Monday, March 17, 2014

Never startle a sleeping gator!

 Off to one of my local "bug" hotspots, Ollie's Pond, in Port Charlotte, Florida for some insect photography.

Ollie's Pond Park link

 A few spring butterflies around.  Here is a Monarch (Danaus plexippus).

 Roseatte Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginnea), Florida's only pink dragonfly.

Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus).  Odd....there was no milkweed around.

Rambur's Forktail (Ischmura ramburii).

Saw this six-footer sleeping in the sun.  They usually keep an eye on anything approaching them...but this guy was sound asleep and facing away.  I was trying to get a shot of an in-flight Red-mantled Saddlebags (Tramea onusta) I got a lot closer to the gator than I should have!

Well....I got the shot!  But, I also learned just how fast I can run from a not so happy, startled gator!

Every day in the field is an adventure here in SW Florida!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Herons Close Up!

 Sometimes I think I need more mega-pixels, but these closeups tell me that me old D3000 still takes a good shot now an then.  Above a Great Blue Heron and below a Yellow Crowned Night Heron.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Early Spring Stroll on the Seaboard Grade at Babcock-Webb WMA

Spring comes early here in SW Florida.  It's the last week in February and I'm seeing wildflowers and butterflies!  So, off to one of my favorites places...the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area in Punta Gorda....80,000 acres of hydric pine flatwoods with some wonderful trails for a nice afternoon stroll.

The dirt roads through "the Webb" are called grades, which means they are raised up a bit and have drainage ditches on both sides to keep them from flooding during the rainy season.  I chose the Seaboard Grade as it has some terrific landscape views and goes through wet prairie, oak hammock and pine flatwoods.
Administered by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission, "the Webb" is a multi-use area allowing hunting in season, off road vehicles, camping, fishing, hiking, birding and has the area's only public shooting range.

It's an easy and very quiet walk on the sandy soil covered in pine needles.  I'll alternate some photos....landscape, nature close-up so you can enjoy the walk with me.

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia), Florida's State Butterfly.

Zebra Longwing link

White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae), a truly tropical species.

Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), and early bloomer.  I can usually find some nice swallowtails nearby these colorful blossoms.

Bull Thistle link

Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus)....mimics the Monarch. Not toxic, but seems to fool bird predators.

Queen link

Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaisensis).

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbekia hisrta)....common on road edges most everywhere and always appreciated.

Black Eyed Susan link

Gator hole....we've had a wet winter, so still plenty of water.

Palamedes Swallowtail  (Papilio palamedes).

Palamedes Swallowtail link

Swamp buggy out for a ride.  Folks come from all over Florida to camp and ride these around the WMA.

Swamp Buggies for sale!

Gulf Fritillary (Agaulis vanillae).

Gulf Fritillary link

Hammock of oak, cabbage palm and saw palmetto.

Nice 6 footer lurking in a gator hole.

Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon).

Phaon Crescent link

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia).

Common Buckeye link

Southern Five-lined Skinks mating.....something you only see in the early spring.

Hope you have enjoyed the walk...and hope you will get out to the Webb and see it for yourself.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eagles and Rays at Tippecanoe Environmental Park

The Charlotte County Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida is the Spring Training home of the Tampa Bay Rays.  This beautiful baseball stadium and training complex is surrounded by the Tippecanoe Nature Park, a 380 acre preserve.

The park is home to Florida Scrub Jays, Gopher Tortoises, many wading and song birds......and an active American Bald Eagle nest with two fledglings.  Located off SR 776, it has a boat launch leading to the Myakka River via canals....and on the west side is meandering  Sam Knight Creek.  The western park border connects
with the Charlotte Harbor Buffer Preserve State Park.

Here's a link to the park website with a trail map.  The eagle nest is off the yellow trail near the Sam Knight Creek.

Wife, Olivia, and I went to the box office to see about tickets for the upcoming spring training opener......and decided to take a hike out along Sam Knight Creek.

 Quite a few active eagle nests in SW Florida this winter.....lots of great photos being posted on Flickr and Facebook.  This nest was about 50 feet up in a dead pine.  With a great view of the creek and few hikers along the trail, this is a great spot to raise two eaglets.

 Here's a link to one of my favorite Florida nature photographers, Dave Eppley.  Check out his great eagle photos!

So, we got our tickets....and saw a  few Rays.....Tampa Bay Rays, that is!

We'll be back this Friday......hope to see a great game....and hope to see some Baltimore Orioles!  Baseball and birding....what a great combination!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bad snake, good snake at Highlands Hammock State Park

 BAD SNAKE...Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus).  This is an adult about 4' long.

GOOD SNAKE...Southern Water Snake (Nerodia fasciata).

Note the head shape of these two snakes.  The Cottonmouth above has a diamond shaped head, typical of pit vipers, all of which are venomous.  Not a particularly aggressive snake, BUT, it's bite can be fatal.

Webb MD First Aide for Snake BiteSnakes of Florida ID guideSnakes of Florida ID guide

Here is a much narrower head shape on the Southern Water Snake.  The coloration of this species is quite variable with this Central Florida race being quite dark.  Non-venomous collubrid, also not aggressive..but will bite if threatened.
I really don't mean to infer that venomous snakes are BAD...all creatures have a place in our natural world.  BUT, I would be a bit more careful around the Cottonmouth.....and any other snake I could not positively identify.

 Highlands Hammock State Park, near Sebring, was built by the CCC and has a beautiful picnic area, many interesting trails, and a nice CCC museum.  

 The Ranger at the front gate recommended the Cypress Swamp Trail........on a boardwalk and through an old Live Oak Hammock.  It was really beautiful.  

 The boardwalk provided a stable platform for some nice photos.

 Golden-Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes).  Big and scary for hikers as it spins it's web over trails (and boardwalks).  But, bites only if handled....and the bite is mild...less than a bee sting.

 Quill-Leaf (Tilandsia fasciculata) epiphyte and Christmas Lichen (Cryptothecia rubrocinta) growing on a Bald Cypress (Taxodium distchum) tree.

 Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)...a small flycatcher and winter visitor to Florida.

 Not many butterflies around, but did spot this large Skipper....short of a DNA identification, I'll call it a Three-spotted Skipper (Cymaenes tripunctus).  

 There is always something in bloom in Florida.  Common Primrose Willow (Ludwigia peruviana).

Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly (Calopteryx maculata).

Wife Olivia and son Andy enjoying the Christmas vacation outing.

 Nice museum about the Civilian Conservation Corps....part of America's history.

 FDR's New Deal provided work for many and the projects still grace our parks and preserves.

 The museum had a friendly docent and we learned a lot.

What a nice family outing.  Sure beats Christmas shopping!!!