Now that I have your attention, hope you are all well today. We are.

About two weeks ago, we escaped went out for a bit of fresh air and found ourselves on the edge of the Green Swamp.

In a recent post, Brian at  Butterflies To Dragsters described the sensation of our local swamp perfectly:  “The rich, dank smell of bog, ditch, mud and water plants is nicer than the finest perfume.”

Never mind our two “bogs” are over a thousand miles apart, the sensation is identical. (Visit Brian’s blog to see beautiful dragons, butterflies and more.)

Florida’s Green Swamp covers a lot of area, over 560,000 acres (+226,000 Ha) in central Florida. Four major rivers begin life here from underground springs: Hillsborough, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee. Much of central Florida’s water supply comes from these rivers.

The relatively small area we explored is about 30 miles north of the house and is accessed from logging roads which can vary in condition from not-so-bad to impassable. As the landscape transforms from upland pine forest to cypress swamp, a small wetland offers ideal habitat for many insect species. Our recent visit was during the last week of April and stepping out of the vehicle was exhilarating! Not only did we experience Brian’s olfactory description but we were also overwhelmed with an extravaganza of color as myriad flowers of all sizes bloomed around us. All of this dampness and blooming attracted a host of potential pollinators.

A lazy drive took us deeper into the swamp where we enjoyed the rhythmic hammering of a Pileated Woodpecker, singing Northern Parula Warblers from every direction, Eastern Bluebirds carrying nesting material, expanses of lush green ferns and a river crossing. The Little Withlacoochee River barely flows along under an old wooden bridge and herons, egrets and hawks perch above the dark tannin-stained water.

Another perfect day.

 

The brightest dragonfly in our area is not a native. The Scarlet Skimmer  (Crocothemis servilia) was introduced near Miami in the mid-1970’s and has now become fairly common in central/south Florida.

Richloam WMA

 

Replete with racing stripes and blue eyes, the male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is ready to race away in pursuit of a bug breakfast.

Richloam WMA

 

Shimmering gold wings with a distinct pattern help identify the Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina).

Richloam WMA

 

Not a fire-breathing dragon, but we couldn’t ignore the beautiful and plentiful White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) butterfly.

Richloam WMA

Richloam WMA

 

I couldn’t manage a decent photograph but this Gray-green Clubtail (Arigomphus pallidus) is a new species for us. We’ll return soon to see if we can find a more cooperative model.

Richloam WMA

 

One of our more common dragons, often seen patrolling the edges of roads in great numbers, a Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) posed briefly.

Richloam WMA

 

Golden-edged wings and light dorsal stripe help identify a female Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami). Hard to believe the male is more colorful. Perhaps we’ll find one on the next visit.

Richloam WMA

 

Ladies’ day continued with a cooperative female Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea). Again, maybe next time we’ll spot the purple-hued male.

Richloam WMA

 

A reminder for would-be dragon hunters: remember to look up once in awhile. Something may be hunting YOU! A young Bald Eagle, thankfully, prefers a fish dinner.

Richloam WMA

 

The humble Bumble Bee (Bombus spp.) seeking nectar and spreading pollen.

Richloam WMA

 

Thistles in bloom mean bugs galore! The blooms of these prickly plants certainly attract an amazing array of insects. Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.) were the main actors in the group of thistles we found today.

Richloam WMA

 

A shiny metallic blue Mason Bee (Osmia Chalybea) found plenty to like among the purple threads.

Richloam WMA

 

Purple Thistle (Cirsium horridulum).

Richloam WMA

 

We enjoyed our hunt for dragons on the edge of the swamp. As all of us proceed through uncertain times, step outside if you’re able and marvel at what nature offers. Better days are just around the bend.

 

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

 

Additional Information

The Green Swamp

Spring Rewind

Within the gradually dimming recesses of my memory I recall a spring camping trip in Lincoln National Forest, near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. Through an accidental stroke of genius, I had pitched our tent in such a manner that, from the interior, the tent’s entrance framed a field of wildflowers, beyond which lay an impressive stand of aspen trees. Our first night was, shall we say, “memorable”. (Please do not bring up thunderstorms and bears if you speak with Gini about this trip.)

Just before sunrise, peering through the opening in the canvas, one could just make out a mule deer standing inside the tree line at the far edge of the field. Nose high, sampling the air, she took a step toward the field. A thin layer of fog hugged the tops of the wildflowers. Seemingly from nowhere, two more deer appeared by the side of the first. Each glanced left and right and furtively began grazing. I blinked. Now there were six deer munching their way into the field.

Night had turned into day. I saw it take place and yet, don’t know exactly when it occurred.

It was happening again. (Just a few weeks ago seems like another era in some alternate universe.) Near the end of March, we drove through the entrance gate of Tenoroc Public Use Area just before dawn and stopped to sign in at the headquarters. Robin, the very friendly ranger, reminded us to let him know if we saw anything special. We always do.

We parked alongside one of the many lakes to enjoy the “sunrise moment”. Just like our New Mexico experience, the vague forms and shadows in the crepuscular atmosphere gradually became trees, islands, herons and alligators. Not content with providing us with a visual extravaganza, Mother Nature added some audio. Pig frogs, a squawk from an Anhinga, a duet from calling Barred Owls, Common Gallinules mumbling near the shore and from a half-dozen spots the eerie cries of Limpkins.

The day was filled with nearly 50 species of birds, wild hogs, alligators, turtles, three species of snake, butterflies and a multitude of dragonflies. We relaxed during lunch under the shade of cypress trees while watching Roseate Spoonbills, Great Blue Herons, Glossy Ibises and Limpkins feed and preen nearby.

Yes, we are spoiled beyond reason.

We were quite fortunate to welcome Spring this year. We look forward to observing Her departure – in person.

 

It is difficult to imagine a more perfect way to begin any day than experiencing the sun rise over a tranquil lake with my best friend by my side. It doesn’t hurt that Gini is also the most beautiful woman in my universe.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Typical lake habitat includes diverse vegetation, hardwood trees, mostly deep water (over 20 feet) and adjacent marshes. Upland forests and dry/wet tracts of prairie also dot the management area’s over 7,000 acres.

Tenoroc FMA

 

An American Kestrel burst across the road before I could focus properly. My apologies, but he sure is handsome, even with my unsteady hands attempting an image.

Tenoroc FMA

 

The Limpkin is the only member of the Aramidae family. Scientists link it to rails but it looks similar to herons and ibises. Its specialized bill is designed to extract apple snails from their shells.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Looking all bright and fresh, a curious Prairie Warbler checked us out. This species breeds in our area so don’t know if it’s a native or a tourist on his way north.

Tenoroc FMA

 

The Florida Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus carinatus) employs a defensive device by “freezing” when a threat is detected. Memo to snake: Freezing in place for a bright green snake in a green tree is a good strategy. When stretched out across a white sand road — not so much.Tenoroc FMA

 

Dragon season is back! Although we can find dragonfly activity year around in central Florida, it really gets going as spring begins. A male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) held still for a quick portrait.

Tenoroc FMA

 

Mourning Dove are exceedingly common here and we (and by that, I mean “ME”) often overlook their beauty when rushing to locate more exotic species. Shame on us – uhh – me.Tenoroc FMA

 

Just beyond the Mourning Dove above, a Red-tailed Hawk was perched atop a utility pole. He launched just as I raised the camera. An impressive raptor, indeed!

Tenoroc FMA

 

“Bless you!”  After about her 15th sneeze, Gini buried her head in the tissue box. There’s a chance I found the culprit. New pine tree blooms abounded.

Tenoroc FMA

Tenoroc FMA

 

Packing his suitcase for the flight to familiar and distant breeding grounds, a Savannah Sparrow gave us one last look before his return next fall. Bon Voyage!

Tenoroc FMA

 

On our way home, the late afternoon rays of the sun bathed over a Red-shouldered Hawk as she scoured the road from her wire lookout spot above the exit gate.

Tenoroc FMA

 

 

Our day had been an exuberant celebration of welcoming Spring’s return! Little did we know we were about to be locked out of our favorite haunts during the ensuing weeks. Moral:  Make the most of today!

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

 

Additional Information

Tenoroc Public Use Area

A Look Back

As we embrace a few changes in our life, we thought we would share a few highlights from recent travels to begin our new blogging effort. Hopefully, you won’t be too bored as we sort out how things work and how we want them to look.

Your suggestions would be most welcome!

Since we are avid birders, there is a more than probable chance this “new” blogging thing will still include more than its fair share of bird images. (Today’s post will be short on birds as we wanted to highlight locations.) Our hope is to merge more information and photographs about habitat, environment, creatures other than birds and what we’ll call “local flavor” – history, cuisine, life.

Thank you for staying with us or, if you’re new here, welcome aboard!

 

Georgia

Early County

Early County

Chancey Mill Road

Early County

 

 

Texas

Attwater Prarie Chicken NWR

Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR

 

New Mexico

Bosque Del Apache

Bosque Del Apache

Bernardo Wildlife Management Area

Bosque Del Apache

Bosque Del Apache

 

Northwest Florida

Apalachicola

Apalachicola

Apalachicola Bay

Battery Park

 

Florida Gulf Coast

Greer Island

Pine Island Causeway

Fort DeSoto Park

Lower Suwannee River NWP

Aucilla River

 

Florida Atlantic Coast

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Central Florida

Myakka River State Park

Three Lakes WMA

 

 

We hope you are all well and safe. Soon, we will all be back in the great outdoors enjoying what nature has to offer.

 

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

Changes —

We are in the process of making changes to our blog.

Our Florida Journal is about to become Our Natural Places.

Please stand by. Construction in progress.