Colt Creek Critters
Header Image: Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)
A pine forest is welcoming in so many ways. The unique green of the trees, the scent that has become synonymous with “fresh“, the cones on the branches as well as those littering the understory, the texture of the tree bark and the incredible diversity of life which calls the forest home. No wonder we like such a venue!
Colt Creek State Park is one of our favorite places to visit for several reasons. It consists of over 5,000 acres of upland pine forest, mixed hardwood trees, swamps, cypress domes, lakes, creeks, open fields, campgrounds and over 15 miles of well-maintained trails. Okay, the fact that it’s 20 minutes from the house doesn’t hurt.
Today’s visit was short, by our standards. We usually manage to linger here for three or four hours. This time, we spent less than two hours, didn’t stray far from the main road, didn’t get any photographs of birds yet still managed to discover a smorgasbord of life!
Just after passing through the entrance gate a coyote emerged from the trees but retreated as soon as he saw us. No time to swing the camera up, doggone it. A bit further and White-tailed Deer enjoyed their breakfast alongside the road. The neighborhood watch system, a Red-shouldered Hawk, alerted the population that intruders were out and about. Although we saw plenty of birds, none were anxious to have a picture taken today. Must all be in some sort of witness protection program. No worries. Nature provides plenty of subject material!
Gini pointed out all the weeds with dragons lounging around. I had to take photos quickly and move on lest her urge to collect the colorful creatures might overwhelm her normally calm demeanor. We found a new moth species in addition to all those Odonata as well as a few spiders. All too soon, it was time to head back to the house. Next time, we have no doubt the birds will be more cooperative.
No critters were harmed in the production of this adventure to a natural place. (Well, except for a few mosquitoes, who ignored our warning shots.)
Breakfast weeds. The White-tailed Deer in the park are accustomed to humans and sometimes allow a fairly close approach.
The Bar-winged Skimmer (Libellula axilena) is one of three species of the “king” skimmer family in our area in which the male is all dark. A particular wing pattern helps identify this species. We were fortunate to find both male and female today.
Another of the “king” skimmers, a Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) is easy to identify by the white face and blue eyes of both sexes.
“Become The Branch.” A Cuban Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei) does its best to avoid detection on a sticky looking pine limb.
Some species can display a wide variation in appearance. Different shades of the Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantius) are common. The characteristic zig-zag zipper design in the middle of their web is called the stablementum.
Our new species of the day! A very small critter, the Black-bordered Lemon Moth
(Marimatha nigrofimbria) was pretty hard to miss among the green grass blades.
Speaking of tiny, the Little Blue Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax minuscula) is only about an inch (25 mm) long. This is the male.
Not too much larger than the Little Blue Dragonlet, a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) male is ready for brunch.
Going to the head of the brunch line is a richly colored female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis).
Our adventure today may have been short as measured by the clock, but it was long on satisfaction. A new species discovered, activity happening all around us, holding hands under the pine trees. Life is good.
Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!
It’s so special to get to see a new species and get a good photo of it too! My Dad always said I wake up in a new world every morning so I see things and think they are new to me! lol This is a place I have on my wish list to visit! When it cools down….SOON!
A new day, a new world. I like that!
Cooling down a bit would be most welcome.
I’d consider myself very lucky indeed to see as many dragonfly species in ne walk as you did, Wally. All nice shots and you were indeed lucky to get both genders of a couple couples. That Black-bordered Lemon Moth is a charmer. The Bar-winged Skimmer’s wings are very distinctive. All in all an excellent outing.
We really are fortunate to live in a “dragon rich” environment. I hope to find that bright moth again for some better photos.
It WAS an excellent outing!
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I was intrigued by the term “cypress dome”, and read Wikipedia’s article. Apparently we don’t have them here in Texas, in spite of extensive cypress groves. So, that’s another new observation I’ve gleaned from your blog. Thank you!
I should have added a reference for the cypress dome. My apologies!
These unique habitats can be a magnet for all sorts of life. The protection of the trees, a mix of shallow and deeper water, diverse plant life flourishing in the shade and wet and surrounded by open grass prairie. Great places to explore!
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The Cuban Anole provided an especially fetching portrait. I’ve found some sort of small, reddish-headed lizard around, but don’t have a photo of one yet. It’s basically brown, like this one, but the head and a bit of a stripe down the back are rusty-red. I’m not sure if its a youngster or a different species. Time will tell.
I didn’t know until relatively recently that there are different forms of stabilimenta. The zig-zags are large enough to be obvious, but I’ve found small round ones as well: usually in the grass. The spiders that make those seem to hang upside down beneath them. Again, more research is required. Your photo of the female Great Blue Skimmer might be my favorite among the dragonflies, but anything with the name ‘lemon’ attached is going to move to the top of my list. Is the Lemon Moth named for its color, or for a propensity to hang around citrus groves?
That anole was practicing what most living things do when a potential threat appears, hold still and blend in! Not sure what your red-headed reptile might be.
Spider webs. I keep promising myself to spend a whole morning cataloguing them. Then a bird flies by …
My guess is that moth is named for its color. Research indicates it hangs around a form of crabgrass and Saltmarsh Morning-glory.
Hope to find more of them as they are a diurnal species, like me.
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I know what happened. Even the birds and the coyotes got wind of your persona non grata label hence they cancelled you and your cameras. You really must toe the line, conform to accepted wisdom and promise to be a supporter of all that is good and modern in your country. And no more hankering after discredited ideas, disgraced ideas and shamed ex-leaders.
I like the orange legged spider and the lemon coloured moth. They are just weird and slightly spooky to someone whose spiders are mostly black, brown or grey.
It was a real shame about your shortened outing but I am sure that Gini cheered you up with coffee and buns (again).
We had another short session today with another less than ten but are we dispirited? No. We fight on for the cause.
Enjoy your weekend my Florida Friends.
Since I can no longer see my toes well enough to place them on a line and since I have proven that I am too old to change my ways, I suppose I am destined to take photographs of whatever comes my way. If nothing comes my way, I shall become a ringer.
“Weird and slightly spooky.” And here I thought we had never actually met, yet you describe me perfectly.
Gini was with me so I was, am and shall ever be cheered up, with or without coffee and buns.
Ten birds ringed is significantly more than zero. The cause appreciates your efforts.
Weekend guests! The daughter and her hubby are scheduled for a taco extravaganza!
Cheers from the lonely colonists. Send tea. The last batch got wet.
With you on the scent of a natural pine forest (not the dense, lifeless man made plantations) brings back memories of Scotland and Greece.
Loving your ode shots. Look how different your species are to ours and a 1 inch dragonfly, that I would love to see!
Thank you, Brian. We are definitely very blessed in so many ways.
That little dragonlet is pretty easy to overlook. And when it is seen, first impression is it’s a damselfly.
It’s almost a weekend! Have fun doing something!
My attention was grabbed by that fabulous header image, Wally, and held right through to the end. We have recently commented to each other about the similarities and differences between creatures on our respective sides of ‘the pond’ but, here, you have presented us with glorious images of species which are totally alien to species that we might find in UK. In the case of the dragons, it’s not only the markings on wings and abdomen that we can’t approximate to over here, but also the size. It used to be said in jest that everything in USA was bigger than it is in UK, but that Little Blue Dragonlet is a miniature gem!
Thank you for the rain we had today!
With best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard
Sometimes, Richard, stars and dragons align just right.
We’re so fortunate to have some very biologically rich environments in which we can wander about at leisure. Trying to call it a day is a real problem!
You are very welcome to the rain. Let us know if you need more.