.”)

      We are old enough to know where the “off” button for that telly is located. And we are truly blessed to live in a land where nature is easy to find.

      Speaking of reptiles. There we were this morning, standing beside a stream scanning for passerines, when a v-e-r-y large alligator launched into a territorial display, arching his back out of the water, slapping his tail and, best of all, bellowing. Hearing that deep basso profundo from a few yards away is a thrilling exclamation point on any day! Even better, he was answered from upstream by another scaly beastie.

      Autumn (!) migration has begun.

      It’s a weekend! Celebrate! Go birding/ringing/et cetera!

      Like

  7. Amazing photography, Wally, which makes me all the more appreciative of the wonderful wildlife you show us.

    Whilst my greatest interest was sparked by the dragons you show (that male Roseate Skimmer is fabulous!), I was particularly attracted to your gorgeous butterflies.

    I found myself puzzled by the snails congregating on those ‘dead’ twigs. Presumably the gastropod snails must be extracting some sort of nutrition from them so I guess the twigs were not as dead as they looked?

    My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

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    • Happy Florida Friday, Sir Richard!

      Just returned from a wonderful morning of birding. Hard to believe we are beginning to see fall migrants already.

      That color on anything other than a dragonfly would be considered “gaudy” – so says my fashion expert and Commander-In-Chief.

      Apparently, the snails hatch from eggs laid in the ground and begin climbing the nearest vegetation. They eat mostly plant material but also consume algae, lichen and most anything they encounter which might be edible.

      All here is good! Gini and I hope you and Lady Lindsay have a peaceful and enjoyable weekend.

      Like

  8. “The rain comes down in a torrent sweep”

    I read this post tonight before bed. I may dream about geosmins and petrichor.

    Great blog, Wally.

    Like

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