Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Banana Spiders & Swamp Hibiscus at the Crowley Nature Center

Visited the Crowley Museum and Nature Center in Old Miyakka, Florida.  This place is a real jem...with a "cracker" museum and several trails and a boardwalk through a mixed swamp.  It's about 15 miles west of Sarasota and easy to find.
Above is a Banana Spider (Nephilia clavipers), also called a Golden Silk Weaver.  Many of these fascinating spiders had weaved their impressive webs across the trails and in the observation tower at the end of the boardwalk.  The tower overlooks a large sawgrass prairie standing between the Nature Center and the Myakka River.

Sawgrass Prairie

Banana Spider close-up....also known as Jorogumo in Japanese folklore.  A Yokai....or creature that can change it's form.  The Golden Silk weaver was believed to change into a seductive woman who would lure humans into a grass hut with flute music...only to become the spiders next meal!

Sawgrass from eye level.
Swamp Hibiscus (Hibiscus grandiflorus) were in bloom along the edges of the sawgrass.

The boardwalk meanders for almost a mile through a mixed swamp.

Saw several Viceroy Butterflies (Limentis archippus) in the transitional area between the swamp and sawgrass.

A small creek meanders throught the swamp and eventually into the Myakka River.

Dragonflies and Damselflies were abundant along the creek and the trail edges.  Here is a Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans).

Caught a hawk in flight while shooting a landscape!  See if you can spot it (center of the frame)!

Here it is.  A Red Shoulder Hawk (Buteo lineatus).

Here is a part of the mixed hardwood swamp...very thick.

A well camoflaged Swamp Rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus).  Note the smaller ears than a Cottontail Rabbit.

At the edge of the swamp is a nice stand of very old slash pines (Pinus elliottii).
Looking up through the Slash Pine canopy. 

Found a nice example of Christmas Wreath fungus (Cryptohecia rubrocinta).

And a very impressive Bracket Fungus which I cannot identify.

Some really impressive Spanish Moss (Tillandsia useneoides) in the Live Oak trees.

And some interesting epiphytes

A Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) branch festooned with Reserection Ferns (Polypodium polypodiodes).

This grand old Live Oak is at the end of the trail leading back to the Cracker Museum.  I didn't have a chance to explore the museum, but enjoyed a cool drink and the conviviality of the staff on the back porch.  Fabulous place...I'll be back soon.