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!