Journeying On Through Florida

After leaving Lake Kissimmee State Park we headed north, ran the Orlando metro area traffic gauntlet, and arrived at Blue Springs State Park which was a new park for us. After spending a week there we would take relatively quiet back roads further north to Mike Roess State Park. The two parks couldn’t be more different. Blue Springs is a heavily used “day use” park with a small campground near Orlando while the larger Mike Roess SP was quiet and lightly used during our stay. Part of the popularity of Blue Springs can be attributed to the Manatees that inhabit the springs during the winter months and which had started to leave while we were there due to warmer weather. When one ventured away from the campground after mid-morning parking lots were pretty much full and there were always more than enough people in the park’s general use areas. However, once on the water paddling into a secluded creek or cove things changed dramatically and the area felt like wilderness.

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The big find while hiking the parks limited trails was the endangered Scrub Jay which is a bird we’ve been in search of for some time without success. Habitat destruction appears to be the main reason for its decline.

Scrub Jay.

Another look.

Yellow Star Grass occurred periodically along the trail in single blossoms.

This Eastern Towhee was seen in the same scrub habitat as the jay, (Donna).

This Pileated Woodpecker was also seen along the trail as we searched for the Scrub Jays, (Donna).

Spiderwort.

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St Johns River near Blue Springs SP.

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The extensive wildlife seen while canoeing was the big draw at Blue Springs SP. Our favorite paddle was the eleven mile loop that incorporated Snake Creek. The creek is a true celebration of the richness and beauty of nature.

A small alligator checks us out, (Donna).

An immature Black Crowned Night Heron along Snake Creek, (Donna).

A Great Egret watches as we pass by.

St Johns River.

Florida Cooters,  (Donna).

Wood Stork, (Donna).

Black Crowned Night Heron along the St Johns River.

Little Blue Heron in the thick of it.

Snake Creek provided an intimate paddling experience.

Purple Gallinule eating flower petals, St Johns River.

While paddling Snake Creek we came upon this mating pair at Turkeys. The male seemed not to be bothered by our presence.

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Cypress

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A Tree frog at water’s edge, (Donna)

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St Johns River.

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American Bittern along the St Johns River.

Osprey with fish.

Little Blue Heron preening.

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Although they are common, Anhingas always catch our eye.

Male Anhinga dries it’s feathers along the St Johns River.

Preening.

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St Johns river landscape.

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A Snowy Egret shows off its yellow feet, (Donna).

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Unlike Blue Springs which provided excellent opportunities to observe wildlife from the water, hiking was the best way to do so at Mike Roess SP. A plus was that there were no crowed parking lots or large numbers of people to negotiate when one left the campground. There were areas to explore around the park’s several small lakes and along one fairly long designated hiking trail. We enjoyed the park’s quiet subtle beauty.

Mike Roess SP landscape.

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Walking the shoreline of the parks small lakes was an excellent way to see insects. Some of the dragonflies and damselflies seen were new to us.

Vesper Bluet Damselfly, (Donna).

The Variable Dancer Damselfly is one we haven’t seen further north in Ohio.

Carolina Saddlebags, (Donna).

Female Faded Pennant, (Donna).

Male Faded Pennant.

Slaty Skimmer, (Donna).

The Stripe-winged Baskettail is another dragonfly we’ve not seen further north in Ohio.

The Blue Corporal often perches on the ground, (adult male).

The Buckeye is usually seen in late summer in Ohio.

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Pond reflection.

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In addition to the insects there were birds to enjoy:

Hermit Thrush.

A Hooded Merganser and a Wood Duck pose.

There was a sizable population of Ring-necked Ducks on the small park lakes.

A closer look.

Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Pied Billed Grebes

A White Eyed Vireo announces its presence.

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Shoreline grass.

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As well as other things:

Cricket Frog at waters edge, (Donna).

Unfortunately these lovely but uncommon little flowers that liked the park’s sandy soil remain unidentified.

A Fence Lizard shows it’s underside, (Donna).

Lichen on fallen branch.

A Gopher Tortoise enjoys some grass, (Donna).

Trees.

Pinebarren Frostweed.

A Five Lined Skink shows its beautiful tail, (Donna)

A Long Leaf Pine just starting out.

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Leaving Mike Roess we’d completed six weeks of exploring nature in Florida. As we looked forward to spending time at Paynes Prairie Preserve and Black River SP before heading north to early spring in Ohio we couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed.

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Lily Pads

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Thanks for stopping by.

An Almost Perfect Disguise!

Caterpillars can be hard to believe. In recent weeks my wife’s “eagle eye” has spotted one that certainly seems to confirm this. Along with interesting caterpillars there have been other August insects and wildflowers to fascinate. Each season offers up it’s own treasures.

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As an aside, my old Canon manual focus glass has found new life mounted on a Sony A7 body so I’ve enjoyed trying to capture a “sense of place” with the old lenses as we explore some of our local haunts.

Griggs Reservoir, Sony A7 Canon FD 28mm.

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During a recent walk we entered the world of caterpillars when my wife noticed this interesting specimen.

The Black Swallowtail caterpillar shows off it’s horns while the picture gets photo bombed by a pair of very small mating moths. The horns are usually not evident but a slight tap on the it’s head brings them out, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

The Black Swallowtail butterfly:

Male Black Swallowtail, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Female Black Swallowtail, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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On another day as we walked along Griggs Reservoir, three almost identical “bird droppings” were spotted. Very suspicious!

Our suspicion was validated as we identified them as Giant Swallowtail caterpillars. (Donna).

A closer look, (Donna).

The Giant Swallowtail butterfly:

Giant Swallowtail, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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The Monarch Butterfly caterpillars had a though act to follow after the “bird droppings”. However, this year it’s been exciting to see so many as well as the resultant butterflies. You know it’s a good year when you often hear, or say to your hiking companion, “There’s another Monarch!” Last year we saw very few.

Monarch Butterfly caterpillar, Griggs Reservoir Park.

The Monarch butterfly:

Monarch Butterfly, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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The Big Darby has been running low but clear. A sign of late summer in Ohio.

The Big Darby, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, Sony A7 Canon FD 28mm.

For Ohio the water was very clear in the Big Darby but it’s shallow depth and silt covered bottom didn’t show it off, Prairie Oaks Metro Park, Sony A7 Canon FD 28mm.

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During a lunch break along Alum Creek Reservoir last week, a number of wasps were more than happy to provide free entertainment!

Katydid Wasp, (Sphex nudus) with a stunned katydid nymph, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

The Katydid Wasp proceeds to drag it’s pray into a pre dug hole to serve as a food source for it’s larvae when they hatch, (Donna).

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Two days ago, as we made our way along one of our area metro park’s excellent trails, I mentioned to my wife that there appeared to be two humming birds around some thistle half way across the meadow. Before I realized what had happened she disappeared. The only way I could reel her in was with the zoom on my camera!

Going after the humming birds, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Success, (Donna).

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Along with caterpillars and butterflies there have been other interesting late August insects as well.

Mating Thread-waisted Wasps, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

 

Cuckoo Leafcutter Bee with it’s fascinating blue eyes, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

When does a moth not look like a moth? When it’s an Ailanthus Webworm Moth! Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

A grasshopper hugs a coneflower, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Tachinid Fly, (Epalpus signifier), Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The Common Spreadwing is the largest of the damselflies, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

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A quiet fishing spot along Griggs Reservoir.

Griggs Reservoir.

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Fungi hasn’t been that noticeable due to the lack of rain but recently two examples begged to be photographed.

Northern Tooth fungi, Griggs Reservoir Park.

A rather large polypore, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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Wildflowers.

Cup Plant, Griggs Reservoir Park, Sony A7 Canon FD 28mm.

Virginia Knot Weed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Gracing the shore of Griggs Reservoir, Sony A7 Canon FD 28mm.

Tall Bellflower, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Wingstem, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Great Blue Lobelia, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Coneflower Prairie, Battelle Darby Greek Metro Park.

Ironweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

False Dragonhead, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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A fascinating plant, Ground Cherry, discovered during a recent walk.

Ground Cherry, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

The flower, (Donna).

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As we look for butterflies, or are engaged in other pursuits, it’s hard not to notice the other things.

In relation to it’s size the very small Cricket Frog probably jumps the furthest of any of it’s species! Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

An immature Indigo Bunting eludes a good photo at the very top of a tree, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

An over exuberant Blue Jay enjoys the water, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Black-crowned Night Heron photographed recently while fishing on Griggs Reservoir. Probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to one.

A “too cute” Red Squirrel along the shore of Griggs Reservoir. Exciting because we rarely see them in this area.

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In late August the sound of insects dominate the woods.

As if in protest, a Carolina Wrens does it’s best to break the silence of it’s kind.

In the now often cooler mornings, heavy with dew, spider webs are everywhere.

Walking, those suspended across the trail brush against one’s face.

By noon, as if  to deny that summer is slowly coming to an end, butterflies and dragonflies take flight.

Bees, seemingly busier than ever, are everywhere on late summer wildflowers.

Leaves on some trees have already starting to change.

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Looking for birds, Griggs Reservoir Park, Sony A7 Canon FD 28mm.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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XXX

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Should you wish prints from various posts may be purchased at Purchase a Photo. If you don’t find it on the link drop us a line.

Photos by Donna

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