Ups and Downs of Nature

Header Image: Prairie Warbler

Autumn. In many parts of the world, seasons are marked by distinct, often visible changes. Green in spring, white in winter, bright warm days of summer and colorful leaves in autumn. In our sub-tropical environment here in central Florida, we had to invent the calendar in order to keep up with what season we were experiencing. It is now (looking over at the wall calendar) “autumn”.

Gini and I were born and raised in Florida. Immediately after signing a marriage certificate, I bundled her into a car and whisked her out of the state in case she came to her senses and changed her mind. Second thoughts may, indeed, have entered her conscience when we arrived at our first new home in Syracuse, New York. March in Florida was already hot. March in upstate New York – stuff on the ground called “snow“. Our very first encounter.

A fresh blanket of snow in a forest was a new and amazing adventure. Small birds hopped along a branch and caused a mini blizzard. Tracks on the white forest floor told the story of who passed this way. Deer, raccoons, fox, mice. Exploring nature in this environment was actually quite similar to our efforts in Florida, albeit cooler. In addition to New York, we have been fortunate to live in Maryland, west and south Texas and three different areas of Germany. The climates and habitats differed in each but the method of exploring remained the same.

Birders are afflicted with a physical phenomenon during each spring and fall migration season. “Warbler Neck”. Constantly scanning the tops of trees for visiting birds uses muscles we don’t exercise as much during the rest of the year. Evolving from “just a birder” to becoming a more all-around observer of nature means our necks are getting an even more strenuous work-out. Now we look up high for birds and scan the ground at our feet for insects, plants and evidence of nature’s life cycles.

A recent visit to our local patch at Tenoroc Public Use Area provided a perfect example of our approach to investigating nature. Birds and insects were very active at near eye level, raptors soared high above us, flowers lured us close for a better look which resulted in discovering insects on the plants which led to finding more insects on the ground and then a hawk screamed from above and a lizard scrambled from underneath my foot and … you get the idea.

We will never be quick enough nor sufficiently observant to document all of nature’s wonders, but today was a good day. Migratory birds beginning to arrive, resident birds forming into groups in preparation for heading south, insects going about their business of survival. Enjoy it with us.

Normally, a hawk will fly away screaming as soon as we’re spotted. This Red-shouldered Hawk remained in place as if challenging us to explain our presence.

About the same size as a House Sparrow, a Common Ground Dove surveys a field from atop a gate.

Small and hyperactive describes the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. In preparation for migration, they form into groups along with other species which helps provide a bit of protection from predators.

One of the gang members the Gnatcatcher hangs around with is the Tufted Titmouse. They make a good show of being fierce and aggressive.

Male Northern Parula warblers have a distinct band separating a bright yellow throat and breast. They have two white wing bars and a lovely yellow-green patch on their back.

Don’t forget to look down. A blade of grass covered in droplets of dew is a perfect perch for a small Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus).

Remember to look up again. A flash of bright yellow in the top of a tree reveals a Prairie Warbler.

Down again. Partially hidden, the blue eyes of a Barred Yellow (Eurema daira) stare back at us.

Changing from breeding to non-breeding plumage is not always an attractive affair. This male Indigo Bunting was a bit of a surprise in this area.

An uncooperative model. Most of the time, we have to be satisfied with what’s offered. I followed this Hyacinth Glider (Miathyria marcella) for quite a while hoping for a better angle. Sigh. At least from the rear you can see the dark “saddle” spots on the hindwings and the golden wing veins.

It seems most areas we visit lately have an abundance of Spicebush Swallowtail (Pterourus troilus) butterflies. That’s okay with us! The bluish wash on the wings indicates this is a female. The male wash is more greenish.

A colorful dragon with blue eyes and striped face, the Two-striped Forceptail (Aphylla williamsoni) is always a treat to find.

That bright green could be part of the plant, or it could be the Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridans) spinning her web around a stem to form a nest. She will then produce an egg sac containing hundreds of bright orange eggs. Fairly large for a spider, the female body can reach about an inch (26 mm) in length and a total with leg span up to 2.75 inches (70 mm).

No matter where you may live on this beautiful planet, when you understand that Nature has its ups and downs, you will know exactly where to look for her treasures. Oh, don’t forget eye level. And behind you. And over there, too!

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

22 Comments on “Ups and Downs of Nature

  1. Hello Wally and Gini. Slowly your past lives emerge. Your joint apprenticeship in other parts of the USA and the World does you proud in knowing how, where and when to bird.

    You will be unsurprised to hear that our weather this week has allowed me to escape birders neck and instead go down with a bout of birders boredom. Luckily I had a couple of books to survey and a holiday flight to book in advance via TUI whilst I wait for compensation of the last.

    Meanwhile, a Least Bittern and a couple of your warblers turned up in The Shetlands. Unsurprisingly the bittern expired and the warblers went missing in search of Florida sunshine which they would not find in the 50mph winds that Ian donated.

    Such lovely colours in your bugs and birds. Enjoy.

    PS. Young Carl is enjoying Florida. He has your address for when the dollars run out.

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    • Our gadabout apprenticeship has been rewarding in so many ways. We have been so very fortunate.

      As you well know, your weather will continue to change (just listen to the local news) and there shall be at least some good days ahead of the eventual apocalypse.

      Those North American birds are so typical of tourists. They believed the travel brochures about a “Lovely Shetlands Autumn”. Reality can be so harsh.

      Post-hurricane weather here has been absolutely lovely. Mild days, low (for Florida) humidity, clear skies.

      Unfortunately for young Carl, we no longer respond to raps on our front door and won’t be available to assist him when he tries to escape the perils of Mouse World. The good news is we have left a sizable eco-friendly sack of cash on the porch should he need it.

      Fingers crossed for your improved weather and ringing conditions as we begin a brand-new week.

      All the best.

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  2. Another fine example of your photography skills and observational abilities, Wally. Nature does indeed offer us endless examples of its beauty although beauty is nothing of consequence to nature but we sure can enjoy it ourselves. Catching that Green Lynx Spider making her nest was a nice shot as were all those fine bird images.

    I spent several years of my childhood in Syracuse, my father’s hometown. I was a little young yet to take a serious interest in nature but did enjoy outdoor activities and making igloos out of pan-formed ice blocks. During those brutal winters of western New York. Developed some excellent snowball throwing skills during those formative years. Since you and Gini are both Florida born and raised, you were definitely testing her commitment to you by taking her to chilly Western New York.

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    • We appear to share an affection (?) for spiders and similar critters. Now, if I can just have the patience to develop your macro photo skill, I’ll be a happy camper!

      Gini was thrilled with all that snow! I was, too, until the second week of shoveling the stuff from the driveway and chipping ice from around the car door every morning.

      If we can weather the weather together for 54 years, I reckon our mutual commitment is in good shape. She is special and I know how lucky I am!

      Liked by 1 person

      • One of the nice things about studying and photographing insects (spiders are included with insects although not really insects) is the immense variety and one can find something new almost every time out or at least most often. I never keep a list but this summer it seemed there was somebody new in the yard most days.

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  3. You take such amazing close ups! I have a bit of Warbler neck this week with the small birds flitting around in the forest. But the weather has changed and it’s perfect hiking weather. I’m making myself stay home today to do laundry! lol Enjoy your weekend! Happy hunting…and watching!

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    • Thank you so much, Diane.

      It really has been nice out these past few mornings! The birds seem to like it, too.

      Have a great weekend!

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  4. I felt my head going through the motions whilst reading this blog post Wally – up – down – left – right – backwards – I felt quite dizzy by the end, but it gave me an excuse (not that any was needed!) to go back to the beginning and start again, once I’d recovered. Second time round, I dwelt more on your glorious images. I love the variety of subjects!

    Thank you for your earlier assurances that you’d survived Ian without any serious mishaps. I hope that all returns to comfortable stability soon.

    Sorry for the late visit. I’ve just returned from a family visit to the Isles of Scilly.

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

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    • We’re happy to provide you with “virtual” warbler neck, Richard.

      Ooohh, Scilly Sojourns posts in our future? That’s some good news!

      We hope you and Lindsay are able to catch up on rest.

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  5. I was also concerned about your well-being because of Ian and am glad to know you and Gini are safe and still able to enjoy nature’s wonders. It’s probably good that most warblers migrate, otherwise our necks would never have a chance to recover. 😊
    I prefer to live somewhere with different seasons and would miss not getting to experience snow.

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  6. That Barred Yellow is a new one for me. I don’t believe I’ve even seen a photo of its lovely self. What I have seen is a plant bent over by silk in exactly the way shown in your last photo. Now, I’m wondering if a Green Lynx spider might have been there in the past. It’s nice to imagine, anyhow. For two years, I’ve seen a single Indigo Bunting beneath my feeders, for just two days. I’ve not seen it yet this year, but I’m hopeful.

    Clearly, migration has begun. Every now and then, a shadow passes over my work, and if I’m quick enough, I can catch a glimpse of a Monarch. There’s no missing the calls of the Ospreys; they’re rolling in now, and I occasionally can catch them in the sky — if I look up!

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    • Once the Green Lynx has spun her web, it’s easier to spot the grayish tops of plants looking like large dirty cotton swabs swaying in the breeze. After eggs are deposited, she usually hangs around and pounces at any potential threat. Not dangerous, except for the heart-attack one might suffer at the surprise.

      Just before our little windstorm, birds and bugs were becoming very active everywhere. Hopefully, we’ll see that same level as we’re able to navigate our favorite paths again.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for your comprehensive report Wally. I need to get out and see what’s around us here.

    We did notice that squirrels have been scarce since the storm. And we had a wild turkey visit yesterday – probably blown off course by Ian.

    Take care!

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    • Happy to hear you didn’t have any major damage. Your squirrels must have evacuated over here as we are seeing more than normal!

      Now we’re off to see if we can find some passable roads through the forest and swamp.

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  8. That Green Lynx Spider is a great capture, a symphony of color. I saw you comment on Shoreacres where you said you guys had a little after-storm cleanup to take care of but no real damage… until the roof is inspected. Wishing you a good report on that. Keep wandering!

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  9. Firstly I hope the wildlife survived that horrendous storm.
    The idea of a sparrow sized dove is brilliant even Mrs H would let me feed those!
    The Parula is drop dead gorgeous, send one over here…..please.
    Dragonflies and butterflies in October, getting scarce around these parts now so lovely to see yours (great flight shot btw).
    Have another good week.

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    • Hey, Brian!

      Hurrican Ian altered some of Florida’s southwest coastline significantly, especially some of the barrier islands. Inland, we are still experiencing flooding any place near a river in central Florida. Nature has a way of recovering quickly from these events, and as we get out and about in the coming days, I feel certain things will appear “normal”.

      Today we have dry air and mild temperatures and around the neighborhood the birds and bugs are very active!

      Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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