Nothing Fishy Going On Here

I have laid aside business, and gone a’fishing.Izaak Walton

 

I enjoy fishing. The preparation of tackle, the anticipation of the day, the skill involved, a tug on the end of the line, the beauty of the creature in my hands, the total relaxation which comes with being outside, near the water, “in” the elements. Dad passed along this trait, whether by teaching or example or actual genetic composition. I am forever grateful to him for this precious gift. He would have enjoyed our destination on a recent trip. A fish hatchery dedicated to improving the Florida Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides).  His favorite quarry.

The hatchery is located not far from home and is surrounded by pine woods and swamp. Rectangular ponds are laid out in neat rows over almost 200 acres of cleared land and a large covered building houses carefully controlled pools where fish eggs develop before being transferred to fishing locations throughout the state. Other fish raised and studied here include catfish, bream, crappie and grass carp. A new visitors center includes an interesting aquarium and an overlook of the indoor pool area.

Naturally, with all of the emphasis on fish here, we came to watch birds. It was our first visit and we weren’t sure what to expect. (Note to self: birds are sometimes not all that active in the middle of the hottest days of summer. Go earlier next time.) Almost noon, almost 100 degrees (F), almost no birds in sight. I had the camera. There were bugs. The rest is history.

With all of the ponds in the area I was mindful of Florida’s main tourist attractions: alligators and snakes. Walking around the edges of the impoundments stirred up all sorts of insect life. As the colorful bugs settled down on the end of grass stalks, I settled down for some portraiture. It occurred to me that laying down in weeds which concealed my presence also concealed the presence of potentially curious reptiles. What was that rustling sound behind me?

A few images may serve to illustrate how magnificent Nature can be, even on a day so hot no self-respecting birds made an appearance.

 

Okay, I had to include a few birds, but these were observed on the way to the hatchery.

This Limpkin appeared in a small wet area near the road where he found an Apple Snail.

Limpkin

Limpkin

 

Roseate Spoonbills follow cattle because they know the large beasts will stir up the muddy pasture to reveal all sorts of tasty treats. The Spoonie in the second image appears to have found a tadpole or small fishy thing.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

 

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

 

Golden-winged and Needham’s Skimmers are quite similar in appearance. Here are females of both species. The Golden-winged typically has blackish legs whereas those of Needham’s are more brown. There is also a subtle difference to the thorax pattern (where the brown meets the lighter color).

Golden-winged Skimmer - Female (Libellula auripennis)

Golden-winged Skimmer – Female (Libellula auripennis)

 

Needham's Skimmer - Female (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer – Female (Libellula needhami)

 

This male Eastern Pondhawk captured a white moth and made quick work of devouring it. The time elapsed from when I first observed him with a nearly whole moth until it was completely gone is 40 seconds.

Eastern Pondhawk - Male -  (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male – (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

Eastern Pondhawk - Male -  (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male – (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk - Male -  (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male – (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

Eastern Pondhawk - Male -  (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Eastern Pondhawk – Male – (Erythemis simplicicollis)

 

You may tire of my frequent posting of pictures of the Halloween Pennant but I never get enough of seeing this beautiful dragon.

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

 

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

 

Another Eastern Pondhawk , this time a female, has secured a meal, possibly a Needham’s Skimmer. It was interesting watching other dragons trying to steal the prize, unsuccessfully.

Eastern Pondhawk - Female -  With Poss. Needham's Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk – Female – With Poss. Needham’s Skimmer

 

Eastern Pondhawk - Female -  With Poss. Needham's Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk – Female – With Poss. Needham’s Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk - Female -  With Poss. Needham's Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk – Female – With Poss. Needham’s Skimmer

 

Eastern Pondhawk - Female -  With Poss. Needham's Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk – Female – With Poss. Needham’s Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk - Female -  With Poss. Needham's Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk – Female – With Poss. Needham’s Skimmer

 

Scarlet Skimmers are so brightly colored they seem almost artificial.

 

Scarlet Skimmer - Male  (Crocothemis servilia)

Scarlet Skimmer – Male (Crocothemis servilia)

 

Many butterflies, such as the Black Swallowtail, are sexually dimorphic. It would be easy to think these are two different species instead of a male and female.

Black Swallowtail - Male(Papilio polyxenes)

Black Swallowtail – Male(Papilio polyxenes)

 

Black Swallowtail - Female (Papilio polyxenes)

Black Swallowtail – Female (Papilio polyxenes)

 

I’m learning that locating specific butterfly species involves learning what plants they most favor. The Pearl Crescent is a member of the Brushfoot family (Nymphalidae) and prefers the small plant in these images, called Fogfruit (sometimes Frogfruit), Lippia nodiflora.

*Thank you to sharp-eyed Cole Fredricks who correctly identified this as a Pearl Crescent, not a Phaon Crescent as I originally reported.

 

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

 

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

 

The handsome Blue Dasher in the first photo is “obelisking”, pointing his abdomen skyward, believed to help cool its body. The pink in the background of the second image of a Blue Dasher is a blooming Morning Glory (Ippomea sp.).

Blue Dasher - Male (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher – Male (Pachydiplax longipennis)

 

Blue Dasher - Male (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher – Male (Pachydiplax longipennis)

 

 

If you haven’t tried fishing, please consider it as a wonderful way to relax. If you find yourself doing something fishy and you are not fishing – well, quit it! If the fish aren’t biting and there are no birds around to watch, I strongly suspect Nature will provide you an alternative!

 

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

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Preserving Beauty

I am an awful person. It’s true. Perhaps, since I recognize the fact, there is hope for my eternal soul. When I visit my local birding “patch” or a wildlife preserve or city/state/national park, I thoroughly enjoy the experience for the benefits such places provide – for “ME“. I seldom give a thought to the monumental efforts it took to plan these venues, acquire the space and administer the parks, all just so I can have a good day.

Today, I thank a couple of folks I never met. Mary Ann and Ed. Holloway. These generous residents of Lakeland, Florida, USA, set up a foundation in 2010 to preserve in perpetuity (I love that word) 330 acres of land which was once used to extract phosphate from the ground. Over the years since mining operations ceased, this land now called Holloway Park has transformed into an oasis of natural beauty on the edge of a bustling city with over 100,000 inhabitants. As you exit your vehicle and gaze to the north, you think of two words: “urban sprawl”. From the south side of the park one can see commuters bustling along the toll road on their way to work. Entering from the east you travel through the heart of the city’s industrial base. Standing on a “hill” (left over from the days of mining) there is a magnificent vista to the west of two warehouse-type shopping centers with endless rows of parked cars.

However, once you wander a few yards from the parking area just at dawn, you become wrapped in a cocoon of tall trees, wildflowers, fluttering insects, singing birds, adrenaline-pumping bobcat tracks on the trail, the scream of a Bald Eagle from its nest in that tall pine — how did it get to be noon so soon?

On a recent morning at the park, we observed 33 species of birds. Not too bad for an urban location during one of the state’s hottest weeks on record. We found a few juvenile birds, lots of colorful butterflies, dragonflies, a honey bee nest, watched a Red-shouldered Hawk feed its offspring, marveled at the insect catching prowess of an adult Loggerhead Shrike, chuckled at the learning pains of an immature Shrike (more on that in a minute) and sat back to just plain enjoy a show put on by Eastern Meadowlarks all dressed in their bright yellow-and-black vests.

Here are a few images from our day to give you an idea what beautiful residents we found.

 

A Tricolored Heron is a patient hunter. Just after I took his portrait, he stabbed at the water and flew away with a small fish. It all happened too fast for me to react with the camera!

Tricolored Heron

Tricolored Heron

 

The Downy is North America’s smallest woodpecker. This male was unperturbed by my presence as he probed around and around several small trees. He found what he was looking for and proceeded to gorge on his buggy breakfast.

Downy Woodpecker - Male

Downy Woodpecker – Male

 

Blue Jays harassed this young Red-bellied Woodpecker and he was continually looking up to try and thwart their attacks. Mom and Dad showed up and drove the blue bullies away.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Juvenile)

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Juvenile)

 

Immature Northern Mockingbirds don’t yet have the “neat” appearance of the adults and sport lots of speckles on their breast. They do, however, have that ‘mocker attitude and don’t seem to be afraid of anything.

Northern Mockingbird (Immature)

Northern Mockingbird (Immature)

 

Mushrooms. Fungi. Nothing further to tell. I like ‘em.

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

 

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper is an imposing insect. Adults reach lengths up to three inches (8 cm). Their bright coloration is a warning to predators that their bodies contain a toxin which can cause sickness or death. Good thing, too (for the Lubber), since this big ‘hopper can’t fly.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)

 

This very small critter is the nymph of the American Grasshopper (also called American Bird Grasshopper). At this stage, it can be bright green, brown or yellow. Coloration may be dependent upon what it’s eating, population density of its species and/or pollution levels.

American Grasshopper Nymph (Schistocerca americana)

American Grasshopper Nymph (Schistocerca Americana)

 

One of my favorite moths is the Bella. I like it because it’s one of the few moths out and about in daylight. And it’s kinda pretty.

Bella Moth  (Utetheisa ornatrix))

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix))

 

The Spicebush Swallowtail is one of Florida’s five “black” Swallowtail species. I love that touch of “powder blue” on this big butterfly.

Spicebush Swallowtail  (Papilio troilus)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio Troilus)

 

Bright orange fluttering along the path brings attention to the Gulf Fritillary. His close relative, the Variegated Fritillary isn’t as bright but that complex design is certainly just as attractive.

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanilla)

 

Variegated Fritillary  (Euptoieta claudia)

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta Claudia)

 

Florida’s state butterfly, the Zebra (Heliconian), is always a show-stopper.

Zebra (Heliconian) - (Heliconius charitonius)

Zebra (Heliconian) – (Heliconius charitonius)

 

Not as big as the above specimens, the diminutive Sleepy Orange is still beautiful as it flits among the low-growing vegetation.

Sleepy Orange  (Abaeis nicippe)

Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

 

Horace’s Duskywing may not be as colorful as many butterflies, but the subtle markings have a beauty all their own. Many of these skipper butterflies are named for Roman poets, as is this one.

Horace's Duskywing  (Erynnis horatius)

Horace’s Duskywing (Erynnis horatius)

 

Tiger racing stripes, powder blue paint, aggressive speedster. No, not a racing car. A dragon. The Blue Dasher.

Blue Dasher  (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

 

Needham’s Skimmer can vary from a dull brown seen in immature and female dragons to the male’s bright orange. This species is very similar to the Golden-winged Skimmer.

Needham's Skimmer   (Libellula needhami)

Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami)

 

It’s hard to miss the neon lavender of the adult Roseate Skimmer. Females and immature males are much more subdued in coloration.

Roseate Skimmer - Immature  (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer – Immature (Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer - Male(Orthemis ferruginea)

Roseate Skimmer – Male(Orthemis ferruginea)

 

One of the largest skimmers in the country, the Great Blue Skimmer likes to hang around forest ponds and streams to ambush unsuspecting prey. This is a female. The male is overall blue.

Great Blue Skimmer - Female  (Libellula vibrans)

Great Blue Skimmer – Female (Libellula vibrans)

 

We watched this young Loggerhead Shrike attempt to impale a caterpillar onto a fence barb just like he saw Dad do it. He tried just laying the caterpillar on the barb, then tried to drag it across the point and almost got it right when he dragged it over the barb and then pulled upward to impale his dinner. Unfortunately, by then the caterpillar was a little too “tenderized”, broke in half and fell to the ground. Sigh. Dad makes it look so easy.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

 

 

We had a wonderful morning at Holloway Park. One of the neat things (here I go being selfish again) is that this place hasn’t yet been “discovered” and each time we’ve visited have only seen one other human visitor. The next time you’re in your favorite park, stop and give a bit of thanks that someone had enough vision to set aside such a place of beauty – just for YOU!

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

 

 

Additional Information

Holloway Park

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

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