We started camping again the beginning of September as usual, heading off to Silver Springs State Park, and hoping that a bit of cooler weather works its way down from the north. No such luck this time. Tropical Storm then Hurricane Sally passed by well offshore but still the system influenced our weather. And by influenced I mean a lot of rain starting early to mid afternoon most days, and lasting all night in one case. Morning temperatures did stay comfortable because of all that rain.
We love visiting the original park of Silver Springs State Park, the tourist attraction from the 1920s until the state purchased it in 2013. A 2.5 one way trail leads there from the camping and history outdoor museum part of the park, but we choose to drive along US 35 and enter from the US 40 entrance. Due to Covid, we expected parts to be closed. A sign on the door announced the museum with the history of the Silver Sprints park closed, but in the windows all along the sidewalk and around a corner the windows contained exhibits to peruse while walking in open air. The glass bottom boats ran on a limited schedule, and we watched as one went out. We saw the family groups on the boat nicely spaced, a far cry from the usual shoulder-to-shoulder experience during other years. Many people kayaked by as we walked around the trails near the water proving what we read, that the kayak concession remained open.
We walked the Ross Allen Island trail, all boardwalks. On our last visit we saw the wild rhesus monkeys from the boardwalk, but even though several signs warned about them, we saw none this time. The very wet, tropical weather of the past week and the large leaved plants and flowers gave a real jungle flavor to the walk.
We arrived early to avoid the heat of mid-afternoon, and of course the rain. Very few people walked about, and several obviously stopped for food or brought some from home and sat relaxing along the water enjoying their meal. We knew the restaurant opened later. We took the boat tour many times, so this trip we walked the concrete path along the spring and out to the river, enjoying the plant and animal life to see the sights from land. More about that next post…
While walking along Silver River, I watched an Anhinga that sat on a branch just over the water. Obviously he saw a lot of people, I moved slowly and he stayed put. Suddenly he turned, looked right at me, moving his head back and forth.
Then, he put his neck up and head back, and began calling loudly. I took several photographs as he called. Then I started hearing an answer.
Karl looked around and pointed toward the other part of the river, in the middle. Sure enough, someone answered.
We watched the conversation for a minute or two, then both Anhingas settled back to their respective branches, apparently have passed along whatever information they needed.
Hmmm…since he looked right at me before, was it a comment on my hair? my outfit?
We went to Brooker Creek Preserve this past week, early in the morning as it rained off and on during the night and the forecast predicted more rain. As we pulled in we saw this Sandhill Crane family so Karl stopped far enough away for me to take a few shots without disturbing them too much. “Junior” is as tall as his parents, but doesn’t have all the coloring yet.
We walked over the bridge at the main channel. The Dahoon Holly are already showing their berries, and this year they are close enough to the bridge for some photographs. The mosquitoes found me as I stopped to take this shot, get my settings where I wanted them, and then wait for the drop of moisture to get to the right spot.
We took a walk along the boardwalk, and finally Karl said he was tired of being a mosquito ‘blood donor’ so we hurried back to the car. The mosquitoes obviously needed food, they bit me a couple of times through my shirt!
On the way out we saw this doe feeding. She stopped to look, but since a lot of people pass through the Preserve cars rarely cause them to flee.
September tends to be a little better than August for heat and humidity, but realizing that our best time of year comes soon makes it seem much better.
BTW: I am having some issues with the new editor. It is not at all intuitive for me. I am sure I will get better as I go along.
We took a short walk near the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island State Park. I saw a lot of butterflies as we walked along the boardwalk over the wetland area and as I watched I realized they were the White Peacock. I love their coloration this time of year as during the wet season, our summer, they are smaller and darker in color.
Even though still early morning, they flew quickly back and forth. The only shots that came out were those from the very infrequent times one of them would slow down and land for a bit to take up the sun.
I looked in the back yard and something caught my eye behind the fence. I didn’t think too much of it at the time. Later I noticed again and decided to in investigate. Standing on the lowest vertical bar of the wooden fence, I looked and saw the two Spanish Bayonette plants which I had noticed before among the thicket of trees along the creek, fully in bloom. I took several photos, balancing on the bar, twice that day due to the light. The blossoms are beautiful and short-lived. The plant itself has long, sword like thick leaves tipped with a sharp needle. Several days later as I walked by the back window I noticed a larger bird sitting on the fence. I went up to the window, nearly scaring it away. Cautiously I watched as it sat there preening its feathers. I took these shot through the house window and through the screen surrounding the pool area, so I am surprised they even came out. The bird is a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron, identified with the help of my Sibley’s guide. We see the adult herons on our neighbor’s roof frequently. They stand there very still, driving our cats who are in the pool enclosure area and can see them clearly, crazy. The neighborhood birds all seem to realize that the cats can chatter and pretend to pounce all they want, they don’t go outside of the house or screened in pool for their own safely (there are coyotes living along the creek) and the safety of all the birds who live in the area.
We drove north of here for a short day trip last week. We visited small, local parks that we normally visit a couple of times a year for birding, photography, and to take visitors. The humidity and heat, plus a recent rain which saturated the trails meant shorter walks and more driving. But, that is August here.
Fishermen and women lined the boardwalks in one park and launched small fishing boats and fishing kayaks in another. The small beach area stood empty, not surprising considering the sun and temperatures.
As we drove along we looked out over the grassy prairie toward the Gulf, and saw the clouds already building for the nearly daily afternoon rain. Karl stopped so I could take a few photographs. The trees in the distance provided the scale showing to show the towering clouds.
Everyone visiting Florida sees the anoles. The small brown lizards run everywhere. People don’t often see the Green Anoles, the native species. These green anoles do turn brown for camouflage when against a dark background, but I think remain lighter than the brown ones. We have also been told that the eyelids remain the bluish color even when they turn brown, but personally I never noticed that.
For years we heard that the brown invasive species was crowding out the native species. Then some naturalists theorized that the green anoles moved higher into the trees and canopy for less competition for resources. I don’t know if they have or not, but recently I saw several different green ones at different places along a walk. The one above I shot just after a rain and the green looks very light. The one below walk along a boardwalk, and began displaying with the dewlap under its neck.
can’t quite land
on that blade of grass.
A few years ago we attended a naturalist course on dragonflies. One of the attendees wore a dragonfly shirt, carried a notebook with a dragonfly outline on the cover, and dragonfly ear rings dangled from her ears. She and several other attendees spoke enthusiastically about how they loved dragonflies. Though smaller in number, they seemed more enthusiastic than avid birders we know seem about birds. In folklore, dragonflies represent change, joy, and adaptability. They appear often in poetry, especially Haiku.
While boating in the Okefenokee Swamp a few years ago, we sat still and quiet in the boat, listening and looking at the flora and fauna around us. As we sat, several dragonflies landed on us, happy to use us as a temporary resting place. They added to the serenity of the experience.
This time of year in particular, we see them in our backyard and darting over the trees lining the creek. I enjoy them too and cannot resist stopping to photograph them whenever we hike.
We generally find the very hot and humid days of July and August in this part of Florida, often accompanied by thunderstorms either in the morning or afternoon, naturally limit our nature photography. We go out early morning for a short time, and possibly later toward the evening, depending on the weather forecast and a look at the sky. We avoid the direct hot sun, both for our health and the quality of the photograph. Summer in Florida still offers many wildlife subjects, quite a bit in the insect family including our many species of mosquitoes, but also alligators, lizards, and of course birds. Be prepared to sweat, there is no other way to put it.
So far this summer we also avoid any place that might be crowded due to the serious and continuing spike in Covid-19 cases in our area that started a little over a month ago. We hope it comes under control soon.
The web Karl observes in the photograph above likely belongs to one of the Golden Silk Orb Weavers. The builder of that web was not home as we passed by, though the web appeared in such good shape we doubt she abandoned it.
The Tri-color Heron above fished in this one spot for quite some time, with good luck, catching smaller fish like the one he is about to eat frequently.
This baby alligator shows just the top of his head and snout. The young ones are easy to miss, they blend so well. This one stayed very still near a patch of vegetation, and then moved slightly. My eye caught the movement or I would have missed him.
This dragonfly perched on a branch nearly at eye level so I managed a good look at the shiny emerald color. I photographed a lot of different dragonflies lately, and will be posting those soon.
I originally set this up to photograph the flower, but the beetle came along and burrowed around, so I decided to shoot it instead.
Watching Cormorants over the years I witnessed a lot of fishing and catching. Many times the struggle to get the fish just right for swallowing involves a number of tries, and occasionally the fish gets away. I also saw a few swallow a fish I thought way too large, only to see it go down the slim neck, distending it all the way down. When this Cormorant landed this fish, I wondered again if the fish was just too big.
After this brief struggle, the bird agreed with me for once, dropped the fish and immediately took off. Was it really too big, or just not worth the effort? Had the bird already feasted on so many appetizers of the smaller fish in the water that this main course, while maybe not too big to swallow, was too big as a main course?