Willful Wander

Header Image: White-tailed Deer

Avian fall migration brings out the worst in me. Years of conditioning to be a better “birder” forces me to peruse local birding reports and to visit locations which have historically proven to be “hotspots” for our annual autumnal visitors. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, in the past few years I have discovered other interests in the natural world. I blame the inexorable advancement of the human aging process.

For whatever reason, Gini has avoided this affliction. However, don’t ask about her first sighting of a Bullock’s Oriole, which involved a primal scream, an arm flung across my chest while driving and a near-vehicle accident. That was “excitement of the moment” as opposed to my “addiction” issues.

I knew things were changing in my approach to birding when more and more time was spent driving and walking around somewhat aimlessly with no specific “birding” goal. Nature revealed heretofore unexplored worlds. The camera focused more often on insects and plants. There have even been moments when I removed the “big lens” and replaced it with a “wide-angle lens”. On purpose.

Our present-day methodology is still one of exploration, especially of new places, but our focus has shifted to observing ALL life forms within the environment. No longer do we move about with no goal in mind. Our wandering is now – willful.

Today we enjoyed a rather short but rewarding wander. Gini refers to our “new” agenda as the three “B’s”: birds, blooms and bugs. What could be better than that?

A small Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) on Alligatorflag (Thalia geniculata). (Alligatorflag is also called Fireflag and Bent-alligatorflag.)

This Wild Turkey is standing in a field enjoying the view. For reference, this adult bird is probably close to 40 inches (100 cm) tall which gives you an idea of the height of the weeds.

We’re fortunate to have a sub-tropical climate which allows us to enjoy insects such as this Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) a bit later in the year than some areas.

This model dropped by the studio for a photo session. Actually, he hitched a ride on the car and remained long enough for a picture. A new species for us, a ruggedly handsome Ridgeback Grasshopper (Spharagemon cristatum).

A curious Eastern Bluebird flew to a snag overhead. Turns out there were four more bluebirds in the branches above.

Likely an older female Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) as her eyes have turned from dull greenish to blue.

Should we photograph a butterfly or a flower? Happily, a solution was presented. Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae) at Saltmarsh Morning-glory (Ipomoea sagittata).

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos). Equally beautiful from above or below, this view of the small butterfly shows the namesake crescent near the hindwing margin.

Pretty sure at least one of those many eyes is looking at me. Small, colorful and quick dragonfly describes a male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Love in the shade. I felt like I should apologize for interrupting this pair of Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe) butterflies. Turns out, they ignored me completely.

Going birding will likely still be a part of our lives. Exploring all aspects of our natural world will continue to expand. The aimless wanderers will try to be more willful in scope.

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

32 Comments on “Willful Wander

  1. Linda beat me, not surprising at this late date and her superior vision skills, to remark about the grasshopper shot with the reflection and shadows. It certainly is remarkable and quite obliging of the little poser to alight on the car for a shoot. The Fiery Skipper is lovely and it’s always a treat to find butterflies making more butterflies.

    Apparently you suffer now from my life long affliction for being easily distracted by all nature has to offer.


    • Thank you, Steve.

      Frequently, one of the best spots to find subjects to photograph in their natural milieu is the car park. This typically occurs as one returns from hiking several miles in a forest or swamp seeking subjects to photograph in their natural milieu.

      Yes, we share the same affliction!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “The less you move, the more you see,” he said. (From the Sept. 28 NYT article about leaf miners, by Margaret Roach. (Those Weird Marks on Your Leaves? Here’s How to Decipher Them.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another wonderful post. Although I enjoyed the bugs and butterflies so long as they did not enjoy my blood, we never became close friends. Living in Florida really made me take a closer look . I can remember the names of all the birds since childhood (often doggedly refusing to change to their new ones– Sparrow Hawk, English Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, oops, Wilson’s Snipe, oops again etc). At my age, now I keep reintroducing myself to the same butterfly or dragonfly year after year– as Danny Kaye sang in The Babbitt and the Bromide: “I seem to know your face but I just can’t recall your name! Well how’ve you been old chap? You’re looking just about the same!”


    • Thanks, Ken.

      Yes, my wife keeps saying “with age comes wisdom”. Unfortunately, age brings a lot of other baggage with it! Like, forgetfulness. 🙂

      Looking forward to fall’s first Mash Hawk .. oops. I see what you mean.

      A few more limbs to pick up then get in line for scheduling a roof inspection. It is the season!


  4. Hello Wally and Gini. Just checking that you are bothy OK and not victims of Ian? My son Carl plus entourage of kids MIL, FIL, BIL and SIL are at this moment flying Virgin to be with you in Disneyland. Please if you see him, lend him some bins and pack him off to the real Florida of the three Bs. Whatever you do don’t let them in your house.

    You will be pleased to know that our Greek holiday went as planned by way of Greek hospitality, sunshine and ouzo. Now we are home where it rained all day until 1700 hours when the sun appeared.


    • Welcome home Phil and Sue!
      Happy to hear you were greeted by some refreshing Lancashire moisture after being subjected to all that Greek sun.

      We weathered yet another hurricane just fine. Lots of tree debris to clean up but no structural damages that we are aware of. Unfortunately, many of our neighbors to the southwest have been absolutely devastated.

      When your son pops by, I’ll give him some antique bins which are guaranteed to spot incredible rarities on each and every trip. We shall take your advice and prepare our American armed defense systems to prevent his actual entry into our castle. Although, since he is visiting the Disney Empire, that seems punishment enough.

      We hope to be out soon to check on swamps, forests, flooding rivers and felled trees.

      All the best. Hopefully, you brought home sufficient ouzo to weather any storms which might head your direction.


  5. I always appreciate your IDs for some of the same things I see here. I love nature and every thing about it! I hope you are both safe from the storm. We had wind and rain here today but nothing bad. We’re having some gusts right now that are stronger but I think we’ll be out of the danger by morning. Take care and stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy to hear you’re okay and safe, Diane!

      We have a lot of tree debris to clean up but no major damage. Just another day in Paradise!

      Anxious to get out as soon as it’s safe to travel some of the roads.


      • That’s the first thing we talked about when we got up this morning….waiting another day to get out. It sure is beautiful weather though and I’m anxious to see how the forest weathered the storm. Maybe tomorrow! Stay safe today!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Was relieved to see this reply to Diane, Wally – I’m away from home at the moment and find that I’ve not got your email address with me, and so was about to leave a ‘comment’ to ask if you were OK. I hope that the clearing up is not too arduous and that you can get out soon – best wishes to you both – – – – Richard


      • Thank you so much for your concern, Richard.

        We have a lot of small to medium tree limbs on the roof and in the yard but no apparent major damage. Power and water are on and no local issues for flooding, although a few miles from here is another story.

        Take care in your travels!


  6. Wally, your photos in this post are off the charts! They’re all good, but I especially like the deer, the turkey, and the grasshopper (sounds like a fable). Anyway, well done once again!


  7. These are truly beautiful images, Wally, of subject matter that is ‘ right up my street’.

    I too find myself very much down the 3Bs path, although the blooms bit has only recently started kicking in. The fourth B will always be in isolation for me as, for reasons that I won’t go into, I am unable to leave home until an hour or two after breakfast, and breakfast on the hoof is not an option for me.

    I’m not at home at the moment, so hoping this comment, working on my tablet, gets through.

    Best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard


    • Your very kind comments worked through the system just fine, Richard! Thank you.

      Since we no longer do much for breakfast other than fruit, it’s pretty easy to take along with us.

      Be safe out there. Best regard to both you and Lindsay.


  8. Hello and thanks for dropping by my blog today. Yes, I work part-time at Tenoroc, in the field office (not the welcome center). It is a great place to work and I will get out on the trails when the afternoons are cooler and my shift is over. Your photos are lovely!!


  9. I so enjoy all your post even I do not get round to commenting on most of them. The 3 “B”‘s how beautiful is that! Although I call myself a birder adn have a bird group, we all, not only enjoy going bird watching but like you enjoy ALL that nature throws our way when we are out and about. Now photographing butterflies, bugs and close ups of flowers is a great talent and your photographs of such is stunning Wally. I think the main thing is life is about having fun and adventure especially with Gini who you obviously adore. Keep going and making these wonderful reports for us all to see and admire. My regards and best wishes to both Gini and yourself.


    • Good Morning, Margaret!
      How wonderful to have you visit with us.

      We hope all is well with you in Éire today!

      Many years ago, we discovered there are two basic types of “birders”. Those who love the hobby for the sake of enjoying the birds and the environment in which they exist. And those who go birding for sport as they enjoy the competitive spirit of “keeping score”. Nothing wrong with either group, but we fell into the former.

      You are so right about the main thing, and we shall do our best to have fun and adventure with each other!

      Gini and I hope your days are filled with the 3 B’s as well as peace and joy. Take good care.


  10. How could one not pay attention to (and try to photograph) all the other wonderful beings one encounters? Your photographic skills and details are very impressive and I love your close-ups.


  11. Interesting post Wally. I have been getting a post ready on my latest trip and could almost copy and paste your first and third paragraphs! So when I get round to putting it out don’t think I’m a copy cat.

    As usual enjoyed your images.


    • I think all of us reach “enlightenment” eventually, Brian. No worries. I won’t tell anyone about your copycat tendencies.

      Thanks for visiting us!


  12. Wild Turkey!! Woohoo! I agree, enjoying all four “B’s” is a wonderful way to spend the morning. Learning the identification of plants and insects in addition to birds will be a lifetime study. I’m reminded of the observation attributed to Helen Keller that you cannot really know a thing until you know its name.


    • Thanks, Sam. It really is a beautiful world in which we live!

      I have no problem following Ms. Keller’s advice. However, at my age, “remembering” the name is another story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The only thing I might quibble with is your “Three Bs.” I think for you and Gini, it surely ought to be “Four Bs.” You forgot to add Breakfast!

    That grasshopper photo is remarkable. A reflection’s one thing, and a shadow is another, but the combination of the shadow and the reflection is just terrific. It’s like a visual Venn diagram.

    I got into a discussion last weekend about the various ‘Alligator Flags.’ I learned to call Thalia dealbata ‘Alligator Flag,’ but my discussion partner insisted that was wrong. After checking some sources, I’ve found that I would have kept within the lines if I’d called it ‘Powdery Alligator Flag.’ I’ve never come across the common names for yours: Fireflag and Bent-alligatorflag. That second name amused me. I keep imagining what a Bent-alligator Flag would look like.

    Purple and gold (or lavender and yellow) is one of my favorite autumn color combinations, and you have some fine examples. The brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges of northern trees are fine, but we have equally pleasant ways to mark the season’s change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I forgot to add that fourth “B” because when we see so much beauty early in the morning, we often forget all about Breakfast!

      The ‘hopper was quite cooperative. Looking at the image on the hood of car brought to mind a studio environment. Honest, I didn’t put the critter in the fridge and then pose him.

      USDA calls T. geniculata “bent alligator-flag”, Florida’s Institute for Systematic Botany says “alligatorflag, fireflag”, iNaturalist throws in “arrowroot” and a Florida botanist adds “alligator lily”. I grew up calling it alligator flag so I reckon that still works.

      Florida’s (and Texas’) fall colors are not necessarily found in the leaves of trees.

      Gotta go stock up on Vienna sausage and Saltines. Storm’s a brewin’.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Storm’s abrewin’ for sure. When I remembered your mention of the Green Swamp, I took another look at its location and thought, “Uh, oh.” That said, your mention of the Vienna sausage and Saltines makes clear you know how to cope with these things; you and Gini are Floridians, after all. I presume you’re out of the surge zone, so we’ll just keep hoping Ian keeps on trucking and doesn’t stall.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: